Today we are going to dip our tarot toes into three things that stump beginning readers: reversals, court cards and patterns. This is a gentle investigation to whet your appetite and start your tarot brain whirling and by no means a complete or deep thesis on these subjects. Read on, my friends.
I’ve got very good news for you if you are not a fan of reversals: they are optional, not mandatory. Not every reader works with them and I have had many fine readings from tarotists who don’t use them. Ultimately the choice is going to be up to you.
That being said, I use them because I feel they add subtle nuances to a tarot reading. (Also the yogi in me is quite fond of inversions – you get a completely different view when you are upside down!) When you start adding reversals to your readings, suddenly you have 78 new ways of looking at those cards.
That may feel overwhelming at first, but with practice, reversals become easier. I do recommend that you spend some time practicing with them to see if they are your cup of tea. Once you get comfy with reversals, you might find that they add depth to your readings.
There are a few methods that I use:
1. Simply reverse the meaning of the card. Ex: Devil is bondage – reversed Devil is liberation from bondage.
2. Reversals could indicate an internalizing of the lesson of the card. Ex: 5 of Swords reversed could mean a need to understand where you are being dishonest with others or yourself. A majority of reversals points out the need to do some inner work – or being in a reflective period rather than a time of action.
3. Reversals can also indicate things being in flux/delays or blockages. Ex: Empress reversed could be creative blocks.
*Recommended reading: The Complete Book of Tarot Reversals (Special Topics in Tarot Series) by Mary Greer. This is THE authoritative text on the subject.
Court cards are often problematic for readers of all levels. They can represent people, different facets of your personality, energy that you need for a situation or other things such as messages.
- Page – a student; a message; news
- Knight – young male; higher education; action
- Queen – a woman; nurturing
- King – a man; mastery
Let’s start by looking at them as people:
If we break down them by elements and physical descriptions we get:
- Cups: Water (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces), fair haired and blue eyed, emotional, sensitive
- Wands: Fire (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius), auburn hair, green or brown eyes, fiery, motivated
- Swords: Air (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius), light or grey hair, blue eyes, intellectual, logical
- Pentacles: Earth (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn), dark hair and eyes, dependable, practical
Using that method the Page of Cups might be a fair haired and sensitive child; Knight of Wands a passionate auburn young male; Queen of Swords a mature and intellectual woman and the King of Pentacles a dark haired male who is responsible. (Those are simplistic but you get the drift.)
A good exercise to get more familiar with the Courts as personas is to connect them with people you know or public figures. This can help you get an image in mind that you can call on when you get stuck.
Queen of Pentacles is a dark haired, practical and earthy woman. She’s someone who is down to earth and successful, maybe even wealthy. Oprah Winfrey would be a perfect archetype.
Knight of Cups is a fair haired, sensitive male. One who is in touch with his emotional side. How about Ryan Gosling?
A special note: sometimes you may need to be rather gender neutral as some people may identify with the opposite gender. For example: a self professed tomboy may identify with a Knight rather than a Queen. Likewise, a male who plays a caretaker role may see shades of a Queen in his persona. Remember, we all carry both male/female shields at times.
Sometimes Courts can represent a side of yourself that need to bring to a situation. For example, if you are back in school, you may need to tap into your Page side and adapt a beginner’s mind. Or if you are taking the boss role at work, you may need to channel your inner King.
The Courts can also represent things that are not people oriented. For example: Pages can represent seeds that you are planting, school, or news. How do you know if the Court is talking about an actual person or something else?
This requires practice and a bit of intuition on your part. You’ll need to look at the other cards and see what information they may reveal. As you get more familiar with the tarot, you’ll begin to piece together what role those Courts are playing in the reading.
Recommended reading: Understanding the Tarot Court (Special Topics in Tarot Series) by Mary Greer and Tom Little. Once again, Mary and her co-author, Tom, write the one book that sums it up.
I like to think that tarot readers are like detectives. We look at the information in the cards and try to piece them together like a little puzzle. Patterns give us a lot of clues as to what the main theme might be. Always pay attention to the majorities!
Mostly Wands: enterprise
Mostly Pentacles: money
Mostly Cups: focus on communications and relationships
Mostly Swords: ideas and challenges
Mostly Majors: big lessons and changes ahead; an important cycle
Mostly Courts: many people involved in situation; a big gathering
Mostly Pages: important new beginnings; news; working with kids
Mostly Knights: action; college
Mostly Queens: gossip (yes, I know it’s sexist but it often turns out to be true!)
Mostly Kings: meetings
Mostly Ones: fresh start
Mostly Twos: important decisions – take your time
Mostly Threes: giving birth; celebration; fun
Mostly Fours: stability
Mostly Fives: chaos; change; difficulty
Mostly Sixes: harmony; give and take
Mostly Sevens: struggle; challenge
Mostly Eights: achievement
Mostly Nines: closure; endings
Mostly Tens: endings and new beginnings all at once
Mostly Reversals: inner work; internalizing a lesson
Progressions: when the numbers progress (ex: 1, 5, 9) it’s sign that things are progressing nicely. If the numbers are going the other direction, there may be setbacks. Note also: if most of the numbers are earlier, we are in the beginnings stages in a situation – if most of the numbers are high, things are coming to a close.
Missing Elements: look at what is missing as a way of seeing what may be needed to bring balance to a situation. For example, if Pentacles are missing, practicality may be needed to bring plans forward.
As you work with tarot more and more, it becomes easier to understand how the cards work together to tell a story for a querent. All of these moving parts will start to gel if you keep at it.
Next week, we’re going to put it all together and talk about spreads, techniques and getting past the blank deer in the headlights phase. Get ready to throw out your little white book and read some cards!
© Theresa Reed | The Tarot Lady 2013