For example, consider a reversed Three of Swords. Upright, this is a
card of pain and sorrow. But reversed, it does not become a bright
and happy card. The swords are still piercing the heart, only now the
picture is upside-down. Sometimes the pain is lessened (gravity is
pulling the swords down and away from the heart), sometimes it is
preparing to go away (the swords may fall out), and sometimes it is
made even worse by a reversal (the swords fall and the heart starts
bleeding again). The pain is still present, only in different forms.
It's a central principle of physics that energy can be converted into different forms, but not created or destroyed. So mechanical energy (moving water) can flow through a hydroelectric dam to turn turbines (electrical energy) that provide power with which you heat your house (thermal energy). Energy is always present, but transformed depending on its purpose. Likewise, the energy of the upright card is still present in the reverse - only changed somehow.
A reversed card can have dozens of possible aspects, and can impart so many more changes on a card's energy than a simple negation. Reversals, to use a language metaphor, are like adverbs. They modify the meaning of a word without changing it too drastically. Here are some of the most useful and widely accepted alterations:
You may be also wondering, which of these interpretations do you use when a reversed card appears in a reading? There are three ways.
You can often eliminate a few possibilities based on the question. A reversed Two of Cups in a question about a failing marriage probably does not indicate a time block or overabundance of that energy. But the reversal could show weakened energy, blocked energy, diminishing energy, or approaching energy (in which case the situation is about to turn around and the reversal is a good sign!).
Once you've eliminated the immediately impossible, focus on the other cards in the area, and see how they influence the reversed card. A Five of Wands next to the Two of Cups basically eliminates the rather optimistic interpretations, but leaves the rest. An Ace of Cups, on the other hand, would do just the opposite. Sometimes this won't help (if an Ace of Swords pops up next to the Two of Cups, for example) but in most cases you can get a somewhat clearer picture of what the reversal is trying to tell you.
Sometimes a few possibilities will remain. In this circumstance the best thing to do is let your intuition handle it. With practice, as soon as you lay down a reversed card you will get an idea of what it could mean and what it could not. Go with your first impression; your first guess is usually the right one.
The proportion of reversed to upright cards can tell you a lot about the situation. Many upright cards shows a positive and generally unhindered flow of energy, where all your feelings are clear and your intent is certain. If the majority of the cards are reversed, energy is low, possibly because it is not the right time for this energy or because of a blockage of some kind. A situation with many reversals is not well defined, and your purpose may not be entirely clear.
Just like expressing ourselves properly would be more difficult without adverbs - there are four in this short sentence - readings are much easier to interpret in most cases when reversals (or some similar system) is used. Try writing a story without adverbs and you'll see how hard it would be for your Inner Voice to communicate without reversed cards. They add to the vocabulary of your Inner Voice so it can explore a situation to the utmost of its capability.Copyright 2000 James Rioux