Rhee’s seventeenth question: Do you do readings using reversals? Why or why not?
It depends. I am a firm believer in respecting the tradition of the deck and its creators. I love to use the theme and mythology of the deck to guide the flavor of my reading, and I’ll choose a deck based on the context of the reading (I like to use Shadowscapes for spiritual questions, for example, and the Thoth when facing intellectual challenges).
For reversals, I take the same philosophy and use them only when the deck’s companion book or tradition supports reversals. I don’t try to make up reversed meanings if the deck creators don’t.
When I do have a deck with reversed meanings, I find them just a little more complex to read than the same cards upright. As I learned in a Tarot course I took with the Tarot Association of the British Isles (TABI), there’s more than one way to see the reversed meaning. Thanks to my first Tarot book, Tarot Plain and Simple, I was originally inclined to simply apply the opposite meaning when the card was reversed, but Anthony Louis, the author, also had both positive and negative options for some of the reversed cards depending on the surrounding cards in the spread. It started to sound complicated.
Thanks to Joan Bunning and her Learning the Tarot, I learned about blocked energy and “turning the card around.” This perspective has definitely helped to smooth out and expand my options when dealing with reversed cards. I find it much easier to come up with options for reversed cards in readings now. Just take the positive message of the upright card and consider it simply blocked or slowed in some way, such that the querent is being challenged to turn that energy around.
The caption for the Eight of Wands reversed here gives some options for looking at this card, which usually indicates swift movement toward a successful conclusion, particularly in career/creative areas. In the reversed case, you can choose from the idea of not moving (and maybe this is what you want) to the idea of some pent-up energy looking for release.
With reversals, you have a whole other dimension and set of meanings to apply to a reading, which I have found valuable on a number of occasions. On the other hand, treating a deck that doesn’t deal with reversals also has merit, since there’s plenty of positive and negative energy in the various upright versions of the cards.
The Tarot spans the full breadth and plumbs the full depth of the human experience, so, upright or reversed, the Tarot will guide you well.