What is a Tarot-Reversal?
A tarot reversal refers to when a card appears upside down during the course of a tarot- reading. There has been much discussion among tarot-readers concerning reversals which has divided the tarot-community.
- For Using Reversals
- The Big Picture. Utilizing reversed cards allows you to access the deeper meaning of the card(s) and helps you to get a clearer picture of the story the cards are trying to communicate to you.
- A Red Flag. When a reversed-card appears in a reading, it indicates an area which requires attention.
- Against Using Reversals
- Reversals are redundant. Some readers feel that there are plenty of meanings for all 78 cards in a standard tarot deck in their upright positions that to use reversed meanings would be excessive.
- Reversals are Inconsistent. There seems to be a great deal of confusion among some readers as to exactly what a reversed card means.
Three Examples Examined
Historically, reversals have been read quite literally. For example, if The Lovers upright means love, then reversed it would indicate hate. However, even the neophyte tarot-reader understands that this is not always the case. Many prominent authors have attempted to bring clarity to this subject and have offered several methods of reading reversals.
In her book, The Complete Book of Tarot Reversals, Mary K. Greer gives no less than 12 examples of how a reversed card can be read. Some of these include:
- Blocked- The energy or condition represented by the card is being blocked either consciously or subconsciously by the querent or an outside force such as another individual.
- Projected- The subject of the reading is attributing what is seen in the cards onto someone else.
- Delayed- The energy or condition represented by the card will be delayed. For example, the 8 of Pentacles reversed could indicate a new job that will come after delays.
Joan Bunning, author of Learning Tarot Reversals, writes that a reversed card doesn’t take on opposing meanings but rather keeps its essential nature, however in different phases. These phases are described as
- Absent- The energy or condition represented by the card is absent.
- Early Phase- The energy of condition represented by the card is coming into being.
- Late Phase- The energy or condition represented by the card is on the decline, or going out of being.
A good-friend of mine and great tarot reader 53rd Spirit uses the acronym W.O.R.D to interpret reversals. It stands for Weak. Opposite. Resistant. Delayed.
- Weak- The meaning of the card remains the same, however it is weakened or on the decline.
- Opposite- The meaning of the card is the opposite of the upright meaning.
- Resistant- The energy or condition represented by the card is being blocked or resisted in some way.
- Delayed/Drained- The energy or condition represented by the card will be delayed.
How I View Reversals
When I began studying and reading tarot-cards in 1991, I did read reversed cards. I later met a more experienced tarot-reader who, to my surprise, did not read reversals. After having her perform several readings for me, I decided to try only reading the cards in their upright positions. I found that I did enjoy reading only upright cards and did not feel that my readings suffered in any way.
My cards are oriented to that they all face upright, however, occasionally a reversed card will come up in a reading. Over the years I have slowly begun to take these reversed cards into consideration. I agree with Mary K. Greer that a reversed card in a reading represents an area that needs attention. However, the question remains why does it need attention. Is there a blockage? Will there be a delay? Is there resistance? In this case you can do two things:
- Look at the card itself for more information. For example, traditionally the Ace of Cups represents abundance. However, if you look at the reversed card itself it appears that the cup is being drained and someone or something is holding it down. This could mean that an outside force is draining your abundance, holding your down and keeping you back.
- Look at the surrounding cards. Depending on the actual tarot spread you are using the cards immediately beside the reversed card can give you more information about its overall meaning and/or affect on the querent’s life.
The question of whether or not to use tarot-reversals has been a subject which has divided the tarot-community. There are valid arguments both for and against their use. Modern authors have attempted to give students of the tarot a reliable method of interpreting tarot reversals. However it is ultimately up to you, the reader, to decide if and how you utilize tarot-reversals in your readings.