This post expands upon the illustrations in the accompanying PDF (link below; note also that the PDF will probably be much easier to read then the bitmap graphic). We’ll just briefly recapitulate the premises of this series of posts and the content of the PDF here for the benefit of the web indexers.
In the first post in this series, we introduced the idea that relationships between the divinatory meanings (as defined by Waite in the Pictorial Key to the Tarot) of the upright vs. reversed minor arcana in the RWS can be interpreted as a change of perspective.
In the thirty six cards corresponding to the decans, we find visual clues to understand reversals by looking at the characters’ points of view. Where there is more than one character, we look at their perspectives of each other. Where there is a single character, from the point of view of an outside observer.
There are no “tarot police,” (though I daresay I’ve come across a few who may wish to fill that role!) and everyone should read tarot the way they want. These analyses are meant to reconstruct as much as possible what went into the RWS deck. As we use intuition and knowledge to ferret something out that hopefully will help the querent, I find that where intuition fails, knowledge finds the right path, and where intuition succeeds, knowledge sharpens it.
In the four sixes, to provide examples, we see the following (Waite’s meanings in regular typeface, my notes in italics):
Six of Pentacles: upright: presents, gifts, gratification: this is the rich man’s perspective of himself as he gives charity. But reversed, from the beggars’ perspective, they see a rich man with a bag of coins: desire, cupidity, envy, jealousy, illusion.
Six of Wands: upright: the victor triumphing… great news… the King’s courier. It’s the courier’s point of view. Reversed: Apprehension, fear… this is the civilian population, seeing the foe entering the city.
Six of Swords: upright: journey by water, route… going by our previous analysis that the story is Charon’s ferry on the river Styx is the basis/intent for the illustration, this is the passengers’ perspective, the journey of life. Reversed: Declaration, confession… this is a perspective of the weighing and judgment of the soul at the end, once Charon has ferried you over that river.
Six of Cups: upright: the past… memories… things that have vanished. This is the goddess in fall looking back at spring. We noted in our one page guide analysis that the underlying story is the agricultural cycle. Reversed: The future, renewal… This is the goddess in spring, looking forward to the new harvest.
Though I rely on Waite’s writings, the tarot wheel, wikipedia, and my general cultural education to wrest the stories out, there are many other means to do so. I suspect that what I’m demonstrating in the one page guides, and now, these takes upon the reversals, is that there is no “pure” approach to understanding any given card. If you rely 100% on what has been written by the Golden Dawn, A.E. Waite, or anyone who came after them, you won’t ask the questions that lead to a proper understanding. If you take a 100% intuitive approach, you are likely to miss some of the enormous wisdom and energy that was injected into tarot in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, especially by Waite and Colman Smith.