Tarot of the Templars
Jean-Louis Victor and Willy Vassaux, 1996

Katia writes: Years ago we found this deck in France and ordered several decks from Yves Daniel in 2001. I don't know if he is still available at that email address. Otherwise the only place on the internet you can find this deck is Amazon France where it is spelled Le Tarot des Templiers. Below you will read a great description of the deck by Mark Filipas. Be sure to look at the Papess card which shows Pope Joan, the only female Pope who fooled the Vatican into believing she was male for years until she suddenly gave birth! You can see her little baby poking a head out on the papal throne as s/he struggles to be born...

This deck is full of alternative Church history, legends, Hermetic, Kabbalah and other symbols. At the bottom of this page is a link to another review and more pictures of the cards.

Mark Filipas writes in 2000:
This is a beautiful French deck titled
Le Tarot des Templiers, or The Tarot of the Templars. It was published in 1996 by Editions Dervy, and was packaged as both a single deck (with no little booklet) and a book and deck set (which includes a 160-page book). It is based upon the mythos of the Knights Templars, a military-religious order in sixteenth-century France.

The deck was conceived by Jean-Louis Victor and illustrated by Willy Vassaux. Victor has authored several books on the Tarot and other esoteric subjects, and directed a seven-volume encyclopedic work titled The Universe of Parapsychology and Esoterism. The book which comes with the set introduces the deck’s theme (1):
The initiatic source of this Tarot lies within the context of the age of the Templars and that which followed. The military and religious order of Templars was founded in 1119 by Beaudoin II in Palestine to protect the Holy Land and to fight the Moslems. This Order was originally installed in a room adjacent to the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, hence its name.

Even before the end of the crusades, the Order of Templars spread throughout the countries of Europe where they there acquired thrice-great power. They were persecuted in France by Philippe the Fair and universally abolished in 1312 by Pope Clement the Fifth. Jacques de Molay, the last Grand Master of the Order of Templars, was burned alive in Paris on March 11 1314.
Magic, alchemy, and the metaphysical arts were gaining ground during the age of the Templars, setting the foundations for later Western occultism. It was also an era which witnessed some of the most violent and horrific crimes of the Roman Catholic church. Military as well as religious orders had to maintain levels of secrecy to avoid inquisition. Within ten years of its institution, the Templars had become a wealthy and powerful military body, and eventually became too powerful for the likes of the Papal autocracy. They were ultimately branded as heretics and eradicated by the very Church which instated them. The author writes in his Introduction:
Templars did not invent the Tarot, but by reviving the sacred occultism of those ancient times, it will simultaneously pay homage to those Initiates who gave their life for their ideals and their search, as well as bring new light to the study of Tarot which takes, in this context, another dimension. The poet will find herein the continuation of his dream, the lover his love, and the student the way to true initiation – because let us not forget that “what does not become conscious returns to us as destiny,” as was said by C.G.Jung.
The Major Arcana of this deck are saturated with Hermetic and Kabbalistic symbolism. Trumps I through X are associated with their corresponding Sephiroth, indicated in English on small banners. Other Hebrew words are found on banners as well.

The first Trump,
Le Bateleur, shows the initiate at the debut of his journey toward the Absolute. His banner inscribes the name of the Sephiroth associated with this card, Kether, as well as the Hebrew name of God Ehieh. The Moon at the initiate’s right symbolizes the repository of primordial ideas from which he can draw; the Sun at his left symbolizes those ideas which he will actually manifest along the way.

Victor describes the symbolism of the three columns placed behind the initiate, which form the inner structure of his temple: “To his right, the Doric column symbolizes the masculine principle. The Doric order is the oldest of the orders of Greek architecture, characterized by sobriety. To his left, the Corinthian column symbolizes the feminine principle. The Corinthian order is one of the architectural orders characterized by the use of acanthus leaves. Behind his head, the Ionian column symbolizes the principle of wisdom and harmony.” These three pillars reflect the pattern of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life.

The author explains this card as representative of the Templar’s simultaneous role as Poet, Priest and Knight: “Poet, by way of his ideal; Priest, by his belonging to a religious order; Knight by the military action to accomplish in the name of the Faith in Christ. In day-to-day life, the consultant must be inspired a little by these three fundamental axes.”

Le Papesse, shown at the top, wears a papal tiara and sits at the arched entrance to a temple. She alludes to the story of Pope Joan, believed to have disguised herself as a man by taking on the identity of her brother killed in battle. She entered the Church as a scholar and eventually ascended the ecclesiastical ranks to became Pope. It was believed by many in the Middle Ages (and by some today) that she actually reigned as Pope during the ninth century. Not bound by convention, she broke with the vows of celibacy and became pregnant. Her identity was thereby discovered when she prematurely gave birth during a procession. The image shows a boy child emerging from her loins; directly beneath the child is a swan, a cat, and a crab.

The author describes her as the priestess of ancient mystery schools, while at the same time representing the mystical aspects of the Roman Church. The Moon symbolizes our receptivity to the Solar force, which parallels the Church’s receptivity to the light of Christ. The moon also represents here the Christic mystery of spiritual increase, death, and resurrection.

This card also symbolizes the Duality which is found throughout nature: day and night, knowledge and ignorance, construction and destruction, spirit and matter. The author includes numerical calculations for some of the Trumps: “This law of the binary is shown in several Arcana. Examples:
Force, Arcanum XI = 1 + 1 = 2 which shows the dominance of spirit over matter; Judgement, Arcanum XX = 2 + 0 = 2 which separates, in this case, good and evil.” Le Papesse also represents the duality implicit in summoning God into humanity:
Le Papesse is the Arcanum of divination, of intuition, and of expressing sensibility.

One could even say, by extension, that it is about “divine-action” because the word “divine” implies its link with cosmic forces – “theurgics” as it was called in the Middle Ages. It is under this influence of the Moon, with its pale gleam, that one carries out feminine initiations and the incantations which call forth God to Earth.

There are three kinds of perception: divination, whose source is cosmic; clairvoyance, whose origin is the sixth sense; analysis, whose technique is that of deduction.”
The eighteenth Trump La Lune shows the roots of two trees being watered by lunar emanations, which seem to be summoned by the lobster below. A small banner contains the word Tzedek, meaning righteousness, and reflects the author’s description of the Moon as “spirituality which takes root.” The trees allude to the Garden of Eden story, and the serpent can be seen on the right. Once Adam and Eve had tasted of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they were not allowed to prematurely eat from the Tree of Life. The implication here is that maturity does not occur simultaneously with germination. The author writes that “the Moon is the last stage before Realization, and the stage whose trap is pride. One should not be believed to have arrived too early! As long as the seed has not emerged from the ground, she is threatened, remaining fragile, and is cause of all covetousnesses. Arcanum of unsatisfied desires, the Moon stands for the worst but also the best in this merciless fight of embryos, seeds, or ideas in their reach toward the light of Realization.” The author also describes how an understanding of lunar energy might be practically applied:
The influence of the Moon is found to be different during the four periods which make up its cycle:

NL (new moon): The period when new energy begins to progress. It is a favorable period for preparing projects and to set in place the initial elements of basic structures.

FQ (first quarter): The most favorable period of all lunar cycles. Energy is strong and supports all projects and all pending decisions. It is indeed a beneficial period for carrying out most affairs, from the simplest to the most complicated.

FL (full moon): The full moon especially favors love and sexuality. Its influence on concrete life disturbs reality somewhat because, during this time, creatures are ‘dans la lune’, so to speak

LQ (last quarter): A very difficult period. Nothing really advances and disruptions are numerous. Blockages can be significant, and it is practically impossible to leave difficult situations at this time. Do not undertake any project because, based on the “bad moon”, it would have numerous obstacles to success. Nothing is helped during this period which can indeed be frightening.

The pips are illustrated with suit emblems and ornate floral designs. The book provides a detailed interpretation for each card which includes history, psychology, and numeric symbolism. Each card’s meaning is also summarized into a single sentence, which is the only part of the Minor Arcana text that I've translated.

Each suit displays a symbolic progression. The suit of Coins, for example, represents the following:
Ace, Positive results and integral solidity of ongoing projects; Two, Creative desire; Three, Positive change of orientation required by destiny; Four, Creative power; Five, The cosmic forces accompanying the action; Six, Sign of delay because of hesitancy before decisions; Seven, The force leading to success is omnipresent; Eight, Interesting outcome but the path is difficult; Nine, Positive result differed because of calm reassuring of the energetic context; Ten, Excellent achievements, and great satisfactions are announced.

The court cards consist of the
Valet (Servant), Cavalier (Knight), Reyne (Queen) and Roy (King). Although very detailed, the costumes and locations are probably more theatrical fantasy than historical fact. Heraldic crests have been added into many of the designs. This kind of detail leads me to wonder of there is more historical allusion in this deck than I am aware of.

This deck is beautifully illustrated, and uses earthy tones to imply the sense of antiquity. The cards are sturdy, the printing is crisp, the entire package is well done.
The Tarot of the Templars seems to be currently available in France. You may be able to purchase a copy through Yves Daniel, a wonderful merchant for French decks.

Review by Mark Filipas, 12/22/00

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(1) The book is written in French; I have translated the excerpts which appear here
(2) This phrase is a French idiom which I am unfamiliar with. Though it literally translates to ‘in the moon,’
my dictionary describes the phrase as ‘to be in a brown study’ or ‘to be woolgathering.’

Images Copyright © 1996 Editions Dervy, Review Copyright © 2000 Mark Filipas