Tarot Reversals: Not for the Weary
When learning to read the tarot, one of the biggest questions that will plague a new reader is whether or not to read reversed cards. This decision has big implications. If you decide to trudge forward with learning reversals you have just taken on the responsibility to learn, not 78 card meanings, but 156!
Even the most diligent shuffler may find that the occasional card will present itself reversed. How the reader deals with it varies a great deal from person to person.
Common ways of handling reversed cards:
- Many readers decide that reversals are too much work and that the 78 cards within the tarot deck already provide enough information for them to provide in-depth readings to their clients. These readers will often turn upright any cards that may present themselves as reversed, and carry on with their reading like nothing happened. There is NOTHING wrong with this approach, particularly if you are a new reader.
- Some readers will take strides to avoid reversals, but if they show up they will pay particular attention to the reversed cards, and the message of that card will be strengthened. I did this for a long time.
- Some will strategically reverse only three cards in a deck, and if they turn up in the reading that will mean they are extremely important (Mary K. Greer talks about this in her book The Complete Book of Tarot Reversals).
Then you have those like me, who will shuffle like a madwoman and will let the cards turn anyway they please!
Determining how one will interpret reversed cards is tricky. There are so many ways you can interpret them and none are wrong. I believe the way that is most resonating with me is found in Joan Bunning’s book Learning Tarot Reversals.
Joan’s approach is to avoid traditional ways of thinking of reversals (opposite meaning, blocks in energy, delays) and to think of these cards as phases of energy.
You can think of energy phases almost like the cycles of the moon as it moves from the New Moon (absent), waxing (growing larger), full (fully present), to waning (growing smaller). Energy can be felt in a myriad of different ways – it can be absent, just coming into our lives, strong and fully realized, and finally waning.
In Joan’s method, we can think of an upright card as embodying the fully recognized energy of that card (like the full moon). In other words, an upright card represents the traditional meaning very strongly, and it encapsulates that energy perfectly in its purest form.
When a card is reversed it means that the energy of that card is absent, entering our life, or waning and fading out. It is up to us to determine what phase the energy is in. We do that by considering the other cards in the spread and the situation as a whole.
Last week, the Tower made an unfortunate appearance in my life, and it left me bruised and battered. As I laid down my Celtic Cross today, wouldn’t you know, the Tower appeared reversed in the near future position? This is because the energy of the Tower will be waning from my life very soon. I am very much looking forward to this.
Experiment with this method and see if you don’t find reversals a little less threatening. If you are intrigued, I encourage you to pick up Joan’s book from Amazon. Published in 2003, it is still relevant and very well-written.
I have greatly enjoyed incorporating Joan Bunning’s perspective in my readings as I struggle with those reversed cards. As much as a pain as they can be (no one likes uncovering a spread that is filled with reversals!), I adore the extra information they bring to the table.
Let the cards fall as they will!