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!

Dog Love

In the past, I was always a cat owner. When a dog appeared in some arena of my life, it was someone else’s dog, even if I was the one feeding it/him/her/them. Not being a dog owner, I never had to worry about rushing home from work to let the dog out, or replacing a clawed-up screen door because my dog was suffering an abandonment freak-out.

I appreciate the independence and apparent apathy of cats—their casual interest in me worked better with my work-a-holic single-mom lifestyle than a dog’s neediness.

Dogs have seemed to me a bit, well, co-dependent. But, things have changed in my life, and I have changed—I married a man who loves dogs. He’s always had at least one and when I met him he had several, none of them small or breed specific. He loves other folk’s dogs as well, and we can’t pass a dog-and-owner combo on foot or in a car without my guy fussing over the dog.

This has taught me a few things about dogs and dog owners—dogs can be comforting in their neediness, and in return dog owners can be comforted and yes, more compassionate as a result of loving them. There is a real something about a dog when they look at us and our eyes lock—that gives us a feeling of love and acceptance and belonging. I recently learned what that something is:

Smithsonian magazine says a dog’s gaze hijacks the brain’s maternal bonding system to cause both dog and human brains to secrete oxytocin, and feelings of love. Our minds and bodies use oxytocin to strengthen emotional bonds between us, mothers and children, husbands and wives, people and each other.

I recently read an article in The Guardian about a sudden surge of demand for dogs, in shelters and with breeders, noticeable beginning the first month of the Corona virus lockdown and quarantine in March. I can see why. We humans are trying to fill the voids left from losing our work environments to home offices, from isolated kids who need something to do, or no work but lots of free time, or from living alone with no way to safely socialize.

Scientists say a cuddle with our dog can alleviate stress, and disperses the ‘pleasure hormone’ dopamine, boosting our mood. Dogs make us happier and more compassionate. No wonder the entire country is experiencing a renewed need for canines, and it’s exciting and hopeful—we have dogs in the White House again.