To read tarot card reversals or not? This question often comes up within the tarot community and can be a real cause of confusion, especially among newcomers – imagine the horror on their faces when they find people talking about Tarot card reversals for the first time. (WHAT! Not only do I have to learn 78 cards AND combinations, now they have a reversed meaning, too?!) Shoutout to all of you who don’t run for the hills immediately – stick with it – we need more dedicated Tarotists in the world 🙂
I personally do NOT read Tarot card reversals, however, I originally did start by reading reversals for several years – I dove right in at the deep end, you might say. As time has gone on and I’ve found my own reading style and I find that the upright meanings alone, cover the whole range of human experience, enough to give me detailed reports in a tarot card reading. I am not going to say one way is better than the other, because I believe it is a matter of personal preference – having tried both ways, non-reversals suits me best.
Here is a little Tarot card Reversals FAQ for those still curious.
Tarot card reversals are simply cards which are upside down. Some readers have additional interpretations for upside down cards, and some people simply turn the cards the right way up again and read them with the standard meanings.
There are different shuffling methods for getting tarot card reversals. Some people like to split the deck into 2 or more piles, turn one pile upside down, put all of the piles back together and resume shuffling to mix them up.
The method I was taught was to ‘spin’ the cards in my hands and resume shuffling.
Sometimes cards will drop out of the pack, and placed upside down when put back in the deck. This could explain how some readers who only read upright cards end up with reversed cards in their deck.
I have seen it implied by many inexperienced readers, that reversed Tarot cards = bad bad bad! This is not necessarily true. Obviously there are many different methods and countless variations on tarot card reversals, just as there are with upright meanings, but they often serve to represent different facets of the original interpretations. Of course this doesn’t discount the possibility of negative meanings, but then, we see negative meanings in upright cards too, hey! That’s life, sometimes.
One of the most memorable explanations of Tarot card reversals I have read was from someone discussing the 3 of Swords, Rider Waite style. She said that she pictured the reversed meaning of this card almost literally – with the swords dropping out of the hearts because it was now upside down. So a very positive twist on what, in RWS tradition in any case, is generally a very negative card.
One of my early Tarot teachers read reversals as psychological aspects of the situation. Others still, read them as blockages in a situation. It is down to the reader to discover through dedication and experience, what works best for them.
What I will advise is for you to explore the differences and once you have found a system that works for you – stick with it. This consistency will alleviate a lot of confusion.
Well this is something to consider, because whilst reversals will be very obvious in decks that are based on the Rider Waite system, other decks are not quite so accommodating. Take the Tarot de Marseille (TdM), for instance. As the Minor cards are generally very simple in their symbolic design – having what is referred to as ‘pip’ cards rather than scenic cards as shown in the RWS (and clones), it is very difficult to tell in some of these decks if the cards are reversed. They are quite symmetrical in their imagery, so unless you own one of the more modern decks with a copyright notice in the border, you will be hard pressed to work it out.
If you are committed to learning tarot card reversals, it is worth considering how you will approach reading with a deck like this, if at all. I highly recommend learning to read with TdM style decks – although they may not seem as appealing as some more modern decks, they are capable of some intensely profound readings!
There are many systems for tarot card reading – they are all different roads leading to the same destination. Some methods will instantly click for you, others will be more difficult. Some methods you may find you ‘outgrow’ as you gain more experience and knowledge until ultimately, you will settle into a familiar rhythm that is consistent and works for you. We never stop learning in our search for Tarot knowledge, there are always new discoveries to be made, and new experiences to be had.
I mentioned before that I do not use Tarot card reversals. So how the heck do I manage to convey all possible meanings using only upright cards? Well I used a mixture of tried and tested methods.
Numbers are important – pay attention to any particular pattern of numbers that appears in a spread. Perhaps several 10’s show up – indicating the ending of a situation, or several Ace’s, suggesting new beginnings. Look at how numbers interact with each other in the spread. You may want to research number meanings or come up with your own system that you can easily recall and relate to during a reading.
Elemental dignities can indicate what undercurrents are affecting the situation. Each suit corresponds to a particular element – Swords = Air, Pentacles = Earth, Cups = Water, Wands = Fire. Air feeds fire, whilst water quenches it so if you have all fire and water cards, this might suggest that there are opposing forces and blockages in the situation. If the elemental dignities are favourable, this can reflect on the situation as well. You can even use the suits to indicate certain times of the year and the speed in which a situation will progress based upon their elemental dignity.
Speaking of the suits, you can also look to see if there are more of one particular suit, which could give you clues about what is going on. An abundance of Pentacles cards could indicate a financial or health related scenario, whilst an abundance of cups might point towards emotional upheaval. Note if there is an absence of any suit, as this is symbolic as well.
Look at the proportion of Major and Minor cards. Some readers see Major Arcana cards as major events in the seekers life, whereas Minor cards can refer to more mundane aspects. Majors may point to a situation being out of their hands, whilst the Minor cards can refer to events that can be more easily controlled. This is just an example of how some readers interpret the cards.
If there are a number of court cards in your spread, see how they interact with one another – are they facing away from each other, or towards? What would that tell you?
Colours can also be used to pick out certain moods and to plot the progression of the situation.
If you are interested in incorporating Astrology into your readings, you could look at the astrological associations of each card and how they interact with each other.
As cards can mean a number of different things – especially depending upon possible combinations – I feel that they can accurately portray the whole range of human experience that anyone who comes to you for a reading could possibly ask you about.
There are so many different things that you can add, that can influence and enhance your standard upright card meanings. Tarot is like a living thing – from a simple game of Tarocchi in 14th Century Italy, it has evolved into a stunning, accurate divination tool that is enhancing and empowering thousands of lives around the world through it’s use today. Who knows how readers will be using the cards a hundred years from now, considering how much tarot has grown in the last century alone.
Having had experience of using Tarot card reversals and NOT, I can confidently say that this is absolutely not a necessity, and should be a matter of personal preference only. My track record of successful and accurate Tarot readings gives me the confidence to convey this opinion – make of it what you will!
If you have any questions you’d like me to add to this FAQ, please let me know in the comments below 🙂
I hope you have found this helpful and I wish you the best of luck on your Tarot journey!
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