Shall we get right into it? How do you feel about reversals? Do you read them? If so, how? Do you have seventy-eight other interpretations that you use? Do you have a system that you apply to or a modification for the upright meanings? Do you not use them? Why? What do you do when one comes up upside down? Because no matter how careful you are, they somehow manage to get mixed up all the time.
It seems that people have fairly strong opinions about reversals. Years ago, when the American Tarot Association used to certify readers, I went through the certification process. That process included creating and using your own reversed meanings. I did so, of course, because I used to be an annoying over-achiever. But I never liked using reversals.
Not using reversals makes me feel like a tarot poser, much in the same way my lack of enthusiasm for the Qabalah makes me feel. Every few years, I try using reversals again. And every few years I try loving the Qabalah (my most recent effort included reading Lon Milo DuQuetteâ€™sÂ The Chicken Qabalah, which almost did it, but only because he said it didnâ€™t matter how I spelled it). The Qabalah never sticks and neither do reversals.
I always say something like, you donâ€™t need reversals because there are cards in the deck that can say what needs saying. And I mostly believed that. Until recently.
Paul Quinn, author ofÂ Tarot for Life, was on the last episode of Tarot Talk (a radio show on Blog Talk Radio with hosts Raven Mardirosian and Georgianna Boehnke). He told a story that kind of made my head explode.
He told a story about how he studied with Rachel Pollack and Mary K. Greer during their annual weekly summer class at the Omega Institute. On Monday, his first day of class, they told the students that on Thursday the entire class would be doing readings for all the rest of the students at Omega who were taking other classes. He apparently has much Virgo in his chart and determined to be the very best reader. He took meticulous notes all week. When the time came for the readings, he noticed that he left his notebook in the classroom, which was locked and no one was around who could open it.
He pulled a card, asking what kind of energy should he bring to his readings since he <shudder> didnâ€™t have his notebook!?!?! The card he pulled was the 8 of PentaclesÂ reversed. The cards were telling him to not bring all his Virgo-note-taking-energy. Which was good, since he didnâ€™t have his notebook. He was meant to read unfettered from his safety net of notes and â€śshouldsâ€ť and â€śdo it this ways.â€ť
That card reversed in this circumstance made so much sense to me. I tried to think what card upright would be able to communicate the same thing as poetically and accurately. The Fool? Nope, not the same thing, really. The Wheel? The Hanged Man? 9 of Pentacles? Knight of Swords? No. No. No. And no.
Now, after all these years, one manâ€™s amusing anecdote is forcing me to rethink my formerly very comfortable dismissal of reversals.
Perhaps I should pull out my copy of Mary K. Greerâ€™sÂ Complete Book of Tarot Reversals.
While Iâ€™m muddling through, leave a comment about your opinion regarding reversals (do you use them, why or why not, and if so, how?) and be entered into a drawing for a free copy of theÂ Tarot of the Sweet Twilight. If you are unfamiliar with this deck, see my reviewÂ here. Entries will be closed at midnight CST on October 28. The winner will be posted on Thursday, October 29, along with a special Halloween treat…an interview with a very special tarot artist.