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How to Interpret Reversed Tarot Cards

By Tina Gong


You’ve probably heard that when you get a reversed tarot card in a reading, that it’s bad news. Don’t worry, I’m here to safely say that this is not necessarily true!

When your tarot cards are reversed, there are so many ways to think about how that affects the meaning of the message. A lot of this depends on the context of the surrounding cards, and the overall message of the reading. Most of the time, it’s never quite as clear cut as your initial reaction thinks it is.

Reading Reversed Tarot Cards

When first getting started with tarot cards, it’s usually recommended to not immediately start working with reversals. I think it’s important to first get a handle of the meanings behind the cards as they are upright - since with each of the cards, there’s an overarching storyline that is behind each card meaning in order, like within the Fool’s Journey.

Reversals can however give the reading an additional layer of depth. I personally like using them because of this reason, but other readers prefer not to use them since many cards can be quite powerful on their own. Whichever you choose is up to you!

Here are a few common ways of interpreting reversed cards. I’ve listed them in my own personal order of what I find the most helpful.

Going to Extremes

Too much of a good thing is usually unhealthy. In tarot, just as in life, balance usually tends to be the most peaceful state for all of us. Take for example, a generally happy card such as the six of cups. Upright, it can mean coming back home to a welcoming reunion. Reversed, it can instead mean that the querent is too wrapped up in the past, and maybe finds it difficult to be in the present. While the basic meaning behind this card is the same, the reversed tarot card here is helpful in indicating that one can take it too far, and it is usually detrimental to the situation. If only we can dial it back just a notch, we can learn to live with our memories in a way that helps us, not harms us.

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Decrease in Intensity

Another way of interpreting a reversed tarot card is thinking about it as decreased intensity, or moving away from the energy of the card. An example of this would be if you had gotten the reversed nine of swords. Upright, it means nightmares, anxiety, and inner turmoil. When reversed, this card may instead mean that you’ve recently experienced all the pain that comes with this card, but you are slowly seeing a way out, and recovering. This is one of the examples where the reversed tarot card is actually more positive than the upright.

Card is Being Blocked

I find this helpful in less common situations than the former methods, but other cards around this can be very strong indicators for this kind of reversal.  Sometimes the meaning of the card cannot happen because something is missing from the equation. For example, you may have the two of cups reversed in a reading, alongside an upright devil card. Upright, the two of cups indicates a partnership based on harmony, equality and unity. But reversed, and right next to the devil, it can mean that what is blocking this partnership from reaching its potential is a sense of entrapment, or addiction.

Opposite Meaning

I don’t use this a lot, as I think it usually simplifies the meaning of the reversed tarot card too much. The opposite of a card meaning can occur for so many reasons, but I’m more interested in how it happened and why it happened, which the above reasonings actually give some insight into. But I’m including it here for completions sake, since I believe many people read reversed tarot cards with this method. An example is when you draw the reversed three of pentacles, which upright, can mean teamwork. Reversed, it can mean disharmony and disruption.

I hope this provides some ideas and some clarity on how to interpret reversed tarot cards, and some reassurance that they are not as scary or negative as they might seem. How do you all use reversals? If there’s a method I haven’t covered that you find helpful, please do comment below!

Reversed Tarot Card Interpretation Cheat Sheet

4 ways to interpret reversed tarot cards - a cheat sheet / infographic

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  • Aleysha
    Hey! I am wondering if you could help me- how would you read an upright card tarot combined with a reversed one? For example, upright four of Swords clarified by ten of pentacles reversed? Thank you!

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