It’s taken me a long time to review the Somnia Tarot because once I buy a deck, my tendency is to play with it for a while before I use it publicly. I’m not the type of person to collect decks just to have and not use them, although there is nothing wrong with collecting decks for art’s sake. But if any deck would lend itself to being a part of a beautiful deck collection for the artistry alone, this one would certainly fit the bill.
The Somnia Tarot is one of the few decks around that uses photography to tell the story of the Fool’s Journey. The photos are staged to reflect the dream state and subconscious mind of deck creator Nicolas Bruno. Although the basic concepts follow along with the interpretations of the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, the photos have a unique, surreal quality that drew me in immediately.
In the small pamphlet included in the deck (a full-length companion book is sold separately), Bruno explains that he had an interest in Tarot since childhood after discovering a hidden a deck that belonged to his great grandmother. Because Tarot was taboo in his religious household, he would look at the cards in secret.
Development of the Somnia Tarot began in 2020 during the early months of the COVID pandemic and the deck was ultimately published in 2021. The symbolism of this deck comes from Bruno’s dream journals and sleep paralysis experiences to add a unique flavor to the Tarot themes.
And that’s what I enjoy about this deck. Even though Bruno’s symbolism is unique to him, everyone can relate the strange world of dreams. These photos use sculpture, costume design, and the aid of Bruno’s family and friends as models, yet it’s easy to overlay my inner world onto these images to come up with my own personal interpretations.
I have not purchased the companion book, so I can’t vouch for what’s in it. I am interested to know what some of the symbolism means to Bruno, if that information is available. However, I also enjoy exploring this deck on my own without a roadmap. In the pamphlet that comes with the deck, Bruno includes a few key words for each card based on the traditional RWS Tarot.
For me, the appeal of this deck is the quirkiness of the photos. One thing that stands out is that all of the characters in Bruno’s deck (including horses) have their faces hidden—either in the shadows or else covered with a cloth. In some ways, this reminds me of artist René Magritte’s paintings. The obscuring of faces in the Somnia Tarot can possibly encourage readers to fill in their own blanks and not feel as if these quirky images are too specific to relate to.
Another theme that pops up often is the inclusion of a ladder in the images throughout the deck.
I’ve had this deck for a while: I’m proud to say that I supported it during the its Kickstarter phase and was one of the first people to have it. As of this writing, Bruno is creating an illustrated version of this deck that is scheduled to come out in the fall of 2022.