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Are all cards both positive and negative?

Thread originally posted on the Aeclectic Tarot Forum on 12 Sep 2002, and now archived in the Forum Library.

ChrisTheObscure  12 Sep 2002 
Hi, I have an issue I hope you can all help me with.

I've noticed the thread about "entrance cards," ie, choosing cards you have a hard time viewing as anything but either positive or negative, and meditating on them. But are there some cards that you would say are not both, but one or the other?

For example, The Star. I've always had the mindset that this is ALWAYS a good card, even when reversed. The same with The World/Universe, and The Lovers.

Also, the book I first learned with (which I'm finding was probably incorrect) describes the suit of swords as always negative. I'm finding it hard to break this mindset. Any advice?


HudsonGray  12 Sep 2002 
Swords aren't always negative, they've got a lot of positives in them. Even the 10 of Swords, you can always say 'well, it's over now'. Recognizing negatives lets you choose actions--the 9 of Swords could be stress related, but knowing where the stress comes from means you can take steps to eliminate it.

The Star is all about hope, but could show false hopes which would be on the down side. Someone else said the Sun could mean 'sunburned' in certain situations. These are less clear than most cards though, but then that's part of the mysteries of the deck.

Still, some cards are harder to see the dual sides on than others. or there may not be to many negatives or in the same proportion as the positives. Yeah, it makes it hard. 

Mojo  12 Sep 2002 
Anytime you assign a definitive meaning to a card, you limit yourself as a reader. If there are 78 cards in the deck and each card has only one definition, you end up with a finite number of possible interpretations, depending on the spread(s) you use.

When I teach Tarot, I try to get my students to forget about keywords and memorizing meanings for each individual card and focus more on SEEING the cards and the symbols contained on them. I have them do exercises in which they deal the cards and identify exactly what part of the image from each card first catches their eye. This is how I want them to learn to interpret the cards, by using their intuition and their mind's eye together.

Lets say we could determine that there were an average of 10 different symbols per card (in actuality, it would be more). If we let each symbol alter the meaning of that card somewhat in both the upright and the reversed position, we have now created an infinite number of possible interpretations. I find this much more interesting than being limited in my options.

This is why I can't understand people who don't use reversals. It's just another limitation in my book. 

Liliana  12 Sep 2002 
All cards have a continum of positive and negative to me, where they fall along these lines has to do with other cards in the spread and what symbols i pick out.

I dont read reversals because I find it breaks my concentration to see the symbols upside down. Also I work with a continum of meaning, upright and reversed are just 2 possibilities, depending on the images i see, the other cards, and just what I feel Ill read cards that would be the equivalent of tilted slightly in most peoples upright-reversed meanings.


Laurel  12 Sep 2002 
Liliana's description of a continuum really hit home for me. Even though I typically see some cards (Star, 10 of Cups, Magician) as very positive, they all have their own dark side and message of warning or caution to offer at times. So much depends on the other cards in the reading, the question, the querent, and the overall situation.


amyel  12 Sep 2002 
Everyone has pretty well said it all. Chris, I like to use this analogy: If someone is a commitment phobe, the 10 Cups is not a welcome card! What I am trying to say is that it has more to do with how people perceive or accept cards in a reading then the "book meaning".

I personally don't use reversals, and I am not teaching my step-daughter to so, either - not now. I've explained the principle to her, but advised her to first learn one way and then she can decide if she wants to use reversals later on.

Swords as negative. I've had a hard time with this in the past, too - sometimes still do. Try thinking about Swords as "choice". The first deck I used (Mythic) had this to say about Swords (I'll paraphrase): Swords are all in how you use them, and the intent behind them. For example, a sword can be used to maintain justice - or cut things down. The very sight of swords can be a challenge to some (rebellion), and a deterrent to others. It's all in how others perceive them. But most people will agree that swords represent "air" energy, that is mental energy, thinking, judging, etc. 

Strega  13 Sep 2002 
Chris: No card (IMHO) is wholly good or wholly bad. :) 

Thirteen  13 Sep 2002 
Mojo, not to use reversals are only "limiting" if you need clues to other meanings--but if, like a lot of us, you can see those infinate interpetations whether the card is up or upsidedown, then reversals can be superfulous or, as Liliana points out, distracting.

Chris, yes, all cards have some element of the opposite in them--it all depends on where they turn up in a spread and under what circumstances. Let's just say that some are more positive than negative or more negative than positive.

Perhaps another way to put it is that negative/positive are too limiting. Take The Star, for example. Almost entirely positive, certainly, with its message of healing and hope. But it is healing and hope at a FUTURE time. A distant light. So, positive, yes, but with limitiations. This is not hope and healing gifted to the person in the here and now. Also, if this card appears, likely the person *needs* healing, etc. See?

Positive, but with a catch. Ditto with the Sun--as Hudson pointed out, too much Sun isn't always good for you--you don't want everything to go right all the time. How can you know you've earned your way if everything comes easy? The Sun is also a card of science as compared to the magic of the moon. The Sun may not be negative, per se, but it may not be the best card for a person to get during a given spread. 

Diana  13 Sep 2002 

ChrisTheObscure  13 Sep 2002 
Thanks for all the insight...especially to amyel, regarding the swords suit, and to Thirteen and Diana, regarding The Sun....this is very helpful as it explains why the sun showed up as it did in a couple of spreads I've had as of late.

I think I'm going to take my "Tarot for Beginners" guide and lock it away for a while, and just use my intuition :) (and, Thirteen's Tarot Basics, of course! You really should publish that :cool: )



Alex  13 Sep 2002 
made that much sense out of that myself. Trying to learn.

Positive and negative are judgement values, and they also vary from person to person, from occasion to occasion.

The way I see the Star, for example, is that of a light in the end of the tunnel. I'ts a "good" thing to see/have the light but it's not a "good" thing to be inside the tunnel.

Sword cards are awesome. They tell you right on "you're lying to yourself"; "you're in a place of great pain"; "you have to face the limitations of life" etc. So you know, and then you can try to make things better. Many sword cards only show up for you when you have been brave enough to stand up for what you believe. That's a great thing, but the fact that some people are screwed up and make your life miserable in return is the bad part.


VGimlet  14 Sep 2002 
I think the simple answer is yes, except it varies for each reader as well.
In addition to the Star, the four of wands is a card I see as positive 99% of the time, even when reversed. 

Lee  15 Sep 2002 
Chris, you may want to look at a book called Choice-Centered Tarot by Gail Fairfield (recently republished as Everyday Tarot). In her system, every single card is completely neutral, and can be positive or negative depending on neighboring cards or on the position spread (for example a position spread like "what am I doing wrong" would obviously bring out the card's negative meaning). The Devil, for example, is interpreted as restrictions, which can be either positive or negative. She's the only author I've seen to take the concept that all cards can be positive or negative, and carry it through to its logical conclusion.

-- Lee 

The Are all cards both positive and negative? thread was originally posted on 12 Sep 2002 in the Using Tarot Cards board, and is now archived in the Forum Library. Read the threads in Using Tarot Cards, or read more archived threads.

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