The Salvador Dali tarot is not a beginner friendly deck but is a true delight to anybody who loves Dali's work.
Dali's symbolism can be a overwhelming and difficult to grasp at times making this tarot deck intimidating for a beginner but for a seasoned tarot reader, this is sure to be an enjoyable deck.
Dali as The Magician (El Mago) welcomes you from the cover of the inner box where he oversees a work table that holds a loaf of bread, a glass of wine, a parchment roll and his signature melting clock face.
Indeed Dali as a magician has transmuted with his art and intuition the 78 classic tarot images into his personal interpretations. The imagery of the deck combines in a surprising meting pot, ancient art, surrealism, kitsch and Christian iconography.
This creation does not take away from the Tarot classic symbolism but enhances and enriches it with its bewitching beauty.
The deck was initially conceived as a commission from producer Albert Broccoli for the James Bond film Live and Let Die but when the deal fell through, Dalí passionately got to work, and continued the project, probably under the influence of Dali’s wife Gala who was interested in mysticism and fascinated with the Tarot.
First published in a precious, golden edged limited edition in 1984, the Salvador Dali tarot was the first known Tarot deck completed by a famous painter.
The deck was later reissued in more economic but still high quality editions by TASCHEN and by other publishers in a book format.
The cards of this rich deck are larger than standard and the deck feels lavish in your hands. The backs are gold with a repeating pattern of Dali's signature.
The booket that comes with this deck is written by renowned German Tarot author Johannes Fiebig in Spanish, English, French and German and offers a concise descriptions and explanation of the Major Arcana and a description of Dalì’s symbolism. It also contains three tarot layouts and a brief story of Dalí's life and how the cards were created.
The Major Arcana show titles in English at the top of the card and in Spanish below. Each card is associated with Hebrew letters.
Like in the best tradition, the Fool is unnumbered and associated with the Hebrew letter Shin. There are also Planetary and Zodiacal associatios.
The Minor Arcana are similar to those of a Rider-Waite deck and each card shows the required number of wands, cups, swords or coins.
Court Cards are titled in Spanish as Sota, Caballero, Reina and Rey, meaning Page, Knight, Queen and King.
The tarot images generally correspond to the standard Rider-Waite iconography, but Dalì incorporates details that stress various elements of the current interpretations.
A recurring pattern is the butterfly, that often conceals the main image and occasionally are also added indistinct, menacing forms that give multiple layers to the interpretation of the card.
Only few cards show Dalí's own original work like the outstanding Death card that shows a cypress tree with a floating skull.
Overall the artwork is interesting but lacking the surreal feeling that is the signature of Dali’s work we would expect in his tarot deck.
Nevertheless for any Dalì’s fan these tarots are a sheer joy to admire, mediate and handle.
They are as beautiful as they are enigmatic and maybe this is were their fascination comes from: the many layers of symbols are thought provoking and puzzle the inquisitive mind of the questioning tarot reader.