The Significance of Reversed Cards 

By Wayne Limberger

The appearance of reversed (“upside-down”) cards in a tarot reading is a source of endless confusion for novice readers who are still struggling to understand the “upright” meanings. Many simply throw in the towel and avoid dealing reversed cards, which is often recommended by tarot teachers and books, at least until more experience has been gained. I spent some time scouring my memory for the various "flavors" that might be squeezed from the occurrence of reversed cards in a spread. Entire books have been written on the subject (notably by Mary K. Greer and Joan Bunning), but - although I should - I have not yet read any of them, so any similarities between those books and the following are purely coincidental.

Reversal can highlight a sensitive or vulnerable period for the querent, perhaps a “tipping point” where the situation could go either way. There are countless variations on this theme. Numerous reversals in a spread may show an “undercurrent” that is working at cross-purposes to the main thrust of the reading, “for good or ill.” This can also reflect a very complicated or difficult situation. However, the human spirit is usually inventive enough to work its way around almost any obstacle, even if there is no "perfect" solution.
"Delay," inconvenience; a missed connection or wrong turn; interrupted, inhibited or incomplete action; (often our own fault).

"Detour" or “U-turn;” temporarily and unavoidably put off-course, rerouted or side-tracked (usually an external obstacle)

"Surprise;" expect the unexpected; something sneaking up behind you; being “blind-sided” by events; lesson learned.

“Oblique" and “skewed” are similar ideas for "out-of-left-field" influences.

"Blockage," but more often a “difficult passage" than an insurmountable barrier; adversity; “hard truths.”

Avoidance,” as in literally “looking the other way;” “head in the sand;” a “Hanged Man moment,” sacrificing time and initiative; procrastination; “sitting on one's hands;” denial; “blame-shifting;” passive-aggressive behavior.

"Idling" or “marking time,” chronic backsliding; wasted effort; “stuck in neutral;” loss of focus or traction; “wheel-spinning;” an opportunity lost or at risk – missing the “point,” the “boat or the “big picture; “the one that got away.”

"Time-out," a pause to reassess the situation from a different angle ("step back and take a deep breath"); a chance to rethink or regroup; “buying time;” mitigation; “damage control;” “putting on the brakes.”

Passive,” casual, informal, indifferent; noncommittal; unenthusiastic; incurious; yielding; accepting; benign; slow-and-steady; monotonous; humdrum; uninspiring; giving up; letting go; “going with the flow.”

"Diminishing" in its potency or significance, more inert than dynamic; mild, faint or weak; rudimentary or provisional; declining; fading; faltering; “out of gas;” slack; impractical; unripe; unlikely at this time.

"Internalized” or subconscious; something that is suspected but not known for sure; speculation; a hunch or premonition; a subjective viewpoint; suppressed; withheld; withdrawn; private; reserved; aloof.

Confused,” unclear; inconclusive; near-sighted; distracted; vague; fuzzy-headed; flaky; lost; clueless; out-of-touch; opaque; unobservant; mistaken; insecure; inattentive; careless; obtuse; taken aback; wrong-headed; vulnerable to error.

Contrary;” negative; unresponsive; uncooperative; unsympathetic; unyielding; obstructive; obstinate; reluctant; touchy; incorrigible; obsessive; closed-minded; critical; an open enemy; opposition; the “Devil you know.”

Subtle” or unobtrusive; “behind the scenes,” perhaps not known until it's too late; implied; suggested; devious; misleading; underhanded; manipulative; evasive; furtive; reticent; illusory; imaginary; unique; concealed; latent; a hidden enemy; the “Devil you don't know.”

Ambivalent;” uncertain; indecisive; of two minds; fickle; on the fence; hedging; waffling; self-questioning; conflicted; two-faced, unreliable, vacillating – especially the court cards; “the “horns of a dilemma” (no “right” answer).

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