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What are reversals? If you’re super new to tarot, reversals refer to cards that come out upside-down. So does it mean anything when a card comes out reversed? And if so, how do we interpret reversals?
There are four possible interpretations for reversals, and I’ll go through all of them in this post. Video included!
Do you have to read reversals?
Does it actually mean anything if the card comes out upside-down? Some tarot readers say no. If a card comes out upside-down, they just turn it around and keep going with the reading.
Other people, however, take reversals very seriously. The belief is that if a card comes out reversed, there’s a reason for it. And a reversed card can hold different meanings and messages than the card in its upright position.
So do you have to read reversals? No.
In fact, if you want to hear more about why I stopped reading reversals for a long time and whether or not you really need reversals in your reading, scroll down to the video at the end of this post.
But, if you want to learn how to interpret reversals in tarot to add a richer, more nuanced layer to your tarot readings, read on.
(Click here for different ways to shuffle tarot cards based on whether or not you read reversals.)
Four ways to interpret reversals in tarot
I can distill all my reading and research into tarot reversals down to four different ways to interpret them.
When a card comes out reversed in a spread, it may mean any one of the following things:
- The opposite of the card’s upright meaning
- Too much of the card’s energy present
- Too little, or not enough. of the card’s energy present
- Internalized energy of the card
Now, how do you know which interpretation to apply to your reading? That depends on the question, the other card, the context, and your intuition!
Reversal Interpretation #1: Opposite of the Card’s Meaning
The first way to interpret a reversal in tarot is to give the reversed card its opposite meaning.
Let’s use the 3 of Swords as an example.
Upright, the 3 of Swords refers to some kind of pain. Painful communication, heartbreak, grief, or sorrow.
Reversed, the 3 of Swords may mean the opposite of all that, which might indicate love, getting over a broken heart ,kind words, the subsiding of grief and sorrow.
Reversal Interpretation #2: Too Much of the Card’s Energy
Okay, how else can you read reversals in tarot?
Well, when a card comes out reversed, another way to interpret it is that too much of a certain energy is present.
Take the 9 of Pentacles as an example.
Upright, the 9 of Pentacles indicates the good life, abundance, comfort and luxury, and gratitude.
If a reversed card might indicate too much of the card’s energy, then the 9 of Pentacles reversed could indicate too much luxury and comfort.
Maybe you’re too materialistic or spoiling yourself a bit too much. Too much of a good thing could start to become a negative, and that’s what a reversal in tarot may be pointing out.
Reversal Interpretation #3: Not Enough of the Card’s Energy
Third, when a tarot card comes out reversed, it may indicate that there’s too little, or not enough, of a certain energy.
Let’s use the 3 of Pentacles as an example.
Upright, this card indicates teamwork, collaboration, help from friends or colleagues.
If a reversal may indicate not enough of a certain energy, then the 3 of Pentacles reversed might be pointing out that not enough group work is going on.
You may be trying to do everything alone and not inviting enough collaboration or team work into your life.
Reversal Interpretation #4: Internalized Meaning of the Card
Finally, the fourth way to interpret a reversed tarot card is to interpret it as internalizing the meaning of the card. So instead of this card’s energy playing out externally in the world around you, the card is pointing out something in your internal self.
Let’s use the dreaded Tower card as an example.
Upright, the Tower indicates some intense, earth-shattering upheaval or chaos coming your way. Its main message is that you can’t build anything substantial on shaky ground; you need a solid foundation. So, you may lose a job that wasn’t aligned with you in the first place. Or, you may end a relationship that wasn’t built on a loving, trusting foundation.
On the other hand, if the Tower shows up reversed, it could mean you need to internalize the Tower card’s message. So it might not necessarily mean something external is going to happen to bring chaos or catastrophe into your life. Instead, it might indicate some internal foundational shift, epiphany, or mindset shift going on.
So you might not lose your job or your home or anything external or tangible, but you might experience something that upends your value system. Or, you might reach some sort of epiphany or realization that causes you to quit your job or move across the country or something like that.
Side note: Tower energy isn’t always so dramatic, so don’t be too scared of this card.
(Click here for more on the difference between Major and Minor Arcana cards in tarot.)
Rather watch than read? I got you!
For more details on all of these interpretations of tarot reversals, check out the YouTube video covering this same topic below. In the video, I also go through a practice reading so you can see how a reversed card can be woven into the story told by an entire tarot spread.
How do you feel about reversals in tarot? Do you read them? Let me know in the comments below!
This is absolutely fascinating to me. I have never had a tarot reading but I would really love to.
It is fascinating, Sarah! I like being able to demystify it for people. 🙂
Thanks! I am Just starting with my first deck but I had known about tarot since so long. I think reversal is another meaning, and I agree with your 4 ways to read them, ir depends on the card and the spread.
But there are some cards (Major arcana) that have no such difference if right or wrong.
That’s so interesting, Blanca. Do you mean certain Major Arcana cards pretty much have the same energy whether they’re upright or reversed? I can see that!
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At first I also turned the card around and said no, the card is upright and read, but then with time I did allow my self to interpret the card reversed, and yes, exactly as you said – either too little or too much of the card energy, or the opposite energy or energy that is not there yet, that is sort of lacking. Now I usually go with a some sort of mixture of these options and I decide depending on the surrounding cards.