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Should You Use Reversed Tarot Cards?

One of the most frequent questions I receive from my Tarot students is in regards to reversed Tarot cards.


Usually the questions start something like this:


"Do I REALLY have to use reversed cards? There are 78 cards to memorize already! How will I remember double that number of meanings?"


Well, fear not; today we will talk about reversed cards and find out if you really have to use them.


So, do you have to use reversed Tarot cards? Well, there is nothing you have to do concerning Tarot. The answer is "no".


But not so fast! The fact that you do not have to does not imply that you should not.


There are many good reasons to use reversed cards and to go endure the trouble of learning the reversed Tarot meanings and the various ways to interpret them.


Here are three good reasons to use reversed Tarot cards:



1. MORE MEANINGS

There are 78 cards in the traditional Tarot deck.


While cards do have multiple meanings (for example, the Empress = creativity, resources, motherhood, abundance, generosity...), these meanings are all grouped around one central theme for each card, which is usually positive in nature (with some notable exceptions).


Reversed cards often flip the theme on its head and offer more shades of meaning, more details and more ideas.


For example, the reversed Empress card's meanings take on various negative aspects or different shades of meaning. Creativity turns into a creative block; resources turn to need; motherhood to infertility; abundance to scarcity; generosity to greed.


More meanings, particularly negative meanings, give Tarot readings greater depth and heightened accuracy, because simple, basic meanings do not encompass the full field of human experience and life.


If a reading is full of upright cards, that tends to mean (again, with some exceptions) that the interpretation is positive. This can lead to a feel-good, happy, uplifting reading...but not a realistic one. Real life includes both pleasure and pain, happiness and sorrow, and a reading that uses only upright cards essentially ignores that other half of reality.


Now, of course, reversed card meanings are not so simple as to always be blunt opposites of the upright card's meanings. But they can often enough be taken as such, at least at the start, and this brings us to...



2. EASE OF USE, IF YOU START LEARNING NOW

While learning the reversed meanings for 78 cards (on top of learning the 78 cards' upright meanings) sounds like a daunting task, put into context it is not so difficult.


Many of the reversed meanings can be seen as opposites of the upright meanings. This is not always the case, but when you are learning, and when you are in doubt, it is a good enough rule of thumb.


This makes memorization of meanings for all the cards---whether upright or reversed---much easier, because you have two points of reference. For example, if you know the reversed meaning, then you can flip it around and get the upright meaning, most of the time.


For certain cards, the reversed meanings may be thought of as "more extreme" or "stronger" than the upright meaning. For example, the Moon card sometimes signifies emotional distress; when reversed, the Moon can show even more pronounced distress. These are easy meanings to remember.


Some Tarot guides suggest only learning and using the basic, upright meanings when you are learning Tarot. This is a mistake, because by doing so, you only increase your work and trouble later, when you begin to read professionally and need to know the reversed meanings to best assist your clients with real, actionable advice and help. By then you might have very firm beliefs about what the meanings of the cards entail, and find learning different (that is, reversed) meanings to be a challenge.


A much wiser course of action is that when you are starting with Tarot, you should make the effort to learn both the upright and reversed meaning of each card at the same time. This sounds like twice the work in the short term, but it is not as difficult as it sounds, and you will thank yourself for it later when you can look at a card and instantly recognize both the upright and reversed meanings.



3. FLAVOR AND INTEREST

By including the reversed cards into your spreads, not only are your spreads more interesting visually (which is important to many clients), but also your spreads can answer more in-depth questions. If your clients expect serious advice and not merely a "for entertainment only" reading, then reversed cards are a must.


Reversed cards spark the interest of many clients, especially those new to Tarot readings ("Why is this one upside-down?"). That is great for building engagement with your client throughout the reading. The worst thing a Tarot reader can have is a bored client; a bored client is a client who will not be returning for another reading!


Because reversed cards often flip meanings around and defy expectations, you can use this for dramatic effect, particularly if your Tarot style is one that plays up the entertainment aspects.


Let us say you draw the VI of Wands, and it is reversed. You tell your client: "Here we have the VI of Wands. This card signifies victory...(dramatic pause)...when the card is upright. But here, it is reversed. This may signify a near-victory that instead falls into defeat." Isn't that interesting? Even though the message is a more negative one, it adds drama, it adds excitement, and it builds interest.


Some Tarot readers, particularly those who are pure entertainers reading "for fun", avoid reversed cards because they do not like adding the "negativity" of the cards into their readings. Entertainers generally want to present uplifting, optimistic readings, so they can give a feel-good, generic message and then move on to the next gullible client.


However, even for professional readers, it is a great feeling when you see clients' eyes light up because they are happy with their readings. Watching clients you care about shrink in anxiety or fear can be a sad experience.


But if used properly, reversed cards, even the most negative ones, can tell a client hard truths and impart great wisdom, which is infinitely more valuable than a purely positive reading that misses key information.


Honest readings that provide serious advice based on both positive and negative realities are better for building long-term connections with your clients.


It is easy to tell someone "Oh, you will have success, you will do great" and have them walk away happy from the reading...but 100% happy readings tend to be forgettable, not to mention fairly worthless.


Why are they forgettable? Because they are unrealistic. Why are they worthless? Because life is not always a series of splendid events, and receiving advice on how to overcome and avoid negative challenges is extremely valuable.


For long-term connections with clients, it is better if the clients feel HOPEFUL after their readings, and know that they have gained wisdom and insight into their lives.


Engaging clients with more vivid and interesting topics---which reversed cards can easily bring---builds their interest and helps them to reflect upon about the reading, long after it has ended, because negative warnings stay with people longer than do positive messages.


With reversed cards, a Tarot reading crosses the boundary from being "just a fun little Tarot reading, for entertainment purposes only" to a serious, professional consultation. That is a high-value, amazing benefit for a client.


So there you have it: three good reasons to use reversed cards! Let me know how they add to the quality of your readings.


Note the reversed Knight of Cups, between two of the Major Arcana.

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