TAROT: Reading Reversed Cards – What to Do?

I began my journey with tarot back in the late 1970’s. At that time everyone in the circle of friends I hung out with read reversed cards. That’s just how it was done.

At some point in the mid-1980’s there was a sudden shift. It seemed to coincide with the advent of introducing the tarot as more of a self-help tool through different psychological systems such as Jungian analysis or the humanistic psychology approach. Given this method of reading people eschewed reversed meanings as being “too negative” for most of the cards. The thinking was that the negative meaning of a card is always implied as equally as the positive meaning.

Yet, when I actually worked with the “Non-Reversers” they seemed to still read the cards that were already leaning into the darker meanings in the upright position (for instance, The Devil) with more negative meanings. They weren’t suddenly pulling out the more positive, reversed meaning that would be inherent in this card. This was very puzzling to me.

The group of Non-Reversers was actually pretty small at the time. Maybe twenty-five percent of those in my group were beginning to look at readings in this new way. But, for the rest, there was never a question about using the cards in reverse.

I set aside the tarot for a number of years and have just recently returned to using it. I have become involved with an online group now and have benefited from this AMAZING new format of having international readers to share thoughts, opinions and, of course, new decks with!!

I took a poll about reading reversals at the beginning of this month. The results floored me! Here is what I received by numbers:

  • 99 people responded that they never use reversals in their readings
  • 52 people said that they occasionally do reading with reversals depending on the deck or client
  • 16 people said they always use reversals with every deck for every reading.

This is almost a 180 degree shift from where I started back in the 80’s with sixty percent of people now responding stating that they never use reversals.

Several people shared their thoughts in the comments and this provided a lot of grist for the mill.

A number of people shared that they didn’t feel the need to used reversed cards as they felt that other cards in the reading would provide information about whether or not that card should be read with it’s reversed meaning as being more prominent. I interpret this as being a holistic reading style and feels a bit oracular to me.

Some people indicated that they always read cards upright but that should a card fly out of the deck and present itself reversed they will pay attention to it and use it in that reversed position feeling that this was a particular message about the meaning of that card in the reading regardless of placement and the other cards that were around it.

And clearly there are those that simply use the reversed cards as reversed although it is a very small minority. Of course, I absolutely would recommend to new readers that they physically allow their cards to be reversed and read them as such until such time as they are completely familiar with doing readings and with their decks. It is a solid and time honoured way to learn.

One person provided the insight that even though she is a skilled reader she continues to use reversed cards in order to help counteract any interpretation bias in her readings. This was very thought provoking for me. How often do we start to have such intimate familiarity with a deck that perhaps we start interpreting what we think we are seeing rather than what is really being mirrored to us? Maybe we are having a bad, bad day and really don’t want to hear a strong message about the fact that we need to sit down and work on taking responsibility for our part in the drama so we subtly read into the cards more about what is wrong with the external situation than what is internally being asked of us? Maybe we think to ourselves, “Well, this deck is always tells me about the best in me and positive opportunities so it must mean (X) because it would never suggest (Y.)”

I think that the culture around tarot is now vastly different from my early days of learning. And it should be. This is clearly evidenced by the mind blowing number and types of decks out there! It seems that the early days of self-help styles of working with the tarot have become the norm with strong emphasis on personal growth and deep dives into the nature of our psyche. I love the diversity of reading styles which speak to great creativity and awareness.

Tarot should be a living, evolving tool for both study and learning. I am delighted to have stepped away only to return and find such a plethora of new and interesting ways of approaching this sacred art.

What are your thoughts, friends?

As ever, be well, be happy. Namaste.

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