Why I Don't Read with Reversals

To Read Tarot with Reversals or Not?

I get this question a lot from students: Do I really need to read with reversals?

For those of you not up on the tarot-speak, reversals are reversed tarot cards. When you shuffle the deck, cards inadvertently get turned upside down. Those who read with reversals keep their cards in this position and interpret them differently than if they were upright.

Add learning these meanings on top of the 78 upright cards and… well, I can see how it gets overwhelming fast.

And here’s the thing. Although I learned how to read with reversals, I actually stopped including them in my readings about ten years into my practice. Here’s why:


they didn’t add nuance

Tarot readings are, in my opinion, centered around building detail and deeper understanding around a present situation. I found that reversed cards act more like a period than a question mark, discouraging elaboration, engagement, and detail.

they didn’t align with my tarot philosophy

One of the things I love most about tarot is that it encompasses all the facets of the human experience: the mundane and the divine, the beautiful and the ugly, the challenging and the flowing. (And everything in between.) So many reversed meanings involve looking at the “negative,” blocked, or repressed version of the upright card. I’m not one to look at the world in terms of good and bad (I find it reductive and, to be frank, boring) and prefer to let my intuition and the card positions determine the expression of the card at hand.

So, rather than having the Chariot, reversed tell me that ambition is blocked or thwarted, I’d rather see if The Chariot is in dialogue with, say, the Five of Swords to come to that conclusion. This approach, I find is more based in storytelling, intuition, and complexity which is much more up my alley.

they didn’t make my readings flow

When it comes to building your unique tarot practice and tarot style, there’s nothing more important than flow. When we enter into our intuitive voice we can meander and explore things freely. For me, reversed cards stymied my intuition and effectively made my readings stutter and falter. They just weren’t aligning and actually hindered my readings rather than making them flourish.

Of course, many people find reversals open up a whole new world of detail and make their readings sing. If you’re one of those people, that’s absolutely wonderful. Please use reversals with wild abandon and enjoy!

But if you just can’t get into those upside down cards, have no fear. Your tarot practice is meant to amplify and celebrate your intuition, not bog it down. We all have unique approaches to the cards and you’re more than free to take or leave whatever you like as you continue to learn about the cards.

Gina WisotzkyComment