By Judy Jennings © Copyright 2014
Tarot authority Mary Greer takes exception to the commonly held belief that upside-down cards are negative, writing “A new age of reversals is upon us”. Reversed cards, according to Greer, are Tarot’s way of pointing out areas in need of attention, and of offering advice on what she calls the rectification of deep-seated issues.
SHOULD EVERYONE USE REVERSALS?Reversed cards tend to poke into matters that usually go unnoticed and to suggest that the normal state of affairs is no longer in operation. In this condition ordinary values are turned upside-down and traditional wisdom no longer applies.
A lot of people don’t, and that’s fine. Reversals aren’t a requirement. The most importanconsideration is whether you, the interpreter, are comfortable working with them.
Whether or not to use reversals in your readings is a matter of personal preference and often, experience. Reversed meanings aren’t simply opposites of traditional interpretations, they’re a conglomerate of possibilities that have to do with issues lying beneath the surface. It is essential to have an understanding of the full range of possible meanings for each card in the upright position before moving on to reversals. Some people take years before incorporating reversals into readings, and many don’t use them at all.
If you do choose to use reversals, it’s important to ground your interpretations in your own world view. The potential number of meanings for an upset card is extensive, and without some kind of rudder to help steer through them, this can be more confusing than helpful. Let your own attitude and philosophy be your guide. Every person must develop her own unique method for interpreting reversed cards.
Are you a philosophical person who turns to Tarot for spiritual guidance? Or are you someone who prefers a pragmatic approach to the cards that focuses on daily life? What are your values? How do you feel about the subconscious? What things in your life do you over or under-emphasize? Asking yourself these kinds of questions can help you get oriented as you learn to navigate through reversals.
WHAT IF THERE’S A MAJORITY OF REVERSED CARDS IN A READING?
Should you proceed with the reading anyway? Good question. Sometimes an excess of reversals reveals a lack of focus, and a few deep breaths and another shuffle are all that are called for. On the other hand, extreme reversals might indicate it’s not the right time for that particular question. There is also the possibility that the seeker is being confronted with issues he is reluctant to address. The bottom line is to determine what’s best for the seeker. Will it be helpful to continue the reading? Is the querant likely to be more distressed if you stop, or if you continue? Can you see a hopeful thread? If you cannot find a positive pattern in the cards, try rephrasing the question and starting over. Sometimes, though, it’s best to state that the cards aren’t responding at the moment, and try again another time.
Before you attempt to define a reversed card, give some thought to its full range of extremes in the upright. The reversed meanings will lean into the shadows, away from the obvious and toward that which is less understood. Reversal doesn’t actually change the meaning of a card, but rather emphasizes one extreme of the card’s already existing polarities.
Can reversals ever be positive? Definitely! Consider the Hanged One. Upside-down, the figure hanging by his feet becomes right-side up in a position that suggests Yogic mastery and an almost supernatural state of self-control. Reversals address not only blockages, but hidden potential as well.
Here are some examples of other types of issues that may be indicated by a reversed card:
Opposition, resistance, noncompliance.
Things that are secret, private, unrecognized.
Non-acceptance, dissent, turning away.
Unreliable person or undependable situation.
Change in direction.
Under or over-compensation.
Lessening or increase in importance.
Release of blocked energy.
Questioning of authority.
People turn to Tarot out of a desire to connect. A person’s emotional reaction to a card is a powerful guide for an interpreter. Encouraging someone to talk about how the images on the cards make her feel can transform a reading from purely analytical to intensely personal. This is essential in interpreting reversals.Consider the High Priestess, for example. In the regular position the water that originates in her robes, symbolizing the subconscious, flows away from her and continues on throughout the rest of the cards. Upside-down, however, all that water is about to pour down onto her in a torrent. Is this a positive state for the querant, or not? Emotional reaction is your guide here.
Reversed cards are Tarot’s way of offering guidance as the soul journeys through the underworld, the land of what is not yet known. The method for deciding whether to employ reversals is actually the same as the one for deciding which deck to use. You simply need to ask yourself one question.Are these cards speaking to me?