To reverse, or not to reverse? That is the question!

Wild Unknown Tarot

The world of tarot is inundated with new decks and books all the time. This time 10 years ago you had a few choices beyond the traditional Rider-Waite or Thoth decks, but not a lot. The trend towards themed decks hadn't really caught on yet, and the idea of using tarot as something other than a tool to tell your future was also quite unheard of. So the same old ideas about tarot continued to proliferate; you had a significator card being chosen for most readings based on their physical features "matching" ones intended by the court cards, ideas about how you should acquire your tarot cards (as a gift, rather than purchasing it yourself), and of course, the idea of reading cards that are reversed. 

Early in my tarot career, I did read reversed cards. I wanted to follow the status quo on that front, and of course, wasn't there a special little blurb in the book about how to read the card if it's reversed? Weren't they intended to be read both ways? But as time went on, I routinely got uncomfortable with reversed cards. I often wondered if keeping the card upright meant that I could interpret it any way that I felt called to, depending on the place it turned up in the spread, or the cards that are around it, or even, just my gut feeling. Around the time that I started wondering this question, I decided to stop reading reversals, but I often used the excuse that I was still learning the tarot in its upright form, so I didn't think I was ready to learn a whole new meaning with the card upside down. 

I felt like I got really good reading tarot cards this way, my Etsy tarot reading business was doing well at the time, and I was getting great feedback from my clients. But then, my whole world got turned on its head when I was on my way to work, 10 weeks pregnant, and went to the bathroom before I started to find that I was covered in blood. 

In short, I didn't lose the baby. In fact, she is currently about 14 and a half months old, and she is a little beam of starlight in my world. But, I did have an incredibly difficult, uncomfortable, and scary pregnancy that changed the way I dealt with and thought and about a lot of things. And that included tarot. I had to shut down my shop because I couldn't even take care of myself properly at the time, let alone help other people with their problems. It's only been recently that I started thinking about getting my tarot business started back up again, and I decided to take a course to give me a refresher, and back up to speed. This course included some pages to make notes about cards when they are reversed.

My daily draws lately, I started reading them with reversals, and each time I would turn one over, I would feel my heart thud quickly in my chest if it was reversed. Why was I, a seasoned tarot card reader, getting anxiety over a reversed card? I tried to brush it off, mentally, but each time one came up, I felt the same reaction, the same reluctance to make note of which card came up, and the position. And time and time again, I found over the last few weeks that most days, I identified more with the positive traits of the card for what happened during my day, than I had with the "negative" aspects that the reversed card was supposed to be about. 

It wasn't until I came across a photo on Instagram from @tarot_readings_from_a_bitch that talked about why she didn't read reversals, that I realized that I holding on to a system that really didn't serve me anymore. I agreed with her biggest point, that the tarot card contains the whole world of that particular idea or concept, both the negative and positive aspects of it. Fact is, I can turn over The Tower, or Death, or The Devil upright and not bat an eye. Turn over the Two of Cups Reversed, and I'm worried that my husband will be able to hear my heart beat from across the room. But seriously, there is a lot to be said about learning to read cards without their reversals, because it forces you to look more deeply into the card's meaning. 

Reversed cards, for me, just don't do it. They often cause confusion, especially if a card has flown out of the deck, and then landed sideways or something. I never know which way to turn the card then, whether it was intended to be reversed or upright. And what if the whole reading is reversed? Is the energy supposed to be all over negative? I just don't buy that. I find reversed cards hinder my ability to read the cards intuitively, because I can't see the figures or symbols properly, so I guess it's no wonder my heart beats so fast when I turn over reversed cards during readings - my main way of reading tarot is cut off! 

Do I think that there are times when reversals are appropriate? Well, yes. First off, if you like to read reversed cards, then it's appropriate. There are a lot of big readers out there right now that I can think of off the top of my head that read reversals, and I respect the hell out of them. People like Carrie Mallon, Kelly-Ann Maddox and Aine Orga have all used reversals, and they're probably my 3 favorite readers that I know. Another instance I can think of, is if a deck has been artistically designed to be read in reverse. I know of at least one tarot deck, but I can't remember the name of it off the top of my head right now. .However, each card looks one way upright, and it has another look to it when it's reversed, That would get my intuition going in all sorts of cool directions! The last instance that I believe in reversals, is if you typically read only upright cards, and despite everything that you do to keep your deck upright, a card comes out reversed, I would call that big-time significant. 

I recently purchased the Motherpeace Tarot, which has interpretations for upright, reversed, left and right facing. I haven't worked with this deck much yet. It's a deck I'm considering reading with the direction being taken into account as of right now, but I won't really know until I sit down to really read the book. 

So, do you read reversed cards? Why or why not? I would love to hear your thoughts on this!


  1. This is a great post. It is funny that all this about reversals is coming out. I have read reversed cards before. I was even chastised for doing it by someone I read for!

    it has only been the last few days I have felt myself moving away from reversals. I am more of an intuitive reader than one who "knows" all the traditional meanings. I too am hoping this will help with my reading and spark my intuition and power my impressions.


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