Tarot Reversals

By Gary Meister

This month I want to talk about Tarot Reversals (upside down cards) in a reading. What is the right way to deal with them? There has been a lot of talk on this subject, and some downright argument at times, but the final answer lies in the comfort of the individual reader—you.

What we need to establish is that each reader has his/her own comfort zone in this. The question isn't only how to deal with reversals, but whether or not we want to deal with them at all! And, as the reader, like in everything else in Tarot, the final decision is yours. There is no right or wrong here; you are working with your own subconscious mind and it will let you know what is right for you. It will just feel right to you—go with that.

Now: A lot of very accomplished Tarot readers don't use reversal meanings at all. I myself seldom deal with them. The way I shuffle my cards, they very seldom come out upside down.  When one does—I take it very seriously indeed, because when a reversal occurs when I'm shuffling in my usual way, I know it really means something!  

One way we avoid reversals is to use dignities. Briefly, dignities involve taking notice of the cards around the card you're reading and coloring the meaning of the card according to those surrounding cards. But we'll look at dignities another time.  

My point here is that you can choose for yourself whether or not you want to use reversals at all.  No matter what some other reader may say about it, it is totally up to you how you feel comfortable! 

Here are some different methods for dealing with reversals:

1st—and worst in my opinion—is to memorize all of the upright and reversed meanings in the Little White Book—LWB—that comes with your cards. Or to memorize them from a larger book. Obviously, it will take much more time before you are ready to do readings. And, even then, you can get confused as to which meaning (out of all the many possibilities) is the right meaning in this particular reading. But, you can do it this way if that is your choice—you're the reader!  It's very limiting and confusing, though.

2nd—The card, especially a positive card, means that this good situation will come to you, but it will be delayed in some way when it's reversed. It will not come about when it is expected because of some unforeseen problems arising. For instance: The Sun, completion, fruition, reaching ones goals (reversed), might be interpreted as, "it looks like this new job you are seeking is coming to you, but, since this card is reversed (upside down) unforeseen problems and circumstances are indicated here, which will slow down the process and you may have to wait longer. The good news is—while this opportunity is being delayed, another job may turn up that is even better than the one you originally wanted! Keep your eyes open for this." This method also tends to soften the effects of negative cards.

Always try to put a positive spin on the negative messages so the client won't worry too much, and in so doing, bring about the very thing he/she doesn't want. This is called planting a self-fulfilling prophecy in the clients mind. Don't do it! Never leave a client with a sense of dread or discouragement after a reading. It can backfire in two different ways: 1—they will worry and bring about the exact thing they are worrying about. (We really do create our own reality with the thoughts we have most often). Or 2—They won't come back to you for another reading.  People get readings to help them feel good! If they leave feeling depressed, you very probably won't see them again. And repeat business can be very important to a new reader, or to any reader, for that matter.

3rd—This system is called "Elemental Reversals". In this method, the elements mean one thing in the natural position, and something different in the reversed position. For instance:

Pentacles = Earth

Upright = Finances

Reversed = Health Issues

Swords = Air

Upright = Thoughts And Ideas

Reversed = Attitudes

Wands = Fire

Upright = Imagination, Creativity

Reversed = Intuition

Cups = Water

Upright = Love & Relationships

Reversed = Emotional Issues

Major Arcana = Spirituality

Upright = Spiritual Path

Reversed = Plateaus or Blocks in Spiritual Path

Of course, you decide what the elements would mean to you. And—the upright and reversed meanings. As I may have said before, you're the Reader...

4th—In this system of reversals, the upright card would mean whatever you have decided it would mean, and reversed, it would show a discrepancy between what you think you want and what you may be doing to block its creation in your life. Example: You want to make more money—but—you spend most of your time worrying about not having enough to go around.  Remember—what we think about most becomes our reality.

5th—The reversed card may be telling the client (or you) to try looking at what's going on in your (or their) life in a completely different way, a totally opposite viewpoint, a different perspective.

6th—This is a pretty negative viewpoint:  In this system, a reversal would weaken a positive card and strengthen a negative one. As you can see—this system always has a negative result. Not so good...

7th—The reversed card means exactly the opposite of its upright meaning. In other words, it makes a negative prediction positive, and a positive one, negative. I just tossed this out for your consideration. For me, it gets way too confusing; some cards may be very hard to find an exact opposite for. But, if you like it, use it. Your choice is what counts, not mine.

Okay, I've given you a few ideas on how to deal with reversals. Try some of them out and see what feels good to you. And remember, it's okay if you decide to not deal with reversals at all—as usual, it's up to you!

See ya next time...  :o)

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Tarot Reflections is published by the American Tarot Association - Copyright (C) 2009

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