A different view – tarot card reversals

Everyone seems to take a different approach to reversed cards.

Some people learn 78 whole new meanings, whilst others read them as a blockage of the card’s upright energy. For some they point to an opposite meaning, whereas for others it’s a corruption of the original. And some people just flip ’em right on over. Also, some decks, like one of my personal favourites, the Shadowscapes, say they don’t ‘have’ reversed cards.

I’ve not written about card reversals on here before, largely because I’ve yet to collectively give them the thought that that would require. I’ve shied away from the issue, and then quietly freaked each time I get a reversed card in a reading. I guess the time has come to stop sorting my decks so that all the cards are upright (!) figure out where I stand.

One thing I know is that I feel that reversed cards need interpreting on a case-by-case basis, just like upright cards. I’m not one for learning 78 new meanings. So I’ll start by making a list of the different ways I’ve tended to interpret reversed cards:

  • Fear of/unwillingness to work with
  • Corruption of
  • Blocking of/inability to achieve
  • Enhancement of/too much of
  • Opposite of

I drew a card randomly in order to try reading it in each of the above ways:

Ten of Cups

Okayyyy, let’s go with…emotional fulfillment, community, family, security, love, joy.

Fear of/unwillingness to work with

Ummm…fear of commitment springs to mind, as this card does suggest commitment, though that’s not something I tend to think of when focusing on the card’s ‘positives’. It could also suggest a resistance to the heteronormative ideal many decks present.

Corruption of

This could suggest that this happy families image isn’t all that it seems?

Blocking of/inability to achieve

Maybe this card points to a person who doesn’t feel they deserve this kind of happiness? That is, to be loved unconditionally, to feel the security of those who love us being all around us, to have a family or community… or perhaps it’s someone who’s blocking this type of happiness because they’re in a relationship with someone else, or there’s some practical reason why they can’t just embrace the joy.

Enhancement of/too much of

Well, with this card it’s easy, as that lot could be kinda sickening, surely? In a ‘Waltons’ kinda way, like someone is living in a sugar-coatehyper-perfect version of reality where nothing can ever go wrong, everyone loves each other, everyone gets As in their exams and loves their siblings…you get the picture. Ew.

Opposite of

Loneliness, emotional unfulfillment, sadness, isolation. Jeez!!

So that wasn’t too hard. Five (or more) different ways of interpreting the Ten of Cups reversed. I’m sure someone cleverer and more published than I has presented this type of exercise in some best-selling Tarot book I haven’t read, but for tonight, I’m gonna pootle through a few more cards and practice this, chuffed to bits that I’ve finally found a way to address the barrier I’d built around reversed cards. I know there’s far more to it than this, but at least I’ve made a start.


  1. Little Red says:

    Thanks Martie!<br><br>Wow, yes I like the internal angle on reversals…I wonder what that could be in the case of the Ten of Cups? Perhaps an inner harmony and joy, a sense of emotional fulfillment that comes from our inner selves, rather than from partnership, family, community?<br> <br>Coincidentally this morning I came across a post on Anna's Tarot website here: <a href="http://www.wisdomandhealing.ca/index.php/reversed-cards-do-you-use-them-or-not-why/">http://www.wisdomandhealing.ca/index.php/reversed-cards-do-you-use-them-or-not-why/</a&gt; which suggests a couple of other angles, including energy about to enter the situation, or leaving it, and also discusses simply not using reversals.<br> <br>I'd never thought of reversed cards as demanding extra attention before…I'm going to try giving them that little bit extra in future and see if it makes a difference…

  2. Arabella says:

    hello. when a card is upside down i think is in that position because it reveals one of the stage of grief. The first Denial and Isolation which is Blocking of/inability to achieve and so goes on. those 5 stages you describe up there are the stages of grief which we use for every conflict we have in life.. to eventually accept it all.

  3. After years of using measures to ensure upright/reverse is randomized as I shuffle, I have it up. Far too many reversals! Also I use the Faeries’ Oracle far more now, which has explicit reversed meanings for each card. What I do now is flip a coin twice for each card, and only double tails is reversed, setting the odds to 1/4 for reversals. Seems to work rather well. One could also use three flips (x/8ths odds) roll a dice, or use random.org. Actually I often combine these methods to pick cards, too, or pick in a new system I’m building using my own glyphs/symbols. For tarot, 3 coin flips (0-7) and a dice roll (1-6) lets you choose a group of six (78 = 13×6), then roll again for the card. But you must decide the order of suits and trumps first, as well as if the fool comes before magus or after world, and keep a table. Much better (true random) odds distribution on cards, and no need to shuffle 30 times for a thorough mix. Faeries’ makes it easier since every card is numbered (0-65) … Rambling on, oops. Sadly my only dice is missing ATM.

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