A Note from Li Sumpter

The once and future stories of the Fairhill-Hartranft neighborhood in Philadelphia directly inspire the Village Oracle. It reflects the living myth that shapes and is informed by this community’s everyday reality. The Village of Arts and Humanities is located in the heart of Fairhill-Hartranft, the longtime creative home of legendary Philly artists Arthur Hall, Lily Yeh, and many others.

The Village Oracle is the visionary outcome of months of research and community engagement with Village staff and artists, local and national experts, and Fairhill-Hartranft residents. This deck and supporting guidebook serve as creative documentation for the insights and anecdotes, hopes and fears, dreams and visions shared by research participants invited to collectively envision the speculative possibilities for The Futures Gallery, Philly, and the planet. Though inspired by Tarot traditions and oracle decks from around the world, the Village Oracle is not a Tarot deck and was not created with the intention of being used for spiritual readings or religious divination. We designed this deck to explore the collective imagination of one Philly community while investigating the common archetypal forces at work in the local and global stories we choose to remember and the ones we choose to create.

The Futures Gallery research revealed recurring themes and fundamental ideas shared by many. From this “thematic universe,” a cluster of archetypes and symbols emerged to form a constellation of narratives and a defining cast of characters that reflects The Village’s past, present, and future. The resulting Archetypes and Symbols are The Guardian, The Elder, The Youth, The Artist, The Healer, The Scribe, The Capitalist, The Vandal, The Rebel, The Peacemaker, The Afronaut, The Trailblazer, and The Designer (archetypes); and Spiral of Life, Intergenerational, Black Joy, Love and Grit, Philly Soul, Technology, Communication, Ritual, Sanctuary, The Garden, and Time (symbols).

These stories are born from and belong to The Village community. But as all living myths have the power to do, we hope this deck’s timely and timeless archetypes and symbols will inspire you to explore the light and shadow of your own neighborhood’s past, present, and future. We invite you to use this deck to unearth and amplify the living myths and speculative stories of your community’s journey through time and space.

We have assigned a series of prompts to each archetype and symbol that aligns with their respective light and shadow patterns and social pathologies. Use these prompts to spark discussion around similar community-generated themes and the larger local and global issues, systems and technologies, people, and places your community is connected to. As you answer questions associated with each card, ask questions of the cards in return and see what turns up. Observe what archetypes and symbols resonate the most for you and your community. Create your own oracle cards (archetype and symbols) and become a part of the future myth of your own design.
-Li Sumpter, Lead Researcher, Curator, and Writer