Reversed cards

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It is common, though not universal, in Tarot reading to use shuffling procedures that include turning part of the deck around and re-shuffling, so that when the cards are dealt and then turned face-up, the pictures may be randomly (and with equal probability) upright or inverted. Unlike playing cards, which are usually designed with symmetric pictures so that the upright/reversed distinction does not exist, Tarot cards are usually designed so that the pictures have definite and obvious "up" and "down" directions.

There are several different ways to interpret reversed cards.

  • Although most serious readers reject this interpretation as overly simplistic, there is a common notion in popular culture that reversed Tarot cards have more negative or "bad" meanings. If someone making a movie wants to depict a "Gypsy fortune-teller" predicting someone's doom, you can guess that the reading is going to include Death reversed.
  • Possibly because of the previous point, some readers do not use reversals at all, and just turn cards upright whenever they happen to come up reversed, without considering it to have symbolic meaning. A few New Age decks even advise such a practice in their accompanying books. However, if you do this you are liable to be called a fluffy bunny.
  • Reversed cards may be interpreted as having a more esoteric or "inner" meaning, especially related to the querant's own psychology rather than the outside world.
  • If one considers a Court card to represent a specific person, then in cases where this is meaningful, having it come up reversed may suggest a person with opposite gender to the person shown on the card. For instance, the Queen of Cups reversed might be a man who expresses the personal qualities associated with that card.

Reversed or upright cards are usually counted from the point of view of the reader. If (as is typically the case) the reader and querant are sitting across a table with the cards in between, the upright cards are the ones that appear upright to the reader, even though they appear reversed to the querant. There is no solidly established tradition on how to determine "reversal" (nor whether this is meaningful) for cards placed sideways, like the second card in the Celtic Cross spread.