There is much debate about the use of reverse Tarot cards in readings, whether it’s about what they mean, or even whether to acknowledge them at all. Many Tarot card readers choose not to read reversed cards any different to upright ones, and if any appear in a spread they will simply turn them around and then carry on the reading as normal. However, more experienced readers with a deeper understanding of the many layers and levels of the Tarot, will often choose to include the reversed cards in the reading, to add a deeper level of understanding and insight to their answers.
It is a sign of the complexity of Tarot reading and the skills involved that even those readers who do keep reversed cards in a reading interpret the meanings of them differently. Some people believe that reverse card meanings are the literal opposite of the upright meanings, whereas others understand them as a simple stronger or weaker versions of them.
Reverse cards as the opposite to upright cards
Many Tarot readers who use reverse cards take them to literally mean the opposite of the upright card. This applies for both positive and negative cards. For example, drawing The Lovers upright suggests a happy, harmonious romantic relationship. Therefore, when drawn in reverse and interpreted as the exact opposite, The Lovers indicates trouble in paradise, and even the possible ending of a relationship and emotional loss. On the other hand, a card that is usually negative would be considered positive in reverse. For example, The Devil is a card that represents obstacles and restriction. However, in reverse, it suggests freedom and overcoming great odds.
Reverse cards as stronger/weaker or delayed fulfilment
Another interpretation of reversed cards is that they do not mean the opposite of the upright ones, but instead they simply decrease or increase the energy of the card. For example, the Ten of Wands upright suggests burden and stress, and difficult tasks to complete. However, in reverse, it suggests that the stressful time may now be over and the weight of the burden has decreased. You should expect to be able to relax and take a break.
Similar to this is the idea that the meaning is the same as the upright card, but that the outcome of the card will be delayed. For example, the Six of Wands upright suggests victory and the fulfilment of an ambition. Drawing this card in reverse isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it doesn’t mean that you will not have your victory, it simply means that it won’t happen straight away, and that you will have to wait for it. This could be a valuable lesson in two ways; it could teach you to be patient, or it could be an indicator that there is something you need to do to achieve your goal.
Another example of this would be drawing a usually negative card in reverse. For example, the Three of Swords usually represents heartache and loss. Drawn in reverse however, it suggests that things may not be as bad as they seem; not all is lost, and you will recover from it.
The key to interpreting reversed cards lies in also taking into account their position in the spread, as well as the other cards that surround it, and every reader will consider these things when interpreting cards and their meanings. The important thing to remember if you’re having a Tarot card reading and a reversed card appears is that the stigma of the inverted card is unfounded, and that you should not automatically expect the worst; there are several different things the reversed card could mean, and the Tarot reader will read the cards carefully to find out what exactly it implies.