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Using Tarot Reversals

This article was written by Barbara Moore
posted under Tarot

The Tarot represents the journey of human experience. Over the past seven centuries, Tarot has enjoyed its own journey, from its humble beginnings during the Renaissance as a card game played by nobility to its somewhat less exalted reputation as a fortune-telling tool common at carnivals. Today, the Tarot still fascinates and continues to evolve in exciting ways.

During the last twenty years or so, the Tarot has been enjoying its own renaissance. Not so long ago, there were only a few decks, and those decks were used mainly to tell fortunes. Now, there are hundreds of decks.

Tarot As Art Form
Artists have discovered that the Tarot, truly a complete representation of the human experience, is a perfect structure for artistic expression. It provides enough of a framework to inspire and focus while leaving enough freedom for individual expression. The world of the cards themselves is intriguing and vast, and many people are interested in Tarot solely as an art form.

In addition to the cards themselves, there is the using of them. The Tarot is a wonderful divinatory tool—and much more. In this article, we will explore the rich and exciting world of Tarot. You will learn many ways to use the Tarot to enhance and enchant your life. Fortune-telling or divination are two of the most popular uses of the Tarot. Besides discussing divination, we’ll explore how the Tarot can help solve problems, add variety and depth to meditation, and focus spell working. Tarot is also an excellent tool for changing your life through self-improvement, healing, journaling, and more.

Tarot As Magic
Like any other tool, the Tarot itself isn’t magic. The magic is within us; the Tarot effectively helps us access that magic. Part of magic’s great appeal is the ability to alter the world in accordance with your will. For an act to be magical, does something mystical and inexplicable have to happen? Or can hitting upon a seemingly elusive solution be magical? Probably. Those “ah-ha” experiences certainly feel mystical and inexplicable when they happen. Tarot facilitates those “ah-ha” moments and helps us alter our world.

Telling the Future
Years ago, popular divination focused on what would happen in the future—fulfilling a desire most people have felt at one time or another. But now Tarot readers are exploring a different tack. To “tell the future,” one must accept that the future is already determined. As more people find that premise less acceptable, knowing the future not only became less popular, it became something of a joke. A predetermined future leaves us powerless. But an undefined future is empowering because then we have incredible power to shape our own journey. There are many ways people shape their future; using Tarot readings is one way. As telling the future went out of fashion, Tarot readers began interpreting the cards on a more psychological level, focusing on identifying energies and trends. The better you understand the energies creating a certain trend, the more control you have over their direction.

Tarot expert and scholar Mary K. Greer in The Complete Book of Tarot Reversals says this about Tarot readings:

“A Tarot reading is about becoming aware of what you are creating with your current attitudes and choices. It can help you make new, conscious decisions based on what you have clarified and affirmed in the reading. While some situations are more difficult to change than others, every decision made and every action taken creates a new future.”
Considered in this light, a Tarot reading is certainly a magical act. The Tarot has a way of illuminating alternate possibilities and helping create a path to achieve those possibilities.

Seeing Possibilities
Seeing new possibilities is a major focus of Greer’s The Complete Book of Tarot Reversals. Just as Tarot reading has evolved to meet the needs of its users, the role of reversed cards in readings is evolving. When fortune telling was in vogue, reversed cards were simply read as the opposite of the upright meaning. Too many reversed cards in a reading were thought to be undesirable. Some books even advised that if you had more than three reversed cards in a ten-card spread, you should pick up the cards and reshuffle. Greer has explored the role of reversals in theory and in practice. As Greer explains her theory, reversals become almost more exciting than their more popular, more comfortable upright equivalents.

Greer sees reversals as a portal to the other points of view.
“They allow us to go beyond the limits of the known. In offering further possibilities and insights that are not immediately apparent, they provide an opportunity to reach beyond logic and lead 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 a place of richer meaning.”
Reversed cards have this numinous power because of our habit of seeing archetypes as having positive and negative manifestations. Because we create these dichotomous images and then denigrate the negative (assigning them to the reversed cards), we are less comfortable, less able to navigate this realm. Greer continues:
“Our attempt to split a card’s meanings through the use of reversals tends to throw us into the unconscious realm where fear and the shadow dwell, along with other fringe or culturally unsanctioned modes of operating, such as the shamanic and the magical. Yet, it is through knowledge of the tension between the opposites that we sharpen our sensitivity and increase our self-awareness.”
Tarot As Meditation
Greer’s book is a breakthrough for Tarot readers. But she is just opening the floodgates, for the study of reversals can affect all the other uses for Tarot. Many people use Tarot for meditation. They mentally enter a consciously or randomly selected card. What would it feel like to enter an upside-down card?

Greer provides twelve ways of interpreting reversed cards. One way is the “unconventional, shamanic, magical, humorous” method, which could be extremely useful for meditation as well as divinatory interpretations.
“The shamanic or magical view, in particular, asks you to enter the card and journey in an Alice-in-Wonderland realm in order to bring back a vital message or understanding. It suggests viewing things from a different perspective than that of the ordinary world, and assumes that what we normally view as a metaphor is a living reality, and that what we call reality is merely a dream. This view represents the ‘esoteric,’ that is, secret or hidden, teachings.”
If your meditation practice seems in need of revitalization, try meditating on a reversed card and see what adventures await you.

Barbara MooreBarbara Moore
In the early 1990s, at a party, someone put a tarot deck in Barbara's hands; she's held on tightly ever since. Tarot provides just enough structure so that we don't get lost as we explore the mysteries, plumb our dark corners, and locate our North...  Read more


The Complete Book of Tarot Reversals
The Complete Book of Tarot Reversals
Mary K. Greer
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