Reversals in tarot can be a peculiar and in depth conversation among tarot readers.
Not all tarot readers use reversals and even for tarot readers that use reversals, there can be a variety in different meanings and interpretations.
There are plenty of books on the market and websites online that give a different account on the interpretations of tarot cards and their reversed meanings.
How to Read Reversals in Tarot
Are Reversals in Tarot Necessary?
If you don’t use tarot reversals, that doesn’t mean you won’t have a good reading or can’t have one of the best readings in your life.
Quite the contrary!
Tarot works just as well with only upright cards as they can with reversed.
Tarot reversals aren’t absolutely necessary, so if you don’t feel like using them, that’s perfectly OK.
In fact, many readers will often choose not to use reversals in some readings.
For example, if you normally use reversals and then decide to not use reversals during a certain reading, you can reaffirm your decision in your mind or aloud that you will only use upright meanings. Then begin to shuffle the cards.
Your intention to use upright cards only will be affirmed, so that even if some of the cards appear reversed in the reading, you can simply turn them right-side up and begin to interpret the cards as upright.
Some readers use reversed meanings even for upright cards and intuit if the card has a reversed energy or meaning even if the card is upright.
This can also happen if the card is reversed, but you feel that the energy is upright instead.
This may add to confusion whether the card is meant to be upright or reversed or if it was shuffled properly to begin with.
It all comes down to trusting your intuition.
So why bother with reversals if we don’t need them?
Reading with reversals can give an added depth to your readings, adding more character, nuances and detail.
Reversals in tarot can sometimes articulate and pinpoint subtle details in a situation, topic or question.
Reversals can be very subtle at times, often when reversals appear it’s a sign that something isn’t quite “right” or may be “off.”
This can be a sign to pay further attention to the reversal card as it may offer more information or something that needs attention.
Reversals aren’t necessary to do tarot readings and really are a personal choice based on preference.
Some readers choose at the beginning of their journey to learn reversals, then change; other readers pick it up later to use reversals and some never.
Tarot reading is always a personal journey and deciding to use tarot reversals is also just as personal as well.
Shuffling the Tarot for Reversals
There’s a few ways to make sure to get a good number of reversals in your tarot deck. When you get a new deck all the cards are usually in sequence and all upright.
After cleansing your deck in your usual way or whichever way works for you, a good way to get a mix up upright and reversals is to mix the cards on the floor or a large table into a big messy pile.
Fan the cards in a pile and mix with your hands like when kids play with paint or mud and mix them.
Pick cards up and place them over and under other cards.
Pick up random cards in piles and reassemble them from different parts of the pile.
After you have the cards neatly stacked into one pile, shuffle again hand over hand or in your normal fashion thoroughly until you feel the right moment to stop.
This is a good method to clear the energy of previous readings and to “reset” the cards.
It gives a fair chance to have different cards to come up as upright or reversed.
It can get tiresome to only ever get The Lovers reversed every single time or The Devil upright all the time.
Mixing the cards well will give more depth and a chance at variety for upright and reversals.
Reading Tarot Reversals
Let’s get started on 5 ways on how to read reversals in a tarot reading:
1. The Energy is Opposite (from the Upright meaning)
This is the most common belief by new tarot readers that reversals are just the opposite of upright meanings, which as a beginner makes sense. It’s not entirely wrong to read this way, although it is a simplified and easy way.
Reading a tarot card as the opposite of the upright card can be pretty straightforward, which although may be common for beginner tarot readers to interpret this way, it can still be applied by more advanced tarot readers as well.
Here are two examples of tarot cards using the opposite interpretation method:
Four of Pentacles Upright: Holding on. Closed off. Lack of compassion. Penny-pincher.
Four of Pentacles Reversed: Letting go. Kindness. Compassion. Spending. Openness.
The Star Upright: Hope. Promise. Healing. Recognition. Satisfaction.
The Star Reversed: Despair. Hopeless. Illness. Unrecognized. Dissatisfaction.
The method of interpreting a tarot card as the opposite can be one of the easiest ways, but isn’t the only way.
Adding other ways to interpret can help deepen the depths of your reading, such as the next method below.
2. The Energy is Blocked
Another method to interpret reversed tarot cards is if you feel the energy of the card is blocked whether by the querent, someone else or just the energy of the situation.
Sometimes you may feel that the energy of the card would be upright if something weren’t preventing it from being upright.
For example, you may have The Sun reversed and although The Sun is radiant and positive, you may feel that something is preventing this energy from being fulfilled.
It may be that the querent is unhappy because of something, or that a situation or problem is preventing happiness and positivity from happening.
This is where your intuition comes into play.
Some may call it intuition, for others (like myself) call it psychic abilities.
Whatever you call it, you may feel it in your solar plexus or perhaps a thought, word or idea, maybe even a sentence in your mind that is telling you about the meaning of the reversed card.
If you’re unsure, ask yourself: Is the energy of this card blocked in any way? Listen for an answer or feeling that may give you the answer.
Naturally, if you feel that this card is blocked, you may want to work to find a solution.
The solution may lie (depending on where the card is in the spread) in trying to get this reversed card upright.
If it is blocked, what can you do to try to unblock it?
Sometimes the answer to a problem may rest in working to get the reversed card’s energies unblocked and flowing again.
3. The Energy is Inward / Outward
Next is checking to see if the card’s energy is turned inward or outward, that is towards the querent or yourself if you are reading for yourself.
Some cards are naturally outward and are project into the outer world, other cards are naturally withdrawn and look inwardly.
For example, The Hermit is traditionally viewed as isolation, alone and introspection. He withdraws from society and looks inward for answers.
The Hermit reversed may suggest going out, seeking answers and information from others and not being alone.
But there’s even a catch to this simple aspect which can make tarot even more tricky and complicated for the beginner.
Sometimes even a card that is naturally withdrawn can mean going within even further.
So, The Hermit reversed could mean going out and seeking other people or it could mean withdrawing even further into isolation and even becoming anti-social.
Naturally The Hermit likes solitude, but if interpreting The Hermit reversed as even more withdrawn, he can become bitterly annoyed with people and society, becoming a cranky old hermit.
So which one is which?
It all comes down to intuition.
Sounds pretty annoying when all you want is a straightforward answer, right?
This is where that no matter how many tarot books you read, almost all of them will contradict each other when it comes to methods and interpretations.
That’s when you have to take a bit of this and that and mix them to create your own tarot interpretation method and style of reading.
And most importantly, yourself with your first instinct.
To try the inward / outward method, take your deck, shuffle well and pick a card.
If it’s upright, turn it over so it’s reversed. If it’s reversed, that’s great.
Now, using the inward / outward method, what’s your first impression of the card?
Does it turn more inward or introvertedly for it’s tradition meaning or the meaning that you have for it?
Does the energy turn outward, more extrovertedly?
Try it with another card or as many as you’d like to see how the method works for you.
4. The Energy hints at Delays / Difficulties
This method can suggest that what the card means isn’t quite there yet, isn’t happening yet or there’s a delay.
What the card may suggest is that it may take longer than expected or hoped for and patience is likely needed.
For example, let’s look at the 8 of Wands which can suggest messages and air travel.
If you’re doing a reading on expecting a message, delivery or if you’re going on a vacation or trip, the 8 of Wands reversed may suggest that there may be delays expected with the delivery or transportation.
Another example may be with The Lovers.
If someone is wondering when they will find love and The Lovers appears reversed, it could suggest that there’s a delay and that it might not be anytime real soon.
Again this comes down to your intuition and if you feel that there’s a delay.
This method is especially good for when doing predictive readings and future readings as well.
How can you tell if the meaning is for a blocked card or a delay?
This could be a double-whammy.
The energy of the card could be delayed because of the blockage or vice versa.
Ask yourself if you feel that it’s blocked, then ask yourself if you feel that it’s delayed.
If you get a yes for both of them, then you can ask yourself which one is causing the other.
Go with your first instinct and trust it.
The more you trust your gut responses and doubt them less, the more accurate they will become.
Like in the song “Speed is the Key” by the Sugarcubes, “Doubt kills / Speed is the key”. So, don’t doubt yourself; be quick with your gut reactions and go with your first impressions!
5. The Energy is Lacking
Another method for interpreting reversals is if something is lacking which the card may be hinting at.
This can be similar to interpreting the card as opposite, but perhaps not in the sense of “do this / don’t do that” and rather that something is missing.
Let’s look at just one interpretation of the 10 of Cups which is normally depicted in the Rider Waite Smith versions as a happy family.
When reversed using the “lacking method”, we could see this card as lacking a happy family or children.
It could symbolize the children have left the home and now there’s the “empty nest” feeling.
Another example, let’s examine the 9 of Cups known as the Wish Card.
The 9 of Cups suggests fulfillment and contentment, but if we see it as lacking, we may feel that we don’t have our wishes fulfilled or we lack what we need in order to fulfill our desires.
We may have everything we need and want, but always want more or what we can’t have.
The 9 of Cups reversed can suggest that we never have enough, always feel that we lack, no matter how much we acquire, buy and gain.
These are just a few methods for reading with reversals that I use in my practice.
During a regular reading, these interpretations combined with upright interpretations mix, mingle and shift depending on the cards, the positions and if upright and reversed.
When reading reversals in the beginning, it sometimes best to practice with one method for a while to get used to it, then try another later.
Then over time, you will find that the knowledge of different interpretations will come to your mind as you look at the cards.
It’s good to have different interpretation methods in your repertoire and with experience you will come to rely on them without even realizing it.
Working with reversals becomes easier when you have a method to interpret them rather than trying to memorize reversal meanings on top of upright meanings.
When you have 78 upright meanings and 78 reversal meanings, you have at least 156 cards to memorize!
If you give each card at least 5 different words, each upright and reversed, that’s at least 780 words to memorize!
This is why learning methods to interpret tarot and creating connections with cards and symbolism can help greatly when reading tarot and most importantly, relying on your intuition to guide you.
Do you read with reversals?
Do you love ‘em or hate ‘em?
Have tips to share about reading reversals?
Feel free to comment below and share this post.
Until next time!