There are a lot of different opinions on how to read reversed Tarot cards. I think it’s one of those ambiguous areas of Tarot that only personal experience will make you feel comfortable with. Some of the different approaches to reading reversed Tarot cards are unhelpful; principally because they are not practical. Avoid the practice of interpreting a reversed card as somehow reversing the upright meaning, and try instead to see it as just another way to group the cards.
I have been asked before if I think it’s necessary to use reversed cards in a Tarot reading and my honest answer is no. I’m unconvinced that using reversed cards, for people that are concerned with memorising vast amounts of keywords or DMs, is the best practice for them. It tends to provide an unnecessary amount of stress that is counterproductive to the aim; giving a Tarot reading.
The method that I am about to outline here is the one I use in my professional practice. I know this method works, and it really is simple to use, however, I must insist that you avoid the temptation of adding any more DMs to your repertoire. In my opinion, the use of reversed cards is not to provide the reader with additional DMs, but rather to allow the Tarot reader to structure the ‘narrative’ or story he tells the client.
The Method For Reading Reversed Tarot Cards
I use the reversed Tarot cards to structure a Tarot reading. It’s difficult to explain exactly what I mean by this. I do not mean that I change the DMs of the cards just because they are reversed, or that I assign any special privileges to either the upright or reversed cards. In fact, whether they are reversed or not does not matter much to me. The only thing that concerns me when I see reversed cards is what story they are telling me.
Like any good book or movie there is the main plot, but contained within this structure are ‘sub-plots’ of the main story. I see reversed cards as indicating the sub-plot of the main story within the client’s life. As a result, I group all the reversed cards together to help me determine what this sub-plot is.
For example, if it’s a relationship reading, I’ll first look at the main plot of the reading before checking out the reversed cards. If it just so happens that the client’s partner is reversed then I will apply all reversed cards to him. This allows me to tell the client what their partner feels about them, the issues that surround them and in some instances their motive for acting the way they do. In this way, I group the reversed cards together in order to help complete the Tarot reading.
Additionally, I’ll use reversed cards as a way to explore blocks or resistance to the client’s plan or goal. In fact, I’ll usually interpret the same reversed Tarot cards more than once in order to add greater depth to my readings. The process of reinterpretation is possibly a little too involved at this stage of our learning, but it is worth while recognising that nothing is absolute in a Tarot reading. Every card can be reinterpreted by using different criteria, depending on the information you are looking for, as often as you like.
Example Two Card Tarot Readings Using Reversed Cards
The purpose of this exercise is two-fold. Firstly, to get you comfortable with viewing reversed cards, not as a reversal of the DMS but rather, as a method for structuring a reading. Secondly, to illustrate that there is no real mystery behind using reversed cards. In a two card reading, the ‘narrative’ you tell will be much the same as if they were both upright.
In fact the technique I use to read reversed Tarot cards would see two reversed cards identically (if it was only a 2 card Tarot reading) as if they were upright. You might see reversed Tarot cards differently, that’s fine, the important point is not to get ‘hung-up’ on the thought of learning extra DMS when really, it’s not necessary.
Here we have the 3 of Swords reversed next to the 7 of Disks. We know Elementally that Air and Earth are enemies and weaken each other. We also know that one is Active and the other is Passive which results in a neutralising influence. Therefore, this situation is unlikely to change. When both cards were upright we saw them as meaning profound debt. Now that one of them is reversed, how does this change the story? Not a whole lot to be honest. The main change is that the person experiencing the debt is bound to feel worse about things and also, if we imagine the 3 of Swords as somehow indicative of other people, being cut off from any outside help. On a positive note, we could also imagine that the client has the determination to succeed as indicated by the 7 of Disks; it just appeals to my imagination as being stronger.
Here we have the 4 of Wands reversed. When both cards were upright I felt it indicated marriage; now, with one of them reversed, we will have to reinterpret the cards again.
I still see this as an excellent combination of cards. I can’t see the 4 of Wands reversed as indicating a great obstacle to the client’s life. At worse, all I could say would be that the client could take more time to enjoy what’s happening around her.
If we completely reinterpret these cards we could say that the professional advice offered by the Hierophant will certainly help the client with their property; perhaps the client has experienced delays in terms of moving home?
Both these cards are reversed. I will use the same interpretation we used when both these cards were upright: The Fool indicates something new and when combined with the Universe card I would be inclined to say that this person will be moving abroad.
I used the same interpretation as before as I don’t use reversed cards to reverse the DMs. Instead, I use reversed cards to help create a structure within a Tarot reading; to help me explore the ‘sub-plots’ within a reading and to provide a way of analysing the blockages or resistance that life, or the client, might create.
I would like you to continue using reversed cards within your practice readings and next week we will be combining all these different lessons into a powerful three card spread.
This post is part of the Beginners Tutorial To Reading Tarot Cards.