What do tarot reversals mean? How to interpret and read reversed tarot cards in an empowering way.
When cards are pulled upside down, we call them reversals. You might see Rx as shorthand for reversals, which is fitting because this is also used for signifying a retrograde planet in astrology and, more commonly, for a medical prescription (which comes from the Latin word for recipe). All of which feel relevant to the way I use reversals in my teaching and readings.
There are many different ways of approaching and interpreting reversals. Some people don’t read them at all, some people use their decks in such a way that reversals simply don’t come up.
You can choose not to read reversed cards, or ask your deck before you begin whether you should be reading reversals for this reading or in a specific way.
Personally, I’m pro reversal (if you can’t already tell!). I find that they only add to the magic, complexity, and texture of the deck. Why have only 78 meanings for the cards when you can have 156+ to encompass the human experience?
Don’t fear the reversal
When you see a reversal pop up, what does that bring up within you? For a lot of us, it’s doubt, confusion, and a little fear. Our logical brains want to turn it upright, to see it in a more straightforward way. This resistance can cloud our instincts about the card and the different and more nuanced ways in which it’s trying to communicate something to us.
Working with reversals invites your intuition to play and see things from a new perspective. After all, life isn’t all upright and straightforward either.
To open you up to playing with reversals more:
- First acknowledge this discomfort. Breathe into any feelings that initially come up when you see a reversal. Don’t try to ignore it or run away from it. (Or turn the card upright!)
- Then take a curious approach with the Rx way below.
- Experiment and find what feels right and instinctual to you as you read them. Play with the themes and styles of reversals below
- Explore the reversed cards in the context of the other cards around them, the way they feel in your body, and in your real-life experience with them.
So, what do reversed tarot cards mean?
Reversals don’t negate or put a negative spin on the meaning of a card, in my experience, but rather add more nuance and a different flavor to the upright nature of the card. They invite you to find a different way in and to work with them in a deeper way.
All cards contain medicine, or a recipe (remember the roots of Rx) for how to remedy a situation presented in a card.
It’s important to remember that the cards exist for you. They contain within them guidance and support regardless of their position — especially the cards that are seemingly giving you a more challenging perspective. These challenges are the keys that have the most helping potential. When cards show themselves in the reversal, it’s often to emphasize this potential.
How to read reversed tarot cards the Rx way
Going with the retrograde planet analogy, let’s explore reversals of the tarot through “re-” words. Use these three (and any other “re” words that resonate with you) to assess how this card is coming up for you or the person you’re reading for.
This is where you can lean into trusting your intuition. Feel out how each of these options resonate in the context of the card, the question asked, and the way your body responds to them. It could be a combination. Ask questions to explore them further.
- Review. A call to go inward and review how the themes in this card have been coming up for you. Are old themes resurfacing? Are past experiences coming up to be reckoned with? Is a situation urging you to look at your healing from a new perspective?
- Resistance. What’s feeling stuck or stagnant in this area? What are you resisting, avoiding, or ignoring? It’s popping up to say hi and remind you that facing the problem is always better than avoiding it. What’s a different way you can approach it this time?
- Release. Are you coming out the other side? What have you let go of? What do you need to let go of? There’s a healing element to seeing a reversal as a release of a theme or recurrence. There’s a new beginning happening with every release.
I would love to hear how reversals come up for you. How are you working with them? How are you seeing them in new ways? Do any other “re” words help you see reversals in a more expansive light?