Learning Tarot Reversals
A Tarot resource for all levels of readers, to help with the sometimes sticky issue of learning to use reversed Tarot cards. Highly recommended.
By Joan Bunning
Book - Published by Weiser Books
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 person.
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 meaning.
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 moving 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 temporary.)
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 upright position.
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.
© Bonnie Cehovet
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.