>Reversals, In Brief

>Reversed tarot cards get a bad rap. Largely seen in a negative light, reversals often are interpreted as the exact mirror of the upright dignified view. A reading entirely comprised of reversals can cause a reader to scrap the reading and deal the cards afresh. Sometimes called ‘ill-omened,’ reversals are cited in many sources as a sign of bad luck for the reader.

One tarot reading site, http://facade.com interprets the Major Arcana card VIII, Strength, reversed to mean:
“Weakness in the face of obstacles and adversity. Tremendous power released
at the wrong moment. Inability to defend oneself. Confusion, and lack of preparedness.
Illness, hardship, distress and the failing of physical force. Dominant behavior,
abusiveness and a possible loss of reputation.”

To readers with broader experience, this meaning will look somewhat incomplete. Implications are left unexplored, of the presence of the card upright. It only examines the card in relief of what the site says about the dignified card. The Web site http://façade.com is still useful to preview a broad selection of decks, but because it features so many decks in its tarot reading tool, the meanings and symbology of different cards become truncated.

A reversal can reflect the upright card like a looking glass, but will not always give an exact mirror image. Reversals can indicate an inwardly directed process, something under the surface, or something that is trying to break through into the seeker’s life but is being blocked by another aspect of the situation (which would be shown in other cards).

Mary K. Greer discusses 12 ways to read reversals in her Complete Book of Tarot Reversals published in Llewellyn’s Special Topics in Tarot series. Among the 12 ways, Greer discusses the qualities of the upright card becoming resisted, projected, unavailable, indicating magical or shamanic activities, as well the traditional negation of the card’s upright traits.

I find reversals to be instructional, highlighting certain cards and their places in a reading and underscoring their messages. Reversals indicate that care is to be taken here; a remedy is to be applied. Even the symbol “Rx” is used to indicate a reversal, the same note made on prescriptions by doctors.
Next time you read your cards and reversals turn up, ask yourself, what happens when this card stands on its head? What’s in its pockets, what becomes more apparent in its reversed aspect? Remember, even when reversed, the card itself stays the same. One side implies the other. You may begin to incorporate reversed meanings with the upright appearance of the card. Follow your intuition, and you will know what is right for you.


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