4 Ways to Interpret Reversed Tarot Cards

Topsy-turvy adventures: reading reversals can add depth to your practice. Cards:  W  ild Unknown

Topsy-turvy adventures: reading reversals can add depth to your practice. Cards: Wild Unknown


Pick up any tarot book and you’ll find two meanings for each card: upright and reversed. With 78 cards in the typical deck, that brings the tally up to 156 meanings to familiarize yourself with. 

Worried you'll spend your readings with your nose buried in a book? Fear not - once you get to know the upright major and minor arcana meanings, you'll be able to put the book aside and experiment with reversals on your own. And, naturally, you can return to the written interpretations as you enrich and grow your tarot practice. 

There are lots of ways to look at reversals and many are tied to the upright meaning of the card and/or intuition. That's to say, there is no one way to read reversals, and you certainly don't need to commit a definition to memory in order to gain proficiency.

The more you read, the more you practice, and the more techniques you try, the closer you get to mastery and discovering your own personal style.

Here are some ways to explore reversals as you get started:

1.      Energy Coming In/Energy Receding

With the meaning of the card you’ve learned so far in your mind, look at the position. If upright, consider the energy coming into your/the querent’s life. If reversed, see it as receding in influence.

2.      Strong/Weak Forces

Look at upright cards as traits, people, or factors that have a powerful sway on the situation at hand. Reversed, the card signifies something with a weak influence.

3.      Stable Areas/Places to Improve

Consider upright cards as fully developed aspects of a situation, topic, or personality. Reversed cards indicate a facet of life or the personality that needs development.

4.      Smooth Sailing/Sticky Spots

Upright cards tend to speak to the positive areas of life that are proceeding with little effort. Reversals can indicate troubled areas or challenging aspects.

Things to Keep in Mind When Looking at Reversals

  • The Topic: Reversals often act to clarify the situation at hand. For example, if you're doing a reading for self-improvement, consider interpreting reversals as places you need to work on or traits you need to encourage. 
  • The Context: Look at the surrounding cards. What supports the card in question and what detracts from it?
  • The Position: Is the reversed card in a position that indicates the past or future? Or a quality to embrace? Use this information to guide your interpretation. 
  • Suits: Is there a dominant suit in the reading? What might that say about the reversed card(s)?