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Understanding "Blocked" or Sideways Tarot Cards

Bema is an avid dreamtime traveler and teacher who loves sharing her experiences and adventures for others to benefit from.

Understand what it means when a tarot card is "blocked" and learn how to interpret this type of card position.

Understand what it means when a tarot card is "blocked" and learn how to interpret this type of card position.

What Does It Mean When a Tarot Card Falls Out Sideways?

First and foremost, know that most tarot readers consider any card which presents itself on its side to be a "blocked" card.

When the card is in its "normal" view, it's upright, and when it is upside down, it's considered "reversed."

What's the Difference Between "Blocked" and "Reversed"?

These labels are simple and really only suggest that the energy coming from the card holds slightly different meanings in each position:

  • Upright is generally considered to be the most positive meaning.
  • Reversed is considered to be the negative or opposite meaning.
  • Blocked often means that the energy that the card is talking about is either not available to the querent or impeding the querent from their desires (hence the term "blocked").

To give you an example, let's talk for a moment about the Tower card from the Major Arcana.

The Tower card in the Rider-Waite deck.

The Tower card in the Rider-Waite deck.

The Tower Card Meaning

The Tower sits between the Devil and the Star in position number 16 of the Major Arcana. As we finally gain an understanding that the Devil is simply a deeper side of ourselves and nothing to fear, we are truly put to the test with the Tower card, the card of absolute change—a scary thing for most people regardless of how large the change might be.

The Tower has a very specific purpose, for the change it creates becomes the catalyst that will bring out the Star card, one of true balance—though the only way you'll ever achieve that balance is to jump. When the upright Tower card comes up in any reading, that is its main message: "Leap and the net will appear..."

It's truly a card of faith that asks us to trust when it says that change is coming, and it will be no good to hold onto the past, which is metaphorically represented by the Tower in the image itself. It's up in flames and surrounded by a troubled ocean. There's no food or clean water anywhere to be found, and the only light comes from the lightning which spontaneously struck the tower and started the fire.

Now that all of this has been said, remember: This is true of the Tower card in its upright position.

The Tower Reversed

Once reversed, the card takes on a whole new meaning that plays upon the same themes as the upright position. In its reversed format, the Tower card is still all about change—though instead of the message being "Jump," it's more like "Hold on like your life depends on it!"

In its upright position, the card is rather soothing, suggesting that although a change is coming that you cannot stop, it means good things for you and those around you. The Tower in reverse suggests that it's going to feel like there are great changes taking place, and maybe even as though there is a bunch of chaos in the air—but really, there is not, and this is simply a time when you want to wait it out.

The Tower Card Blocked

Now when it comes to cards that are "blocked," there are two ways the card might lie—to the left or to the right.

There are many different ways to interpret this. The most common is simply that all side cards hold the same meaning—though many readers, myself included, study every tiny detail about the ways in which cards communicate to them, and that means that the way the card appears to us is extremely important. Even minor details count for the thorough reader.

It's not much more complicated, though, as the cards want nothing more than for us to be able to easily communicate with the universe, and that wouldn't be possible if the cards were so hard to interpret.

Two Ways of Interpreting Blocked Cards

  • Blocked to the Left: When a card is laying on its left side, that suggests that the querent or subject of the reading is experiencing blocked energy that is leaning towards a reversed position.
  • Blocked to the Right: When a card is laying on its right side, that suggests that the querent or subject of the reading is experiencing blocked energy that is leaning towards an upright position.

Hopefully from those summarized explanations, you can see why it would make a difference. If the querent's card is heading towards a reversed meaning, often times that means the reader can help by letting them know what ways they might bring that card into an upright position instead.

An Example Reading

As an example, the other day I was doing a reading for myself about a certain job I'm working on with a team of others, and the Tower card appeared to me as an answer about what would be best for me to do.

The card appeared to be blocked to the left, which presented an interesting image. With the Tower on that side, the woman falls blindly off of the tower instead of jumping and the man, who did jump off the other side, ends up landing on the side of the burning tower, likely injured by the look of his impact.

The meaning of the card in this position is much the same. Because it's to the left, the energy is impeded but still heading into a card of reversed position, which tells me that while I need to hold on while the chaos erupts, it's not likely to be pretty whether I do that or jump off.

Had the card been to the right, it might have told me instead that there was a chance to maintain a grip on reality while everything went topsy-turvy, as the woman lands on the side of the tower in a different way than her counterpart would. She lands on her hands and knees, able to see and hold on as the Tower comes upright again, slowly letting her enter the water as the time nears.

Remember: You Decide What the Cards Are Telling You

As with all tarot subjects, the position of the card is subjective and based on the experience and comfort level of the reader themselves.

Some might ignore blocked cards and turn them either fully upright or reversed, while others very much appreciate another way to clearly interpret the cards messages.

It's up to you in the end, the reader and interpreter, to decide what the cards are telling you. It's my hope that some of the knowledge I've left here might help you in that quest, and I'm sure that it will—so long as you remember that like the future, the meaning is never cemented in stone.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.