Why Tarot Reversals Need to be Read (or at least understood!)

Tarot Card Reversals — some long-time readers don’t believe in reading them while others abide by them to gain full understanding.  I’ve come across several who choose not to read reversals because they don’t want their readings to be “negative”. I’ve also seen some that don’t read reversals because someone told them that if they truly understood the cards they wouldn’t need to read the reversal.

For myself, I’ve always read reversals since Day 1 and I’ve never not overlooked the fact that a card came up reversed.  Through my experience, observation, and deep reflection over the cards over time, I do strongly believe that the reversed cards should be read — or at least the reversal meaning should be understood.

To highlight my point, I’m going to provide a short reading example.  Let’s say that I asked the cards the question: How can I increase my chances of a romantic relationship in the future?  The cards I deal are: Emperor Reversed, 9 of Cups, 5 of Cups Reversed.

The 9 of Cups often signifies “wishes fulfilled” and that there is potentially some satisfaction there.  However, the other two cards seem to not be quite as positive.

The 5 of Cups, when upright, shows emotional disappointment and loss.  Perhaps this person is still hurt from a past relationship, conflicts with a friendship, or problems in their family.  Regardless of the exact source, the person has likely dealt with some relationship problems and struggles to have this loss in their energy field.  However, since the card is reversed it is actually a hair bit positive (in the case with this card) because this card can signify depression.  As a reversal, that means that this energy is slightly “blocked” or “kinked”, which would mean for the 5 of Cups Reversed shows that the person is now at a moving on point from this disappointment even though the energy is still slightly present.  Is it significantly impacting them at this point?  No, but its not completely dormant either because if it was it wouldn’t come up in the cards.

The Emperor, when upright, expresses structure, discipline, boundaries, standards, organization, etc.  Since this card is reversed the energy is, as I said earlier, “blocked” or “kinked”.  This particular card, since it is one of the Major Arcana, is rather neutral and represents deep core lessons in the soul’s evolution.  There is a very significant lesson in this that could potentially really change the way person’s future is shaped.  So imagine to yourself what would  you  possibly see in a person who has the Emperor’s true energy “blocked”?  If a person has trouble with boundaries and standards what would you see?  That provides an answer to the reversal meaning.

In this case, I can see two potential interpretations for the Emperor Reversed:

1.  The person has “too strict” of standards that they don’t allow anyone in because they fear to be “dominated” as they may have in the past.

2.  The person should remember to have standards and not just settle with anyone.

Though these interpretations both appear to be at opposite ends of the spectrum, the irony is that they can both very well be true and resonate with the client.  Why?  Because at both ends of the spectrum there isn’t an equal balance.  To set standards and boundaries we have to have them, but not make them too strict.  An equilibrium has to be developed between the two, and it is then and only then that the true Emperor energy can be properly utilized.

If we did not read or consider the reversal then we may have easily looked this aspect over completely.  Yes we may have picked up on a need for “structure” but we would’ve missed in understand where the client fully is if we didn’t ask ourselves “If this energy is blocked, what would it look like?”  By reading and striving to understand the different potential interpretations of the reversal, we are then able to ultimately understand the full depth of the cards themselves better rather than simply look at them at face value.  It’s a complicated universe with many different variables — it’s a shame if we overlook these little things and miss them entirely, especially in this type of work.


Related posts:

Tarot Reflections

The Challenge of Trusting Your Own Intuition

Reading the 7 of Cups: The Good and the Bad


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About Jennifer Twardowski

Jennifer is a graduate student in transpersonal counseling psychology. Her interests are in personality typology (MBTI, Enneagram, Jungian typology), expressive arts, dreams, yoga, tarot and oracle cards, world religions, dance, photography, gardening, floral design, and more!

Posted on September 6, 2012, in Reading Tarot, Tarot and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I have a deck of Tarot cards that are over 75 years. I found them in my family storage area. Tarot cards scare some folks. Sometime a forecast of a life can be scary. I like your positive thoughts on a old and needed skill.

    • It’s a social belief that isn’t quite true, which was caused by religious organizations and larger groups of people in fear of losing “control”. Because of that, the majority of populations are a bit ignorant as far as knowledge goes about it. There’s nothing bad about them at all — and its not at all even about “fortune telling” or “forecasting”. It’s more a matter of understanding a person’s current energy, seeing what needs to evolve, giving advice, and sometimes making a short-term prediction.

      Glad to see that you enjoyed my post! 🙂 If anything, I like to advocate the point that there’s nothing “scary” about tarot at all — it actually makes you more self-aware! You should whip out that old tarot deck and see what happens! 😉

  2. Just remember when you’re working with reversals bear in mind that not all decks are designed with reversals in mind and therefore they won’t all have reversed meanings. Everything that is necessary to come up in a reading will be covered in the 78 existing cards.

    But if you are using a tarot deck that does incorporate the use of reversals within it, by all means it is important to take the time to learn them and use them within its context.

    So i agree with what your saying lol, but only if the deck has them in it. I enjoyed your thought provoking post also.

    • Yep — definitely! Most of the time so far I’ve used Rider-Waite, which I feel does need to be read with reversals in mind. However, there are some other decks where reversals don’t seem to really “gel”. Mostly my point with this post is/was to encourage learning and understanding the reversal meanings (even if you don’t necessarily read them). If you don’t its kind of like learning to drive but never learning to drive through a thunderstorm or in snow. One day it’ll come up and it might make things a bit more difficult if you didn’t take the time to learn them,

      Anyway, thanks for the comment and for stopping by! 🙂

  1. Pingback: Reading the 7 of Cups: The Good and Bad « Lotus Tarot Blossom

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