Updated: Aug 2
What happens when you are working with the tarot and a card flips upside down? Reading reversed cards is completely preferential. When you pull a card, or when one jumps from your deck while shuffling and lands upside down on your desk, you can either turn it right-side up or leave it as is.
Many prefer reading reversals because they provide an additional layer of insight into what’s happening (or not happening) in the cards. Additionally, many folks, including me, believe reversed cards are meant to be—they must have flipped on their heads for a reason. As a writer, you might find that reversals can help with story development, especially plot twists.
Leaving the card in a reversed position can mean many things; however, the following approaches are what resonate with me the most from a writer’s lens:
Specific to writers, when a card lands reversed on your desk, it could be interpreted as something your story’s antagonist is up to… or plotting. How much influence are they having on your plotline? Is a twist of fate needed or would such an event enhance the narrative? Should a turn of events happen where the story has otherwise become predictable or stagnant?
Whatever meaning or energy your intuition tells you the card means upright becomes blocked or slowed down when reversed. For example, if I draw the Strength card (number 8 or VII in the Major Arcana) reversed, I might interpret it to mean feeling stifled or restricted. I’m useless in taming, controlling, or charming whatever the lion symbolizes for me at that particular moment or for a specific project.
In a literal sense, how might gravity affect the scene in your card(s)? If you pull the Ten of Swords, for example, you will see a seemingly unlucky person who has been impaled by ten swords. Many dread seeing this card in its upright position. When reversed, however, what do you imagine happening to the person if gravity were involved? Those swords would fall downward, and that individual would be released from their predicament, their troubles fallen away.
Employing the Strength card example again, the opposite of strength is weakness. The Sun card typically means joy and happiness. When reversed, its opposite is sadness and disappointment. On the other hand, The Devil card usually indicates oppression and/or being controlled by fear or addiction. When reversed, oppression becomes freedom, fear becomes courage, and addiction becomes recovery.
Simply put, you, your story, and/or your fiction characters completely reject the ideas represented by the card in its upright state.
This reversal interpretation is my personal preference. What are the darker aspects of the card? Once you sense the card’s upright meaning, next consider what fears, vulnerabilities, and obstacles are lurking in the shadows. Like the Antagonist approach, this method of interpretation can also be effective in informing plot twists and turns of events.
Whatever your interpretation of the card in its upright position, let it go. Surrender to the possibilities of what could happen, how the story might unfold. Abandon expectation of what you believe the card means. Take a leap and trust where your story and/or characters are headed.
Prices subject to change without notice. All sales are final. No refunds. For the best results, open and use this document on your computer. Please remember to save your work!
Learning to read tarot cards so you can use them in your storytelling can be as easy as 1-2-3. In my printable and fillable guided resource, Tarot 1-2-3: Learn to Read the Cards Intuitively in Three Easy Steps, not only do you get a copy of these reversals strategies, but you'll also receive my Tarot Quick Reference for Storytellers, which includes images and one-word meanings for each card, upright AND reversed, curated to resonate from a writer’s perspective.
In her more than thirty years as a storyteller and visual designer, Amanda “Mandy” Hughes has written and designed over a dozen works of literary, Southern Gothic, and women’s fiction under pen names A. Lee Hughes and Mandy Lee.
Mandy is the founder of Haint Blue Creative®, a space for readers and storytellers to explore, learn, and create. She holds a Bachelor and Master of Science in Psychology, and she has worked as an instructional designer for nearly twenty years.
When she’s not writing fiction, Mandy enjoys the movies, theater, music, traveling, nature walks, birdwatching, and binging The Office. She is a tarot enthusiast who uses the cards to enhance creativity and foster wellness. She lives in Georgia with her husband and four sons, two of whom are furrier than the others (but not by much). Visit her website at haintbluecreative.com and follow her on Instagram @haintbluecreative.