Reversals. Am I missing something?


Okay, so I've wondered this for quite a long time and feel that it's time I got an answer. I don't really read reversals, so maybe there's something I'm not getting, but I feel like the Tarot community is a little loopy when it comes to this.

In tarot deck reviews, videos, and discussions I oftentimes hear people comment on the back of the cards. If the backs aren't perfectly symmetrical, they say that the deck is not good for reading reversals. You've heard this, or said this before, right?

What the heck does that have to do with reading reversals? How does knowing whether or not the card is in the reversed position before you turn it over affect the reading in any way, shape, or form? I have racked my brain for, like I said, a very long time and I cannot come up with one single, solitary reason why the card back could affect a reading in any way, or why an asymmetrical card back is not good for reading reversals.

Does anyone have an answer? I'm dying to know. Thanks.


I don't read reversals either, but I do have a thought about the card backs. If a reader uses the fan method for choosing their cards, and randomly/intuitively picks the cards from a fan, I can see how the card backs might influence which cards are chosen, if it is apparent which cards are reversed. But, other than that, I am not sure what difference it makes.


The reason of this is because you can tell which cards will be reversed.
It subconsciously affects the reader and the questioner for not picking those cards since it's not promised to be a "good" reversal (like a reversed Eight of Swords in certain situations). Having a not symmetrical back on the cards' back affect the accuracy of the reading in some level especially when the readers use the fan method Beancrew mentioned.

If you're using the deck-flip method that it's not a big deal. Each method has their own goods.

Fan method allows the questioner and reader have a better connection to the cards and offer a better personal read. Increase accuracy if the backs are symmetrical.

Deck-flip method is more systematic and gives your read a more "mechanical" feel to it.

that's my personal opinions of course.


I think this is due to some readers's perception that reversed cards are usually more negative in general compared to their upright counterparts.

If one subscribes to this thought, it might affect how one conducts some self-readings. After he cuts his shuffled cards into piles and must then stack it into a single one, he may consciously or subconsciously pick the ones with an upright back over the reversed ones. What if the correct answer lies in a pile with a reversed back on top? It opens one to some form of selection bias.

Also, if someone like that sees that the topmost card he must draw has a reversed back, he might conclude that the answer must be negative even if he hasn't seen his card yet. This might eventually color the reading.


Personally tho, I think a reversed card can be either negative or positive, tho it seems like it has a higher chance of turning out to be more negative compared to its upright stance. So irreversible backs do not bother me, tho I can't speak as to how I would subliminally think about it of course.

But if given a choice between reversible or irreversible backs, I would still choose the former. I've been accustomed to seeing florid, geometrically complex backs, and I deem their soothing symmetry very pleasing and just right. Some of the decks I love the most have irreversible backs tho, so really it's a bit of a non-issue for me. And I always read reversals (or dignities for the Thoth).


I usually do not use them either and I have always wondered the exact same question. Why would it matter if the back is "reversals" or not? Your going to pull the next card anyway. When I got the Mucha tarot, the first half of the deck left out a color on the backs. So half the decks backs was a different color. Anyway, book depository let me have it for a discount price. I kept it. So if I was to use reversals how confusing would that be? It doesn't really matter.


Thanks everyone for your responses. I guess the only explanation that comes close to logical is that someone might avoid picking reversed cards when doing the fan method, but this still does not make much sense to me personally. First, many reversals have positive messages. Second, when choosing intuitively, many people close their eyes. Third, when doing readings for others many people don't know enough about tarot to think of staying away from a reversal. I'm still perplexed as to why "non-reversible" card backs are a turn-off for reversal readers and I still get turned-off by people who feel the need to mention it, but to each their own I guess.


I think part of the thing with the backs is what the artist intends. Some artists don't use reversals themselves and hence, design a card back that isn't symmetrical. I don't think they're necessarily trying to prevent people from using reversals with their decks, more just a "I don't do reversals, so I can do the back this way".

I personally do use reversals. I think I only have one deck, the Röhrig Tarot, that has non-symmetrical backs. But it's just a swirly space-looking thing that I still can't tell whether the card will be right side up or reversed. That's because I simply don't pay attention while I'm shuffling and laying out the cards. I probably paid a little more attention when I first got the deck ... but now it's kind of like the visual equivalent of background noise.

Now, if I had a deck that the backs had a big arrow pointing up with the words "this side up" ... that might bother me a bit. :D


I use reversals most of the time, but I pay no attention to the orientation of the backs since I almost always lay my cards face-up. Even if I did lay them face-down, it wouldn't make any difference since I don't form preconceptions about any card in a reading, especially not based on such slim evidence as orientation. My usual interpretative hierarchy goes: card meanings and visual cues; intuitive insights (inspiration/imagination/ingenuity); elemental dignities and correspondences (numerological, astrological, philosophical, cultural, etc.); and orientation. This order will obviously change if there is a whole lot more of one emphasis than the others. Reversal is just another tool to add depth and nuance to a reading; I usually see them as neither completely negative nor positive, just subtly "different" from the upright nature. I often consider them as oblique in their operation and influence.


Personally, I always shuffle until it feels "right" rather than doing a predetermined number of shuffles, so non-reversible backs would definitely make me shy away from using reversals. I don't like anything on the backs that would give away what the cards would be and could subconsciously affect when I stop shuffling, or how I shuffle - I might reflexively try to straighten them up because I really don't like things looking out of order. I tend to shuffle overhand and so I do see the backs as I shuffle, and not just of the top card. Reversals obviously aren't always negative, but I'm not sure that conscious knowledge would override my instinct and split-second shuffling decisions.

I could always try shuffling with my eyes closed, but I'm clumsy and make a mess of it when I try.

Of course, if the deck creator doesn't intend for the deck to be read reversed and chooses non-reversible backs, I assume there's a reason for that, so I wouldn't really want to use reversals for it anyway even though I usually prefer them.

But I have to add, just because you don't see a preference for symmetrical backs as even "close to logical" doesn't mean it's not valid. People also have strong opinions on the use of borders, which also has no "logical" affect on the readability of a deck, but that doesn't mean they don't perceive the cards differently because of it or that they should stop mentioning it when discussing a deck.