Book Review: Tarot in Reverse

Tarot in Reverse: Making Sense of the Upside Down Cards in a Tarot Spread

Janet Boyer

Schiffer Publishing, 2012

ISBN #: 978-0-7643-4104-4

$24.99 USD


First, all me to state that I do not read reversals for two simple reasons:

1)      I believe that the great variety provided in a tarot deck of 78 cards negates the need to read reversals as other cards & card combinations convey the same meanings; and,

2)      I am an artist and artistic creations, of which tarot are only one example, are not meant to be viewed upside-down.

This is only my opinion.  Your opinion may very well differ.  Differences make life interesting and we can all learn from one another’s differences.

Over the years when I have taken the time to read an author’s interpretation of a reversed card, with the exception of Mary Greer’s work, I have usually come away disappointed.  The reversed interpretations offered by many authors usually resort to a mere inverse of the card’s upright interpretation.  In short, an upright positive card becomes negative when reversed and an upright negative card is transformed into something not so bad when reversed. Personally, I’ve always found this approach to be boring and trite.  No wonder I became turned off to considering card reversals very early on during my tarot studies.

Tarot in Reverse takes a different approach.  Instead of 3 – 4 lines of savvy text, the author presents the reader with approximately a page of possible reversed interpretations.  This is followed by a paragraph comparing the reversed interpretations to a character in a movie, book, myth or an experience that exemplifies the reversed interpretation of a particular card.

The author presents numerous interpretive possibilities for each card. This is followed by comparing the card to characters from movies, TV, books, & mythology that provide the reader with a further understanding of the card’s reversed meaning.  Each cards section concludes with a list of 20 positive affirmations that deal with specific reversed card interpretations the intention being if the reversed energy is strong in your life at this time that you can use a positive affirmation to turn it around.  The book itself is very impressive with an attractive cover with bright colors and each card is illustrated in full color.  The illustrations come from The Universal Waite Tarot, which is a great beginner deck so those new to tarot who wish to learn about reversals will not become lost in the imagery of the cards.  The upright image of the card is provided along with the reversed image that partially covers the upright image.  The book is printed on thick, glossy paper so it’s relatively heavy for a 6 X 9” paperback, but I prefer books that have some weight to them.

Although I do not personally read reversed cards for myself or for clients, I do receive them in readings and I always make note of them.  It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks.  I learned over 30 years ago that reversed cards are stressing their importance in the reading or are warning you that you have been overlooking some aspect of that card’s meaning in your life.  So, in a nutshell, this is how I have always dealt with reversed cards.  Over the years I have received The Fool reversed so many times that I always marvel over his rare upright appearance in my readings for myself.  In reading this book I was shocked right off the bat.  One of the reversed meanings of The Fool is “knee problems.”  I’ve had bad knees for 40 years due to a childhood injury.  Reading that made my mouth drop open.  Literally.  The Fool reversed can also mean that you find clowns to be scary.  I am very much afraid of clowns, except for Bozo and Cookie since I grew up in the greater Chicago area and watched “Bozo’s Circus” every single day.  I’ve also read Stephen King’s It (one of the biggest mistakes of my entire life as I couldn’t put it down & it gave me nightmares for years afterwards), and one of the author’s examples of the Fool reversed is none other than the infamous monster clown, Pennywise.  Yes, this was an image and a reminder I could have done without, but it sure does drive the point home.

Another card that came up reversed for me a great deal occurred during my dad’s losing battle with Parkinson’s Disease and the related dementia.  I used to receive the 4 of Swords reversed a great deal for myself.  While reading the reversed interpretation of that card I was shocked yet again.  A few of the interpretations that really stood out to me in a personal manner were:  “irrationality.  A tangle of thoughts … Mentally preparing for death.  Insanity.  Misfiring synapses. Paralysis.”   This card appeared for me repeatedly reversed as I helplessly watched my beloved father lose his mind to dementia.  The worse began to occur six months before he died.  His synapses began to misfire and his brain kept telling his body that he was paralyzed from the waist down.  He never walked again once this occurred.  Four months before he died with additional synapses beginning to misfire his brain now told his body he was in constant and severe pain.  The doctors put him on neuro-blockers as well as actual pain medications, but to little avail.  I am left amazed at how these awful experiences of my dad were enumerated in the reversed meaning of the 4 of Swords, a card I saw about every other day in my general 3-card daily spread for myself.

All that being said, after reading Tarot in Reverse a lot can be said for incorporating reversals I your tarot readings.  I may not begin to use reversals on a regular basis, but I can tell you I will certainly refer to Tarot in Reverse if I again begin to notice particular cards repeatedly appearing reversed.  Clearly at the time I was being given a message pertaining to my then-current situation, but due to not reading reversals I missed out on the message.

To read or not to read reversals, that is the question.  Personally, I really don’t feel up to taxing my brain to memorize 78 more meanings.  The first 78 were difficult enough and I was a spring chicken back then.  However, I will keep the book on my reference shelf.  Perhaps one day I’ll begin to read reversals. You just never know.

Many Blessings,

Nefer Khepri, Ph. D., R. M-T.


Please comment so I know you're out there. Thank you :)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s