Salvador Dalí’s Tarot Cards Get Re-Issued: The Occult Meets Surrealism in a Classic Tarot Card Deck

Tarot began as a card game and became a tool of occult div­ina­tion. In that form, with its usu­al­ly elab­o­rate illus­tra­tions, the tarot deck found a major cul­tur­al role as an art object: here on Open Cul­ture we’ve fea­tured decks either designed or inspired by the likes of Aleis­ter Crow­ley, H.R. Giger, Philip K. Dick, and Sal­vador Dalí. That last, whose lim­it­ed edi­tion was pub­lished in 1984, has proven to be enough of an object of desire to gain the atten­tion of Taschen, the pub­lish­er of visu­al­ly (and often, in terms of dimen­sions and weight, phys­i­cal­ly) inten­sive pho­to and art books. Next month they’re bring­ing out a new edi­tion of Dalí’s tarot deck, boxed with a com­pan­ion book by tarot schol­ar Johannes Fiebig.

“Leg­end has it that when prepar­ing props for the James Bond film Live and Let Die, pro­duc­er Albert Broc­coli com­mis­sioned Sur­re­al­ist mae­stro Sal­vador Dalí to cre­ate a cus­tom deck of tarot cards,” says Taschen’s descrip­tion of the prod­uct. (Bond fans will remem­ber Jane Sey­mour as Soli­taire, the tarot read­er whom Roger Moore fate­ful­ly encoun­ters ear­ly in the pic­ture.)

Even though Dalí and Broc­coli ulti­mate­ly could­n’t come to an agree­ment — not least over the amount of mon­ey upon which the artist insist­ed — Dalí decid­ed to see the work through to com­ple­tion on his own.

As Josh Jones not­ed when we pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured Dalí’s tarot, the ear­ly 1970s was an aus­pi­cious time for such a project: “The occult inter­ests of the 60s coun­ter­cul­ture were main­streamed in the 70s thanks to books like Stu­art Kaplan’s Tarot Cards for Fun and For­tune Telling,” and Dalí had suc­cess­ful­ly tapped the mys­ti­cal zeit­geist not long before with his illus­tra­tions for a 1969 edi­tion of Alice’s Adven­tures in Won­der­land. Draw­ing from all the West­ern art that came before his own, Dalí cre­at­ed a tarot deck that Taschen can now pitch as a “sur­re­al kalei­do­scope of Euro­pean art his­to­ry,” a kind of psy­che­del­ic course in West­ern civ­i­liza­tion pre­sent­ed across 78 cards. Dalí also worked him­self in, mak­ing an appear­ance as the Magi­cian and the King of Pen­ta­cles, and includ­ing his wife Gala — whose inter­est in mys­ti­cism sure­ly encour­aged her hus­band’s own enthu­si­asm for the project — as the Empress.

Any­one who has had an inter­est in Dalí’s work (and a lack of will­ing­ness to pay pre­mi­um prices for those first edi­tions) will find them­selves intrigued by Taschen’s Dalí Tarot. Those unfa­mil­iar with the rules of the tarot can rest assured that the com­pan­ion book, in addi­tion to pro­vid­ing sto­ries about the deck­’s con­cep­tion, also includes Fiebig’s expla­na­tions of the mean­ings of the cards as well as how to per­form read­ings with them. Per­ceived cor­rect­ly, so enthu­si­asts say, the cards of the tarot open a win­dow onto an alter­nate per­cep­tion of real­i­ty — a sim­i­lar­i­ty with Dalí’s art hard­ly lost on the artist him­self. Order a copy (set to be released on Novem­ber 15) here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Tarot Card Deck Designed by Sal­vador Dalí

Sal­vador Dalí’s Illus­tra­tions for The Bible (1963)

Sal­vador Dalí’s 1973 Cook­book Gets Reis­sued: Sur­re­al­ist Art Meets Haute Cui­sine

Sal­vador Dalí’s Avant-Garde Christ­mas Cards

Take a Close Look at Basquiat’s Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Art in a New 500-Page, 14-Pound, Large For­mat Book by TASCHEN

Andy Warhol’s Sev­en Hand-Illus­trat­ed Books: Charm­ing, Lit­tle-Known, and Now Avail­able to the World (1952–1959)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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  • B Pratt says:

    I’ve often thought that tarot cards could be an effec­tive psy­cho­log­i­cal tool, akin to Rorschach tests. They are ambigu­ous enough to elic­it respons­es with­out using lead­ing ques­tions. And there’s enough of them to prac­ti­cal­ly tell a sto­ry in sequence. OK, OK, Ita­lo Calvi­no did this in “Cas­tle of Crossed Des­tinies”, but the prin­ci­pal seems sound. Also, I tend to pre­fer the Waite deck, but the Dali one is, of course, awe­some also (nev­er took to the Crow­ley deck). Of course, a huge prob­lem would be try­ing this with reli­gious nuts.

  • Pablo Narvaez says:

    To all those inter­est­ed in ora­cles, div­ina­tion, or mys­ti­cism, I strong­ly rec­om­mend the I Ching.
    If done with due respect and seri­ous­ness it will pro­vide answers and sug­ges­tions beyond any­thing a seek­er could ever imag­ine.
    It is not to be tak­en light­ly, though. Not for play­ing; oth­er­wise it won’t pro­vide the coun­sel it is meant, and cul­ti­vat­ed for, over thou­sands of years.

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