Reversal As “Reconciliation”
AUTHOR’S NOTE: I’m only one-third of the way through The Grand Etteilla and I have enough useful ideas for at least another half-dozen brief essays. Here is one that originated from the interpretation of the reversed 3 of Clubs (Wands) as “Reconciliation.” (By the way, I learned a new word for reversal: “posterity,” which in this context seems to mean “to the rear” or “looking back on something;” the example given was “several persons missed may resurface.”)
Reconciliation: The reunion of estranged elements (ex-lovers, warring ideologies, errant book-keeping entries, prodigal sons, etc)
The premise behind this definition is that something went away (or was sent away) and is now returning, “for good or ill” in the Golden Dawn’s prescient phrase. The assumption is usually of an agreeable reunion rather than a threatening one, but you never know in advance. In the Waite-Smith universe, the 3 of Wands reversed could mean “The ships are returning but their cargo is as yet unknown.” Whether they are bringing a load of bananas or a tropical plague remains to be seen. Expanding this to any reversed card, we might predict that what was thought to be irretrievably lost or that was intentionally exiled is on track to return “in spades, ready or not.”
Another interesting example is the RWS 3 of Swords reversed. I’ve always thought of the heart in the image as a red herring; the card signifies mental anguish rather than emotional heartbreak. If it represents sorrow when upright, it is more the “sorrow of attachment” of Buddhism; it looks like the three swords are “pinning the mind” to an uncomfortable truth. When reversed, it could be viewed as the heart being “staked to the ground,” the sword hilts buried, making the blades doubly hard to extract. However, this condition could also reintroduce the mind to the root of its torment, thus becoming an illuminating experience.
I’ve presented numerous suppositions about the nature of reversal in my previous posts on the subject, but I’m always looking for new angles to explore. This strikes me as one of the more unusual and intriguing ways to handle it. Not long ago I had Death reversed in a reading and, in keeping with the general thrust of the spread that extensive “inner work” was necessary, I interpreted it as showing that the seeker had to reconcile his goals with the need to embrace a looming, life-changing career move, the contemplation of which he had resolutely put off and pushed into the background. He came for the reading because he was unsure whether he was on the right course and, if so, how to navigate it; the many reversed cards in the layout gave him the answer — he had to get back in touch with his eroded self-confidence, the result of being let go from his previous lucrative position. It looked like soul-searching time.
I would venture to say that not all such interpretations are of the “It’s coming back to haunt you!” kind. Taking a page from the horary astrology canon, the 3 of Wands reversed (also defined by Etteilla’s chroniclers as “receiving unexpected riches”) could be saying that “the valuable ring you lost will be returned to you.” Reversal has been so thoroughly maligned as difficult that it’s nice to have a more even-handed approach that doesn’t automatically assume the worst. When you think about it, why can’t a “redirection” in fortunes be for the better even when a typically encouraging card appears reversed? I tend to see it as an expression of the same energy, just delivered in a more roundabout way. In that sense I might quote James Wanless: “There are no bad cards, only opportunities,” although being blindsided by circumstances might put a big dent in one’s composure. But as the armless-and-legless Black Knight sniffed in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, “Tis but a flesh wound!” All he needed was a talented surgeon to reunite him with his severed limbs. Perhaps the 3 of Swords reversed? (Although in real-life terms that may just mean “Vicious rumors will come back to bite the person who spread them.”)
Originally published at http://parsifalswheeldivination.wordpress.com on September 26, 2022.