Review by Bonnie Cehovet
From the author of Learning The
Tarot, Joan Bunning, we have a very "hot topic" book in
Learning Tarot Reversals. I have a great deal of respect
for Joan Bunning - for her understanding of Tarot, her
ability to teach, her ability to write and, perhaps most
of all, her ability to present a unique image of a
classy Tarot professional. She presents her full material
on the Internet, for free, and has for several years.
She has written two highly readable, highly usable
Tarot books, and she teaches Tarot on the Internet
through Barnes & Noble. It gets better - people that I
have talked to through e-lists indicate that Joan
Bunning is highly accessible and a very gracious
Every Tarot reader has their own personal opinion on
reading reversals. For many years, I simply did not read
them. I did use dignities, and for a time that sufficed.
I will now read a reversal if one comes up, which
would have to be a miracle, as I orient my decks upright
before I begin a reading. I adhere to the school of
thought that reversals can be many things, but what they
are NOT is the direct opposite of the upright
Bunning starts out with her insight into the Tarot - that
it is a tool for personal and spiritual
transformation. In Learning The Tarot, she goes into the
definitions of the cards, and how they affect each other. In
Learning Tarot Reversals, she goes into the energies and
cycles of the cards - which to me seems an empowering
manner of experiencing the full 360 degrees of meaning
that each card contains.
The book is divided into two
parts: in Part One we have eight lessons, complete with
exercises that allow us to place the energy into our lives.
In part Two, we have reversed card descriptions for
the major and minor arcana. At the end of the book,
Bunning has placed suggestions for each of her exercises,
and a section on card keywords.
One of the most
interesting sections dealt with defining the phases of an
energy cycle. Why is this important? Because as readers
we need to understand the cycles of our clients lives
and know where they are so that we can give them the
best reading possible. Bunning defines the phases of an
energy cycle as:
* Early-phase energy is just
beginning. It's not yet developed, but it's growing. It's
towards full expression in the future.
* Mid-phase energy is strong and developed.
It's clear, immediate and obvious in the present.
* Late-phase energy is on the decline. It's losing power and clarity. The energy's full expression is in the past. 1
Bunning also makes
an excellent point about watching for the repeating
cycles in your clients life. (Actually - she refers to
the cycles in the life of the person reading the book.
As a reader myself, I know that this needs to be
followed with clients also.)
There is also an interesting
section on what Bunning calls "mismatches". This is when
the orientation of the card (upright or reversed) does
not match the expectation of the person being read
for. Bunning sees this as an excellent opportunity to
become more aware in ones life. This would certainly be
so. How many times as readers have we had a client
refuse to accept a card that we could see clearly was at
work in their lives!
Opposing energy pairs also pose a
conundrum. These are defined as cards that have opposite
meanings - i.e. the Fool and Death. If both cards are
upright, their energies are both strong and the client has
a struggle on their hands. If both cards are
reversed, Bunning defines the situation as "flexible". If
one card is upright and the other reversed, the person
being read for is in the process of moving from one
energy to the other.
In a reading, Bunning asks us to
look at "energy groups" - these being the major arcana,
court cards, suits, spread groups, spontaneous groups
and the entire reading. (I do not know why the minor
arcana was excluded here - perhaps because they are the
day to day energy of a life, and are relatively
The archetypes of the major arcana have strength
and impact when they are int he upright position. When
a preponderance of majors are reversed, the energy
is much less active - more subdued and less able to
be used to the fullest. Court cards indicate the
influence of other people in a situation. A reversed court
card indicates people not participating as they should
be in a given situation.
The suits carry specific
qualities: Wands work in the realm of passion and risk
taking, Cups in the realm of love and emotion, Swords in
the realm of intellect, truth and justice and
Pentacles in the realm of the material world, money and
practicality. 2 When reversed, the energy of a given suit is not
working to the fullest extent that it would be in the
The final lesson in Part One deals with
interpretation. The following steps are listed as a plan of action
to interpreting the cards:
1. What's the cards energy?
2. What's the context for this cards energy?
3. How strong does this cards energy feel to me?
4. Does my feeling (step 3) match the cards actual strength (orientation)?
5. What is the energies phase (reversed cards only)?
6. Is this a repeating energy?
7. Are there any opposing energies?
8. Is the cards energy part of a group?
9. What do I want to do about this energy? 3
The presentation of
the cards definitions and keywords in Part Two is
interesting. Each card is defined in the upright position, and
then a series of keywords are presented for the
reversed position. Under each keyword the three phases are
listed - absent, early and late, along with how the
keyword would be interpreted for each phase.
I found this
to be a compelling book, and highly recommend it to
all levels of readers. The presentation of questions
and exercises along with each lesson (a la Mary Greer
and Geraldine Amaral in their respective work) allows
the student to put the energy of the work being
studied into their readings and into their lives on an
immediate basis. By studying the examples of keywords given
in the book, each reader could easily take their own
keywords and see how the three phases of a cycle would
apply to them - which opens up a whole new world for the
Tarot community! An excellent book for personal study
and as a Tarot resource.
© Octber 2003
Footnotes: 1. ibid page 11; 2. ibid page 34; 3. ibid page 37-39.
Bonnie Cehovet is Certified Tarot Grand Master, a professional Tarot reader with over ten years experience, a Reiki Master/Teacher and a writer. Bonnie has served in various capacities with the American Tarot Association, is co-founder of the World Tarot Network, and Vice President (as well as Director of Certification) for the American Board For Tarot Certification. She has had articles appear in the 2004 and 2005 Llewellyn Tarot Reader.