I’ve been immersed lately in one of the more active Facebook tarot pages, where the question of reversed cards comes up with predictable frequency. New readers who don’t use them wonder anxiously if they should, while more experienced diviners who do are confident that they are worthwhile (I’ve been one of the latter for almost 48 years). Everyone agrees that they aren’t absolutely necessary for effective reading if you take the time and make the effort to ferret out the more subtle or oblique meanings already present in every card; this means finding the favorable hints in outwardly unsympathetic cards and the less agreeable clues in otherwise salutary ones, all while trying to stay within the context of the question. My personal belief is that reversal can serve as a shortcut and time-saver that brings these contrary nuances to the forefront with a minimum of head-scratching, while recognizing that the upright meaning of a card isn’t markedly changed by the accident of reversal, only its mode of delivery and “angle of attack.”
During the online exchanges I had cause to revisit my exhaustive list of reversed-card descriptions (previously posted here), and the one that jumped out at me was that they can represent a “Hanged-Man moment,” which induces a “pause to reflect” on the altered circumstances facing the querent as shown by departure of the card from its “normal” or upright agenda. The idea of “suspension” and its psychological equivalent, “suspense,” is also a compelling one. Maybe there is an atmosphere of anticipation, as in “waiting for the ax to fall” or, in more positive terms, “riding a groundswell” of favorable tidings that is still gathering momentum. The thought is that the seeker needs to “mull over” the potential consequences of embracing the unusual and unforeseen current of energy or declining to engage with it by ignoring the alternate perspective it offers. This can also indicate a “delayed hit” in recognizing the significance of the card, such that an opportunity may be missed to either take advantage of a beneficial influence or thwart a difficult one. Obviously, seeing this in advance could empower the sitter to make the best choice.
When the Hanged Man is reversed, I’ve concluded that the figure is “returning to the surface” and bringing with him the revelations he gained while immersed in his private reality. The downside is that he may poke his head out of the foxhole and get it promptly shot off. Approaching other reversed cards in the same light, their import may have to “percolate upward” in the querent’s subconscious in order to completely emerge into full-blown awareness before it can be exposed to the unblinking glare of critical appraisal. Kind of like what might crawl out from underneath when we figuratively “turn over a rock” in the psyche; ideally there is still time to squash it if it turns out to be unpleasant. In any case, querents should be advised to remain alert for tell-tale perturbations in their daily routine that might signal the advent of something that they may not see coming if they aren’t actively looking for it. On the upside, not all surprises are unfortunate.