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Card Reversals

Radiant Wise Tarot by Lo Scarabeo



Did you know that you don’t actually have to use reversed cards?

Nope. Not at all.

Card reading is a personal experience. Whether you choose to use the cards just for yourself or you dive into reading for others, the symbolism and archetypes represented in each card speaks to your subconscious mind. Each card has their own flavor and story and will manifest a little differently for each person, and in each reading. The cards speak to you, and then you tell the story.

Authors can use different words to say the same thing.

You don’t need card reversals to hear a specific message.

Remember: your practices are your own. If you chose to not use reversals, as you grow and build a relationship with your decks they will simply use different methods to give you the same message.

Should you still learn about card reversals? Absolutely. Even if you are not drawn to reversals or are in a similar situation as me. A reversed card tells us that the energy, influence, or strength is challenged. Something isn’t coming out quite right; it’s being stifled by something else. Perhaps it is being avoided or being held back or kept in the dark. Or maybe the card is coming into the foreground but not yet manifested, or it’s starting to fade. 

Reversed cards teach us the full scope of energy that a card possesses.  However, studying reversals is enough. Once you understand what an upside-down card means the story starts to change when you link your cards together in a reading, regardless if you keep everything upright.  Two cards coming together can express the same message as a singular reversed card, as long as you understand the literal ups and downs of your deck.

I started reading the cards around the age of eleven. I dove headfirst into cartomancy and really dedicated myself to my deck. I carried them around with me everywhere, pulling cards multiple times a day trying my hardest to “master” the meanings. I pulled cards for myself, my friends, family, classmates in school. Everyone. I got fairly good pretty quickly too. Until I got to the part in my learning where I was told to start incorporating card reversals.

My heart was instantly crushed.

I have diagnosed OCD that manifests itself in a few ways, and “checking” is one of them. A big tic? I need things faced. From bills, to my mail pile, to the food in my fridge and pantry, and every. single. card. in. the. house. Including my tarot decks. Yup. 100%

So card reversals? Out of the question. I could never do a reading or even pull cards knowing there were reversals in there. Knowing there were wrong cards in my deck.

Accessible resources were scarce during that time for budding occultists who were not born into a practice or had mentors in their sphere. The few tarot resources I had all stressed that it was absolutely essential to use reversed cards, otherwise you weren’t getting a full, effectual reading.  With no people to turn to, and as a kid who had not yet learned to fully question voices of authority, my relationship with tarot suddenly got weird.

I walked away from tarot for a while. It seems silly to me as an adult, but at the time that little speed bump on the road felt like dead end.

Thankfully one day my Obstinate Taurean qualities popped out. I said, “screw it” and I picked my cards back up again, throwing a middle finger to anyone who said reversals were necessary. Years later I’m a professional tarot reader and educator, and every single card in every single deck I own still sits upright.

Did I learn reversals? Yes. Was it invaluable? Completely. How did I do it? Back to basics upright daily card pulls with three provocative questions:

  1. What would this card be telling me if could not manifest its complete energy?”
  2. “If part of this story were missing, what would this card say?”
  3. “Which card pairings would give me the same answer to those questions?”  

What is your relationship to reversals? Do you choose to use them in your readings, or do you let upright cards tell you the complete story?




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Published by harridanhag

Hello you beautiful and vibrant thing. I invite you to grab a cup of tea (or a glass of bourbon), and come spend a few minutes with me. I am a lifelong occultist and animist, a practicing witch & diviner of over twenty years, a budding herbalist, a devoted professional skin therapist, and passionate artisan of many crafts. Here be my home for my thoughts, interactions, and experiences on my magical path that I wish to share with curious souls. So please, enter here with the open and honest heart that I write with and together, perhaps, we can work at making the world a little bit more magical.

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