Reversed Cards

authored by Mary K. Greer 1996

The cards respond to your intentions and so will work whether you use reversed cards or not. For years I did not read upsidedown cards, but turned them all upright, and was perfectly happy doing so. For short readings at fairs I still often read the cards upright. However, I have come to find reversals very significant, only not according to the fixed interpretations in books, which are often negative and judgmental. I think beginners can benefit by using only upright cards until they know and understand the fundamental meanings and subtle nuances of the cards.

I think of reversed cards as "tagged," showing me that they are not operating as usual. It is as if they were saying, "pay attention here -- I'm not doing the obvious thing." First I turn the card upright and suggest some basic interpretations, or I have the client simply describe the card. Then I try out several of the following modifications until something begins to make sense -- that "ah-ha" feeling:

  1. The energy normally described by the card may be blocked, repressed, denied, or resisted. This could be entirely appropriate and healthy, or not, which the person themselves may be able to tell you.

    [Strength Rvs]

  2. There could be a tendency to project such denied material onto others.


  3. There might be hesitation, or an external delay (especially when many cards are reversed indicating that an impending change could take longer than expected).


  4. The energy is unconscious, inner or secret rather than conscious, overt or outer. (Especially with a majority of reversals.)


  5. The person could be overturning, getting out from under, breaking free of, or turning away from the condition pictured in the upright position.


  6. It could show a bumpy road. Energy is not flowing as smoothly or automatically as it would otherwise. This may require a conscious committment, and an extra, determined effort to get whatever the card represents upright -- if that is what is desired.


  7. There could be a trickster aspect to the card. Perhaps a sense of humor is required, or not taking the situation too seriously.


  8. There could be a turn around or upset in the circumstances described, that may ultimately be for one's own good or growth.


  9. While adding "no" or "not" before the standard upright interpretation can occasionally be helpful, take care that this does not lead to a judgmental, overly deterministic, or negative approach. Practice this with a light touch.

Several, or all, of the above options may be functioning in any one reversed card. We are not talking about simple solutions here. Look to see if a particular point of view is supported by other cards. For instance, the Hanged Man could support the idea of delay. Ask the client what seems most likely.

Make a list of other reversed card concepts until you find ones that make the most sense. Look for what will add the greatest depth and insight to your readings.

Please visit Mary Greer's most excellent Tarot Website.  Also, you may write email Mary Greer

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