Let’s talk about card reversals. No, not how to read card reversals. I mean why some practitioners read with card reversals and some do not. There’s the succinct answer of “to each his or her own; since we’re all different, we all approach tarot differently,” but I mean beyond that, why?
Some practitioners would feel remiss to not consider the energy of card reversals in a reading. For others, an upside down card image drives them mad and thus interferes with their intuitive abilities. You end up with a camp of tarot readers who read with reversals and a camp who does not, leaving beginners who are entering the tarot forum for the first time wondering what the heck they should do. When “just do what feels right to you” sounds too vague of an answer, let’s try to get down to some specifics.
So like reading with reversals vs. reading without reversals, we’ve got two camps of mental dispositions: the left-brained and the right-brained.
Left-brained folk prefer linear thinking and analysis. They tend to do well on a micro-level, great at reverse engineering, and have the patience to construct a building, brick by brick. Left-brained people are adept at strategic planning, logical analysis, and by nature seem to be programmed to process and compartmentalize data. These people horde details and then organize those details and then analyze those details according to a very specific, tangible analytic process. A left-brained person invented the Dewey Decimal System. Left-brained people wrote the Chicago Manual of Style. They are the ones who wrote that spiral-bound book law students refer affectionately to as the Bluebook. (And–law student joke–left-brained people are the law review editors who dock points off you for italicizing the comma, because according to the Bluebook, it is clear and unambiguous that the comma should not be italicized.)
Left-brained tarot readers are the ones who are going to feel remiss if they don’t read with card reversals. They can’t imagine ignoring the ill-dignified energy of a reversal and how that would affect the analysis. Left-brained tarot readers scrutinize the symbolism and are probably the ones who are going to go in-depth with their deconstruction of numerology, astrology, and elemental dignities.
Right-brained folk prefer intuitive thinking and emotional expression. They’re also very visual. They rely on their imagination and spatial awareness, and tend to be creative and artistic. Thus, an upside down image messes with that sensitivity to spatial awareness and hinders their imagination. Their imagination and their intuition are closely linked. One cannot seem to be extricated from the other. They want to understand, ascend, and transcend. As a result, they’re incredibly innovative. A right-brained person might be Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein, or Picasso.
Right-brained tarot readers are not going to be as inclined to observe card reversals. Trusting their intuition and trusting that there is a greater purpose at play that can account for whatever method they are reading with, right-brained tarot readers are less likely to find card reversals helpful. The whole ill-dignified-energy notion is not going to feel relevant to them. They’re not scrutinizing the card symbol by symbol. They’re looking at it as a picture, a picture that will evoke a feeling, a sensation, which will in turn trigger their intuition and from there, the intuition will help them to weave a narrative.
While left-brained tarot readers might be more inclined to seek the answer within the four corners of the tarot card, right-brained tarot readers see the imagery on the card as just the beginning point. Since the card imagery is just a beginning point and the rest takes place in their imagination-intuition, reversals are more of a hindrance than an intuitive aid. Left-brained tarot readers, however, want as much data as possible to use in their linear analysis, and ignoring reversals would strike them as an abominable omission of information.
As it is with nature, very few people fall exclusively under one label or the other, and no advanced tarot practitioner reads tarot exclusively with one part of their brains. It’s always an integrative process. However, chances are one side is going to be more dominant, and that’s how you can assess what kind of tarot reader you will be, whether you read with card reversals or not.
Also, I have found for me that it can vary on a deck by deck basis. Some decks trigger the left-brained version of me and I read with reversals, like the original RWS and most RWS-based decks. Ditto with TdM. Other decks trigger the right brain for me and so I really like to go with the flow of my imagination when reading with those decks, and card image reversals do interrupt that flow. I don’t read with reversals for the Thoth, the Mary-el, or the Voyager.
Essentially, I would argue that both approaches lead to the same destination, so long as the practitioner has mastered the art of tarot. What I discourage in students is neglecting reversals simply because “it seems hard” and they “don’t want to learn another set of 78 card meanings.” That’s a very compelling reason to at least tackle reversals and give it a try. However, if after trying it you realize it isn’t compatible with your mental disposition, then to stick with reading reversals simply because you’re afraid you still have something to prove to other tarot practitioners, well in that case you’re just being silly.
It doesn’t matter what you do. It matters why you do it. You always have to be self-aware enough to know why. When it comes to tarot practice, and this concept is demonstrated in the reading reversals issue, it doesn’t matter what your approach is. It matters that you know why that approach is your approach. So. It’s not enough to just say “well everybody is different.” Yes, that’s true, but why are you different or not different? Know for yourself why you read or don’t read with card reversals because as minuscule and mundane of a point as that might seem, it exemplifies in a very large and profound way who you are.