2-turtledovesTwo Turtledoves: Two birds, two ways to read a card. Which is better, up or down?

Today’s topic is reversals. There has been a lot written about reversals over the years. It’s a topic in every tarot book that I can think of, and there is at least one book dedicated to reversals.

Should you use reversals?

Frankly, that’s a decision you have to make. Sorry, I know you were hoping for more. The fact is that reversals are a very personal choice.

There are plenty of good readers who insist that readings will lack detail or be inaccurate if reversals aren’t there to enhance the picture. There are also plenty of good readers who say that reversals are redundant and cause confusion, and the cards say plenty when upright. Which camp is correct?

The answer, of course, is both. The common thread is “good readers.” Both groups have equally talented readers. So it seems likely that whatever works best for your reading style is going to be the answer for you.

I don’t use reversals, except for when I do. Hah, got you there! I have tried them on occasion if the mood warrants, but for the most part I don’t bother. I do feel strongly that Lenormand doesn’t need reversals under any circumstance, since the cards are read in a symbolic or cartomantic fashion, where each card provides a meaning that is modified by surrounding card(s).

tower-reversedIf you’re interested in reversals, there are a few approaches to try. One is for each reversed card have a different meaning. This is the “old-school” approach. Older playing card methods very commonly used this, and reversed cards had entirely different meanings. Of course, they were often supplementing a 32-card deck. Nowadays it’s easier to have reversed meanings be the opposite of the upright cards, which allows for consistency and makes the learning process more straightforward.

Some people choose to keep the same meaning, but lessen or enhance it. A classic example is the disastrous tarot Tower. Reversed, it could be negated entirely; lessened in impact; or increased in impact. For me, the only one that seems sensible is to lessen the impact, but not everybody would agree.

PCO_reversalsI like the approach taught by Paul Fenton-Smith. In his case, a reversed card means a block because a person hasn’t learned the lesson of the previous card. So a reversed 5 of Coins means the person hasn’t overcome what is shown by the 4 of Coins — for example, they are stuck because of their greed.

Ana Cortez calls reversed cards “upside down” in her playing cards system, to distinguish from reversals. The meanings don’t change, but the card interactions might. For example, her 7s are all swords, and depending on whether the sword points towards or away from it’s neighbors, the impact will change.

In this example (click on image to see a larger view), the Jack of Hearts at the bottom is on the hilt side of the reversed 7 of Clubs, the sword of enchantment. The blade points towards the 6 of Hearts, the castle. So the roguelike La Hire, here, is doing something that impacts the home. The card meaning hasn’t changed, but the flow of action among the cards has. Those of you who read Lenormand based in part on how the pictures face will recognize this, of course.

So there you have it, a quick look at reversals and some options to consider if you wonder whether to use them or not. Again, it’s up to you and your style as a reader. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to give them a try, if you’ve never used them before!

sketch of Lenormand CloverSome good luck, to close this post on a positive thought.

Do you use reversals or not? Why? Feel free to share your opinions and experiences in the comments.