On Reversals.

As of this post, I am a Tarot reader who does not use reversals.

I remember the first time I laid out a spread with my brand new Radiant RWS cards. I shuffled them to allow for reversed cards, and laid them out in the Celtic-Cross spread that was included in the LWB.

As soon as I turned up the first reversal, I immediately decided that I would put off reading with them for the time being. It wasn’t that it confused me; at that point, all I was doing was reading the definitions from the LWB, whether the card was right side up or not. No, I just didn’t like the way it looked. So I rearranged my cards so they were all oriented the same way, and ever since have always taken care to keep them like that while shuffling.

As I learn more and more about reading cards, I remain extremely hesitant to incorporate reversals into my spreads. It’s no longer just for aesthetic reasons, although a spread does always looks better when you don’t bother with them.

For one thing, there appears to be no agreed-upon way to do them (although that’s pretty much true of anything Tarot). Some cards come with a LWB that will tell you specific meanings for reversals. In fact, many do. But what about a method, something applicable no matter what deck you’re using? There are several reigning ones that I’ve seen.

One way is to read the reversed card as an inversion of the upright meaning. For example, the Hermit reversed would be an outgoing and social personality. Alternatively, all upright cards could show the positive aspects of those cards, while reversed could be negative. The Emperor upright is a just and stable ruler, but reversed he is an oppressive despot. Rachel Pollack suggests in her book that reversals indicate “blocked energies”. Something about the usual meaning of the card has been suppressed. A reversed Magician means you may be having difficulty expressing yourself. If I were to begin incorporating reversals into my spreads, it would likely be with one of the above three methods.

But reading this way adds an entirely new level of complexity to an already complex practice, and to be honest, I think the Tarot is capable of telling you whatever it needs to with the cards available. Reversals certainly add more nuance, but I do not believe it’s necessary.

For me, though, there is a deeper reason preventing me from using them, if I’m willing to admit it: fear. I am afraid to get reversals in my readings, because I’ve associated them with bad things (I can’t say when or why this developed), and I don’t want that.

Of course, this is extremely foolish, I know. I don’t have to get into why this is foolish, as it should be apparent to anyone. There are bad things even in many upright cards, and preventing them from popping up in a reading doesn’t necessarily prevent them from popping up in real life, anyway. Not to mention the fact that a reversed card doesn’t even have to be considered negative, depending on the card and method of interpretation. But, if I’m being really honest, deep down, this is why I don’t use them.

But who knows. Despite the leaps and bounds I’ve grown in the past year, the Tarot is still a very new addition to my life. I feel no rush to advance the complexities of my readings – this will happen in its own time. Thinking about my future as a card reader, I think it’s pretty likely at some point that I will begin to shuffle my cards to allow for reversals.

Probably not anytime soon, though.

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2 thoughts on “On Reversals.”

  1. Well, really it is up to the reader and how he/she reads, I personally feel reversals are redundant. Why the need to add on more nuance when the cards are perfectly nuanced as they stand? With reading reversals as a negative aspect well why not look at the surrounding cards, that should give sufficient information on what things are blocked, negative, etc. That is just my two cents, but I see it as unnecessary complication. As always, another great read. Blessings.

    Liked by 1 person

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