Some readers choose to ignore card reversals, but I find them quite helpful in a reading because they can help you determine areas that need further exploration. They can also show potential problems and energy blocks. The thing to understand about card reversals, and even upright cards, is that the meaning changes based on what cards surround it, and what question is asked. Generally, a reversed card shows that the energy of that particular card is “blocked” in some way.
Let’s say you pull “The Empress” card reversed in a reading. This can indicate that someone is not open to their sensual side. But does that mean they should be? Here are some things to consider when working with reversals in a reading:
As a tarot card reader, you should always be looking for patterns in your spread. I look for what elements are prominent, numbers, colors, and anything else that strikes me. Reversals are another type of pattern. Look at the cards that are reversed versus the cards that are upright. Is there a separate theme running through the reversed cards?
Is the reversed card in the past, present, or future? Is it in the place of recommended action? A reversed card in the past can indicate that part of the querent’s life has reached a close, but it can also indicate unresolved difficulties carrying over into the present. Let’s pretend your querent pulled the Seven of Cups (Illusion, Dreaming) for the past, and Ace of Pentacles (Stability) reversed in the present. To me that would indicate that they have had difficulty achieving what they want because they were distracted, pursuing illusions and not grounded at all in their approach. But if the Ace of Pentacles was reversed in the placement of the past, and Seven of Cups was upright in a placement of recommended action, and the Chariot (Victory) was in the future, that might mean that this person needs to get in touch with their imaginative side a bit, and dream about the possibilities before charging forth to victory! So, you see, in a way it’s all very subjective, but in a way it’s not. What you are doing is looking for how the reversed (and upright cards) relate to the sequential layout of the cards.
Understanding how the reversal relates to the question asked is very important. When you ask a question, particularly yes or no, the reversed cards indicate why “no” – and what those challenges are, and why “yes” – what is working in your favor. That does not mean that all cards reversed is absolutely NO to a question (I believe we have free will, people), but rather show what factors you are working against.
Let’s pretend that you are reading for someone and they ask you “What do I need to do to make sure that I am not hurt so badly again the next time I fall in love?” And asking this, they pull the Empress (sensuality, abundance) reversed and the six of cups (innocence and giving) reversed. We would read that as WHOA, you are giving too much, perhaps opening up to others physically and mentally too soon, let’s pull back a little. BUT here’s what it gets extra tricky. Is this someone who is very closed off and is not in touch with their sensual side at all? The interpretation could be quite the opposite. In this case, it would be helpful to have the querent pull a card to represent their past, so that you have some context for the Empress and Six of Cups cards.
What is your immediate reaction to the reversal? Your intuition is a great tool for reading the cards. You will develop your intuition over time as a reader, but there are many ways to improve this through practice. Consistent meditation helps, and there are lots of resources out there if you want to explore how to improve you intuition further.