Friday, 9 December 2011

why reversals work for me

I'm coming across an increasing number of Tarot readers who choose not to acknowledge card reversals. Some simply ignore the fact that a card is reversed, whilst others make sure every card in their deck is the right way up. I think the dislike of reversals stems from the idea that they encourage mechanistic interpretations. A great many Tarot books out there (although a lot less published in this day and age) encourage a full scale meaning reversal when a card appears upside down and this seems to promote the idea that a card can have a wholly positive or negative meaning. This doesn't seem right for those of us who don't believe in good and evil and who feel that morality is not black and white and that every bad experience contains a valuable lesson. Tarot shouldn't be straight forward because life is not straight forward and Tarot should be a faithful reflection of life.

When I first started learning Tarot as a fourteen year old girl I used reversals in my study and early readings because the books I had access to encouraged that. Once or twice, during the learning phase, I was tempted to forget about reversals because it seemed to be a whole new set of meanings to learn and when you're trying to get your head around 78 cards, anything that further confuses you can be a struggle! But I stayed faithful to the technique. It was only as I got older and started talking to other readers, particularly online, that I realised reversals are not actually universally popular or accepted. It was at that point that I forced myself to question what card reversals mean to me and whether or not they enrich my Tarot experience.

The answer I came to was that they do. Massively.

Sure, every card has positive and negative elements to it. But life is rather more of a roller coaster than a straight line - sometimes we're up, sometimes we're down. So, the reversals serve to home in on what the current state of mind is. If I simply put a bit of a bad slant and a bit of a good slant on every card the messages would soon become bland and confusing. Sometimes a reversed card punctuates the reading with a piece of significant information that could swing the querent into positive thinking or out of a negative slump, rather than simply being distinctly average - a balanced mixture of both. Sometimes life is actually unbalanced and I think the reversed cards can remind us of that.

Another reason I love reversals is that they're usually sign posts or warnings in my readings. They guide the querent in terms of what they should perhaps look out for or seek to change. They alert me to problem areas sometimes. I believe that there's a warning element in every single card, even ones that seem resoundingly positive. A reversal can deepen my understanding of a wonderfully positive card (such as the Ten of Cups) by reminding me that not everything is as it seems on the surface and that sometimes we can find a problem with even the most seemingly blissful of situations. The reversals are about examination of the facts, questioning the status quo and looking more deeply into what the core issues could be. They are there to speak to the querent about what needs to change or how best to transform a bad thing into a good thing, even at the eleventh hour when it seems they can do nothing to alter the state of play.

I have great admiration for readers who don't use reversals and choose to let their intuition determine which cards contain warnings and which are positive or encouraging. It's certainly one way of doing it. But it's not my way. I couldn't do readings without reversals at this stage - they have become a vital part of what makes a reading work for me. They are by no means set in stone. If I see a reversed card and I genuinely don't feel that the upright meaning needs to be punctuated by a warning, I won't change anything. I have to let the reading overtake me like the ebb and flow of a river and sometimes the way the spread looks as a whole is what counts, rather than the positions and reversed cards. But they are always a useful manifestation and they always give me some kind of interesting pointer. I think they offer more complexity and give a card's meaning more layers and avenues to go down. Reading a reversal as the exact opposite of the literal meaning is a little narrow and short-sighted, I think. But using them to find your footing is never a bad thing.