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Reading Reversed Cards

This post was written by Barbara Moore
on June 7, 2011 | Comments (11)

Last week, some of you asked for tips on reading reversals. This one’s for you!

The Complete Book of Tarot Reversals

The question of whether or not to use reversals in a reading comes up a lot, even amongst seasoned tarot readers. When an experienced, talented reader is asked “do you use reversals,” she may somewhat sheepishly answer, “no, I don’t.” There is sometimes a feeling a guilt about not using reversed cards, as if that is a decision of a lazy or less intelligent person. Naturally, I do not agree with this assessment. I am, after all, a reader of over 20 years experience, I am not lazy, and I do not think I am lacking in intelligence.

For some background on my journey with reversals, read THIS and THIS.

To update…I have again revised my usage. I’ve using the Anna K and the Tarot of the Sidhe almost exclusively for about 9 months now and I have NOT been using reversals with them.

Many people don’t like reversals for one of several reasons:

1. they don’t want to memorize 78 additional meanings (although, as we will see, this is not really necessary)

2. the “traditional” meanings don’t make sense in relation to the upright meaning or the image

3. they haven’t selected a unified approach to reversals and consequently everything feels chaotic and muddled

Mary K. Greer wrote an excellent book called The Complete Book of Tarot Reversals. In it she explores the fascinating world, one with serious shamanic undertones, of upside down cards. She provides 12 unified, logical approaches to reversed cards. The key to not memorizing senseless meanings is to pick one of these approaches and apply it across the board. Here are her suggestions:

1. Blocked or resisted energy

2. Projected energy

3. Delayed, difficult, or unavailable

4. Inner, unconscious, or private

5. New or Dark moon

6. Breaking through, overturning, refusing, changing direction

7. No or Not (of the upright meaning); lacking

8. Excessive, over- or undercompensating

9. Misused or misdirected

10. “re” words: retried, retracted, reviewed, reconsidered

11. Rectification: disease into remedy

12. Unconventional, shamanic, magical, humorous

In her book, she explains these all indepth. So, if you are curious…you know where to go! But try using all or some of these ideas with one card.

1. Pull a card from your deck

2. State your upright meaning for the card

3. Go through each of Mary’s 12 suggestions and apply it to the card you pulled.

4. If any feel natural to you, note them. Pull another card and use the approaches that you liked.

5. Continue in this manner until you arrive at one. Then apply that one to a few readings and see how it goes.

6. Comment here and share your experience.

Reader Comments

Written By Theresa | The Tarot Lady
on June 7th, 2011 @ 8:38 am

I’ve always read reversals. I feel that they add a layer of depth to a reading. Mary Greer’s book on reversals is the best book on the subject. It’s one of my favorite books!

Written By Jay
on June 7th, 2011 @ 10:53 am

I sit firmly on the fence with reversals! 🙂

I read with reversed cards in some decks, but not others. For some decks, the reversals seem to add nuance and detail. In other decks, the reversals seem to bog down the reading down by adding unnecessary complexity.

It’s more of a personal feel by deck for me.

Written By Diana Rajchel
on June 7th, 2011 @ 1:33 pm

I read reversals, and have since reading more than 15 years ago, but I do struggle with them sometimes. I’m always confused when Moon in reverse comes up, or a court card comes up reversed. The above guidelines are a great help, thank you!

Written By Rose
on June 7th, 2011 @ 2:45 pm

Thanks for this great post, Barbara! I am introducing reversals in my next Tarot clinic, and this gives us something really tangible to focus on!

And of course, I need to get Mary’s book! 🙂

Written By Nathara
on June 7th, 2011 @ 2:45 pm

It depends on the deck for me. I kind of honor the artist’s wishes with the deck on whether or not I read reversals and normally look at the booklet or manual to figure that out. I have decks where I read all reversals, where I only read major arcana reversed, and where I don’t use reversals at all. And of course, I use whatever deck feels right at the time.

Written By Nancy Daniell
on June 7th, 2011 @ 3:24 pm

Have read professionally for about 15 yrs. & never used reversals. Life is tough enough without ’em.

Written By Katrina
on June 7th, 2011 @ 4:30 pm

I don’t use them but never really thought about it and I guess the books I read didn’t include information on reversals. I know friends who use reversal in runes and I thought it meant a reversal of the standing interpretation.

Written By Blackbird "BB"
on June 7th, 2011 @ 7:54 pm

Diana wrote: I read reversals, and have since reading more than 15 years ago, but I do struggle with them sometimes. I’m always confused when Moon in reverse comes up, or a court card comes up reversed. The above guidelines are a great help, thank you!

First off,
I have a rather radically different reading of the moon than you will often find, so you might wish to rearrange or even reverse my thoughts here.
The Moon is viewed with greatest skepticism in Tarot Literature especially older tarot literature, speaking to irrationality; Illusion, deception, Madness, Addiction, Compulsive behavior. ..
but for me at least this is the Rx reading of the Card, upright I see the moon as, a deep connection to divine intuition, inner knowing, the deep quiet of mediation; Connection to Astral Realms, an open ‘Channel’.
This positive vision of the Moon has always served me well.
As to Rx Courts;
I think if we consider that each Court represents a Virtue and a Vice, we might arrive at a good understanding.
Years ago I pulled a reading for a young Lady, Her Mom’s then current Man came up, King of Pents Rx; and I expected he would be something of a Miser; but no, he was not; actually he had just blown her mom’s savings on a new Harley.
So here we had a Man who was Fascinated with the outward show of wealth we expect of an accomplished man (King of Pents) but not interested in the actual accomplishment.
Again with the Kt of Swords; Upright we have a committed person of fierce purpose; perhaps a Dr House type person; but Reversed a real fanatic, a potential suicide bomber.
My experience with Rx Courts, is that we see the virtues of the card pushed to an extreme that mutates them into a vice.
I hope these thoughts have been of some value.
Blessings, BB.

Written By Mickie
on June 8th, 2011 @ 2:50 am

I have been reading Tarot for 25 years and have not used reversals either. I always considered the energy to be blocked or hampered from coming into play so I was glad to see that Mary Greer also uses that. This book sounds very interesting, I will be purchasing it.

Written By melissa
on November 12th, 2013 @ 9:02 pm

I have to admit if it wasnt for Mary Greer and Janet Boyer i wouldn’t be reading using reversals to this day. I use to do readings and reverse the cards so they were all pointing up and based it not only on the book but my own thoughts.


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