I am sure many of you are familiar with the term ‘Upright’ and ‘Reversed’ when laying the Tarot cards. This refers to whether the cards come out of the deck the right way up or upside down, and this of course depends on how the cards are shuffled in the first place.
The introduction of Reversed and Upright cards has come about since the conception of the Rider Waite deck in 1911 which had full pictorial images on both Majors and Minors. The older Tarot de Marseilles deck had full images on the Majors only; the Minors just had symbols, i.e. 4 Cups, or 6 Swords for instance. In these older decks, reversals were not used, mainly because some of the cards look the same whichever way they come out of the deck. I personally do not use Reversals now mainly because I use an Italian, Tarot de Marseilles influenced deck which has no images on the Minors.
There is a lot of debate about whether a reader should interpret cards if they are upside down, as many books on the meaning of reversed cards, say that the reversed meaning is not the exact opposite of the upright meaning anyway. Confused? But what if we look deeper into each card?
In the Rider Waite deck if you look at the 9 of Coins, we see a lady in a beautiful garden. There is abundant growth and fertility all around her. Yet on closer inspection, there is a small snail at the bottom of the card, mountains in the background and she also has a bird of prey on her arm.
The positives of this card could be interpreted as abundance, growth and life looking good at present. But what of the snail? Snails move slowly, so is perhaps this abundance is moving too slowly for her. Mountains always signify problems or obstacles to be overcome; as they are in the background on this card, it may be that she has dealt with these problems and is now enjoying the good times. Or could it be that something is looming in the background which she has not, or does not, want to see? The bird of prey is sitting on her arm with its hood on. Has it just returned from hunting or is it waiting to be released by the lady for its next kill? This could be interpreted as being prepared for something and keeping a watchful eye.
If we now look at another card The Lovers, although this is normally associated with love and romance, it is really a card of choices. The image here shows Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and I am sure we all know about the temptation aspect of the story. Looking deeper into the card, there is a large mountain which appears between them and the Angel appears on a bed of clouds. Again, the mountain here is suggested that there is something between them that needs to be surmounted. Clouds usually signify something being obscured or hidden. Interestingly, the man looks to the woman and the woman looks upwards to the Angel. The Lovers can often indicate a choice between duty and heart’s desire. In a spread dealing with a romantic issue, many clients are often pleased if The Lovers card is laid, but the truth of the matter is that there is more to this relationship than meets the eye.
A final example I will use is the 6 of Cups. Here we see a garden of a house with two children in the foreground. They seem to be talking and one is giving the other a Cup full of flowers. This card is normally interpreted as a card of nostalgia, of looking back to the past and happy memories, possibly from childhood. On closer inspection, there is a man on the left of the card, walking away from the garden. He carries a long stick and obviously cannot see what the children are doing. Cast your minds back to when you were a child; think back to when you and your siblings did things behind your parents’ backs. This could of course have been a discussion about what to get Mum for her birthday, but it might also have been about what you were going to say when Mum found out you had broken something or done something wrong! We all remember things and nostalgia often gives us a ‘false memory’, summers seemed to be longer and warmer when we were children for instance. In a reading, the 6 of Cups is often an indication of someone from the past coming back into your life, but suggests that we think about the reasons why they were in our past in the first place?
I do hope that this short article will encourage you to have a deeper look into the Rider Waite Tarot deck and to find the positive and negative aspects in all of the cards.