How to Read Tarot Cards Reversed (in a way that really rocks your readings!)

I confess – I don’t usually read Tarot cards reversed. I always shuffle my deck so that all cards remain upright and if by chance a card happens to be reversed, I turn it right side up.

Why? Because I feel that incorporating reversals often adds unnecessary messiness and confusion. It’s like watching a foreign movie that’s dubbed and then trying to read lips and translate the other language and compare it with the language you heard to see how it matches up. Arrrgghhh!

ace of cups reversed

Hanson-Roberts Tarot

Maybe that’s a bad analogy…but you get my drift! You don’t want to make extra work for yourself if you don’t have to. But having said that….

A few Tarot pros – namely Mary K. Greer and Radleigh Valentine – have inspired me to try reading with reversals. And you know what? It’s FUN!!!

So why read Tarot cards reversed? For starters, it adds a new dimension to your readings and it spices things up. It’s like adding a pinch of cayenne to your reading (or a red lacy thong).

When should you read with reversals?Β  Only when you are totally bored of reading your Tarot cards upright. When that no longer feels challenging for you, its time to consider incorporating reversals. However, if you are just learning Tarot or still find it challenging enough, don’t bother with reversals, it will just make your head hurt!

Okay, so here’s the BIG question: How do I read a reversed Tarot card?

In 21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card, Mary K. Greer describes 13 different ways to read Tarot reversals. Such as seeing a reversed tarot card as blocked, unavailable, unconscious, overturned or changing direction (to name a few).

So there isn’t just ONE way to read a reversal. You can experiment and see what fits best (and I will be writing more about this in future blog posts).

But if you are brand-new to reading Tarot reversals, its best to start with a simple approach so you don’t drive yourself bat-shit crazy.

When I was at Doreen Virtue’s Certified Angel Card Reader workshop in April, co-teacher Radleigh Valentine explained reversals this way:

When a Tarot card is reversed, it simply means that you need to pay extra attention to that card. The card’s message is just that much stronger. So if you do a reading and one or two cards are reversed, you would give special emphasis to those reversed Tarot cards.

For example, lets say you get The Empress upright in your reading. The message may be that your sense of creativity and abundance is at an all time high. Yay! But if you get The Empress reversed it means holy shit! You need to pay attention to your creative yearnings because this is IMPORTANT!!!!

So by now you might be thinking well which is it? Do I read reversals as “blocks” or do I read them with “emphasis”?! Give me something solid I can go on here.

Here’s a super-juicy secret about reading Tarot cards:

You communicate to your deck how you will read with it, not the other way around.

try this


Next time you do a reading, shuffle the deck so that at least 1/4 of the cards are reversed. Hold your deck in your hands, close your eyes and mentally tell your deck that you intend to read the reversed Tarot cards in the same way you would if they were upright, only with a stronger emphasis.

Now your deck knows what language to use when communicating to you.

So you don’t need to worry that you are wrongly interpreting the reversed cards. If you intend to interpret them that way, you are doing it right. So don’t be thinking “but what if it is actually indicating a block?” It isn’t. Unless you intend that all reversed cards symbolize blocks.

So once you’ve got your reversed card (or cards) in front of you, try reading it upright first and then reversing it again. Notice how reversing it changes the vibe or meaning for you.

In the comments below, tell me what reversed Tarot cards you got when you tried this. How did it deepen the reading for you? Do you normally read reversed cards? If so, what is your method?

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28 Responses to How to Read Tarot Cards Reversed (in a way that really rocks your readings!)

  1. Chet Holden says:

    Thank you! First for your cool (accessible) tone, and then for sharing Radleigh Valentine’s take on reversed cards. I now feel inspired to let ‘er rip, up or down, in any deck I use — not stumbling through new or confusing interpretations, but simply increasing my attention to reversals.

  2. Jacob says:

    I did a reading for a friend recently (and I think she’s a skeptic but she claims otherwise) and she prefers to look up the card meanings herself even though I am very familiar with most. She pays extra attention to reversed meanings and in the last reading I did for her I saw her deliberately spin a card hoping I wouldn’t notice. What kind of effect does this have on her reading? Should I have read the reversed card as if it was upright? And what effect does her skepticism have? Are readings only successful for people who have faith in Tarot? I feel as though I should have called her on her BS, but she has always been the type to criticize if she thinks you are doing something wrong, even if she has no knowledge on the subject.
    I don’t know, it just frustrated me and made me lose confidence in my new skill and I figured that since your blog has helped me out SO much during this exciting adventure in my life, I would ask a professional! Thanks for all your passion for such a FUN field!

  3. Ellie says:

    I’ve never understood the fear that comes with reading cards in reversed. Reversed cards are no different than regular cards. You have your positive cards and you have your warning cards. For instance: the moon upright warns you against deceptions and to follow your intuition; the King of Pentacles reversed warns you that you may be dealing with someone unfair, dishonest, or untrustworthy, and to make sure you understand the terms of a contract.

  4. bianca says:

    I asked what are the obstacles in my relationship. I got 10 of cups reversed which tells me that we need to focus more on the good things in life,and appreciate what we have more than usual. 4 of cups which tells me that I was being offered something I didn’t want(which is true) and that I shouldn’t disgard it straight away without thinking about it first. I also got the hermit which tells me that us being apart (me at my place and she at hers) is a good thing,that we both need this time before getting too comfortable with each other where we just in it for the sake of it.


  5. derdra stenborg says:

    Finding strength within the cards.

  6. cossete says:

    Hi Kate:)
    Nice disscution about the reversed cards, I had alsow an experience ,I wanted tot know what will happen in my life when in come about love, did V. has reals reals feelings for me and if we ever be together?, it will be another man in my life? and the cards are : the hermit 3 of cups reversed and temperance. Shoud I understand that it is over for good? 3 of cups reversed coud mean that I’ m the 3 th person ? And the temperance sugest that I can find another man by being patient, and not rush in to anything befor thinking carfoully? Thanks for the advice and have a verry nice day:)!!

    • Denise D. says:

      I would read your cards to say there is an event you’re going to that you’re not really going to enjoy,there will also be a lot of drinking going on & that there is going to be some kind of health issue that will turn out to be ok.reading reversals is just as important as reading upright.

  7. SueM says:

    I usually don’t use reversed, although my local group of tarot readers has an experienced reader who is all for it. So I tried it, related to a work situation, rephrasing my question from ‘what is going to happen’, to ‘how can the situation work for me’.
    I drew the 9 of Pents reversed, the Magician upright, The World upright and the ten of cups upright.
    So the way I see it I have to let go, (I’ve been too scared to make a decision about this small venture), use the resources I have and make a decision so things will go well and settle down.
    What do you think, Kate?
    Thanks for all the interesting articles.

    • Kate says:

      Hi Sue,
      I like your interpretation – the 9 reversed does seem to be urging you to take a risk – especially with the Magician upright. I see the 9 of pentacles as a really relaxed, comfy card and you reading seems to be telling you to not let the desire for comfort and familiarity stop you from moving ahead.
      Good luck!

  8. April says:

    Hi Kate, I am a new to Tarot and this site, but I wanted to share that I do use reversals as it implies to me that there is something more to learn in that area of my life. Kind of like I’m not quite there yet…April πŸ™‚

  9. Wynn says:

    I’ve always been horrified to read the reversed cards, just because I’ve always seen them as Negative or denoting bad luck and failure [show me a reversed Cups and you’ve got one worried individual]. Perhaps I should try telling my deck that, I confess I’ve been reading them since I was 14 [I’m 23 now] and I stopped for a few years because I’ve been too scared to read them. My experience with my deck is that it tells me what I need to know sometimes, and not what I want to know [because it’s more important for me to pay attention to their message than my own personal frivolities].

    And, for instance right now, I feel that I have too much in my life to lose that I don’t want bad news [which is probably silly, because I’m the only one who can ruin this for me. Don’t think my Fiance is going anywhere, but I’m paranoid.]. I’ve been easing back into reading them, with one card readings, and they’ve been supportive of my schooling and even pursuing a photography business. Maybe I’ve been too negligent or harsh to them in the past. I think they missed being used and I”m trying to not be freaked about it. I digressed greatly in this, but would you have any advice? Should I tell the cards how I feel about all the stuff [the paranoia and fear, namely] so they can understand how to communicate with me? Because I do miss them. :c

  10. Rowan says:

    Hi Kate. Thanks for introducing this topic. I don’t read with reversals either, and never have. Every time I’ve tried, it seems too easy to bring confusion and ambiguity in interpretation. I’ve also found that seeing a card reversed tends to scare some clients. For me, all the possible meanings are implicit in the upright card. It’s up to the reader and client together to discuss what the cards are showing, and how ‘negative’ or difficult cards might be overcome by a shift in perspective. This way the client has a chance to think about their situation and what they might change, rather than be ‘read’ to.

    • Kate says:

      Rowan, this is a wonderful way of reading the cards – thanks for sharing it here. I agree that whether the cards negative or positive aspects are dominant depends on the intuition of the reader and the feedback/interaction of the person being read for.

  11. Erica says:

    Hi Kate. I had stayed away from reversals for that same reason. It seemed too complicated! Radleigh’s advice did make it easier so I decided to give it a try again and it worked out well. I barely use reversals tho. I’ll probably try it out more often now. Thanks! Oh a few months ago I bought Revalations Tarot which has half the card with upright pic and when in reverse another pic for reveresed meaning. I feel it was helpful and I’ve had great readings with this deck. I guess cause it’s easier not having to turn the card upright to look at it. Lol! Do you by any chance have this deck? If so what is your take on it? Thanks!

    • Kate says:

      Hi Erica,
      Glad this approach to reversals worked out for you πŸ™‚
      I don’t have the Revelations Tarot, so I can’t give you my thoughts on it, but it sounds really interesting, so I will have to check it out.

  12. Karina says:

    Finally :)) Was waiting for a long time to hear what you have to say for reversals, since I like your aproach to Tarot very much.

    At the moment I don`t use reversals because there is enough complicated cards in tarot already, but the way of looking at reversed cards as they need extra empovering antantion is good and kind of positive. Since im more tarot information pump πŸ˜€ than practioner, in many books including the ones by Mary K.G, the reversals are kind of depressing. Just imagining geting most of cards reversed in Celtic Cross is demotivating πŸ˜€

    • Kate says:

      Karina, I agree! I also feel like there is enough to work with when reading upright cards – why complicate it? And yes, often reversals are seen as somewhat negative – like a block, or a “problem”, but of course, they don’t have to be. Thanks for your comment πŸ™‚

  13. Jamie Morris says:

    Hey, Kate–

    Welcome back! Veronica did a great job while you were away!

    I appreciate your discussion of reversals. I read with them for quite a while, and found your description–” It’s like watching a foreign movie that’s dubbed and then trying to read lips and translate the other language and compare it with the language you heard to see how it matches up”–to be spot on! So I stopped, and have found that I’m much more alert to the nuances of upright cards now, definitely listening for when their negative meanings might apply.

    On the other hand, sometimes, when I used to use reversals, it was fun to see how the image on the card changed. For instance, your picture (above) of the Ace of Cups, Reversed, looks like a bell to me. If I were reading that card in a draw, I might play with that idea and see what sort of sense it made.

    On another note, I’m writing the LWB for a deck creator (!!!!) who DOES read reversals, while I don’t–which makes it harder for me to write the reversed meanings. We compromised (quite easily) by deciding to just include a range of card meanings, negative as well as positive, and not mention reversals at all. At least, not for now.

    But there will be a companion book . . .

    Hugs, Upright,

    • Kate says:

      Hi Jamie –
      Thank you and I will pass on your compliments to Veronica πŸ˜‰
      I often find the reversal meanings in the LWB’s to be kind of “off”, which is another reason why I have avoided reading with reversals for the most part. But it really does give you the opportunity to see the card in a totally different way, which is neat.
      So exciting that you are writing the LWB!!! That is such a cool project πŸ™‚

      • Scott Lagos says:

        Hi Kate,
        I was glad you publicized an article on reversals.I normally didn’t mess with reversals except to see it as a card to pay close attention too.I usually shuffle in a way where I avoid reversals.Now it’s time to get my hands dirty and get down to the nitty gritty.As far as I know the Pagan Deck doesn’t use reversals which is one of the decks in my collection.I seem to come up with different interpretations depending on which deck I use.Is that supposed to Happen ? That’s why I’m trying bond with my Morgan Greer and staying with that. I like that funky 70’s theme that deck has.Is there a difference between Tarot and Oracle Decks ?Have you heard of a deck called The Well Worn Path with only 40 cards?I was a little lengthy and said a mouth full.I’ll be looking forward to your reply.

        Blessed Be )O( πŸ™‚
        And Hugs times 3

        • Kate says:

          Hi Scott,
          That’s great that you get different interpretations with different decks – that is the beauty of using different decks I think.
          I agree – Morgan Greer is a really cool deck – I love how there are no borders! I know the Well Worn Path deck – I have thought about buying it a few times but haven’t yet. The difference between Tarot and Oracle decks is that Tarot follows a specific format – 78 cards, 4 suits, 22 Major aracana, etc. While Oracle decks are just whatever – they don’t follow any particular rules – they can be anything. That is actually a good topic for a new blog post. Hope that answers all your questions! πŸ™‚

  14. Ellen says:

    I have tried to read with reversals, but it bothers me that I cannot see the pictures on the cards clearly. So I have to turn them over to read them reversed. (LOL) After some awkward readings I tend to stick with the upright cards. Thank God there are 78 of them!

    • Kate says:

      I think that’s why I have stuck to reading upright cards too – although sometimes a whole new picture reveals itself when you look at them upside down!

  15. EG says:

    I totally love your advices! And Radleigh Valentine’s, too! Since I prefer to keep things simple, I won’t bother with the “blocks”! But still, I was thinking quite a lot of reversed cards, but now I feel completely relieved! Thanx! πŸ™‚

  16. Deborah says:

    Thank goodness someone else feels exactly like I do about reversals. I normally just don’t do it. I like my cards to all be upright, yet I am curious about reversals and feel I might be missing something by not acknowledging them. Now you have me being a little more open to try it. Thanks, Kate!

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