When you pull a reversed tarot card—which you can do intentionally by flipping the deck upside down and selecting or can happen by chance—it essentially means that you’re missing some of the energy of that card's turned-right-side-up meaning. For instance, the queen of cups signifies strong intuition as well as emotional security. The queen of cups reversed, then, could signal an obstruction in intuitive abilities and emotional insecurity. (To check the specific meaning of a reversed tarot card that you pulled, you may consider getting a tarot book or consulting a tarot website.)
"It is at your discretion to decide whether or not to read a card as a reversal." —tarot reader Maria Sofia Marmanides
You certainly don’t have to read reversed tarot cards when you pull them and can instead opt to read their traditional meanings, says astrologer and tarot reader Maria Sofia Marmanides: “It is at your discretion to decide whether or not to read a card as a reversal.” Tarot is a highly personal practice, so you get to determine how you want to go about that journey—and whether or not you read reversals is one of the things you can decide for yourself. “Depending on where you are on your tarot journey, you’re learning different things," she adds. "If you’re early on in this practice, you might be better off just sticking to the upright (rather than reversed) meanings.” Read: Why would you want to double the amount you need to learn if you don’t have to?
That said, reading reversed tarot cards (or at least being aware of how to do so) might be beneficial from time to time, because the intel could underscore some sort of blockage in your current life, says tarot reader Jahna Walsh of Twin Moon Tarot. Walsh adds that reversed tarot cards could also be shining light on where you might benefit from thinking about things differently or going about them in a new, perhaps non-traditional way.
Keep reading to learn how to read reversals successfully so that you can decide what’s best for your practice.
How to read reversed tarot cards
Again, you can decide to never read reversed tarot cards, always do it, or have a happy medium. Whatever cadence works for you, though, Walsh and Marmanides agree that it’s crucial to set an intention before you sit down to shuffle your deck.
Because a reversed card points to a short circuit in that card's essence as it pertains to your life, consider where in your life you might need more insight (work, family, friendships, romantic relationships?) before pulling the card. If you intend to pull a reversed card (rather than leave its occurrence up to chance), the deck should be upside down.
From there, be open to the message—which may not always reflect something you want to hear. “When you interpret a reversed card, it's really just getting at the root of the issue or the shadow side,” says Walsh. For example, pulling the moon reversed—which, when upright, symbolizes ease and grace—may mean that you'd benefit from checking in with your intuition before making any additional moves.
When you're intentionally reading the meaning for a reversed card, it's also key to be mindful of how you're flipping it over, says Walsh. “If you put a card face down on a table, you can flip it up, or you can flip it over sideways,” says Walsh. If you flip it up, you’re going to change the direction of the card. Since it was upside down, flipping the card up means it'll be right side up, which you might interpret as a right-side-up card.
And if you’re a beginner at reversed tarot reading, Walsh wants you to specifically be aware of the hanged man card. This card will look right side up when it’s actually upside down—because the character in that card is hanging by their feet—so be mindful of this in order to determine whether or not it's actually reversed.
Even if you're not exactly ready to start reading reversed cards, though, Walsh says you can dip your toes into the reversal pool by reading both meanings to see what most resonates with you at any given moment. After all, this is your practice—which means you determine how you want to read the tarot’s message.
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