Ah, reversals—the bane of many a new reader’s existence (and sometimes of old pros’, too).
There is much advice about how to read reversals, most of it centered on the idea that a reversed card merely reflects the energy of the card’s upright meaning except that it has been blocked, weakened, or made more severe. Less popular but still pervasive is the belief that the reversed card carries the opposite meaning its upright counterpart does, and the final piece of advice I see most often about tarot reversals is to simply read them literally, focusing on the upside-down aspect of the image (changing the actions and orientations of the people and objects present and, thus, the meaning).
There’s nothing wrong with these interpretations. They’ve served tarot readers for as long as readers have been using reversals, and they’re the most popular perspectives for a reason: Intuitively, these are just how most people relate to a reversed card. That said, I think it goes without saying that many of us tarot readers are not “most people”! We rely heavily on our intuitions and a lot of us determine how we work with the cards based on what “clicks”. That’s why I believe it would be helpful to explore other, less-touted options for reading reversals in the hopes that one of them might “click” for you.
Apart from the ways listed above, which are explored in detail in many other sources, you could read reversals as:
Warnings: Warnings indicate a circumstance, energy, attitude, or person that the querent is to steer well clear of. It may or may not have already manifested in the querent’s life, but once it does, it’s bad news all around. This is a good interpretation to use if you like your readings to have clear delineations between positive and negative influences.
Nullification: This method indicates that the reversed card represents an aspect of the querent’s life that is unavailable, not present, or not important; regardless, the querent should put it out of their mind and focus on other matters that do need their attention.
Repression: An energy or action that is fighting to be expressed, but which the querent—consciously or subconsciously, for better or for worse—is holding back from full realization. This card is not necessarily “weak,” but the querent’s will is stronger and keeps it in check.
Obstacles: This interpretation is, essentially, the opposite of repression: Instead of the querent holding the energy of the card back, the card’s energy is holding the querent back. This type of reversal represents a manifestation that is actively preventing the querent from reaching their goals or achieving fulfillment.
Unknowable: This kind of reversal suggests that the energy of the card in question is present in the querent’s life, but that its ultimate role or destiny is currently unknowable, perhaps because the circumstances surrounding it are just too volatile or unstable to rely on for making intuitive conclusions. This interpretation is best suited for those who believe that the concept of chaos can or should be incorporated into their tarot readings.
These, of course, are only some other ways to read reversals. There are likely as many ways to read reversed cards as there are tarot readers.
As for me, I use all of these meanings—blocked, weakened, severe, opposite, upside-down, warnings, nullification, repression, obstacles, and the unknowable—in my readings, and probably some not listed, as well! I rely on my intuition to tell me exactly what interpretation is appropriate when I see a reversed card, and I draw from a number of experiences I’ve had with reversed cards in the past. But this way of reading reversals takes time and is subject to preference: If you’re new to reversals, feel that you’ve only got a tenuous grasp of them, or just like to keep things simple, it’s perfectly fine to choose just one way of reading reversals for your readings! Just be sure to choose the way that “clicks”.