Sandra Thomson's specialty within
tarot is that of an author and teacher. She is the co-author of three
books (The Lovers' Tarot, Spiritual Tarot, and The
Heart of The Tarot), the author of Cloud Nine: A Dreamer's
Dictionary, and the author of a dictionary of tarot,
Pictures from the Heart, published by St. Martin's Press.
She teaches tarot classes at the
Philosophical Research Society (PRS) in Los Angeles, where she resides.
Although she learned to read with the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, she is
very fond of the Ancestral Path and the Shining Tribe decks, and uses
them for comparative or special readings. She reads online for the ATA
reading networks, and privately.
In the tradition of Armenian
folk tales, which I'm told begin with the words, "Once
upon a time there was, and there wasn't," I have to say
that this story begins the same way, with emphasis on "wasn't."
Once upon a time (well, several
years ago if you have to be exact), you wouldn't have been
able to find a book on reversals if it was required as ransom
to save your collection of Tarot decks. Now they are flooding
the market. Okay, okay, so I exaggerate a little, for the
current "flood" consists of two, the latest being
one by Joan Bunning, the doyen of online Tarot teaching. Who
knew she was working on one?
Published by Red Wheel/Weiser
In one sense the
book can be considered a companion to her earlier book Learning
the Tarot. Each book has lessons with accompanying exercises,
followed by a section on card meanings. There are eight chapters
or lessons in Part 1, and each chapter contains a series of exercises,
which build on each other. Together their focus is understanding
card energy or energy cycles as expressed through the Tarot cards,
and on energy expressions in your daily life. One of Bunning's purposes,
as she writes in her introduction, is to "enhance the dynamic
quality of your readings by seeing your cards as energies."
For Bunning, tarot readings show not fixed forces, but, rather,
ones that are fluid and dynamic. She wants to inspire you to recognize
and attend to that energetic quality in your readings.
Too often in the Little White Book
(LWB) that accompanies a deck, we read that the reversed meaning
of a card is its opposite. Bunning stresses this is not so. "An
energy does not become its opposite when reversed," she writes.
Rather, it shows that the energy is low, hidden, rejected, or ignored
(Throw away your LWBs). If you get nothing else out of this book
than that point, it is well worth the price-but, rest assured, there
is much more "to get."
In elaborating on her "low energy"
idea, Bunning says, for instance, that a reversed World card does
not show active unhappiness. Instead it indicates that the energy
of happiness is low, whereas true unhappiness might appear in a
reading designated by another card, say the Nine of Swords.
The energy of a reversed card can be
at a low or weak level because it's in the early part of a cycle
or approaching the end of its cycle, so Bunning includes some exercises
to give you experience in identifying where the energy might be
in the cycle.
Bunning believes that a cycle has three
distinct phases: early, middle, and late. An upright card represents
an energy in the strong, middle phase of its cycle. Reversed cards
represent the early or late phase of a cycle. How to decide which
takes some practice and experience, and to that end, Bunning has
created exercises based on potential client statements and possible
reversed cards to help you. She also provides exercises to learn
to identify and work with repeating cycles. Other exercises include
handling situations where you think or expect that one phase of
energy is present, when, in actuality, it is another.
Finally, in a series of exercises,
Bunning teaches us that energies come in linked pairs; hence, so
do tarot cards, i.e., two cards with opposite meanings. Want to
know how to read them when they appear in a spread, both upright,
both reversed, one upright, one reversed? Lesson Six is your tutor.
Finally, Lesson Eight tells you how to put it all together.
P.S. In an Appendix, Bunning provides
possible responses (she emphasizes that they are not "answers")
to some of the exercises in the first part of the book. It's like
being at a workshop with Bunning. You can check yourself out with
how the "expert" might respond.
Part 2 covers the cards by giving a
four- or five-sentence upright meaning, a series of short statements.
Based on keywords in those statements, Bunning gives meanings when
the card is reversed, in terms of whether it's "absent,"
in an "early phase," or in a "late phase." The
exercises in Part 1 of the book help you determine how to "assign"
these phases to the reversed card meaning, and there are plenty
of options for everyone, and to cover every situation.
At the very back of the book is a Keyword
List, containing four or five keywords for each of the 78 cards.
Do they match yours? Check it out. Pit yourself against the master.
She certainly doesn't use some of the keywords I use for the Swords.
Well, Joan, I suggest a Two of Swords duel at sunrise. Note I can
suggest the Two of Swords because one of her keywords is "avoidance."
You know I'm not gonna be there! Now, if she chooses an Eight of
Wands ("quick action, conclusion"), I'm doomed.
You will have to study this book, and
do at least some of the exercises to successfully use its method
for reading reversals. It will give you something to do while you're
waiting for that mythical duel between Joan Bunning and me. By that
time, you will have become a far better tarot reader than you were
when first you picked up this book. And, isn't that what this whole
tarot thing is all about?
Learning Tarot Reversals (ISBN
1-57863-271-4) is a publication of Red Wheel/Weiser, and is available
in bookstores. You can visit their website at RedWheelWeiser.com.