Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Golliwogg Oracle is Out!

Based on a series of Victorian-era children's books by Florence K. Upton, and more specifically upon a child's card game derived from the books, The Golliwogg Oracle is an all-new "vintage" Oracle deck starring the beloved and classic Mister Golliwogg and his friends the Dutch Dolls. 

This Oracle deck is not based on the Tarot or Lenormand systems of divination, but is a casual and light-hearted system of its own. The deck consists of 70 cards, and in the spirit of child's play there are no specific "rules and regulations" to follow when laying them out for a reading. Vintage children's toys reveal the Great Mysteries of Life: This is truly a unique deck.

Though the aspect of more generic "goliwogg" dolls and drawings -- derived as they are from the appearance of Minstrel Show actors -- have become more controversial and racially charged since their original appearance, this specific character created and popularized by the British artist Florence K. Upton was never presented as anything other than an heroic type: daring, curious, caring and good-natured. Upton's Mister Golliwogg is the only one that matters to us, and the only one that this deck is based upon. Upton's Golliwogg has been unjustly tarnished by association with more negative depictions. 

Beyond that, we believe that the past cannot be changed and should not be ignored in order to suit the needs of the present. In fact, we believe that the past is there to motivate us to make a better future -- which is exactly the purpose of any good oracle deck.

For more images from the deck, plus details about its creation and about its companion deck (a faithful reproduction of the original card game), please visit The Golliwogg Oracle mini-site. For a direct link to the deck's ordering page at The Game Crafter, please click here. 

The deck retails for $34.99.

* * *

Among my mother's vast collection of Toys, Disneyana, vintage Folk Art, Primitives and Anything Else that Pleased her (which was quite a lot of things indeed) was a sizable amount of material that depicted African Americans. And I must say, depicted them in the derogatory, stereotypical manner in which African Americans were typically depicted until really quite recently. Some of the items in her collection were truly horrible in implication: but all had in common a strong and wonderful graphic quality, which is what attracted my mother to them as an artist. My mother was not a bigot in any sense: she looked at things through an artist's eyes, and an historian's eyes; which is how she came to possess such artifacts as a ball-toss toy, beautifully lithographed and cut out of wood, depicting the deeply racially stereotyped face of an African American man, The children playing the game were meant to knock out his teeth with the balls.

It's how she came to possess an equally beautifully lithographed and designed set of jigsaw puzzles, in the original wooden box with a lithographed paper label. The puzzles were all of distorted and cartoonified African-Americans acting out scenes that were deeply stereotypical. That was bad enough. But the name that these jigsaw puzzles were marketed under, the name on the box, was "Chopped-Up Niggers."

It's outrageous, and the outrageousness of it was part of the attraction to my mother. She was also a dealer of antiques and traveled all around the northeast US. selling bits of her collection, including her Black Memorabilia.

And here's the interesting thing. The only people who ever expressed outrage, who ever suggested to my mother that she might be a bigot for having or selling these things, the only people who took offense, were all, without exception, White People. 

Black people on the other hand, were drawn to it. They understood that this was history -- their history. They understood that these things were beautiful in their ugliness. They understood that the thing to do when presented with evil is not to sweep it under the rug, or to shoot the messenger so to speak, but to embrace it, to own it. No one who tries to ignore the past is doing anyone a favor. 

The Golliwogg Oracle is based on an historic deck, a child's card game, one of the items from my mother's once-vast collection, and one of the few items of hers that I managed to hang onto. In that sense, it is as personally significant and important to me as my own Tarot of the Zircus Magi. I advise anyone offended by this deck to Just Get Over It.

-- Freder.

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