Cartomancy 101.10 – Reversals

When a card falls in reverse, one of four things may happen.

  1. The significance of the card may receive a boost. This is what happens when the 10 of Clubs’ upright meaning of travel abroad becomes travel to far-off places for the card in reverse. For a British person, travel abroad would indicate a trip to the continent; travel to far-off places suggests something more exotic – Africa, Asia, Australasia. A citizen of the US could expect travel abroad to signify a visit to Mexico or Canada. The far-off places forecast by the reversed card would then encompass Europe as well as India, Africa, Australia and so forth.
  2. Secondly, the card’s significance when upright may be depleted. It may be depleted only slightly as it is with the 9 of Hearts. The success and fulfillment of desires promised by the upright card are not obliterated but only delayed if this card is reversed. Note, however, that when the significance of a negatively oriented card is depleted, it becomes a fortunate omen. See how the 4 of Spades, which when upright presages worries and broken promises, in reverse signals a turn of the wheel of fortune in the inquirer’s favor. On the other hand, on reversal a card may have its significance drained to the extent of turning the upright meaning on its head completely. A case in point is the 6 of Clubs, where the upright significance of ‘success of ambitions’ is replaced by ‘ambition thwarted’ when the card is reversed.
  3. The third alternative is that the significance of the card may remain unchanged when it falls reversed in a spread. This is what happens to the 8 of Clubs and the Ace of Diamonds both of which carry the same meaning whichever way up they are.
  4. Some cards have special meanings associated with them when they are reversed. The10 of Hearts reversed can forecast a birth, the reversed 9 of Diamonds is associated with difficulties encountered during travel and the 3 of Spades upside down describes either a bewildering situation or a confused state of mind. Similarly, the Ace Heartsdecorative-ace of hearts Reversed in reverse can indicate a removal. Yet this in only another example of a card’s upright meaning being turned upside down. For, right-way up, the Ace of Hearts is a symbol of a well-ordered, settled home life. The opposite of this is disordered and unsettled domestic conditions, such as hold sway during the brief but chaotic period when the family is moving house.

The meanings to be found on the list I have supplied you with are, however, not to taken as fixed. They represent suggestions only. They can be altered, even counteracted, by the influence of other cards in the reading. This is particularly true of reversed cards. Take, for instance, the combination: 4 Diamonds, 9 Clubs reversed, 10 Clubs. Ordinarily, the 9 of Clubs reversed would promote lack of success and signal that assistance the inquirer had been counting would fail to manifest. But as it lies between the 4 of Diamonds and the 10 of Clubs, these are unlikely to be its meaning on this occasion. The 4 of Diamonds presages financial gain or growth while the 10 of Clubs is associated with money luck and successes in business. In such blessed company, the 9 of Clubs almost certainly reverts to its upright meaning of professional advancement and/or success with money.

At other times a card’s reversed meaning is backed up by the cards associated with it. That is what normally happens. The 5 of Spades reversed sandwiched between the 3 of Diamonds and the 2 of Clubs has its meaning of “eventual success is not guaranteed” confirmed. Upright it signifies “reverses and anxieties, but eventual success”. Sadly, in the company of the 3 of Diamonds and the 2 of Clubs, the promise of eventual success will not be fulfilled. The 3 of Diamonds relates to disputes, with the possibility of a lawsuit hovering in the background. The 2 of Clubs signifies obstacles to the achievement of some goal, opposition to one’s plans and a disappointing outcome. In fact, in this combination, the 5 of Spades’ “eventual success is not guaranteed” is transformed into “no eventual success.”

A good many of the cards on the list of divinatory meanings do not have specific reversed meanings assigned them. Should one of these appear reversed in a reading, seek to apply the first three rules given above. By taking account of the other cards in the spread, you will be able to identify which of the rules is operating in any given instance.


About auntietarot
Born in Britain just before the outbreak of the second world war, I was taught basic tarot skills by my maternal grandmother. In the sixties, I joined a Golden Dawn-type esoteric school, passing through the curriculum and becoming an instructor in ritual etiquette and the making and consecration of talismans. At the beginning of the eighties, I left the school to plow my own furrow in areas such as tarot and astrology. Since my retirement I have spent time researching the occult history of the tarot and the various ways the tarot has been used for divination in the past.

2 Responses to Cartomancy 101.10 – Reversals

  1. Linda says:

    Do you have anything to comment about the Jack of clubs card in reverse? I heard a cartomany and vedic astrology specialist on Youtube briefly touch on this, saying they were “wishy-washy and unreliable”. I wonder- how do you identify a “reverse” card situation?

    • auntietarot says:

      Well, Linda, I have given my opinion on reversed cards in the article you have commented upon. I’m not sure what you are now asking. Would you care to be more specific? I will help you if I can.

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