As some lab members find care, tough love, and guidance in the practise of tarot reading, we thought it could be a fun experiment to try out a tarot session a Lab community. We wanted to use the icons, stories and guiding words as inspirations and ways of relating to our desires and thoughts about leaving 2021 behind and entering 2022.

In Mid-December 2021, the Lab gathered for a Tarot reading led by Co-Head of Lab Marissa Cohn. The spread was catered to match the prompt, providing us a card for: where we are coming from; where we are going; what is difficult for us; what makes sense; and our ultimate goal.

In the text below, Marisa is sharing some of her thoughts from the tarot reading for the lab. Read along if you also feel curios about how we related the reading and what will take up space in ETHOS in 2022. 


A tarot spread

The deck: New deck by illustrator Elizabeth Haidle. Tarot for all Ages.


1. Where we are coming from: The 7 of wands.

The 7 represents a moment of maturation that comes from sifting and sorting, in this case related to the way we work with the lab’s energies. The figure of the swan is building a nest out of tender green reeds, being selective of which to choose, while maybe wary of others. This speaks to our desire to work with a metaphor of nesting in how we care for those in our community through the collective work of sharing support and ideas with each other. And also to our muddling through methods metaphor, which focuses not on mastery but on sifting and sorting and leaving behind as well as carrying forward. The snake might represent the still unconscious ways we seek comfort in the methods we know, avoiding epistemological troubles we would rather leave behind, that none the less shape our understanding of our selves and our own approaches. We only know what works by dealing with the dragons, monsters, mistakes, we have encountered in the past. 


2. Where we are going: Steward of cups.

The steward is one who is charged with a mission not quite of their own making, out of a sense of duty to others, in this case a duty to carry forward the emotional well-being of those in their charge. The cups represents emotional life and well being. The message to the lab could be that it is not yet done stewarding an attention to emotional labor as a feminist practice of building solidarity in the vulnerabilities, risks, and precarity of our academic work. Our work creating a space that can be a refuge is not yet done. 


3. What is difficult for us: Emperor.

The emperor represents a strength that comes from a sense of responsibility over a known domain. It takes power to protect and oversee a domain like a lab. It takes an awareness of power relations to understand how commitments intersect with the ability to act and make change. Where the lab maybe could grow is in knowing not only our vulnerabilities but our strengths. And to not let a feminist stance get in the way of seeing our roles in institutional hierarchies as well. We might find difficult knowing how to spend our energies if we keep hidden from ourselves the ways the lab creates and maintains power as it cultivates solidarity and a space for shared vulnerability within the institution. 


4. What makes sense: Steward of swords.

It appears the lab is comfortable most when acting in response to our surroundings. We have learned through the years how to react creatively to the problems that arise in the current university, the shifting requests, strategies, policies, restrictions. It has come to make a lot of sense to wait and respond, to be opportunistic, creative, experimental, with what comes our way. We take on our own troubles and stay with them, often turning them into counter-spells or into empirical curiosity. We are overworked, well let’s think about cultures of overwork and how we come to know them. Here in the card there are two windows our steward leaps over, one with a plant – the cultivating work of making sure life can grow here – and the wolf – the trickster who keeps us mulling over that which does not quite fit or work.


5. Our ultimate goal: 2 of wands.

Returning to the wands and the sorting and sifting, this reading suggests that what we need most now is not to stay only with questioning and mulling, always focusing on the complexities and nuances of every choice, but to find a more fundamental way of making sense of the lab’s actitivities. One way to do this is through the simple question of what is mature, already blooming, in the lab, and what is still tender, new, and needing of pruning and care? Perhaps noting what has already matured over the lab’s years as a community can help us to celebrate and also grasp our power, whereas what is still growing is where we can place our finite creative energies.