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!

One comment

  1. Danielle R Mika · February 28, 2021

    This makes me crave a reading with you so badly! I love your writing, so informative but personal ❤️ Miss you bunches blondie!


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