top five reasons for not reading with reversals

Top 5 Reasons for Not Using Reversals in Tarot Readings

top 5 reasons for not using reversals in tarot readings

Reversals in Tarot Readings

Do you use reversals in Tarot readings? I have been thinking some more about reversals lately and realised it’s been almost a decade since I last posted about them. A lot can happen in a decade! My views on reading with reversals have become better defined as my reading style has gradually shifted and matured over the years. So today I’m sharing an updated and expanded version of the post I shared back in 2014.

What Tarot Reversals Are

Before I share my top 5 reasons for NOT using reversals when reading the Tarot, I thought it might be good to balance the information. Some people do use reversals and do so very successfully. But first, let’s break it down by looking at what reversals are in a Tarot reading.

If you guessed it means when the cards show up upside down, you are absolutely correct. A reversal is an upside-down or reversed card. People who like to use reversals prefer for their card decks to have reversible backs, i.e. where the pattern on the back of the cards looks the same whether upright or reversed. That way, they are not tempted to manipulate the reading by avoiding the reversals when picking the cards face-down.

There is a misconception that reversals mean the opposite of the upright meaning. It is more nuanced than that. However, it is up to each reader to decide how to interpret reversals. And there is, of course, no law against reading them as the opposite of the upright meaning.

Why You Might Want to Use Reversals

So interpreting tarot reversals varies depending on the reader’s preferences and sometimes on the specific deck they are working with. Some people who use reversals only do so with decks with reversible backs, for instance.

One way to interpret reversals is as the blocked energy of the upright card. This can add a layer of added challenge. Another way is to see reversals as a deeper, more internal aspect of the card’s energy, reflecting internal struggles or hidden influences. Reversals can also indicate delay, hesitation, or a need for introspection.

Some readers interpret reversals as a stronger or intensified version of the upright meaning, almost like an exclamation mark. In this case, the reader doesn’t usually allow for reversals when shuffling as there would be too many cards ‘shouting.’

Ultimately, if deciding to read with reversals, you need to develop your own intuitive understanding and establish a consistent methodology of interpretation.

Top 5 Reasons for NOT Using Reversals

1. It’s just not natural

When I did my first ever Tarot reading in 1985, before I had studied or read any books about it, it didn’t even occur to me to put the cards upside down. What did occur to me was to just put the cards down, look at the pictures and see what they had to say. Simples. Years later, when I started serious Tarot studies, I read a book that insisted that you get a wider range of meanings by allowing the cards to mix together so that about half of them turn out reversed in the reading. I persisted with this inorganic way of reading until the day I got my first round deck and things just clicked…

2. Reversals Limit the Expression of the Cards

That the binary way of reading with reversals limits the expression of the cards is something I realised when I started doing readings with the Circle of Life Tarot which is a round deck.Β What was the point in doing reversals when there are 360 different degrees of meaning? Why limit yourself to two? Working with the round cards, I first tried to interpret them to as exact a degree as possible. But I soon realised that it didn’t matter! The cards themselves will tell me where in the spectrum they fall if I put them upright. It is also much easier to get an overview of the spread this way.

3. Dignities Work Better

Working with Elemental Dignities allows me to tune into the cards’ energy and how that energy meets with adjacent cards. Coming from a dance background, I like to feel the card’s energy in my body and the visual confusion caused by a reversal just makes that more difficult.

4. For the Love of Art

Most of us buy a particular Tarot deck because we are drawn to the artwork. Putting a card upside down is not how the artist intends for the image to be viewed in most cases. The only exception I know of is the Revelations Tarot deck by Zach Wong, which has reversals painted into it.

Upright cards allow us to really enjoy the artwork the artist intended for it to be seen. Additionally, using the cards upright acts as a springboard for honing clairvoyance in a way that is not as likely with upside-down cards. Beautiful, upright art activates and stimulates the right brain hemisphere, whereas reversals can disrupt the flow of intuition by switching us to binary, left-brain mode.

reversals in tarot readings

5. You want to hear the cards

Maybe, it’s just me but I need to hear what the cards have to say. If I invited you around for a chat and asked you to do a handstand, the chat may soon get a bit awkward, especially if we are discussing things of a sensitive nature, which is almost always the case when doing Tarot readings for clients.

When we work with upright cards, it is much easier for them to work the way they are intended, i.e. portals for your own intuition and/or psychic ability. In my humble opinion, relying on reversals is a bit like relying on Little White Book keywords and the sooner you do away with them, the better! But that’s just my two cents and you should do what works best for you.


Comments 35

  1. I think your all whacked out of your minds my hand turns up it turns left, right and down. The earth the wind the sky the waters. Energy is sourced from a common place the sky can be water the water can be sky. Outcomes are what we make them time is what we give it. Love true love answers only to itself. Read as you would read, giving your self to what you seek. Truth this is the purpose of the cards. I role dice I drop sticks I hold your hand I look into your eyes. It’s what I bring that determines we’re I will be welcomed. But love answers only to love everything is born of love what we do after, is ours.

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      Thanks for sharing your insights. I’m not sure how you can claim to be coming from a place of love while referring to everyone else as whacked but you do you.

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  3. I so agree with you, Lisa. I see reversed cards as leftover energy from the previous person who was read for and see no inherent value in reading reversed cards. The same meaning in a reversed card can be found in many other “upright” cards and this meaning would show up in an upright card if it needed to. Fantastic post!

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  4. Oooh this was so interesting. I DO read with reversals and I love it. I love that I can get even more information out of a card based on whether it’s reversed or upright. I read intuitively, and reading reversals works for me. I know that when I see Death reversed it’s more likely to mean “struggling to accept the end” than “this thing is over” for example. It also helps me to be able to be more discerning in a reading – when someone asks “is this relationship over” I can see they are struggling with it being over so I can be more sensitive than just being like – yeah it’s over. Or if you see the Empress reversed it may suggest a writer’s block, rather than a creative nature, stuff like that. Of course it’s always different, but it does work with my intuition to read this way. I think what’s most important is that we just read how it works for us, upright, reversed or sideways! x

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  5. Ty for confirming my thoughts exactly. ..I never read reversed and aa I have had my cards read and watched others..I felt that maybe I should. ..I now think it’s a personal choice..I’ve noticed if I read someone’s cards reversed..I can’t seem to flow with the reading ..β™‘β˜†Β€

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  6. After reading a few comments about reversals I have decided to share my use of them. I was introduce to them during my learning of Tarot. I am a visual person and when I do reversal I look at the card right way up first to find meaning and then I literally turn upside down to feel what is wrong with this energy. Sometime a cup upside down points out about loosing something, having ground up and clouds down can lead to connection with real. What I mean it shows me ‘I am here, look at me closer, there is something different here’. I guess as a spectrum of understanding energy in card get wider I might depend less on reversals but as visual learner and beginner I am doing this way at the moment. Also I think further knowledge about astrology in tarot and its houses would help in a process too.

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      Thanks for sharing, yes more knowledge about related occult topics is always helpful for understanding how the energy flows. Really, it is just about finding a way of reading that works for YOU.

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  8. I loved this article Lisa! I’ve been studying tarot since 2004 and only for a short while in the beginning did I try reading with reversals, but to me it’s just like for you – it doesn’t make sense! Why turn an image upside down?! I’ve never seen how it adds more, to me it just takes away from the artwork. I really enjoyed reading this because I’ve felt a little odd not using reversals, I actually get the feeling most readers seem to be using reversals, but maybe I’ve just been reading those books exactly haha…

    The Tarot Girl

    1. Thanks Tarot Girl, no you’re right. Most Tarot books include reversal meanings… however, you and I are definitely not alone. Reading with reversals is a very binary and left-brained thing to do… Strange considering true psychics are right-brained.

  9. I don’t read with reversals – and completely agree with your reasons for not doing so. I would just say, in addition, that a lot of the cards have their own shadow or reversal meaning inherent in them anyway – The Empress for instance, is the complete nurturing loving mother but also has the dominant, fierce side to her too. Reading reversals seems to just really complicate the issue.

  10. Hello Lisa,

    Thank you yet again for a great article. I completely agree with you. I read many books and articles on reversals and they are just not for me. Every time when I try reversals the Cards just shut down and I get nothing from them. I am going on Elemental Dignities, working with the energies of the cards and try reading holistically. It works perfectly for me. I believe that the cards are there helping to tune into the collective consciousness and once one is there the message is clear.

  11. Pingback: Why Some Don’t Read with Reversals | Arnemancy

  12. Hi Lisa, thanks so much for your thoughts. I don’t use them either.

    In addition to what you’ve just mentioned, I also find that when reversed cards come up, it’s usually because someone else has reversed them in first place – not generally the present querent! So, to me that reversed card energy is someone else’s, even if the deck has been cleared/charged. I always ‘clean up’ the deck after a reading and make sure the cards are upright. If I do a reading and someone shuffles a reversed card, I don’t read it as what some think it should be read, as reversed – only that it has extra special significance in the reading.

  13. Reversals don’t work… Hello Lisa, I have been a student of tarot cards since 1990 and I still am learning more and more about the cards. It’s as if they can speak multiple languages to me… depending on my mood, intuitional clarity and what’s really going on. Sometimes the upsidedown cards make more sense but then sometimes I get confused by what they are telling me! The most important way for me to interpret is to get out of my own head and into the higher realm where my guides speak. In those cases, it doesn’t really matter which way is up because the messages come through and sometimes it doesn’t make sense to what I initially was looking at from an intellectual viewing of the layouts or spreads.
    Hope this helps…

  14. Love your comments about reversals Lisa; they make sense to me and fit with my own intuitive sense about reversals. Like what you said about the artwork of the cards as well. Like many readers, the issue of reversals has always been confusing to me and it never felt right to me, to incorporate them into my readings — they always made me feel suddenly distracted and “janlged” — but often I would anyway because I thought ‘good readers are supposed to.” (Shared your article on my sites.) Thank you for another great insight into tarot — I learn much from reading your articles and tips.

  15. I don’t read with reversals, either. I’ve just always figured the cards can answer me no matter which direction they’re in, and I prefer to see them upright (they’re simply easier to read that way, and it feels more natural, as you say). I’ve never felt like I’ve “halved” my potential answers by only reading one way. My cards and I are connected, and they know how to speak in a way I understand based on the way I use them. My dear friend who does readings for me when I’m feeling “gunked up” and need someone unbiased to read for me DOES use reversals, and that’s natural for her. But I’ve just never felt drawn to read that way.

    1. Isn’t it great when you do something because you feel compelled, rather than because you’re supposed to? Tarot’s greatest gift to me has been has learning to listen to my own voice –

  16. I’m so glad I read your article! I have always felt a little stumped when a reversal came up…you see… I also read about using the reversals as a way to expand on a reading, and thought it was necessary….but it was just more confusing. And..wouldn’t the surrounding cards tell the story anyway?

  17. Yes, Lisa, I agree with you. I always make sure the cards are upright before I shuffle. I don’t see the point of reading cards upside down – there are so many meanings that come from the cards as they are, that seeing a card upside down just blocks me – it doesn’t seem “natural”. The cards were “drawn” right side up, so I read them right side up. Or at least I presume they are πŸ™‚

  18. I’m a newbie Tarot reader and I have such an issue with reversals. I really appreciate your intelligent and expressive reasoning for not using them (I have a dance background as well and resonate with needing to feel the energy of the cards in my body). I know it’s a choice for using reversals, but I’ve just never been comfortable with them. Thank you!!

  19. Dignities, and “Hearing” the cards …. love, love, love it!

    Not to mention the pure statistical and relative problems associated with reversed cards … Special instructions on how to shuffle? If the querant hands me the cards, is it right-side up to me, or them? And do I flip the cards horizontally or vertically?


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