"Ten Ways to Interpret Reversals" (excerpted from the upcoming: _The Complete Book of Tarot Reversals_ by Mary K. Greer (Llewellyn, 2001). © Mary K. Greer, 2000
1) BLOCKED OR RESISTED The energy normally described by the card may be blocked, repressed, denied, or resisted. This could be appropriate and healthy, or not, depending on the circumstances. For instance, a reversed Eight of Cups could express resisting spending time alone, a vacation denied, or blocked yearnings for an inner journey. A reversed Judgment might mean resisting a "call," or deliberately ignoring people's judgments and criticism.
PROJECTED There could be a tendency to project denied material onto
others. The Emperor reversed might indicate the projection of one's own repressed
agressiveness onto someone else who is felt to be inappropriately or
ineffectually wielding power.
DELAYED, DIFFICULT, UNAVAILABLE There could be hesitation,
uncertainty, unavailability or an external delay. With many cards reversed,
overall change may take longer than expected without denying it altogether.
With reversed Aces or the Wheel of Fortune a new enterprise or change may
feel immanent but have trouble getting off the ground. Its doing so may depend
on clear choices, extra effort, and conscious commitment from the
individual-if that is what is desired. It may be like a bumpy road filled
with obstacles and difficulties. Energy is not flowing as smoothly or
automatically as it would otherwise. Yet it's not always appropriate, for
instance, to turn the Three of Cups upright when your friends are
temporarily unavailable. If the Hermit is also in the spread it may be an
opportunity to turn inward. I've seen the Three of Cups reversed when, in
order to cut back on alcohol consumption, the person no longer hangs out
with his drinking buddies. This card reversed can suggest both his misuse
of drink and his making himself unavailable to his buddies.
4) INNER, UNCONSCIOUS, PRIVATE The energy might be unconscious, inner or private rather than conscious, outer or public. The Two of Cups reversed, for instance, can refer to inner polarity, and the relationship of Self with the Masculine or Feminine within. Remember too that if the energy is truly unconscious the querent may not recognize it.
BREAKING THROUGH, OVERTURNING, REFUSING The person could be
overturning, getting out from under, breaking free of, rejecting, refusing,
or turning away from the condition pictured. It can also show the end or
passing away of a situation. When the Eight of Swords is reversed then
bonds, blindfold, and barriers could be falling away. When the Ten of Wands
is reversed the person seems to be putting down the weighty load of responsibilities
NO OR NOT (the upright meaning) Occasionally you can preface a
standard upright interpretation with "no" or "not." A
reversed Empress might mean "not being feminine or nurturing."
Take care, however, that this does not lead to a judgemental, overly
deterministic, or negative attitude. A multi-talented woman asked for
guidance as to what Spirit wanted her to be and do. One wonderful Major
Arcana card after another came up-reversed. I finally realized the Tarot
was telling her not to identify herself as teacher, artist, or lover,
because her true spiritual purpose transcended all these labels and thus
would not be limited to any specific job or role.
EXCESSIVE, OVER OR UNDER-COMPENSATING The reversal may intensify or
lessen the meaning of the card or take it to extremes and overindulgence:
too little or too much, under or overdeveloped, immature or senile. In
psychological terms it can indicate over or under-compensation.
MISUSED OR MISDIRECTED Like mis-firing, misuse or misdirection
implies a faulty start, bad timing, or something that is not used
appropriately. In the Six of Pentacles reversed, money or charity could be
misspent. In the Seven of Swords you may have misplaced strategies or
loyalties; perhaps the enemy is not really your enemy.
RE- : RETRIED, RETRACTED, REVIEWED, RECONSIDERED Re-versals point to
"re"-words (thanks to Nina Lee Braden). In astrology such words
characterize retrograde planetary motion when a planet appears to move
backward through the zodiac and we review, reconsider, and redo previous
actions. The Magician reversed may want to retract an intention. The Seven
of Wands reversed might want to reconsider the necessity of holding his
ground and fending off opposition.
10) UNCONVENTIONAL, SHAMANIC, HUMOROUS If an upright card is conventional wisdom, then the reversal is unconventional wisdom. It questions all the assumptions that an upright card makes. It's not straight, but crooked and crazy. Each card has a place that you can "see through and into." You have to look under the mask of what "seems to be." Thus there could be a trickster aspect to a reversed card. Perhaps a sense of humor is required; or you are being instructed not to take the situation too seriously. The Hierophant reversed is particularly obvious "coyote-energy:" great wisdom and spirituality might appear in unexpected or iconoclasic forms. The Shamanic view, in particular, asks you to enter the card and journey into an Alice-in-Wonderland realm in order to bring back a vital message or understanding.
Images from the Eclectic Tarot Deck Copyright Piatnik