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There is so much controversy and misunderstanding around reversed cards in tarot. The quandary is this. Since it is the reader’s choice whether to honor reversals, we must acknowledge that one can conduct a perfectly good reading without them. That being the case, then, why do some tarotists find reversals so integral to their reading process? One answer might be this.

A reversal changes the energy of the card. While the reversal may not change the overall message, it can change the way you deliver the message.  For some of us, the reversal is like a stage direction – those italicized words in a script that don’t tell you what to say, but instead tell you how to say it.

Here’s an example. Let’s look at the Hierophant, both upright and reversed. One possible interpretation that often comes up for me when I see this card in a particular context is “self-employment”.  When I see the Hierophant in an upright position, I might think, “This person likes to be the boss, and so they probably have their own business”. When I see the Hierophant reversed in the same context, I might think, “This person does not like having to answer to a boss, so they probably have their own business”.

The common factor with this card in this context, whether upright or reversed, is self-employment. The nuance that the reversal adds is the personality difference between liking to be the boss and preferring not to have a boss. If the reader can determine these sorts of subtleties, the reading will certainly have more resonance and detail.

At the same time, we can understand that, without that small distinction, the accuracy of the reading remains intact.

Interpreting reversals is not the only way to determine the dignity of a card.  We can consider cards well dignified or ill dignified based on surrounding cards and elemental factors as well. My concern is not necessarily to be an advocate for reversals. My concern is that so many people seem to eschew reversals simply because they misunderstand them.  If we can think of a reversal, or any ill dignity, simply as an energy shift, we open ourselves to a new world of possibilities in divination.