Reversed Cards

When you shuffle the tarot cards, they often end up facing in different directions. So far, I've suggested that you ignore this effect and simply turn the upside-down cards around. Now you are ready to learn more about reversed cards and what they have to offer.

All life is energy - currents of force that mix and blend to form the patterns of our lives. Each tarot card symbolizes a particular energy, and a tarot reading shows the collective energies that make up a situation. When you do a reading, your actions and intentions align the energies of the moment with the cards to form a picture. The cards capture the energy currents in and around you as you shuffle and cut.

At any given moment, these energies will be at different levels. Some will be strong and powerful, others less so. Some will be just entering your life, others, moving away. How you use these energies depends on all the factors that bear on your situation.

When a card is upright, its energy is free to manifest. Its qualities are available and active. When a card is reversed, its energy is not fully developed. It may be in its early stages, or losing power. It may be incomplete or unavailable. The qualities of the card are present, at least in potential, but they can't express completely.

[picture of Sun Reversed] The Sun's energy is just what you would imagine - expansive and enlightening. An upright Sun shows the energy of vitality is openly available. You feel confident and successful. Now is your chance to shine. A reversed Sun shows this same energy is present, but at a lower level. The vitality is reduced or limited in some way. You may feel lowered pep or enthusiasm. You may have a desire for greatness that is frustrated. You want success, but something is holding you back.

[picture of Empress Reversed] The Empress reversed once appeared in a reading for a man who wanted to know if he and his wife might have a child. I guessed they had been trying to have a baby for some time. This card showed that the energy of mothering and birth was present, but held down in some way. This pregnancy was blocked. I told this man that once the block was removed, the chances for a child were good. Something must have happened to free up that energy because now they have a beautiful baby girl!

It is tempting to view a reversed card as undesirable. This man wanted a baby, so he was disheartened by the reversed Empress. Someone else might have viewed the same card differently. Reversed cards are not negative in and of themselves. Everything depends on what you hope to achieve.

[picture of 3 of Swords Reversed] The Three of Swords represents the energy of heartbreak and betrayal. If this card is upright, hurtful feelings are a feature of the situation. Reversed, they are also present, but reduced. Perhaps the intensity of a painful episode is fading, or you are feeling lonely, but just a little. A reversed Three of Swords is more agreeable than an upright one, but it is still a cautionary sign. The fact that an unpleasant card appears at all means that its energy is present in some way.

[picture of 7 of Wands Reversed] Sometimes a card is reversed even though you are experiencing a high level of its energy. In this case, the reversal hints that you can improve your situation by making a conscious effort to lower the energy.

You have drawn the Seven of Wands reversed in a reading about being pressured to do something you don't want to do. This card represents defiance. Since you are being pushed against your will, you are probably feeling defiant in this situation. The Seven of Wands reversed suggests that you try to subdue your strong emotions. Lessen your feelings of defiance and find a different way to deal with the problem. (Of course, it's possible that the energy is low because your defiance is being squelched! Only you can tell which interpretation is best.)

[picture of Emperor Reversed] [picture of 10 of Wands Reversed] The meaning of a reversed card sometimes comes from a twist in the usual interpretation. In this sense, the Emperor reversed could show a powerful authority figure toppled from his throne. The Ten of Wands reversed might remind you to get out from under burdensome responsibilities. It's surprising how often such meanings apply, but you can't force them. They tend to occur as needed.

You can form pairs that contain reversed cards. Here is an example:

[picture of Sun Reversed] [picture of Moon] The Sun and Moon are opposites in the area of clarity - the Sun is enlightenment, the Moon, confusion. In a reading, a reversed Sun/upright Moon could show that certainty is low (Sun), and uncertainty is high (Moon), or you are bewildered now (Moon), but greater clarity is possible (Sun).

It's helpful to look at the proportion of reversed and upright cards in a reading. When many cards are upright, all your energies are expressing freely and powerfully. The overall situation is well developed, and your purpose is clear. When many cards are reversed, your energies are low, and the situation is not clearly defined. You may lack direction or feel blocked, discouraged and restricted. You could be in a topsy-turvy state where change is likely. Since energies are not well developed, they are free to go in new directions.

I encourage you to try using reversed cards. When you feel ready, state out loud your intention to use them. You might say, "I have decided to interpret reversed cards in my tarot readings." In this way, you acknowledge your decision with conviction. After a time, if you decide you like using reversed cards, add them to your practice permanently. If not, just let them go. It's better to decide one way or the other, as switching back and forth can be confusing.

Life is a constant energy flow - a marvelous dance guided by Spirit. When we understand that flow and move with it creatively, all things are possible. We can direct energy consciously or just let it take us where it will. In either case, reversed cards add an extra dimension to a reading that will help you appreciate the play of energy in your own life.

Exercises for Lesson 17

Lesson 18

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