Last time, we talked about the Nine of Cups, a lovely card of possible emotional fulfillment. If you haven’t read the last column, please take a moment to do so before continuing. This time, let’s look at the Nine of Cups in a different way; let’s reverse it.
Not every Tarot Reader reads reversals, and some decks, such as the Shadowscapes Tarot, are not set up for reversed interpretations. But most Tarot decks allow for reversals, and in fact, reversals can add depth and texture to a reading. However, a reversed card does not always present itself in a manner that facilitates easy interpretation. Like the Tarot in general, if we break a reversed card down to its most basic ingredients, we can often discover hints for application of meanings.
I see reversals as offering some form of one or more of three basic messages: (1) the energies or effects of the upright card are far away but approaching, (2) the energies or effects of the upright card are here but they have already peaked and are fading, or (3) the energies or effects of the upright card are imbalanced (either running contrary to the interest of the Seeker with strength, or not having enough strength to have an effect at all). Since we have already broken this card down to its most basic ingredients and are seeing the upright Nine of Cups as representing the completion or fullness of experience or manifestation within the world of emotions and feelings, the next step toward an understanding of the reversed Nine of Cups is to look at this card through these three basic messages.
If we see the reversed Nine of Cups in accordance with message (1), then we might interpret the card as an encouragement to our Seeker. Perhaps our Seeker is experiencing an emotional upheaval of some kind, and feels lost at sea, and our reversed Cups card at first glance could certainly validate that uncomfortable feeling. However, it also offers a bit of hope. The fulfillment and serenity the Seeker is looking for is out there, he is just not connecting to it yet. Because the card did show up (even though it is reversed), it appears that these energies are attempting to find him, and our Seeker should not only be encouraged by his reversed Nine of Cups, but he should also attempt to actively attract this emotional fulfillment to him. Our Seeker should also look toward his connections to others; perhaps the key to tapping into the fulfillment of this card is being held by a family member or friend or loved one.
Viewing the card in accordance with message (2) could be telling our Seeker that while there is fulfillment to be had in immersing ourselves in the pleasures of our emotions and feelings, once the fruit has ripened and been harvested, we must acknowledge that it is time to move our focus onward. Wallowing in our blessings beyond a suitable period of time (and this “suitable period” might need to be determined) only creates a big pool of mud, sticky and cold and difficult to get rid of. In order to remain emotionally healthy and inwardly grounded, we must involve the other elements and their effects into our daily lives. Perhaps our Seeker needs to focus on a more mundane job to be done or a tedious responsibility to be met, or maybe it’s time to say good-bye to our friends and get home; time to get back to reality!
If we see our Cups card in accordance with message (3), we might interpret the card as indicating a method to not try. Often, the challenges that manifest for us in the physical world are sourced from somewhere other than physical world energies; they can be rooted in spiritual issues, emotional traumas, or mental perceptions. If the Seeker’s emotions and feelings are out of whack, perhaps this moment being talked about in the reading is not the time to access those emotions and feelings. Too much of anything is not good, and there could be other ways to solve the problem that don’t involve Cups and Water. Perhaps there are physical world symptoms that can be dealt with that will in turn calm down the churning waters of emotions, or maybe a nice walk to clear the mind will allow whatever is clouding the waters to settle so clarity returns, or better yet, some strenuous exercise might raise enough energy heat to distill the waters and return purity to emotions and feelings. Or perhaps our Seeker is feeling too good about himself, and might be missing important details being presented by other non-Water effects because of this “feel-good” distraction. This reversal method could also be telling our Seeker that his Cups are upside down and empty, and the imbalance being presented is that he is not allowing enough emotion or self-satisfaction or connections to others into a situation, or maybe our Seeker is shutting out the input of his instincts. Not everyone is comfortable connecting to feelings, and some find visions and the Inner Voice to be disturbing and thus, to be repressed.
Of course, the question being addressed by the reading and the other cards (if any) thrown alongside our reversed Nine of Cups could also have an effect on or flavor our interpretations. But in any event, we would most likely be looking in our reading for hints of overindulgence or unrealized happiness or a detrimental emotional situation, or perhaps some indication that diversity of focus is required, or a distraction from temptations is needed, or a dose of grounding is applicable so hopes and visions become more realistic.
I have another tool in my toolbox that I use when a reversed card is proving to be particularly difficult to understand: I look for hints from upright cards that have similar interpretations to my reversed card. In this case, I would be thinking about upright cards that could present variations of our reversed Nine of Cups meanings. Perhaps the Two of Swords, which tells of a deliberate closure, would offer new understanding of our reversed Nine of Cups; or maybe the Eight of Swords, which shows us what happens when we allow circumstances to have the power to close us off, would offer appropriate possibilities to ponder. We can look at more neutral cards as well; the Eight of Pentacles tells of a focus on details in order to get a job done, and perhaps the Seeker needs to take care of his emotions as well as his responsibilities. Maybe the answer is more of the realm of the Major Arcana cards; we have The Devil and addiction, or The Emperor and a need for structure and authority; both can offer possible texture and flavor to our reversed Nine of Cups interpretations.
Perhaps we need look no further than the suit of Cups in order to add further depth to our reading; the Five of Cups tells of the sense of isolation that comes with an emotional setback or perceived error. Could this be a hint of what to look for in our reversed Nine of Cups? Or maybe our reversed Nine of Cups is offering us a literal message: reverse the linear path and go back to the Eight of Cups and its message of leaving behind the things that no longer serve us. That may be the obvious ingredient needed to turn that Nine of Cups back to an upright position!
Choosing an option or options to use in our interpretations involves the use of instincts as well as information. And it is at this point that we must draw into the equation the concept of ethics. Especially when we are dealing with non-tangible, experiential concepts such as emotions and feelings, we have a huge responsibility as a Tarot Reader to present our interpretations with caring and compassion, and without taking away the Seeker’s power of personal choice. I always tell the truth when offering Tarot readings and I attempt to offer multiple options to my Seekers; even the most seemingly-devastating card throw always has a positive viewpoint that can be honestly and truthfully presented. We are all connected, connected with every other human being and every other living entity; offering our Seeker tools that could impact his perception of himself brings responsibility on us. In the end, what we give to a Seeker comes back to us, so we must always filter our readings through love, particularly when dealing with the suit of Cups and our Seeker’s heart and soul.