How to Read Reversed Tarot Court Cards

Published by Alison Cross on

If a court card coming up in a Tarot reading can present a reader with a tummy-flipping moment of panic, then interpreting a reversed court card can engender a fully-fledged head-between-the-knees (your own, silly!) brace position.
But it needn’t be so!

Any card coming up as a reversal is basically calling your name and telling you to pay special attention to it.  Why does it need your attention? Well, because it means that the interpretation of the card won’t be straightforward.

The most common ways to interpret any reversed card are:

1  The information is the exact opposite of what you would usually say
     (perfectly reasonable place for a beginner to start from, I think – but a bit like using a sledgehammer
     to crack a nut as far as sophistication goes!)
2  The message from the card is unbalanced – too much of the energy or not enough.
3  The card’s information is delayed or blocked.
4  The card’s energies are somehow perverted or twisted out of shape.

And there are LOTS of other ways to interpret a reversed card (for the last Glasgow Tarot Meetup group I thought I’d provide ’10 Ways to interpret a reversed card’ and came up with 11 for the hand-out. So I had to make one of them 10a and the last one 10b.  I am inventive.  I am the Queen of Wands :-D)

With a court card you get another two options – which I think are REALLY useful.

Let’s think about the elements that we tend to use in Western Tarot: Earth, Air, Fire and Water.

Fire and Air are πŸ™‚
Water and Earth are πŸ™‚               (friendly)

Fire and Water are πŸ™
Earth and Air are πŸ™                   (not friendly)

Fire and Earth are 😐
Water and Air are 😐                  (neutral)

Got that?  OK, Let’s take the King of Pentacles:

Elementally, he is Fire of Earth.  The Kingly fire partners up with the practicality of Earth and we have someone who is incredibly level-headed,  got lots of practical skills, materially successful, knows what to do to Get Nice Things in life etc.

Now, here’s the first thing that you can do with a reversed court card:


Instead of Fire of Earth, he is now Earth of Fire. Gone is the maturity of the King and in its place is the Beginner Mind of the Page of Wands.  So the King of Pentacles, when reversed, can mean what the Page of Wands means rightsides up.  You follow?

The second thing that you can do with a reversed court card is:


Sticking with our King of Pentacles example, we have Fire and Earth.

The exact opposite element of Fire is Water and the exact opposite element for Earth is Air.  So you can interpret the reversed King of Pentacles just as you would the Queen of Swords!

What do you think?

BTW – There’s PLENTY more of this stuff in my forthcoming e-book on working with the court cards. Excited? Are you? ARE YOU?!

Alison Cross

The Tarot's Court Cards are my specialist area.Β  They talk to me. Not LITERALLY though ....


Melissa · 11th February 2015 at 6:24 am

I read the cards upright most of the time, but sometimes, depending on the cards around it, i may take it to mean it's opposite. but there are enough cards to never read them in their reverse meaning. Crowley and other famous tarotists are know for not reading cards in reverse(upside down).

Melissa · 21st January 2015 at 4:35 am

I definitely do not like seeing any reversed cards in my spread because it does put a damper on the answers that I receive. But, I think that all of the cards have a positive and negative aspect to it. You cannot have the ying without the yang , and I sincerely believe that if reversed cards come up in your spread, it is meant to help you from doing something that is stopping you from reaching your full potential.

I do like some of your other ideas though food for thought lol!

Dax Carlisle · 9th December 2014 at 6:15 pm

This is GREAT Ali~! Inventive way of looking at Reversals, especially Court Cards! I look forward to your eBook — be sure I get a review copy, so I can interview you about it, on one of our radio shows!

I also wanted to put in "my two cents" as a Tarot Practitioner who DOESN'T use Reversals. I totally "get" what you mean, in example: "So the King of Pentacles, when reversed, can mean what the Page of Wands means right-side up." …But as someone who's cards are always right-side up, then if I was supposed to receive the meaning of The Page of Wands, in a spread, I would merely get the Page of Wands, rather than the King of Pentacles…

Of course, this is my general feeling about ALL Reversals. Every reversed meaning can be represented by an upright card, so the Tarot would simply have me receive the upright card that represents that meaning…

Looking forward to the eBook! Happy Holidays!

    Alison Cross · 10th December 2014 at 5:06 pm

    Thanks for the kind words, Dax! YUP! It is perfectly feasible, as you say, to go your entire Tarot life and never read an upside down card πŸ™‚

    Courts can be tricky son of a guns, even rightsides up πŸ˜€ And yes, you will be getting a review copy when I get better organised lol! <3

Maggie Lukowski · 24th June 2014 at 3:48 pm

Looking forward to the E-book! I just love the Chrysalis Tarot too!

Inner Whispers · 22nd June 2014 at 10:11 am

Yeesh, sorry to hear you lost some of your book, and thanks for the reminder to back-up!! Definitely excited about your ebook πŸ˜€
Love your suggestions for dealing with Court card reversals, very interesting! I prefer the first, reversing the order of the elements, as it still keeps the card within its own 'zone'. Will definitely try it out…

Ellen · 12th June 2014 at 7:49 pm

Hi Ali. What a great way to work with court reversals: A swap of elemental energies. I've been reading Bunnings book about reversals but it still feels awkward for me to "read" a picture upside down. Take for example this beautiful Page of Stones from the Chrysalis Tarot (Mine is on its way :D) I guess you should be totally familiar with the depictions and all the little details before you can read the deck with reversals
Any way I will keep practicing with my Rider Waite and remember your view about reversed Court cards

    Alison Cross · 12th June 2014 at 9:59 pm

    The Chrysalis Tarot has a whole separate section dedicated to the Tarot Troupe! You'll love them when you get them in your little paws, Ellen!

Alison Cross · 12th June 2014 at 6:28 pm

lol! It will take me ages to finish it. I had written about 40 pages when the imac died back in April. Of course, I hadn't backed it up to the external disk drive at all. So when it died, it pretty much died with the machine. It's a mistake I won't make again!!!

Joanne Sprott · 12th June 2014 at 3:33 pm

e-book: excited, oh, yes! And what a cool way to use the energies of the elements in the courts, reversed or not. Thanks!

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