“The Amazing and Wondrous Reversals”
At the 1999 LATS Mary Greer presented a talk on “The Amazing and Wondrous
Reversals”. She noted that typically the “Little White Book” that comes with a deck
will provide reversed meanings such that “good” cards become bad and “bad”
cards become worse, then asked the rhetorical question, “Do you really want to live
in such a negative world?”
Since her answer to that question is “no”, she has come up with a less insistently
negative way to deal with reversed cards. The following are various ways to modify
reversals that she tries until something makes sense:
1. The card’s energy may be blocked, repressed, denied, or resisted. Mary noted
at this point that you need to keep the judgment out! For example, resistance or
denial may be all for the best for the querent, it may be what is required at this time.
She also noted that at least half the time, this is a key!
2. The querent may be projecting such the card’s energy onto others. (For
example, “Everyone else is able to find love but me.”)
3. There may be a delay or hesitation in the manifestation of this card, which may
indicate that an extra commitment or effort is required to manifest this card’s
energy. This is often the case when it’s an Ace that is reversed or when a majority
of the cards are reversed.
4. The energy is unconscious, inner or private.
5. It could indicate a breakthrough, relief, or liberation from the condition pictured in
the card. So, for example, a reversed Five of Pentacles might mean that the
querent is beginning to overcome a misfortune.
6. It could indicate a bumpy road, that the energy of the card is not flowing
smoothly. Thus what is needed may be to slow down or to just persevere.
7. The card could be operating in a “trickster” mode, advising the querent to have a
sense of humor about the situation.
8. It could indicate that an unconventional view of the card is necessary.
9. Perhaps "no" or "not" should be added before the standard upright
interpretation. However, Mary cautioned that you should NOT overdo this one!
Perhaps the most valuable (for me) technique that she described was the following:
Have the querent describe the (upright) card, and wait until s/he provides some
sort of a “flaw” in the description. That will help you get to the reversed meaning.
For example, say the card is the Magician, and the querent indicates that he (the
Magician) has all the tools he needs, but he’s not enjoying the job. That “not
enjoying the job” is a clue how the card’s energy may be repressed for the querent.
Finally, Mary concluded that you should use the other cards in the spread for clues
as to which technique to use. I would add that intuition and practice certainly help
At this symposium Alexandra Genetti (creator of the Wheel of Change Tarot) gave
a talk on “Magical Triangles”. (See also the book that goes with The Wheel of
Change Tarot deck for an extended discussion about Magical Triangles.) She
covered more information than I could possibly discuss here, but one thing that I
got out of her talk was the fact that almost every action we take can be
diagrammed as a triangle with a point in the center. The triangle can be
diagrammed like this:
Corner 1 corresponds to “Self” (or, in Tarot terms, Swords/Air).
Corner 2 corresponds to “Other” (or, in Tarot terms, Cups/Water).
Corner 3 corresponds to “Action” (or, in Tarot terms, Wands/Fire).
The center point, 4, corresponds to “Result” (or, in Tarot terms, Disks/Earth).
(Note that although the above elemental assignations were presented for the sake
of content. You could have a situation where, for example, the opposites were
earth and air, the action water, and the result fire.)
This diagram can thus describe any dynamic relationship between two entities. For
example, you (“Self”) can eat (“Action”) an apple (“Other”) and thus obtain
As I said, there was much more to this talk than just that, but this got me thinking
about what spreads you could create based upon that four-point diagram and the
associated concepts. I came up with the following two spreads:
The first one could be used for questions of the type where the querent wonders
what might happen if s/he does something.
- The “actor”
- The “object”
- The questioned “action”
- The probable outcome
The second one could be used to recommend a course of action to deal with a
problem. It would also discuss the probable outcome.
- The querent
- The Problem
- The recommended action
- The probable outcome
I’m sure there are other such spreads that people could come up with, but that’s a
start. Let it be a challenge to you to come up with your own!
"When Psychology Meets Tarot"
Art Rosengarten’s presentation was called “When Psychology Meets Tarot.” He
began with a discussion of the experience of dying and the needs of the dying
person. He then presented his technique for using Tarot cards to help dying
people find coherence and meaning in their life and in their situation, as well as to
heal and find closure in their relationships.
The process he described begins by having the client pick a Tarot deck that
speaks to them. They then pull every card from the deck that evokes a strong
feeling from them, and they arrange those cards into whatever groupings seem
meaningful to them. In the example he presented, his client used these three
- Those cards he liked
- The cards he disliked
- The cards that seem mysterious to him
The next step is to explore these three groups of cards, one at a time. To do so,
they pick one of the groups, then separate the cards of that group into sub-
groupings however they want. (The example he gave was Childhood, Adulthood,
and The Present.) They then layout those sub-groupings of cards into whatever
meaningful arrangements they want. From his description, it seems to me that the
client will thus create several “spreads” that will have unique meaning to him or
her. They then spend time with these spreads, contemplating them and discussing
what meanings they see in them.
The result is that the client is able to quickly and effectively sort through, organize,
and understand the themes of his or her life, using the images on the cards as
metaphors for or icons of people and events. They are able to release or make
peace with the problematic cards, and remember and thank the good ones. And
by reflecting on the mysterious cards, they are given a chance to contemplate the
mysteries of life and to prepare for the coming mystery of death.
I know of several meditative processes that use Tarot cards, but I had never heard
of one that was quite so dynamic, and that used an entire deck to such an extent
as this one. After the presentation I thought about how there are many people in
extreme, although non-terminal, situations who could also benefit from this
technique. I suggested this to someone at the symposium who works with the ATA’
s “Pen Pals” program, which provides Tarot mentoring for incarcerated persons,
and I am sure there are other situations where self-reflection would be useful, and
where Tarot cards could facilitate that process. After all, psychic or spiritual
transformation was one of the earliest ways that Tarot cards were used.
Tarot Symposium Reports -- LATS 1999
James Ricklef -- Tarot and more ...