Here it is, the very first Academic Tarot Spread reading! I did a three-card pull for Teaching/Librarianship, Service, and Scholarship.
Teaching / Librarianship | The Two of Wands
First Impressions | What strikes me most about this card is the figure’s calm contemplation. The figure is somewhere high-up, looking over village and forest, out over a large body of water. He stands between two wands, gazing not into but over a globe. Maybe he is wondering if he should stay where he is, comfy and with a great view, and be content to experience the wider world through a proxy. Or maybe he’s plotting his adventure and the globe is there to serve as a reference, to help him chart his course. I look at this card, and my inner playlist cues up The Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”
Established Meanings | Wen (2015) explains that the Two of Wands is “…associated with artistic or scientific success or professional success. It is about balance or gain in work or career…” (p.129). The Two of Wands “could also indicate big ambitions” (Wen, 2015, p.129). At the same time, the card reminds us of someone who had great ambitions and, yet, was not content with the kingdom he inherited: Alexander the Great (Louis, 2016; Pollack, 2019; Wen, 2015). This parallel serves as a subtle warning; the seeker who draws this card “wants to conquer on his or her own merits” (Wen, 2015, p.129), but this ambition comes at a price.
Ultimately, we must come to grips with the fact that once we walk a particular path, we must necessarily forsake all other paths we might have taken. Louis (2016) explains of the Seeker, “You may feel a sense of sadness as you contemplate a potential future course of action. The number two is related to partnerships, collaboration, and making important choices, which usually involve a sense of loss in giving up something to pursue another goal that you desire” (p. 166). It makes me think of Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” – it seems no matter where this figure goes, he’ll be telling this story with a sign, ages and ages hence, sorry he could not travel both and be one traveler.
There’s also always the possibility that what we accomplish won’t bring us lasting joy. Pollack (2019) views the Two of Wands as somewhat bored now that he’s won his battles. Instead of reveling in his victory, “his accomplishments have only served to wall him in” (Pollack, 2019, p.181).
As an interesting contrast, Cynova (2020) characterizes the Two of Wands not as sorrowful but instead stilled by the burden of the heavy deliberation demanded of any lofty undertaking. Unlike the Fool on the cliff, the Two of Wands on the tower is looking very carefully before he leaps (Cynova, 2020).
Thoughts on Teaching/Librarianship for May 2022 | Compared to the tenure, promotion, and annual reporting categories for the typical 10-month/academic-year professor at my institution, there’s a slight variation when it comes to the categories applied to the librarians, who are 12-month faculty. We don’t teach full courses, but we do teach single sessions within courses that prepare students for their specific research assignments (a.k.a. the one-shot information literacy session). When we’re not teaching, performing service, or engaging in scholarship, we concentrate on our general library duties (the provision of reference services) and our specialized areas. My specialty is Scholarly Communications.
When I think about this division between teaching and librarianship, Wen’s (2015) insight about achieving balance really hits home. So does Cynova’s (2020) observation about serious deliberation required to make an informed decision about which path to take. This doesn’t mean I get a choice between doing one or the other. I have to do both; it’s my job. But, I do have autonomy to decide where to focus my energy with regard to learning more about and challenging myself within these areas. Given that it’s annual report season, a time when we revisit, revise, or rescind the goals we’ve set in the previous year, I’d say this was a pretty apt card to pull. I’d also say that Pollack’s (2019) observation about the fleeting excitement of achieving goals is apt as well; annual report writing is a joyless task, turning each accomplishment in a box to be checked off.
Actions | In light of the above, here are my goals in May 2022 for Librarianship/Teaching:
- Calendar time in my Passion Planner [Affiliate Link] to map out and consider all the the possibilities this coming year for learning and goal-setting in both teaching and scholarly communications.
- Set aside a page in my Passion Planner [Affiliate Link] to celebrate what I have accomplished this year, what I want to accomplish in the coming year, and how I can work incrementally and stress-free towards accomplishing those goals.
Service | The Four of Swords
First Impressions | Despite all the blades, there’s a sense of serenity and restfulness that imbues this card. At first, the swords may seem menacing; I mean, they’re pointing directly down at the figure’s head, heart, and stomach, but what we think we see at first is really an illusion. The swords are not suspended above the figure, they’re affixed on the wall behind the sarcophagus. It makes me think of the old saying, “Hang up your boots” — which essentially means to retire. Then, there’s the picture in the stained glass. It’s not entirely clear what’s going on, other than that there is a figure who is standing and looking down at a figure who is kneeling. Having been raised Catholic, and knowing that Pamela Coleman Smith, the illustrator of the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, eventually converted to Catholicism, I would venture to guess that the figure kneeling represents either a supplicant or a penitent receiving absolution. If we don’t read the death of the figure as literal, then, I get the impression that the card is referencing a rest that has been well-earned.
Established Meanings | According to Wen (2015), with the Four of Swords, the battle’s been lost but the war isn’t over as long as the Seeker takes time to rest, recover, and regain their strength. Wen (2015) makes an interesting observation about the swords; the three that hang on the wall seem menacing, but the figure is sleeping on a hidden weapon – another sword – even if he isn’t aware of it. Cynova (2020) presents the relationship between the swords and the sleeping figure in a fable like-manner – the figure is entitled to a nap after ensuring his weapons are at the ready if and when he needs them. It feels very much like the figure would be the ant if the card were telling the story of the Grasshopper and the Ant.
Pollack (2019) identifies the image in the stained glass as Christ blessing a supplicant, and draws parallels between the legend of the Fisher King and Sleeping Beauty. In each tale, an outside force is required to awaken the focal character, illustrating that “withdrawal, even for the purpose of recovery, can shut a person off from the world, creating a kind of spell only outside energy can break” (Pollack, 2019, p. 226).
Thoughts on Service for May 2022 | A more apt card for Service, going into the summer break, I could not have pulled. As far as the lost battle goes, I can relate. I was begged to revive a committee I allowed to go dormant only to find that no one’s actually interested in working on the kinds of projects our committee is charged to undertake. Fun times. In general, service work seems to grind to a halt in May — mostly because a majority of the 10-month faculty are on summer break. Not the library, though. We’re here alllllll summer.
I am also the co-chair of a committee handling the local arrangements for a conference that will take place on our campus in early June, and I decided to take not one but two excursions right before the conference (I’m heading to Poetry by the Sea, then a quick trip to Wainscott, NY). Do I feel a little guilty? Yes, I do. But, at the same time, I know that these trips — especially after going back-full force after a year-long leave of absence from my PhD program — are essential for me to recharge.
Actions | In light of the above, here are my goals in May 2022 for service:
- Halt negative self-talk about what I should be doing in preparation for service in the fall. There’s always June, July, and August to start planning. It is okay to take a breather at the end of the semester in order to recharge and recover.
- Allow myself to delegate conference tasks to others while I am away so that I can be fully present and ready to go when I return.
Scholarship | The Page of Wands
First Impressions | I notice first that the figure, the Page, stands in desert against the clear, blue sky. It’s like he’s set against a blank canvas. But, all eyes are on the wand. He looks at it if he’s never seen such a thing. He doesn’t seem to know exactly what it is or how to use it, but he does seem to know it’s important; he seems determined to learn how it works.
Established Meanings | The Page of Wands is creative and enthusiastic, someone who is “warm, passionate, a high achiever” (Wen, 2015, p.145). She’s also someone “who is ambitious to expand her horizons through travel, education, or involvement in an exciting adventure” (Louis, 2016, p. 257). If the Page of Wands had her own jam, it would be the theme to Indiana Jones (Cynova, 2020). That said, the Page of Wands can also be a bit of a perfectionist who is “prone to react immaturely” (Wen, 2015, p. 146).
In addition to representing youthfulness (literally or figuratively), the Two of Wands can also indicate the start of new projects (Louis, 2016; Pollack, 2019) or messages coming the Seeker’s way (Louis, 2016; Pollack, 2019; Wen, 2015). Cynova (2020) also associates the Page of Wands with youth, but more so in terms of experience:
The Page of Wands is an apprentice. He’s just gotten his wand and doesn’t quite know what to do with it yet. He’s holding on with both hands, and if he’s knocked off course, he’s going to drop it and wander around in circles for a bit… There is an innocence and a fervor that makes this card very appealing. He’s playing for himself. He’s going to make mistakes, and he’s going to stop himself, and drop his wand, and start over again. But he’s moving… And it’s beautiful. (p. 230).
Pollack’s (2019) interpretation, as it pertains to adults, is similar: the Page of Wands indicates “a moment when a person experiences some aspect of life just for itself, free of external pressures” and “often symbolize beginnings, study, reflection, the qualities of a young student” (p, 169).
Finally, there’s lots of color and animal symbolism going on here. Orange represents creativity (Wen, 2015). The salamander represents “spirituality, opportunity, resourcefulness, great power, and resilience” (Wen, 2015, p. 145).
Thoughts on Scholarship for May 2022 | This is spot-on for scholarship. I am just wrapping up the course in which I am planning for my pre-dissertation pilot study, and let’s just say that right now, qualitative research is my wand. I am a novice at wielding it, but I am doing my best, and I am learning more each day. On the artistic side, the idea of enjoying something for its own sake it has become more of a theme as of late for me with poetry. I’ve been very productive, and have written a number of sonnets (and sonnet variations); I even penned a poem for the school newspaper. A lot of research has gone into the crafting of these works, so, in a sense, they are a kind of scholarship but not in the traditional sense. I’m not writing to enjoy the fruits of being writerly. I am writing because I enjoy the writing.
Actions | In light of the above, here are my goals in May 2022 for scholarship:
- Halt negative self-talk that becomes a barrier to enjoying things for the sake of enjoying things. Ensure that there is space in my Passion Planner [Affiliate Link] for school and things like writing poetry, crocheting, knitting, etc.
- Give myself permission to be a novice, to understand my limits, and to receive with gratitude feedback from those more knowledgeable.
Thanks for reading along! Did you do an academic tarot card reading for yourself? Share your thoughts and/or your academic readings in the comments!
Cynova, M. (2020). Kitchen table tarot: Pull up a chair, shuffle the cards, and let’s talk Tarot. Llewellyn Worldwide.
Louis, A. (2016). Llewllyn’s complete book of Tarot: A comprehensive guide. Llewellyn Worldwide.
Pollack, R. (2019). Seventy-eight degrees of wisdom: A Tarot journey to self-awareness. Weiser Books.
Wen, B. (2015). Holistic Tarot: An integrative approach to using tarot for personal growth. North Atlantic Books.