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To read reversals, or not?

When I first started reading Tarot I did read reversals- it helped me to highlight if the energy of a card was “stuck” or to decide which cards were expressing a more “negative” expression of their meaning.

The seven years ago I decided to start teaching Tarot, and I put a lot of thought into how I wanted to teach...

  • Did I want to follow the books of other tarot authors- asking my client to purchase their books and then using them to underpin my teaching?

  • Did I want to focus on numerology, elements, dignities and the like?

  • Did I want to focus on lots of decks?

I thought about what I loved about Tarot – and it was the imagery- so I decided to teach based primarily on what the images were expressing. And one tarot deck was my absolute favourite- the Rider-Waite deck.

So began quite a lengthy process. Over a 9 month period I began my second study of the Rider-Waite deck. The process was simple, for each card (court cards, the 4 suits, then the major arcana) I..

  • · Gazed at the card for 30 minutes, just looking. Nothing else.

  • · Then I wrote my notes based on what I had seen. This included not only the images and symbolism- but what did I think happened before the picture, and what was about to happen afterwards. Placing the picture in a “narrative”.

  • · I would also look carefully at the card in its natural place with in the deck- so if I was looking at the 4 of wands I would have all the 4s laid out, and the rest of the suit of wands. Again looking to understand the narrative.

  • · Next I compared the card to the equivalent card in the Thoth & DruidCraft deck, looking to find the similarities and differences.

  • · Then I added more decks to the mix- still focused on the one card. This included the Robin Wood tarot, the Transparent tarot, The Steam Punk tarot, The Barbara Walker tarot, and several more.

  • · All the time making copious notes. It seems hard to imagine but my computer at the time did not connect to the internet- I had a small smart phone for the internet that meant most of my research was pen, paper and books.

  • · Finally I would trawl though my pile of books, you can find the 10 main books I used (there were others) right here.

  • · Then the best part of the experience, I would strew my notes all over my bed (I am quite chaotic), gaze with the card again for about 20 minutes, and finally compose my notes for the one card. This would take time, a lot of highlighting and frustration as I tried to compose meaningful paragraphs from such a huge amount of writing and reflection.

I know- the blog is called “To read reversals or not?” After so much time spent peering closely at the details of these tarot cards I just couldn’t bear to look at them reversed. My mind was used to reading the symbolism from the upright position, looking at them upside down would be like trying to read a book upside down- bloody annoying.

So I decided to replicate reading the same question using reversals, and not using reversals to see how I found the process.

I found reading reversals disrupted my reading flow. If made me stop and try to crank my head round to see the card the right way up.

When I read all the cards the right way up (simply making sure as I laid each card they were all upright) I was able to speed read the symbols and find the narrative. Each card then presented a more subtle expression of “positive/ negative / blocked” depending on the cards round it and the question asked. I found it far easier to explore the subtleties of the reading, and the narrative with all the cards upright.

I’m not evangelical about much when it comes to Tarot, and I am really not bothered about others reading reversals or not. It really is a case of which helps you to read the tarot well.

If you are questioning whether to read reversal or not- try both. Try a week of daily readings with reversals, and then a week without. Which works better for you?

And as your Tarot journey continues allow yourself to grow and develop- you may choose to

change your mind one way or the other as your understanding of the cards develops.

Just be wary of anyone who attempts to tell you that you absolutely MUST, or NEVER CAN read reversals- like most of Tarot it really boils down to what woks best for you.

I am creating a library of free Tarot resources on my website (as well as teaching regularly by Zoom) You can find all my tarot resources- blogs, videos, practical notes on all the cards, printable crib-sheets, right here.


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