Musings on Tarot Decks — Dark Days Tarot

Musings on Tarot Decks—- Dark Days – Tarot –
I’ve never been a fan of black and white tarot decks, I’ll admit this right up front. Maybe because I’m a painter, color always plays a big part in my appreciation of the Tarot cards I’m working with. So, when my good friend Terry gifted me with this deck, I was surprised that I liked it. Here was an unusual deck I didn’t have. But black and white?  It goes to show you we can’t always judge by first appearances.
The Dark Days Tarot deck was created by by Wren McMurdo and Emily Mundy.

Wren McMurdo

(I love her tattoos!)

McMurdo says these square black-and-white tarot cards were inspired by the light and shadow of the moon, especially the dark days of the lunar cycle. 78 Tarot cards housed in a cute square box with a thick, square 180 page flip guidebook.

The deck I have is the first edition of this deck, originally released as a Kickstarter campaign in 2016. The newest releases have gilded edges and a glossy finish. The finish of my deck is flat, with no gilded edges.
One of my favorite things about this deck is the box. 

          I feel superficial saying this, but it is truly a great box. It feels good. It’s square, the bottom of the box is white with black illustrations of the Suits (half full wine glasses are Cups,Wands are flowering branches) all around the perimeter.The top is the reverse but illustrated with the moon and clouds instead. On the inside of the white bottom box are eleven (I counted) tiny birds. On the inside bottom of the dark box lid is a miniature moon. These are the details that make this deck special. The bottom of the box even has a ribbon that lifts the cards out of their cradle, an addition I always appreciate.

The Dark Days Tarot is an all black & white deck (with some gray). The Major Arcana cards all have a white background, while the Minor Arcana cards all have black backgrounds.The deck was originally released as a Kickstarter campaign back in late 2016 and the first decks started shipping out in early 2017. I am reviewing the 1st edition, the newest releases have gilded edges and a glossier finish to the cards.
There is a blog: blog is a simple website, but it does include a few tricks. One is an interesting quiz to do to determine our ‘Psychic Element”.

          You will also find a clever page where you can play with the cards virtually, move them around, and click on one for a description.

The ways in which the printing of this deck was carbon neutral is placed at the foot of the website.
What I like: I really like the way the cards were organized for packaging. It may seem like a small thing, but most Tarot decks are organized in the traditional order starting with The Major Arcana first. Then the Suits, one Suit at a time, in numerical order and from Ace to King.
The Dark Days Tarot breaks that tradition by beginning with -0-Fool, then all the Aces, then The -l-Magician, then all the Two’s, then the -ll- Priestess, etc. I love this, because It’s almost exactly how I teach my beginning Tarot workshops.

I think learning the number of each card in the Minor Arcana first makes reading the Tarot easier, so of course I’m impressed that the creators encourage the reader to address this as soon as the cellophane is removed. Easy information about each number is even in the guidebook:

  I really like the Eight of Pentacles.

It’s an image of a woman at a sewing machine creating pentagram after pentagram. This is such a great metaphor for the work it takes to get good at something.
I really like the Knight of Swords, too:

Many decks wrestle with the knight’s images—male or female? This card eliminates identification completely and the horses are obviously racing (or flying). It works.
Also, the cards are square. From the back you can’t tell which end is up at all, and they are meant to be read from all four directions. You can see the card pointing in a direction as a clue about the topic in question. Or, much like reading reversals in standard decks, each direction can mean you have to see this card or situation from a slightly different angle. It’s clever.
What I don’t like: The print is VERY small, stylized cursive. Even wearing reading glasses, the names of the Suit cards against their black background are almost impossible to read in anything but bright light. I like to play with spreads at night so unless I have all these cards memorized, this is problematic.

Also, this deck is very feminized, very ‘girlie’. No male images at all. This feels too much like a gimmick, or an affectation. Some women may live in or prefer a man-free world but I don’t, so that type of deck doesn’t work for me at all because it isn’t reflective of my life.
I think The Fool is disappointing.

It feels like it belongs in a comic book, especially the image of the baby.

The Layout: Here is the layout included in the Dark Days guidebook.

Basic, simple.
These ‘layouts’ live in the front of the guidebook along with some really good basic lessons in beginning Tarot, but I don’t see this deck as a beginning Tarot readers deck at all. It’s an interesting dichotomy.

So, there you are. An interesting novelty deck, but not one I’d use regularly.

How to Die Better

Last week I got an interesting request from a friend in Los Angeles. He’s a member of the Forbes Communication Council, and he was looking forward to participating in a conference called ‘How to Die Better—what happens when an experience architect decides to fix funerals’.

His request of me was apparently part of his homework:

“Hi Deborah, I’m participating in a virtual ‘Design Experience’ campfire discussion. I am to ask two people:

1. What would your funeral look like?

2. When people think of you after you’re gone, what do you want them to think?

Do you mind responding? I think you will have interesting perspectives.”

Well. I have been thinking a lot about death lately—who hasn’t? We are living in the epicenter of a worldwide pandemic, and people around me are still dying of other things as well.

I just lost an acquaintance to a rare and insidiously speedy form of cancer. She was too young to go, and it caught us all off guard. She was forced into the unthinkable position of having to plan the details of her own death. The words her partner wrote after her passing spoke of her loving and giving nature, how she was moved to help anyone in need, and how he never knew a kinder, more compassionate person. It was poignant, moving, and perfect.

Never once did he mention her worldly accomplishments, how many clients she worked with, how many hours a week she devoted to her job. That stuff seems so unimportant and trivial now, and those of us who knew her don’t even know or care about that part of her life. She was a beautiful soul and a joy to be around, that’s how she she will be remembered.

So of course this made me put a lot of thought into my friend’s question—how would I like my own passing to be handled? Just how would I like to be buried? And of course, the bigger, more important question—how do I want to be remembered after I’m gone?

The first question is easy for me to answer. My beautiful songstress friend Chrystabell and her mother Sunny inherited a graveyard in San Antonio and they’re embracing and promoting ‘Natural burials’. The body is shrouded in linen and placed directly in the ground–no embalming. I also want a tree planted directly over my grave, and a little stone bench placed under where branches will eventually shade it. Weird? Probably, but it’s what I want and it seems pretty simple.

Answering that other question is a bit more complicated—how do I wish to be remembered?

I don’t want my life to be remembered in terms of accomplishments, read like a resume in a strange, cold building by some person who didn’t even know me. I would rather be remembered for how I made people feel, and hopefully that feeling will be love. I’d like be remembered as someone who made things prettier, who put love into whatever I tried to do. And I’d like to be remembered as someone who really loved people, all kinds of people. I’d like to believe I made the people I came in contact with feel good and appreciated, valued—at least by me. I’d like to be remembered as someone who truly loved.

In a world like ours, where loving one another is at a premium, I think that must be the one truly important accomplishment.

Science = Magic?

“Magic is just science we don’t understand yet.” Arthur C Clark

Science seems to be in an uproar these days, with so many people refusing to believe basic science (like the Earth is round) and others fighting tooth and nail to hold on to straight science as we know it today, as if science isn’t a fluid thing.

Science isn’t perfect. Facts are tested and retested, and conclusions are reconsidered—this is the nature of science. So when I recently posted ‘Magic is simply science without an explanation yet’ on one social media platform, you would have thought I said the Earth was flat from the number of attacks this statement received.

Historically, conjuring tricks used scientific phenomena like magnetism and chemical reactions to wow uneducated crowds, and called it magic. Once those things became common knowledge, we no longer viewed them as magic because we learned the science behind them.

If you were suddenly plopped into Europe with an operational cell phone during the dark ages, the mob would have shaved your head and burned you at the stake as a witch.

Electricity and telephones are commonplace now, yet when they were first introduced a great majority of people were scared of them, called them evil, and refused to have anything to do with them. Most of those people, however, were older.

The younger crowd have always been early adopters of all the newest tech and still are. They accept what seems magical to the older generation and incorporate it into their world.

Science literally changes daily, as do scientific facts. When see we things that seem to us to appear to be ‘magic’ and call people who are exploring and researching those things names, believing they are duped, easily fooled or stupid, we are actually behaving in an ignorant way ourselves.

In science, facts change. All the time. Some ‘facts’ that have been tested using the methods we current have available will be disproven when we can test differently. It’s the way science works.

Just because we think something shouldn’t be true, doesn’t mean it isn’t. We have just too many instances of un-(scientifically) explained phenomena for us to continue to dig our heels in and refuse to accept them.

Einstein once famously wrote “There are two ways to go through life… Like nothing is magical, or like there is magic in everything.”

I prefer to believe that everything is magic. Some things just don’t have a scientific explanation . . . yet.

Grandmother Energy

I recently read an article written by an elderly woman, telling her story of becoming old. She talked about feeling invisible, about having no voice in society anymore, about feeling forgotten. This led me to wonder how we got to this point—where we are dismissive to those among us who have accumulated the most human experiences. When did we lose our appreciation for Grandmother Energy?

Our society often dismisses Grandmother Energy in favor of worshiping youth, and it is the worse for it. In many other societies the wisest among the group, the ones revered and consulted on all important issues, were/are the grandmothers. Grandmothers have seen the beginnings of things, then middles, then the endings of things, and they know how that cycle often plays out.

Grandmother Energy is powerful. It is ancient. It represents generations of women, feeding, nurturing, teaching, bringing new souls along with their wisdom. They are fonts of intelligence born of personal experience, observations over very, very long periods of time, and also lifetimes of watchng people. They understand human nature, sometimes too well, and their days of tolerating fools and foolish behavior are usually far behind them.

They are the possessors of an instinctual knowledge passed down from generations and generations and generations of grandmothers. They see things. They know things. They are very aware of their past mistakes and are reminded of them, especially when they see those around them making those same mistakes. They know when to speak up and when to hold their tongues. They speak their minds, but they can be depended upon to step in and help, and nurture, when they are needed.

So why am I talking about grandmothers? We women are inundated with ads for ‘age defying’ creams and made to feel guilty for aging, as if it’s a bad thing instead of the glorious gift to our communities we are becoming. Society at large throws shiny, sparkly, impossible-to-achieve goals at women. It’s almost as if our culture does everything possible to keep women busy with trivia, and it distracts us from the really important business of coming into our power.

Our job as we age is to help inspire, advise, and lead our communities to become stronger. Let us resist the distractions and take on the challenge of becoming wise women.

Let us embrace Grandmother Energy.

Our worlds are better for it.

Musings on Tarot Decks: The Deviant Moon Tarot

The Deviant Moon Tarot

I’ve had the Deviant Moon Tarot Card deck, illustrated by artist and teacher Patrick Valenza, since it was first published by U.S. Games systems in 2015. I was captivated by the decks use of haunting and surreal imagery and uniquely alternative interpretations of the traditional Rider/Waite tarot system, and I ordered it from my local bookstore. I was really excited and fully intent on using it.

But, I didn’t.

Maybe it was the intense, stylized moon-faced characters, or the backgrounds of distant smoke stacks, tombstones, insane asylums, graveyards and abandoned buildings. Whatever it was, I just couldn’t get comfortable using these cards. They felt dark to me. I put them on a shelf and never took them out again until this year.

Meanwhile, the cards developed a life of their own without me. The Deviant Moon Tarot is considered in the ‘TopTen Tarot decks of all time by Aeclectic Tarot. It has been considered a masterpiece since the first day it was released, and is always on any list of ‘The Most Beautiful/Popular Tarot decks of all time’, and considered an essential deck in any collection now. The 22 Trumps all retain their traditional Rider-Waite names, but Justice and Strength are in their original position in the deck: Justice is Trump VIII and Strength is Trump XI. Both the Major and Minor Arcana cards are reinterpretations of classic tarot images and ideas but with a unique surrealistic midnight-in-the-graveyard style. The first original printing was done in Poland, and the cards were printed on quality card stock without borders.

When U.S. Games Systems picked it up they moved the printing to China. You can still buy a deck of borderless Deviant Moon cards:

Or the premier version, which come with white borders around the edges. This is the deck I have:

It comes in a larger outer 6”x9” box but the size of the cards and the little enclosed book are the same.

Each Minor Arcana suit has its own border color: Pentacles is black, Cups is blue, Wands is green, and Swords is red.

    The Pentacles suit has a different Coins version. The author created twenty-two unique Coins to put in his cards in the style of the ancient Greeks that he called “deviant ancestors”. 

Notice the black borders, and each coin is actually different.

The card backs are a design combining the different phases of the moon:

      But the book! Also named “Deviant Moon Tarot”, it is truly a masterpiece.

As Valenza tells us on his website, the characters residing in the deck and the book came to him in his dream and his imagination from childhood onward. In his book he tells us the characters’ stories and how they evolved. The book accompanying the deck is simplistic and tiny, like in most decks. This book, though, available through separate purchase, sets a standard for other deck creators. It’s very large and printed on really heavy cardboard (4 lbs). 

The Deviant Moon Tarot’s book is formatted so that the card image appears (beautifully printed) alone on the left page and on the right page Valenza describes each card in detail, explaining the symbolism, how he chose it, it’s progression, and what each card means to him.

Then, there’s the website

This is displayed on the home page:

“Welcome to the AsYLuM!Deviant Moon Inc. (A.K.A. Fenwood Asylum) was founded in 2015 by Patrick Valenza. Browse the Asylum for strange tarot decks, original artwork, and other oddities. Please be advised that the management is not responsible for injuries incurred while window shopping.”
The plethora of unique tarot and Deviant Moon merch offered on the Deviant Moon inc. website boggles the mind.

He has a special ‘‘Witches Bundle’

Deviant Moon Tarot decks wrapped in custom pen and ink paper:

T-shirts, antique tarot decks, original artworks, and something called original uncut sheets:

”Deviant Moon Tarot-UNCUT SHEET (Signed)$95.00 VERY RARE ITEM! Hard to acquire!(Borderless)Direct from the printers! Measures a whopping 29 x 43 Inches!Signed by Valenza in Silver, Shipped in super strong tube.”

Even ‘Graveyard Dirt’ (sold out last time I checked):

I do think if you sell a ‘Premier Deck’, in my humble opinion, you should probably add the cool book you made instead of the tiny standard booklet, but I forgive Patrick because he did include one of my favorite pieces of tarot merch ever—a custom ‘Lunatic Card Spread’ fold-out insert created to facilitate laying out The Lunatic Spread.
Yes, it’s really called that.

This is such a cool thing. It’s huge once it is unfolded. And, the readings seem to be spot on. Perhaps the tactile nature of the foldout chart combine with the intense visuals of the cards increase our perception.

Example: I just retired from one career and trying to decide which direction to take my next cycle . I’m a painter and a writer and a tarot reader/teacher, but also my husband and I just released a new album.

Card 1. The Enquirer (a better word than ‘The Querent’), present dayCard

2. Past influencesCard

3. Subconscious influences

Card 4. Secret desires and wishes

Card 5. Hidden forces

Card 6. Events yet to come

Card 7. Surrounding influences

Card 8. Influence of others

Card 9. Spiritual forces

Card 10. Final outcome

Now, one of the miraculous things you realize when you use many different decks is, cards represent different things in different decks.

I’m not going to tell you where this card appeared in this layout but I was a bit in awe:

Let’s Talk About Bread

Let’s talk about bread. Let’s talk about a warm loaf of homemade bread, fresh out of the oven. Since our earliest beginnings, humans have used bread to connect and nourish. It’s comforting, satisfying, and easy to share.

As a nation we seem to be baking a lot of bread right now. In the middle of the pandemic, markets all over the country were hit with surprisingly empty shelves where flour and yeast once lived, and colorful bread baking books are now a hot commodity.

When they couldn’t find yeast, creative bakers got sourdough starter from friends or made it from scratch and switched to baking beautiful, crusty boules of sourdough, posting their results on social media pages. Even novice bakers who never quite made it to sourdough pulled out their dusty loaf pans and made banana bread.

But why bread? Why this obsession about baking? Why is baking bread more satisfying than cooking? What is it about baking bread that feeds us, not just physically, but spiritually during the pandemic?

Maybe because bread has been the foundation of all civilization or because it has historically been considered life-giving, bread baking seems to be a thing we humans do in a crisis. There is an intense satisfaction in baking bread—It’s a sensory experience. It’s combining the simplest of all ingredients, using our own hands to knead the dough and form the loaves. We watch and wait while the dough slowly grows, like a magic trick. It feels good to pop this thing we made into a hot oven and peek at it through the tiny oven window as it browns up, then slicing into a warm loaf, slathering it with real butter and sharing it with those we love.

Or, just eating it ourselves.

Baking bread can bring us all sorts of psychological benefits. It’s a productive form of self-expression, and the whole process can be a kind of mindfulness. It gives us a feeling of control, so important when the world around is scary and uncertain.

Making a loaf of bread is a healthy distraction and a great source of stress relief, what therapists call ‘behavioral activation’—“a structured, brief psychotherapeutic approach that aims to (a) increase engagement in adaptive activities (which often are those associated with the experience of pleasure or mastery), (b) decrease engagement in activities that maintain depression or increase risk for depression”

Homemade bread gives a sense that all’s right in the world. Nothing smells better than a home filled with the aroma of fresh, baking bread. It brings us back to our roots. Life is confusing for all of us right now, and none of us knows exactly what to expect from our immediate future. There’s a certain comfort in controlling exactly what goes into the food we feed our loved ones. There’s a certain comfort in making bread from scratch, knowing our mothers and grandmothers did the same thing to feed their families.

Bread is fundamental.

Bread is sustenance, wholeness, primal.

Bread is magic.

Bread is life.

Musings on Tarot Decks: The Victorian Romantic Tarot

The Victorian Romantic Tarot

Most regular Tarot readers stick with one deck. It’s just easier to become familiar with each card and it’s meanings, and recall them automatically through repetition. I began collection Tarot cards many years after I began reading with them, and like everyone else, I read with one precious deck. Even after I acquired a crazy number of collector decks, I still mostly fell back on one deck for readings. That is, until I acquired The Victorian Romantic Tarot Deck by Baba Studios. Suddenly, I got it—different decks had different personalities, and these personalities actually colored your readings a bit. Choosing the right deck for each reading became fun. This ‘a-ha’ moment changed things for me and I feel my readings grew and became richer.
The Victorian Romantic Tarot Deck is one of the most beautiful decks I’ve ever seen and the images evoke a sweet, emotional mood, perfect for relationship readings.

The husband and wife team Karen Mahoney and Alex Ukolov of Baba Studios are masters of the collage, and their inspiration for creating this deck sparked when they found a book of art engravings from nineteenth century Germany. They spent the next two years searching for more books with engravings from the same period, many very rare. They have taken these gorgeous images from turn of the century wood cuts, layered them with beautiful colors and tastefully applied metallic ink. The individual cards are brilliantly constructed, and the result is a surprisingly readable Tarot deck that mostly follows the Rider-Waite/Smith formula—with a few surprises.

The deck came with the prerequisite tiny book sitting snugly in its box, but you can also get the 220-page illustrated companion book separately, and it’s worth the extra effort to track it down. It’s chock full of descriptions and interpretations, witty and illuminating histories of the artwork, and specially designed spreads. It’s written well, easy to read, and contains not only tips about card reading in general but also a mini art history lesson describing the origins of the deck and the creation of each card.

What I love:I love almost everything about this tarot deck, and I use it frequently. The cards are oversized but they feel good in your hands and are easy to shuffle. The images are clear and almost intuitive, even if you’re working with them for the first time. For obvious reasons, working with this deck always seems to put me in a good mood.
I really like the Four of Swords. Most tarot decks use a prone image with swords hanging menacingly over the body. Not so with this deck. 

This is a calm, peaceful card, and you get an immediate feeling of rest, exactly what this card means.

I also really like the Ten of Wands.

This card is so perfect. A peasant woman carries a huge pile of sticks on her back, some falling out, while at the same time carrying a baby in a cradle. Heavy responsibilities, and just too much to do. The feeling of being a servant, and carrying the lions share of the work either physically or emotionally, or both, is succinctly expressed by this card.

This Tarot Deck has two ‘Devil’ cards and two Lovers cards. Believe it or not, this really works. Each Devil card represents a different style—temptation to excess, and obsession

The first ‘Devil’ card speaks of temptation to excesses. A female Devil, obviously self-gratifying, leans forward provocatively, tempting with jewels and red roses, while she crushes the purity of lilies under her feet. To the side we see piles of coins—tempting us with treasure. She looks almost innocuous, though her smile is sly, but her wings look evil. Theyre a dull red and slightly recede, as if to fool us into believing we are in no real danger.

She smiles seductively, but it doesn’t feel sexual. It’s a sly invitation to overindulging and excess, and we are being tempted to focus on wealth and physical gratification.

The other Devil card is a naked Eve wrapped sensuously around a huge and obviously evil snake.

Here is an obsession that is quite certainly not going to turn out well. We know what happens—Eve ends up losing almost every good thing. This is the perfect card to signify the out of control aspect of obsession, and the destructive result.

The two ‘Lovers’ cards are equally as distinct and meaningful.

The first ‘‘Lovers card feels like a clear reference to marriage.

This ‘Lovers’ card feels peaceful, and there is an obvious sense of security. The event is out in the open during the light of day. We witness an agreeable event, perhaps even a legal, binding contract conducted before witnesses.

The second ‘Lovers’ card exudes much more passion.

This card definitely seems less about a legal commitment and more about compulsion. It’s as if the significance of the relationship, one way or the other, feels almost fated and karmic. A definite ‘meant-to-be’ indicator, and it does not feel peaceful at all. The card is obviously night, indicating perhaps a possible secret liaison.

I also really like the feeling of the Eight of Wands in this deck.

The feeling of rapid motion is perfectly conveyed here. Whatever might be happening, it’s happening fast! An antlered deer and naked man hurtle headlong down a hill, running alongside one another, almost racing.

What I don’t love.

There are just a few cards in this deck I find puzzling.

For instance, what exactly is going on with this Four of Pentacles?

If you really study this card you can see a box of jewels to the left of the image, but this card in no way speaks to me of financial restraint, saving money, or stinginess.

The Three of Wands

Some guy standing in a field with a dragon on his head, blowing a horn? Really? That’s supposed to mean ‘waiting for his ship to come in’ or even business planning or acumen? This card misses by a mile, and it even makes me laugh.

The ‘Romance or Relationship Spread’

This spread uses eight cards, but it is not complicated— it’s actually pretty straightforward. It also works quite well in examining a working partnership or a platonic friendship.

1. My (or the querent’s) role in this relationship

2. ‘Their’ main role

3. The underlying fundamentals

4. My hopes for the relationship

5. Their hopes for the relationship

6. My worries about the relationship

7. Their worries about the relationship

8. Advice for improving the relationship

See? Simple and straightforward.

This can become a standard throw for all relationship queries.

How a British Gardening Show saved our lives

It snowed in Texas—Not just a few flakes like we’ve had before, melting as they hit the ground , but blizzards, flurries, drifts several feet deep and ground frozen rock-solid.

Now as it is, it’s difficult enough for us hill country gardeners to grow anything in limestone, caliche, and alkaline soil. We persevere through 100 degree heat for months, and hard freezes in late March We amend our soil with compost and plant agaves and succulents everywhere. We’re tough, but this below-zero weather, no electricity, and broken pipes almost broke us, collectively. We stared disconsolately at our barren frozen xeriscaped lawns and flower beds, and at all the plants the experts told us to plant, now dead sticks. It was almost enough to cause us to give up. Almost, if not for a tv show.

Once the power flipped on so did our televisions, and the show I began watching compulsively, religiously, was/is ‘Gardeners World’. It’s a British gardening show and its host is England’s favorite gardener Monte Don. Monty talks about the eternal life-saving wisdom of gardening, and his dogs, and stands in snow and rain and all kinds of actual weather while assigning us a weekly gardening chore. Real chirping birds begin each episode, and before I know it, the trauma of the nightly news disappears.

But it’s not just me—It seems the entire world discovered ‘Gardeners World’ was the perfect way to get through a pandemic. Viewership was the highest in five years last year. BBC Studios, who produces the show, even decided it was an essential public service. Gardening was one of the few leisure activities the pandemic couldn’t take away. Suddenly we were all aware of our gardens (or lack thereof), especially since so many of us were stuck working from our homes and staring out our windows.

Both the U.K. and the United States experienced a huge gardening boom in 2020. During the pandemic ‘Gardeners’ World’ went from comfort food television to being indispensable to our emotional well being. It’s Great Britain’s longest running television series. The 33-episode season follows the growing season from Monty’s 20 acre almost-out-of-control garden and assorted historic gardens and viewers video’s of their own personal garden projects.

When Monty is filmed working in his garden, we never hear background music—we get lingering close-ups of a flower or trees rustling in the breeze, or his dogs. But the best thing about the show for me this year, was the snow. It snows in England, it snows a lot. And when the sun shines, even in England, the snow melts, the birds sing, and the garden resurrects itself. It reminds us that to plant a garden is an act of faith, and our frozen gardens will come back to life. No weather is forever, no crises lasts, and ‘to plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow’.

Musings on Tarot Decks: The Dali Deck

The Dali Tarot Deck created by the artist Salvador Dali

Salvador Dali was one of the most important surrealist painters of our time. He was also very interested in the tarot. In 1972 Albert R Broccoli approached Dali about creating a tarot deck to be used by the tarot card reading character Solitaire in the James Bond film ‘Live or Let Die’. The Studio negotiated back and forth with Dali, but he was apparently too expensive. The studio then dropped the idea of hiring Dali and decided to use the different (cheaper) artist Fergus Hall. He created ‘‘The Tarot of Witches’ , the card deck used in the film:

Of course I own this deck in three forms—the complete ‘Witches deck’ (above) and two copies of the film version prop cards containing only the 25 cards used in the film, one deck still in plastic and one to play with.

But Dali was intrigued. Apparently beginning this project peaked his creative and mystical interest in the tarot to the point where he became obsessed with the idea of creating a deck. Encouraged by his partner, muse, and sometime model Gala, Dali went on to compile drawings for the entire tarot deck anyway. It was first published in a limited number of editions for sale in 1984 and my sweet, traveling musician boyfriend Pat (now my husband) brought me home The Dali deck from a trip to Spain. This original deck is now out of print and I treasure it, though I rarely use it:

Coincidentally, I also found an actual certified Dali print of ‘The Lovers’ card From that deck in a vintage shop in Johnson City. We have it in our bedroom wall.

Salvador Dali poses as the Magician:

His wife Gala becomes the Empress:

And Dali imagined, then illustrated, the scene of Julius Caesar’s death and it becomes the Ten of Swords:

Imagine my pleasure and surprise to find out that The Dali Tarot Deck is now in reprint! TASCHEN resurrects all 78 cards in a recreation of Dalí’s inimitable custom deck, complete with a book offering an introduction to Dalí’s life and the project’s making-of, a comprehensive explanation of each card’s composition, its meaning, and practical advice and step-by-step instructions on how to perform readings.
And best of all, you’ll find Dali’s signature on each card.

The set comes in a lavish, collectors box. Inside, the box is wrapped in a soft purple velveteen instead of the red velveteen of the original 1984 release. You will recognize Dalí’s signature wit as he combines it with a surreal kaleidoscope of art and European history. Smithsonian even reviewed it, saying: “Images of classic art and Christian symbolism with a signature Dalí twist… a very surreal deck of cards.”
The accompanying book is a giant (11×14) oversized (184 pages) full colored and glossy, and it’s in English and Spanish. It was written by renowned German author Johannes Fiebigone, a leading Tarot expert and researcher, especially proficient in the psychological interpretation of Tarot symbols and oracles.

What I LOVE.

It’s Dali. Dalí is the first renowned painter to create a completely new set of Tarot cards. Just having them in your collection is important for any collector, I think. It looks great on a coffee table.

I also really love Dali’s 3 of Swords:

I think you can really feel the heartbreak in this card , the sadness and despair. It needs no title.

What I don’t love:

I had a hard time reading these cards when I first got them. Dalí’s images can be at the same time distinct and ambiguous. The titles of the court cards are in Spanish and English , but none of the Minor Arcana cards are labeled—in any way.

I put it on the shelf with my other special but unused cards, and never tried to read with them again. Until now.

I really dislike Dali’s ‘The World’ card:

What is he trying to say with this card?

If you get everything you want you will be chained to it? Why? The World card is supposed to be a good card, the successful culmination of challenges met. This feels more like ‘The Devil’ card to me.

The kit is housed in a big garish velvet box that fits the big, garish book but the actual cards are relatively small, the size of a standard deck of playing cards. Unlike my original Dali cards, which are 3” by 5 1/2” — big cards with a little book, this new release is a big book with little cards. I’m sure there is a reason, but I’m not aware of it.
My old Dali deck book doesn’t actually contain any info on the Minor Arcana at all, and no layouts. The only recommendations for distribution of the cards, and my favorites (and the ones I find myself frequently using) are the Gypsy card dealings:

I often, intuitively start tossing down cards in groups of three, and the meaning and order seem to change with the reading but this throw is easy to learn and easy to read.

Try it!