One thing that you will have to consider when reading the tarot, whether that is for yourself,  for friends and family, or professionally, is if you want to read reversals. This is a choice that needs to come from within, based on what feels right to you intuitively. To be clear, there is no right or wrong answer here. It is completely up to you on whether you want to read reversals. There are many amazing tarot readers out there that do not read reversals, so don’t feel like you have to just because some tarot readers do read reversals.

If you do decide to read reversals, you will see a lot of guidebooks and books on learning the tarot include meanings of the cards when reversed. 

To get real for a moment here….

I advise you to read and learn with an open, objective, and questioning mind. Now, I am not saying that all the guidebooks and all the tarot books are wrong when it comes to reversals. What I am saying is that reversals are often portrayed as the antithesis to the card’s upright meaning. 

For example, the Sun reversed may be talked about as going through a difficult time. The Tower reversed would be interpreted as the worst being over and you are through the chaos. This can sometimes be a correct way to look at and read the reversals. Much of reading the tarot, upright or reversed, is based on the specifics of the reading: the client and the their wants, needs, or questions for their reading.

Reversals are still often written about in this way. If the card is a positive card upright, the reversal is its negative counterpart. I don’t read this way because I don’t believe there are positive and negative cards in a reading. I don’t believe there are good or bad cards in the tarot. Yes, there are cards that we may like to see more than others, but all the cards bring gifts or blockages, but I digress…..

In this blog post, I want to share with you all the ways that I read the reversals. Again, and as always, take what works or what feels rights, and leave what doesn’t.

What Reversals Are and What They Are Not

What the Reversals are:

  • a gentle nudge or reminder
  • presence and attention called for
  • re-entry or re-initiation into the card, often in a creative way
  • energies focused on internal integration instead of external output
  • a blocked energy, obstacle, or edge that needs to be confronted

What the Reversals are not:

  • always the antithesis to the card’s upright meaning
  • a bad omen or inherently bad
  •  a weakened message from the card
  • an indication of a “No”
  • a delay in the card’s energies of invitations

Let’s break this down….

If you were to pull these cards from the Mystical Dream tarot, the one that stands out the most is the reversed image (I mean we could get into the intricacies of the details of the card, but for the purposes of this blog we are sticking to the narrative of upright and reversed).

That brings us to the first way to read reversals: as a gentle nudge or reminder. The reversed image of the 4 of Cups is giving a gentle nudge, push, or reminder to heed its invitations for you or for your client if you are reading for someone else. I like to think of and discuss this as like a wakeup call from an alarm, or the ones you get from a hotel when you request it.  While you don’t necessarily request a reversal to come up in a reading from a random pull, it still has that energy of waking to its energies, or of reminding you to embody its invitations.

Another way to work with this card is that this card is asking for your presence and attention. This is similar to the approach just mentioned with the gentle nudge or reminder. When a reversal, or multiple, comes forward in a reading, it could be saying that this card is asking your presence. It is asking to you to really embody and embrace its invitations out in the rest of your life.

Another way to read reversals is to read them as an re-entry or as an initiation back into the card, often through creative means. Looking at the imagery can really help in reading reversals, including here. If you look at the images above, you will see the image of the High Priestess from the Shadowscapes tarot. 

In the upright image, we see the High Priestess rising above the tree, an owl following her. In the reversed image, those tree branches look more like roots, with the fossils that were at the base of the tree now looking like they are at ground level, which is where they are often found. This could then be an invitation that in order to work with the High Priestess, you need to come back to her from a rooted or grounded place. This could be an invitation to see how and where you can creatively ground into your intuitive receivings. 

Like the other ways to read reversals that have been mentioned so far, there is an invitation here to come back into the ground in new ways. Sometimes the best ways to really receive the invitations of a card is to be re-initiated back into its energies in new ways that spark curiosity and creativity with the cards. Curiosity and creativity are some of the best ways to work with any reading. 

Another way to read reversals is to read them as speaking to internal energies, or a need to integrate the invitations of the cards internally rather than externally and in your physical life. Just like the re-entry into the card mentioned above, working with the cards from an internal space can require some creative workings. Working with the energies internally first can also open the intimacy of connection between you, your reading, and your tarot deck. This intimacy, like any good relationship, can help you find and build a solid foundation with the card or cards that will then help you in bringing the cards into your physical world. 

Finally, the last way to read reversals can speak to blocked energies, obstacles, or edges that need to be confronted. While I said above that there are no good or bad cards, the tarot is not here to smooth talk us. The tarot will at times tell you things that you don’t want to hear. The tarot will reveal where the dark spots are, the achy spots that need tending. The tarot will reveal where you need to overcome and move through something. It will shine a mirror to the spaces that need us to do better, or the spaces that we need to tap into our strength and move through with love and mindfulness. 

Where and How to Differentiate

Now that we have discussed the different ways to read reversals comes the hard or easy part, depending on how you view it,  which is discerning how and when to read the reversals based on the different invitations just discussed. Personally, I find this to be the easy part because most of it will be dependent on the type of reading you are doing, the person for whom you are reading, of the specific focus or need of the reading.

These dependents, plus your own intuition, will show you how and where the reversals, and even the upright cards speak to. These factors will help you determine if a reversal is speaking to a creative re-entry into the card’s energy, or if it speaking to any obstacle to overcome. With time and practice, you will start to feel more comfortable reading reversals if you are struggling to read them now. 

Keep practicing and keep leaning into your intuition. Thank you for reading! May this blog help you if you need to developing your understanding of reversals. 

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