In this post I am going to discuss why you might want to use reversed tarot cards and the different ways you can more easily interpret the meanings using W.I.N.D.: Weakened; Inverse; Negative; and Delayed. I will illustrate these interpretations using two example cards.
I did not come up with the acronym W.I.N.D; I give full credit for this to tarot author and deck creator Benebell Wen. Benebell discussed tarot reversals using W.I.N.D in her comprehensive book ‘Holistic Tarot‘ which I fully recommend.
This book is the closest I have seen to effectively being a tarot ‘bible’ – it is comprehensive and in-depth in its discussion of all things tarot. If you are aspiring to take your tarot reading more seriously then you need Holistic Tarot on your book shelf. I am in no way associated with Benebell or the publisher, I just believe this book is that good!
I believe W.I.N.D is a great way to understand how to read reversed tarot cards but, outside of Holistic Tarot, I don’t really see it mentioned anywhere. So, I consider this post to be a ‘signal booster’ to help give this way of thinking about tarot reversals a wider audience.
What are Tarot reversals and why use them?
Before we continue, what are reversed tarot cards? When you draw the tarot cards at the start of the reading and turn them over some of the cards are upside down or ‘ill dignified’ as they are sometimes known. These are reversals. Some readers interpret these reversed cards differently from their upright meanings; others do not.
In the tarot reading community there are several views on tarot reversals. Some readers feel that tarot reversals greatly expand the range of interpretations possible in a reading. Other readers believe that tarot reversals are not necessary and reading the cards upright are all you need for a good reading. Also, some tarot decks are designed to be used reversed with reversible backs; others are not which makes reading reversed tarot cards difficult.
Personally, I sometimes use tarot reversals depending on the question and the deck I am using. Other times I don’t feel the need to use reversals.
When I don’t use reversals I still think whether a particular card should be interpreted as if it has a reversed meaning but this comes from experience. I do believe that using reversed tarot cards gives a greater nuance to readings resulting in a richer, more detailed message. Even if you end up not using reversed tarot cards I encourage you to try them out – see how you feel about them in practice.
It can be difficult to understand how to interpret reversed cards. Different tarot books will give you different approaches to reading tarot cards: some authors will tell you that a reversed card has the complete opposite meaning to it’s usual one; other writers talk about a cards’ meaning being weaker than usual. It’s confusing and unhelpful particularly when you are starting out in tarot.
That is why I like W.I.N.D. When you read tarot reversals you can think about this acronym and figure out which of these 4 interpretations is the closest fit.
To read more about how to get reversed cards when you shuffle the deck, please see the post ‘How to Shuffle A Tarot Deck‘ which you can read here.
Example Reversed card Meanings with W.I.N.D
I am going to give some example reversed meanings using two cards to illustrate how the usual meanings change if they are Weakened; Inverted; Negative; or Delayed.
The two cards I chose are the Sun and the 10 of Swords. I wanted one card each from the major and minor arcana and I wanted one of the most positive cards in the tarot deck, the Sun, and one of the most negative, the 10 of Swords.
When I use tarot reversals I still like to see the pictures clearly. So, instead of the cards being upside down, I like to have them at an angle like this:
Keeping the cards at an angle still allows me to make out the details in the pictures but i’m aware the cards are reversed.
Before getting into the reversed meanings I just want to quickly go through the upright meanings for the Sun and 10 of Swords:
Sun: Joy, Happiness, Resilience, Energy, Youth, Exuberance
10 of Swords: Ruination, Worst Case, Depression, Catastrophe, Drama, Overwhelmed.
Reversed Tarot Cards – W is for Weakened
When a card is weakened it still has it’s usual upright meanings but they are much lessened. Perhaps the situation is in it’s early stages and is building up to the full expression of the card’s meaning. Or maybe, the situation the card represents is in the past and the cards’ energy is getting less over time.
A weakened Sun means the feeling of joy or resilience is present but not very strong. An example here would be anticipating an upcoming wedding; the bride and groom are happy and excited but still building up to the main event when their happiness will be fully realised. Or if talking about resilience, perhaps you have been grinding away at work for awhile or training as an athlete for a long time. After a while your resilience begins to fade away as you become tired; you won’t be able to give 100% but you can still do the work.
Weakened 10 of Swords
10 of Swords reversed could represent a fear of upcoming disaster – you are thinking that the worst could happen but the moment has not arrived. A perfect example of this is the belief – if you are at school or university – that you are going to fail all your exams and your life will be over (tip: failing exams is not the be all and end all of your life). In terms of relationships, it can represent moving on from a bad break up with your partner. The end of a relationship can be devastating at the time but the feeling lessens over time as you move on with your life.
So, these examples give a flavour of what weakened energy looks like. What about inverted meanings?
Reversed Tarot Cards – i is for Inverted
When we say that the meanings are inverted we mean they are the complete opposite of the upright meanings. Literally flip the meanings 180 degrees.
The inverted Sun is a pretty terrible card. Instead of joy and happiness it represents anger, hate, misery. Instead of exuberance it could indicate lethargy and depression; weakness instead of resilience. For example, you have just learned that your partner is cheating on you and this naturally makes you angry – perfectly represented by the inverted Sun. Perhaps you have been accused of something you did not do resulting in misery. Maybe you have just lost your job so now you are pretty unhappy – again inverted Sun.
Inverted 10 of Swords
If inverting the Sun turns one of the most optimistic cards into one of the most negative, what about inverting the 10 of Swords? Ruination and disaster becomes great success and achievement, depression becomes elation. For example, taking an earlier example, you have just learned that not only have you passed all your exams but you got the best grades possible – you are over the moon! The weakened 10 of Swords becomes the inverted 10 of swords. Or perhaps you get back with the partner you broke up with and things work out well! Another great example would be winning the Noble Prize! The inverted 10 of Swords is a really great card.
Reversed Tarot Cards – N is for Negative
Talking about reversed cards as being negative can be a little tricky. It’s not the same as the inverted meanings. When a reversed card is said to be negative the meanings do not change but the usual upright meanings represent a negative impact on the situation.
A very stark negative Sun situation would be demonstrating great joy and happiness at a funeral! The energy of the card is completely inappropriate and would have a negative impact on everyone around. Another example might be where a very distressed friend comes to you for support but you are feeling so happy that you are unable to empathise and relate to your friend. A further example might be the manic phase of someone living with Bipolar Disorder where the person experiences a depressive/manic cycle. The manic phase can have a very negative affect as, for example, your mania may result in you enjoying shopping so much that you overspend on your credit card. That’s a drastic example but it typifies the negative Sun.
Negative 10 of Swords
A negative 10 of Swords suggests a potentially serious situation. It implies that the ruination or catastrophe you believe you have experienced will have a negative impact on your life. On a serious note, this card could indicate a risk of developing mental health issues resulting from an event such as losing your work or having your career destroyed – swords represents mental energy. Or perhaps believing you will struggle to pay the bills and survive after the same situation. A further example of the negative 10 of Swords here in the UK is that night clubs are unable to re-open because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. This means many are likely to go out of business entirely.
Side Note: Doing readings on health issues
I am giving health related examples to demonstrate using W.I.N.D. to describe reversed cards because they are powerful and get the point across. However, I do not personally recommend using tarot to answer health related questions and I would urge you to think twice before you do. Health is far too serious a topic with major long lasting consequences and health issues should be dealt with by appropriate health professionals.
Even if you are not answering health related questions, be very, very, careful about bringing up health during a reading especially when reading for others but also for yourself. If you think health is an issue during a reading, make sure you signpost your querent to a health professional if they are concerned or see your doctor if reading for yourself.
Reversed Tarot Cards – D is for delayed
A delayed interpretation of a reversed card means the energy or situation the card represents has been blocked or requires something else to happen first.
As this post is being written in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic, a good example of the delayed Sun would be the postponement of the Tokyo Olympic Games, a major event celebrating sports and athletic achievement. The Games cannot occur until the pandemic is under control (although there is talk of holding a scaled down Games in 2021 – a weakened Sun situation). Returning to the theme of weddings, another example of the delayed Sun would be the postponement of weddings earlier in the year here in the UK due to the pandemic.
Delayed 10 of Swords
The coronavirus pandemic provides further examples to demonstrate the delayed 10 of Swords. In the UK, the furlough scheme has delayed mass unemployment – definitely a 10 of Swords situation – by paying businesses to keep their employees on the payroll. Delayed eviction of tenants through government action is another example of the delayed 10 of Swords – eviction would be a disastrous situation; it’s still a threat but it has been pushed back.
Learning Reversals with W.I.N.D
Hopefully you will find using tarot reversals with W.I.N.D as easy as I do but it will take practice. I recommend that when you do a reading, set the intention to use reversals and try to interpret them using one of the four elements of W.I.N.D. You will discover which element is most appropriate in the context of your question through practice and it will open up a wider vista of interpretations for you.
If you really want to go for it, try a single card daily draw each day, either in the morning or evening. This is a good way to learn about each card, both intuitively and through it’s meanings. If you draw the card reversed in the morning you can see how that reversed meaning manifests itself during the day. If you do the draw in the evening and the card is reversed you can try to see which element of W.I.N.D applied to the events of the day.