Reading reverse tarot cards is something that many newbie tarot readers find daunting. Not only do you have to set out to learn all the meanings of the cards upright, but now you have to learn 78 brand new meanings for the same cards upside down. That’s a grand total of 156 different meanings to memorise!

However, here’s some good news for you. You don’t actually have to read reverse meanings if you don’t want to. It’s a technique that not all professional tarot readers use, myself included. For some, reading reverse just doesn’t feel right, or feel comfortable. For others, they can’t wait to see a reversed card in their spread. It’s all down to personal preference and your gut feeling towards reversals.

Why do we have reversals in tarot reading?

You may be wondering why we even have reversals if you don’t have to use them. Well, reading reversals adds an extra level of detail and meaning to your tarot readings. Sometimes it can be tricky to decide whether a card has a positive or negative connotation, but adding in reversals gives us that context.

As a whole, reversals are a relatively advanced tarot reading technique, so don’t worry if you don’t feel ready to dive into them straight away. However, if you do want to give them a go, here are a few reversal hacks to help you understand the reverse meanings of any card.

Internal or external?

Reversal cards can tell you when the card is an internal influence rather than and external one. If you’re using both upright and reverse cards, then upright will indicate that something is an external influence and reversed will be an internal influence.

For example:




Here we have a simple three card, past, present and future spread. We’ve got The Fool in the past position, showing that we’ve recently taken the leap into something new, possibly a new career or hobby based off The Fool leading into The Magician. The Fool is upright, so this refers to the external world, so we’ve taken a practical course of action rather than just making a decision to do something. Similarly, the upright Magician in the present position shows that we are actively creating something.

Then we have the reversed card in the future position. If we use the context of internal or external, we can see that the Nine of Swords in the future is happening internally. The worry and anxiety locked within the Nine of Swords is completely internal, so it might be that this new creative venture you’ve set out on will cause some stress and anxiety further down the line.

Conscious or subconscious?

Another way of reading reversal cards, is to associate the reversal with the subconscious mind. This means that any upright cards are referring to our conscious and the reverse cards look at the deeply hidden realms of the subconscious. These reverse cards will reference aspects that we may not be aware even exist, but they will be a direct influence on the cards referring to the conscious mind.





In this spread, we see we’ve got the Knight of Swords and the Eight of Wands in the past and present positions and both are upright cards. This could indicate a rush to get something completed or to get results from something we’ve been waiting for. We are consciously thinking about when this will happen and we’re probably feeling very impatient about the whole thing.

Then we have the future card as our reverse card, which in this case is the Four of Cups. This could indicate that we may receive what we’ve been waiting for, but subconsciously we’ll be disappointed with what we get. We may currently think we need this thing to be satisfied, hence our urgency to hurry up and receive it, but actually we still won’t be happy when we do finally get it.

A blockage or a bridge?

Another technique is to see the upright cards as bridges and the reversed as blockages, on our path moving forwards.

Think about a bridge in front of you, you need to cross it to get to where you want to be, but there’s a tree that’s fallen and it’s blocking you from crossing the bridge. The tree would be the reversed card and the bridge would be the upright card.





In this spread we start off with our reversed card in the past position. We’ve got the Five of Swords showing deceit and hollow victories. With this in the reversed position, this was a block that was stopping you from moving forward. At one point you couldn’t take the next step, either because someone betrayed you, or you felt guilty about what you did to someone else. Remember this card is in the past position, so we’ve overcome this blockage.

Moving on from this, we enter into the Page of Wands in the present, so we’ve overcome this block and now we feel ready to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off. This card, because it’s upright, will be a bridge we need to take in order to reach the next stage in our journey. This will lead us onto the future card, which is the Seven of Wands. With this card in mind, I get the feeling that the past card was referring to an external betrayal e.g. someone did something to us that knocked us down. Now we’re having to learn to stand our ground and fight off the negative habits and coping mechanisms we’ve developed because of this betrayal. This makes the Seven of Wands a card about finding your own strength and turns into a bridge to help us be stronger and distance ourselves further from our past trauma.

Movement or a delay?

We can also read the reversals in terms of movement. Imagine a current of energy flowing through each card, in the upright position this energy can flow freely allowing things to move forward smoothly. If this card is reversed, the energy stops flowing and we can’t go anywhere.





Here we have another past, present and future spread, however this time we have two reversed cards to read, so things are a bit more complex. We start with the upright Wheel of Fortune, a card all about flow and cycles and the meaning of this will become a lot clearer as we read the other cards.

We are faced with a reversed Ace of Pentacles in the present position, a card that usually symbolises good fortune in career, home life and finances. However it’s reversed so our luck has changed. The nice constant flow of energy we saw in the Wheel of Fortune has meant that it’s moved out of our control and things are starting to go wrong. The reversed ace could be hinting at the sudden loss of finances or money troubles that have seemingly come out of nowhere. These money troubles are stopping you from being able to think about anything else.

The reversed Hierophant in the future position suggests that you might need the help of a professional or advice from someone that has been in the same position, however you’re probably reluctant to do so, maybe because of pride or vanity. You don’t want others to see that you’ve lost control of this aspect of your life. However in order to progress past The Hierophant, you need to seek this guidance and support or you’ll stay stuck where you are.

What do you need to do to turn the card upright?

A good reverse card hack is to look at the reversed card and think about what action you need to take in order to reach the upright meaning of the card.

For example if we had that reversed Four of Cups card from the second example above, what would you need to do in order to resolve that subconscious disappointment? How could you become aware of it? How could you drag it out of the depths of your subconscious and into your conscious mind, where you can start to work on it?

Or if we go back to the first example and the reversed Nine of Swords, how could we take action to address the internal worry and anxiety we’re feeling around this new venture of ours? Could we get outside help? Could we talk to someone about our fears and concerns? How can we take that internal angst and make it external?

The easiest way to get started with reversals, is to decide which context resonates with you the most, do you feel like the reversals are referring to the subconscious? Or maybe you feel more aligned with the theory of the reversed cards being a blockage?

Every tarot reader reads differently, so don’t feel like there is just one way. Experiment with these types of contexts and see which one feels the most natural.

Looking to learn how to read tarot from scratch? Why not join us on our Tarot For Beginners online course!