"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         

  It may be helpful to think of reversed cards as "red flagged." They are signaling you that they are not operating as usual. Upright cards tend to be conscious, outer, automatic, in-process, and available. Reversed cards indicate choice points, places where you must pay attention. They may require conscientious, willful handling if you are to fully take advantage of the energies and opportunities. It is like knowing that a car has a tendency to pull to the right and so you have to keep alert and make adjustments for it. Or they are places to stop struggling, relax, and let go of all expectations.         The following are suggestions for how the reversal of a card can modify its upright meaning. Try all the possibilities until you find an interpretation that works best in a particular reading. Eventually you will discover which categories most align with your personal reading style and worldview.  

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. 

2)       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.  

3)       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.  

5)       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 and burdens. 

6)       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.  

7)       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. 

8)       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.  

9)       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