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To Reverse or Not to Reverse: How to Decide if You Should Read with Reversed Tarot Cards

By June 2, 2016Tarot Basics

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It’s a hotly debated topic amongst Tarot readers – to reverse or not to reverse!

If you read with reversed Tarot cards, you might add a new layer of insight to your reading, but you might worry about having a negative Tarot reading or feeling totally overwhelmed with interpreting the cards.

So how do you decide if you should read with reversed Tarot cards or not?

In today’s post, I’m going to walk you through the ins and outs of reading with reversed Tarot cards so that you can make a decision that’s right for you.

Why Should You Read with Reversed Tarot Cards?

Let me be totally transparent – I am a HUGE advocate for reading with reversed Tarot cards.

Here’s why…

Reversed Tarot cards add a whole new layer of depth to your Tarot reading. They can show you where there are energy blocks or imbalances, underlying issues, unknown opportunities, and internalised energy (as opposed to externalised energy).

They can also provide clarity if you enjoy doing ‘yes or no’ Tarot readings. Reversed Tarot cards will allow you to easily identify the ‘no’s (whereas upright Tarot cards will show a ‘yes’).

And for more advanced Tarot readers, reading with reversals offers a new way of working with the Tarot cards, especially once the upright Tarot cards have been mastered (although, do we ever really ‘master’ the Tarot card meanings?).

But, reading with reversed Tarot cards isn’t necessarily the right way for all Tarot readers.

Why Shouldn’t You Read Reversed Tarot Cards?

While I love reading with reversals, there are many cases when it’s better to stick to upright Tarot cards.

If you’re new to Tarot card reading, the last thing you need is another 78 Tarot card meanings to learn. You’ve already got your hands full trying to figure out how to interpret upright Tarot cards and how to do a Tarot reading. Trying to add reversed Tarot cards on top of that is enough to push you over the edge and give up on Tarot all together.

So for Tarot beginners, I strongly recommend that you focus on learning the upright Tarot cards before you attempt reversed Tarot cards. Keep it simple, seeker!

(Psst… If you choose not to read with reversals, and a reversed Tarot card accidentally makes its way into your reading, then just turn it the right way up… or, have a go at reading it in the reversed position! You might be surprised at the new insight it offers.)

And for those with more experience and confidence reading Tarot, you may have already tried to read with reversals but realised it just isn’t your ‘thing’. That’s totally cool – I can respect that!

But – a word to the wise…

Many Tarot readers have the misconception that reversed Tarot cards add a layer of negativity or ‘doom and gloom’ to the reading.

If this is the reason why you’re not reading with reversed Tarot cards, then I invite you to discover an alternative (and much more empowering) way of reading reversals. You may very surprised at the new insights you gain from reversed Tarot cards in your Tarot reading.

How to Decide If Reversed Tarot Cards Are Right For You

If you’re new to Tarot, it’s a no-brainer – stick to upright Tarot cards for now and keep it simple.

But if you’ve been reading Tarot for a little while, then I recommend trying a few different techniques for interpreting reversed Tarot cards then deciding if it’s the right fit for you.

At the end of the day, it is completely your choice as a Tarot reader whether or not you read with reversed Tarot cards. You can be a wonderful Tarot reader, whichever choice you make.

Over to You

Do you read reversed Tarot cards? Why or why not? Share your thoughts and feedback in the Comments below – I read every one of them!

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25 Comments

  • Tarot Cat says:

    Something about reversals has just never done it for me. I don’t find it complicated as such, it just on a personal level feels a bit muddy. Also I love delving into the images and I find cards to be really distracting when they’re upside down! I think there’s lots of ways to improve your tarot readings and to make them deeper and more insightful – reversals is just one way of doing this, which I respectfully decline. I’ve had some great readings from others with reversals though – different courses for different horses!

  • Chris-Anne says:

    Thanks for this post! I use reversals in readings as little caution signs, ha. To me they mean the message needs to be delved into a little deeper and a little more carefully. I tend to flip them right-side up during the reading though. Like Tarot Cat I don’t like seeing the imagery upside down! Someday I’d like to be able to read reversals as easily as upright cards 🙂 more practice I guess!

  • Linda Ursin says:

    I use reversed cards, except for when my intuition tells me it’s wrong. I usually read them as “in opposition” to the upright meaning. Not the opposite, but the upright might be harder or easier to come by or take more or less time. Not all the uprights have the brightest interpretations either, so I wouldn’t call the reversed cards negative 🙂

  • Tarocci says:

    Great article! I have always read with reversals because that is how I learned to read with Crowley’s deck. I find that cards with typically a negative connotation, reversed can have a positive and vice versa. I also find with the court cards reversals can help to identify individuals that are having a negative influence on your subject as opposed to a positive one.

  • Cary says:

    I’ve always read with reversed tarot cards, even when I was a beginner. I think reversed tarot cards add dimension and depth to the art of reading. By allowing reversals in your spreads, you are creating additional possibilities to the card meanings. Allowing reversed cards enhances the experience of reading and enhances a person’s ability to grow as a reader. Often, answers to questions aren’t as cut and dry as a purely upright reading would indicate. By focusing strictly on the positive upright meanings of the cards, we deny the negative reversals. That’s not how life works. Life is a combination of positive and negative; it’s a balance. We must be open to all possibilities of the human experience, including the negative ones. You need the reversals in order to explore and unlock the full spectrum of the human condition and the full spectrum of your talent as a reader. I’ll admit that I’ve traditionally been guilty of the “doom and gloom” outlook of reversed cards. Visiting this website has been instrumental helping me break that mold and to see reversed cards not so much as “doom and gloom” but as blessings in disguise. Often times we as human beings learn quickest and best through mistakes and negative reinforcement. It’s all good. And this, I think, is the best approach to reversed cards: it’s all good, even if we have to learn the hard way. This was a great article and I agree completely with everything written. Thanks for sharing Brigit, keep the great posts flowing!

  • Liz says:

    I was reading with reversals in the past, but recently I have decided to spend some time only reading uprights. I keep the possible meanings of the reversals in mind depending on the position of the card in the spread. For example, if the card was in a ‘What blocks you’ position, this is where I will tend to take the reversed meaning combined with the upright meaning. For me at the moment (and this will probably change again) I am enjoying putting more emphasis on the spread and card positions within the spread than whether the card is upright or reversed. Just feels more clean to me.

  • James says:

    Maybe I’m different in the way I approach not using reverse cards, but when I don’t use reverse readings I generally try to include both reverse and upright meanings. That way a more holistic view of the card is achieved. Often the reverse meanings are not opposites, but additional perspectives or challenges to consider.

    For instance, when reading Magician without reverse cards, I would read the upright meaning (to me, wonder, possibility, and action) and the reversed meaning (to me, using your opportunity or power for wholly selfish aims instead of things that bring benefit to both you and others) and combine it as “Things are bright and full of possibility and potential. Take action on your goals, but be careful to make those goals ones that benefit everyone involved instead of just yourself.”

  • Tony says:

    Hi, Brigit, although I have been doing intuitive Tarot readings for over 25 years, I have not found it necessary to deal with reversed cards – for me, there are simply enough balance, guidance and meaning in the upright 78 cards. My choice. Your way works for you and how I approach the Tarot works for me. By the way, I do save all of your Tarot interpretations – of upright cards, of course- lol! All the best to you! Tony

  • Neil Ormsby says:

    The nine and ten of swords reversed are just two examples why you should read upright and reversed !

  • Ina says:

    Hi, It took me awhile to get the hang of reversals, but then so did the uprights. LOL, it is all a process. there is nothing negative about reversals, why in the world would there be ? These are Tarot Cards…speaking to us….wanting us to see the best of every story. i learned them alot faster once i saw this truth….intuitive is how it works. Tarot is not negative. Not to me. i love reversals for they tell me a better story of what is real or the truths. and to see things in a different way or perspective. Just tell the story or see the cards for what they are. We are here to do the best we can with what we have. We have a great tool. .. Would you use a hammer for the same purpose in reverse ?? no you would pull a nail instead of pounding one. Least that is how i see it.

  • Nikki says:

    I’m comfortable with reversals but I wasn’t in the beginning. I started using them kind of organically. But not for every deck! Usually if the deck has a card back that is not totally symmetrical then I have all the cards the same way. Fussy much? Lol. But apart from that totally superficial justification I have found that some decks just don’t seem to feel like they are giving any extra advice or insight by using reversals. I guess that’s what I mean by an organic thing – where I started using them for some decks because I intuitively was picking up that the message/lessons of the reversed card(s) needed emphasis in some way.

  • Denis Pinheiro says:

    I’m a begginner and I don’t like do reverse. A lots of books recomended but, I think it not help me at all. I like to see all the layers of the cards, know what they have to say for me – if I’m doing something good for the case or…you know, being a jerk. lol
    I like the very direct way that tarot speak to us, so… maybe the reversed cards help in the cases if you’re no ready to see the truth – and i’m speaking that for begginner like me. If you see that aaaalll your reads are so so so good and life is going so well and you’re kind of doing and hoping all the good things, maybe you’re just seeing what you wanna to see – the reverse can help you to be more honest to yourself.
    It’s ok to do that,we are humans but, trust me: more honest with yourself, better de reading it would be and more you’re gonna learn about yourself.
    Anyway, hope to help others. I’m such in love with tarot and hope to help a lots of people with it. I really love to speak and being an artist I love to put a message in the world. Tarot is helping me with that.
    Thanks you, also, Brigit – you’re a big inspiration for me. Lots of light for your life!

  • Robert Stone says:

    Great website one of two I use for Tarot interpretations. On the subject of “to reverse or not to reverse” I personally only like to use reversals in actual Celtic Cross readings, and not use them in more single pull situations or 3 card pulls. While I am not scared of reversals, I do not want to interpret wrongly on a single card pull (I enjoy these). Of course there is always some thought put into to both upright and reversed meanings on any card pulled, as I believe the only way to learn is to practice.

  • anna says:

    I am learning tarot & I always read reversed cards, they give a different spin on a reading, more accurate , I sometimes have to consult your page for the reverse meaning but its all part of the learning process!

  • Maureen says:

    I have found Paul Fenton-Smiths suggestion of looking to the previous card to integrate the energy of the reversed card. i.e. three of cups reversed lack of community/friends, look to two of cups to how we give and receive. etc.
    It Is not always so simple or clear, but I like the way it gives a proactive way of working with the card,

  • Luke Yancey says:

    I agree with you- beginners should most likely stay away from trying to read their cards reversed until they have mastered reading and understanding their meanings normally. I have a friend that is studying tarot cards and I don’t really agree with her using a booklet to go over everything to find a meaning. I feel like if there is something in the cards you should see if through the pictures- you don’t need someone to tell you what it means for you personally.

    • Brigit says:

      Reading from a book is one way to start learning Tarot, but ideally, you want to learn to read from the heart, not the book. Encourage your friend to put the book down, especially when doing a Tarot reading, and she may start to trust her intuition more.

  • alysia says:

    How do I introduce reversed cards into my deck?

  • li says:

    Great thoughts here!
    I don’t use reversals mainly because I find the cards hold many meanings individually, in relationship to one another.
    One thing that’s great about cards (and getting new decks), is the constant new meanings that are found within them- even when they have made their familiar meaning clear from past use, there is always still new, subtle messages that come through.! Especially in relationship to each other. .of course, layouts are a really big part of that too- they can help give structure to shape a message. .
    Some readers, including myself to some extent, can pick a single card, maybe 2 and get a full layout from it..I think a lot of it is the connection to the cards, the deck, the layout, timing, etc..
    Reverse can also mean a dilute of the upright card- not necessarily an “opposite” meaning. .
    Sometimes the cards desire to be placed in more than one position in a single layout, or even in reference to the questioners conscious and subconscious thoughts. .
    I used reversals when I first practiced, but now a days, not really- for me it added unnecessary extra interpretive steps.
    I probably use them more like runestones since I don’t always find it necessary to have the cards face down. .
    But I do like to have new fresh packs face down because it’s fun to surprise yourself with new imagery for fresh hits of perspective, especially when the cards have a slippery finish!
    Thanks! 🙂

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