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The Llewellyn Journal
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Tarot Reversals

This article was written by Mary K. Greer
posted under Tarot

Reversed Tarot cards offer a way to see through to the "Other Side." They allow us to go beyond the limits of the known. In offering possibilities and insights that are not immediately apparent, they take us into the realm of potentials and underlying causes where everything is connected and Magic happens. We are invited to look beyond the obvious to places of richer meaning. Sometimes they even "remedy" the difficulties of an upright interpretation.

Reversed Does Not Equal Bad
I began The Complete Book of Tarot Reversals with the intention of rectifying the idea that reversed cards represent an opposite, mostly negative aspect of the upright meaning of a card. While confronting and dealing with problems is essential, in my Tarot readings I emphasize clarifying goals and the conscious creation of what you want. Problems, then, represent energy that is constrained and can be liberated. In doing so, we access their hidden wisdom and potentials.

As with everyone who has written a Tarot book, taught or studied a card-a-week, or created a deck, I found uncanny synchronicities between my life and the cards I was working on at the time. Frieda Harris painted the Thoth deck during World War II. While working on the card named "Victory" (Six of Wands), there was a major Allied victory, and during the painting of "Defeat" (Five of Swords), there was a major Allied defeat. Harris felt a connection between her work with the cards and the events, although commonsense said it was absurd. And so, I too experienced each reversal in my own life.

Before I mention some of the situations I have encountered, I should note that I have been blessed with few prior personal injuries or experiences of illness in my family, and I nearly always meet my deadlines.

My first delays occurred when it took more than a month to get delivery on my new computer. As I started working on the reversed Court Cards, I went through four tenants in four months after keeping the previous tenant for three years. Throughout the Swords, a suit of communication, truth, and the law, I dealt with a crisis in an organization that involved alleged deception. The Ace of Pentacles reversed, a suit of security and the body, corresponded with a badly sprained ankle that occurred four days before a Tarot tour of Italy. With the Ten of Pentacles reversed, a card having to do with hearth and home, the bank lost two checks that were intended to pay my house taxes.

The Cards Echo Life
As I wrote about the High Priestess reversed, I was reading a biography of Christiana Morgan, whose paintings of her inner visions (begun under analysis with Carl Jung) were used in a four-year seminar taught by Jung. The biographer described Morgan in terms that were pure High Priestess reversed

Books I read, classes and workshops I taught and attended, all dealt with subjects corresponding to the current card—again echoing word-for-word the material I was writing; for instance, in a Jungian seminar we discussed "sacrifice" as I worked on the Hanged Man.

My divorce was finalized the day I started Death. The Tower corresponded with a friend's burst appendix. The hottest day all winter fell in January while I worked on the Sun card. As I began editing, I fell and sprained my back so seriously that I was first bedridden and then could not function without a brace. Then came snow storms, electricity outages, email glitches, and, as I madly slashed and cut for the final edit of the manuscript, my eldest daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer and immediately operated on. With the help of my editor at Llewellyn, Barbara Moore, I temporarily put the book aside.

Learning From Adversity
While immensely difficult, these stressful experiences have brought me face to face with material from the psyche, which I must face honestly and with all the clarity I can muster. Reversals have also corresponded with good experiences, including the support of friends at a level I never have known before. Midway through the Los Angeles Tarot Symposium (LATS) Barbara Rapp awarded me Eden Gray's original bronze sculpture of the RWS Hanged Man, the image I felt best expresses reversed card ideas. A magnificent piece, it is Gray's only Tarot sculpture. To begin the symposium, I drew a card as a message for the symposium participants—it was the Hanged Man.

While Tarot interpretations in general have become more psychological and spiritual, emphasizing human growth potential, reversed meanings have remained, all too often, negative and fatalistic. People react to them with fear and apprehension. The Complete Book of Tarot Reversals suggests that by facing these fears and difficulties, we can reclaim stuck energy and access the wisdom of the sacred.

Mary K. GreerMary K. Greer
Mary Greer is an author and teacher specializing in methods of self-exploration and transformation.  A Grandmaster of the American Tarot Association, she is a member of numerous Tarot organizations, and is featured at Tarot conferences and symposia...  Read more


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