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Reading Reversals - My Perspective

Thread originally posted on the Aeclectic Tarot Forum on 20 Oct 2002, and now archived in the Forum Library.



divinerguy  20 Oct 2002 
Reading reversals should not be a difficult thing. But many people shy away from it. There are many card meanings, and when you add reversals, the task of remembering them all seems overwhelming.

Here's a tip ... there are no rigid and defined meanings in Tarot. While there is a school of thought which recognizes generally accepted card meanings, there are so many decks and so many spreads, that no one person or system can harmonize that entire body of knowledge.

I'm of the position that you shouldn't try and commit someone else's fixed meanings to memory. In addition to being difficult to accomplish, your readings are likely to be as rigid as the "official meanings."

Here's what I do think. Consider the work of others when you ascribe significance to a card, but make the meanings your own. You're not just a database, you're a thinking being, who interprets the meaning of cards.

Thoughts, feelings and emotions are cyclical. Just like the phases of the moon and the rythyms of our bodies, there is a cycle to the metaphysical world. We don't live in a black and white world, it is a thousand shades of gray.

When a card comes up in a reversal, don't abandon the fundamental nature and meaning of a card just for the sake of its reversed position. Consider the possibility that the attribute is simply at a diminished or evolved energy level.

Here's an example. I love my family. If a family love card is reversed, I don't all of a sudden hate them -- the feelings are either changed, or more obvious, the love just isn't as strong that day.

Give it a try and tell me what you think. If you think I'm full of prunes, tell me why. 


mirja crimson  21 Oct 2002 
I agree with you, reversals shouldn't be hard. The only confusing thing about them is there is so many different ways of interpreting them. I believe similar to you, that their meaning is diminished or weaker. I also think that when it represents a person (especially the querent) it shows a position of weakness whereas the upright position would be a position of strength according to the card's meaning. I got this opinion from TAROT FOR A NEW GENERATION by Janina Renee (wonderful book by the way). I just have one question on reversed cards. When the card is sideways like in the Celtic Cross, which way is reversed and which way is upright? 


bellaluna  21 Oct 2002 
Mirja,
I believe that you read those cards as face up, well at least according to Rachel Pollack.

I also believe the reversal is a blocked energy and should be dealt with in that manner.


bellaluna 


Keslynn  21 Oct 2002 
Quote:
Originally posted by mirja crimson
I just have one question on reversed cards. When the card is sideways like in the Celtic Cross, which way is reversed and which way is upright?


I think I got this method for telling the difference from Joan Bunning, but I'm not sure. At any rate, what I do is deal the cross card out like any other card, just on top of the center card. I then note whether it is reversed or not and turn it sideways. That way you still get the aesthetics but you'll know if it's reversed or not.

I also love Janina Renee's book! It's so great.

Finally, I agree that the problem with reversals is that there are so many methods of interpreting them. However, this isn't terribly different from the upright cards. Different books = different meanings. Yet for some reason, people can wade through the various book meanings of the uprights and choose the ones that work best with them and their intuition, but this is a problem with reversals. That's why I think Mary Greer's book on reversals is so great. It presents options, not "dogma." But I can see how someone who is new to tarot and doesn't even have all the upright meanings down might be really confused by all this. In that case, it would be easy to become book-dependent rather than learning 78 more card meanings at the very beginning.

I hope that made sense. It's getting a little late here.

:) Kes 


mirja crimson  21 Oct 2002 
Quote:
Originally posted by Keslynn
At any rate, what I do is deal the cross card out like any other card, just on top of the center card. I then note whether it is reversed or not and turn it sideways. That way you still get the aesthetics but you'll know if it's reversed or not.:) Kes

Wow, that's great advice, and it's so much common sense, haha. Thanks! 


Sinta  21 Oct 2002 
I never tried incorporating reversed cards into my spreads. I guess I just haven't found a way to interpret it correctly. That and maybe I just didn't like some of the negative meanings the books give about it -_-

Thanks for your advice though, and i think i will try to accept the reverse cards and read them as they are. 


nina  21 Oct 2002 
Hello,
I don't think anyone here is "full of prunes" but I don't usually do reversals. It's not because I think they're too difficult, but I think every card has positive and negative aspects no matter what way it comes up. Which of those aspects is emphasized depends on the cards context in the reading and your own intuition. For example, in one of my books Justice is described as "Compensation, fairness, clear vision, or the need to develop such qualities."
In cases like this, reversals would actually make things easier. It's not that I think any way is right or wrong, i just find doing all-uprights makes me think more about different meanings and how to find the message. But I've been thinking lately about trying some readings with reversals, I'll let you know how I do.
-Nina 


Melvis  21 Oct 2002 
I have an incredible dull reason for not reading reversals with most of my decks...I don't like not being able to see the card upright! I really like to look at a card and get a feeling for what I see, but reversals just mess me up. I know it's a rather Obsessive (or is it Compulsive?) reason, but those reversed cards are just too distracting!

Although, I suppose I could turn them around face up after I've drawn them, and just remember which ones were reversed, thereby opening up an entire spectrum of alternative meanings that I might not have considered otherwise...hmmm...

Jeez...I'd like to say that you're full of prunes, DG, but you're not, darn it! Now I have to rethink my personal "No Reversals" rule cause it's just too weenie!

Thanks for kicking me in the seat of my tarot complacency, DivinerGuy!

Peace,

Melvis
:TSTRE 


mirja crimson  22 Oct 2002 
Quote:
Originally posted by Melvis
I have an incredible dull reason for not reading reversals with most of my decks...I don't like not being able to see the card upright! I really like to look at a card and get a feeling for what I see, but reversals just mess me up.

You know, I felt the same way, but then I found that looking at the cards reversed gave me even more insight and a totally new perspective. You just have to train yourself to not turn that card around in your mind and to focus on what you see as the actual picture as it's meant to be. 


Zhritza  22 Oct 2002 
I always use reversals. I have tried going without them, thinking it would make readings clearer, but the whole reading feels imbalanced and unrealistically perky with all the cards upright. When my intuition doesn't give me any extra input on the matter, I default to seeing reversals as a warning of the possibility of the "negative" meaning of the card. The exception is with cards that seem (in their upright form) unequivocally negative, which frequently (not always) default to a light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel thing. For example, a reversed 10 of Swords, simplistically, could mean that the querent is emerging from a period of devastation and must focus on, or is doing a good job of, rebuilding that aspect of their life to which the card refers. 


jema  22 Oct 2002 
i never do reversals, i believe they don't add at all to my readings.
i do however read with Elemental Dignities in mind.
and find that a lot more interesting - not as black or white.

i guess for me reading reversals is a bit like the introduction of the blank rune... a late invention that really didn't add anything but confusion.
perhaps it is due to me starting out with the marsielle where it is just almost impossible to tell if a card is upside down or not.

still, if i have to i can use reversals. as in if i try to help someone out with ides for a spread they done for themselves. 


wavebreaker  22 Oct 2002 
All of my cards are always upright, but I do use reversed meanings if that seems fit in the position/reading. So in a way, I do use reversals. 


lawguy51  23 Oct 2002 
Instead of reading reversals, I read context. Yesterday for instance, I read for a friend. The crowning card was the seven of wands. In the context of the reading, what was in full view was not that this person should stand her ground, but rather, that she had put up a good fight (she had pursued a relationship for 3 months) but now was the time to retreat. Voila, a reversal. But I feel I don't need the card upside down to tell me that. When I look at a spread and something doesn't look right, I look at the anomalous card and start thinking whether the card with lesser energy or 'reverse' energy might be the key to interpreting its meaning within a spread. And that way, I don't have to memorize reversals!! 


mrsjvan  16 Nov 2002 
I have only been reading for a few months and had started using reversals, but found them too difficult and confusing. Do you think it is better to learn all the upright meanings first and then work on learning the reversals or is it better to just tackle it all at once? If I go by what some have said, reversals aren't all that different than upright meanings only weakened or blocked in some way. Is that right? 


Keslynn  16 Nov 2002 
There are plenty of threads about reversals. You might want to check some of them out by doing a search. A lot of people will advise people new to tarot to not use reversals at first. Then you can begin to use them when you get fairly comfortable with the upright meanings. I personally went over to reading reversals fairly quickly, but it really depends on your learning style and what works best for you. I like to charge into things and try to learn as much as I can as fast as I can. However, there are many who aren't like that. It's up to you and what you're comfortable with.

Another thing to keep in mind is that there are several different ways of viewing reversals. Some look at them as a blocking or weakening of the card. Others look at it as the opposite of the upright. I see them as blocked but in a very interesting sort of way - as a sort of gateway. I recommend that you check out Mary Greer's book on reversals. But more importantly, don't rely on the books alone!!! Form your own theory of reversals (if you choose to work with them). If you just halfheartedly use someone else's, you probably won't be able to work with them as well.

And welcome to Aeclectic!!!

:) Kes 


mrsjvan  16 Nov 2002 
Thanks Keslyn,

I have seen Mary Greer's book mentioned a couple other places. I will probably have to get it :) 


Celtic_Dragon  17 Nov 2002 
If one card turns up reversed and it means the same as this card right side up then why didn't the world card show up? Like the world and hangman cards. Hangman rx = world and vice versa. Or is it trying to tell me something different? 


divinerguy  17 Nov 2002 
Quote:
Originally posted by Celtic_Dragon
If one card turns up reversed and it means the same as this card right side up then why didn't the world card show up? Like the world and hangman cards. Hangman rx = world and vice versa. Or is it trying to tell me something different?


While some cards have analogues, reversed or upright, I don't follow the idea that its a rigid interpretation.

This is especially so for the example you cited. I do not believe the reversed Hanged Man is somehow transmuted into the World.

I see the World as a culmination or a coming together of sorts. The manner of this coming together depends on the question asked, and the other cards in the reading.

For me, the reversed Hanged Man, in the absence of modifying cards, represents the overcoming of blocks or interference - far from the good vibes found in the World. 


Keslynn  17 Nov 2002 
Quote:
Originally posted by Celtic_Dragon
If one card turns up reversed and it means the same as this card right side up then why didn't the world card show up? Like the world and hangman cards. Hangman rx = world and vice versa. Or is it trying to tell me something different?


I'm not quite sure what you're trying to say here, though it sounds interesting. Would you mind elaborating a little?

:) Kes 


WolfSpirit  18 Nov 2002 
Quote:
Originally posted by Melvis
I have an incredible dull reason for not reading reversals with most of my decks...I don't like not being able to see the card upright! I really like to look at a card and get a feeling for what I see, but reversals just mess me up. I know it's a rather Obsessive (or is it Compulsive?) reason, but those reversed cards are just too distracting!


I agree with you on this Melvis. Cards upside down just look so weird. I like to use decks that are pleasing to the eye (well in my humble opinion ;)) and those reversed cards just don't fit !!

I use Mary Greer's book, I use the reversed meaning if the upright meaning makes no sense or the card is in a position in the spread that indicates a blockage.

I still think I should give reversals another try though... 


juice  19 Nov 2002 
following you example of hanged man and world, I find the word sacrifice isn't anywhere attached to the world for me. Although key words can help, don't get too attached to them that you block out anything else.

Let me try again. Although many cards can hint at change and lessons and choices and balances etc., I try to give each card a flavor or set of connotations that I assume are different from other cards. If you find yourself stuck for remembering a card, go through the deck and pick out the cards that are simular and think up reasons why the card you're working on wouldn't be transmuted into the others.

Since I think of Hanged Man as a sacrifice for a cause, the reversal might be reversing the value of the cause and not the sacrifice. That would make the meaning lean a little toward the Fool. So what about Hanged Man is not like Fool?

Maybe I shouldn't have added that kind of confusioin. Think about it or not and then discard if desired. 


The Reading Reversals - My Perspective thread was originally posted on 20 Oct 2002 in the Using Tarot Cards board, and is now archived in the Forum Library. Read the active threads in Using Tarot Cards, or read more archived threads.

 


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