How A. E. Waite Saw Reversed Cards – and How to Use Them!

In this brief snippet of unused notes for our Secrets of the Waite-Smith Tarot book (pub. Llewellyn, April 2015) we tried to summarise “what Waite wrote” about the Minor cards when they are reversed. We turned Waite’s words into short verses, to cut down on his usually rambling descriptions, and then used them to answer very practical questions!

We also reveal which is the only card that Waite did not write a reversal for in his Key to the Tarot – can you guess?!


Should you invest, or save? Is a practical project financially sound? What did A. E. Waite say of the Pentacles? Here is our verse on his words for the Pentacles – REVERSED:

The Ten brings theft, the Nine deceives, and Eight is the failure of ambition.

The Seven warns against lending.

Six is envious of all you possess, Five is ruin, discord and distress.

The Four merely brings delay, the Three mediocrity.

The Two is false faced, and the Ace good money after bad.

If you use reversals, or want to practice with them – and have a practical situation in question – just take the Ace to Ten of Pentacles, shuffle, turn, reverse some and then again, and pull one card for the situation. If upright, read as usual, if reversed, consult our notes above – how does that work for you?

Now let’s look at what Waite said about the Cups, reversed:


The Ten is where the false heart lies, the Nine an imperfect truth sits well.

The Eight is the coming of joy, Seven the desire that will succeed.

Six is the future on its way, Five furthers news from the past.

The Four is something new in relationship,

The Three brings its end, or too much too soon.

The Two is an unholy alliance, and the Ace is the false Heart in plain.

The interesting tid-bit that you may not know is that the Two of Cups is the ONLY card for which Waite did not write a reversed meaning in “Key to the Tarot” or “Pictorial Key”. That’s something for your Tarot House Trivia Quiz!

He did write “passion” for its reversed meaning in an additional section “Additional Meanings of the Minors” but missed it in the larger write-ups for each card. We suspect he was too busy writing about “that desire which is not in Nature, but by which Nature is sanctified” for the Two of Cups and got so carried away he forgot to write about a reversal.

To use the Cups Minors only in a one-card relationship draw, and to practice with your reversals, smoosh the ten cards together face-down so they get mixed up, upright and reversed, consider a relationship, and then draw one card. If it is upright, read as normal, if reversed, consider our verses from Waite’s meanings. This works best with Waite-Smith or similar decks, we would imagine!


What about the plans and ambitions of the Wands when they get reversed? Here’s what Waite said:

The Ten shows forces contrary to your own, the Nine is merely obstacles.

Eight brings jealousy of all you do, and Seven brings insecurity;

Six alerts you to enemies at the gate, Five warns of outright dispute.

The Four at least is felicity and prosperity whichever way it is turned,

Three brings an close to all troubles and opens the way.

Close to the end the Two holds possibility of wonder and surprise,

But the Ace reversed in clouded joy uproots all that you aspired.

To use these Wands reversals to answer questions about work, ambition, plans and projects, or to practice reversals, take the ten Wand cards, smoosh them about face-down to ensure some get reversed, then take one card whilst considering your project. If the card is upright, read as regularly, if reversed, consider our verses and see if that informs you.

Finally, the Swords; these are all about thoughts, arguments, clarity and education; who is right/who is wrong; agreeing to disagree. So, if you have a situation, argument, conflict, discussion or project where you are trying to decide whether to fight or let go, smoosh the Ten Sword cards together, get some reversed, and then turn one up.


The Ten is to your advantage, but temporary at best,

The Nine counsels reasonable doubt,

The Eight disquiet and difficulty – watch for treachery.

The Seven is good advice so heed it, lest it be about others

And the Six says to tell it out loud, but the Five is your funeral.

With the Four we have caution and choosing your way with words,

But the Three is confusion and loss,

The Two, duplicity is clear to see, and Ace is power used badly.

We’d be delighted to hear how this works for you! The ground-breaking book, Secrets of the Waite-Smith Tarot by Marcus Katz & Tali Goodwin features many new discoveries about the deck and new photographs, including of Pamela Colman Smith!

Secrets Waite Smith Tarot