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Meaning of Reversed Cards in Tarot

Meaning of Reversed Tarot Cards

Meaning of Reversed Cards in Tarot

"Do reversed cards have negative meaning? How do you read a card in a reverse position?"

Thanks Madhu, for this excellent question.

The subject of interpreting Tarot reversals offers a heated debate, with only one conclusion: How to handle reversed cards is up to the reader.

Every reader will have his/her own preference on how to interpret a reversed card, or whether he/she wishes to even acknowledge Tarot reversals.

If you decide to lend merit to reversals, here are some suggestions on how to interpret them:

  • The antithesis, nemesis or arch rival to the archetype presented in the card

  • The abnormality, malfunction or opposite of the upright card meaning

  • A delay of time frame within the outcome of upright card implication

  • A prompting for the client to see things from a totally different angle (i.e., get a 180 degree view of the situation, or "turn the problem up-side-down" for a different perspective).

  • An incongruence of the client's energy compared with the original (upright) energy of the card. Meaning, a client may want one thing, but he/she may be thinking something quite the opposite.

  • Depending on where the reversal is in the spread, you can get a feel for a story. For example, if royal cards are touching head to head, you might interpret this as putting two heads together (meeting of the minds, two heads are better than one, etc). Body language plays a big role in the cards, and the subtlety of reversed cards can really augment a reading.
reading reversed cards in Tarot (images from Morgan Greer deck)

To read reversals or not to read reversals?
It's your call. Every reader has to make that choice for his or herself. I'm not convinced there is a "right" or "wrong" in any aspect of the Tarot, much less reversals.

What do I do?
I read what I'm lead to read. I interpret a large energetic picture in the cards. Sometimes the reversals speak to me, sometimes they don't, and I read accordingly.

Last word on handling reversed cards in the Tarot:
Outside the reading arena, take your favorite deck and contemplate the cards up-side-down. Let go of the reins of your mind, and just let the horsepower of imagination run wild. Let your psychic eyes roll over just the imagery - don't identify what you are seeing . Just loosely recognize vague shapes, shadows, hues and nuance.

This exercise expands the intuition into a non-interpretive state. I know, that seems like a paradox, part of our job as readers is to interpret. But far too often the conscious mind gets too literal, and takes interpretation to an extreme. Shifting our perspectives by playing with the cards OUT of familiar context (NOT congruent, not upright) causes our mind to bend the rules. That's ultimately what we want - a bendy mind. Free-associating with reversals can enhance that malleable state we want to coax out a fluid, high-class reading.

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