Review by Solandia
Christian saints have always had associations and attributes - St Valentine for Love, St Christopher for travel, and sundry others for almost every aspect of life. (At last count, there are over 4500 registered saints.) This 78-card Tarot of the Saints emphasises the links between the saints and archetypal tarot figures.
Unlike some other decks, the Tarot of the Saints has taken me a while to absorb enough for an adequate review. It is a very consistent deck visually and quite simple on the surface, but the creator, Robert M. Place, has gone deeply into the historical evidence that supports the concept of tarot and its symbols.
A saint is pictured and named on the major arcana and court cards, while the suit cards show more mundane human situations. The minors are a cross between pip cards and illustrations - each card depicts the exact number of items for that particular card in the cream-coloured sky. The bottom of the scene is an appropriate bible tableau.
The art is just this side of too plain. But then it isn't a deck relying on good looks for interest. The cards are firmly based in documented historical fact, and devoid of 'occult dogma' and personal symbols. The saints and images are chosen with thought and backed up with hard evidence.
The companion book is titled 'A Gnostic Book of Saints'. It is quite a scholarly companion to a set of tarot cards. Twenty pages are dedicated to a thorough history of tarot before we get anywhere near the card interpretations.
The card information in the companion book provides an appropriate quote, a picture of each card, a short summary of the card, a synopsis of the saint's life and claims to fame, and an intellectual discussion of the card's history and original symbols. The 'tarot wisdom' (or divinatory meaning) of the card occupies a comparatively small amount of space. This does lead to a book heavily weighed towards the majors - the numbered suit cards are not associated with any particular saint and have a few short lines describing the card's picture and offering an analysis of the meaning.
In short, the Tarot of the Saints is not a lightweight tarot deck. Robert M. Place's tarot decks are well researched and reliably professional. If you like a serious, scholarly tarot with a Christian background, this is the one for you.
Review by Bonnie Cehovet
"Tarot Of The Saints" is a
deck that I have been wanting to work with for a long
time - probably ever since it came out! I have been on
internet e-lists with Robert Place, and found him to be a
gentle, caring person carrying a great deal of wisdom
within him. The deck reflect this - the cards are done in
a gentle manner, very "clean", with nothing that
will distract the eye from what it is supposed to
I want to share with you a snippet from the
foreword, written by Robert V. O'Neill (aka Bunny Bob),
author of "Tarot Symbolism" and a keeper of wisdom
"There is little, if any, consensus of opinion
on the meaning of the Tarot symbols, and considerable
room for personal meditation and interpretation. In
this book, Place presents the results of his own
personal explorations. Some of the interpretations may
strike the reader as idiosyncratic and there is no need
to accept everything as gospel. But the reader will
find here a deep well of insight, challenging to one's
intellect and inspiring to one's intuition."
I could not
agree more! This is much more than a graceful deck with
a nice book accompanying it. If one is to make best
use of this deck, on all levels, read the accompanying
book, "A Gnostic Book Of Saints", with an open mind and
an open heart. You will find yourself on a journey
that will open many doors of wisdom, and many levels of
For Robert Place, the introduction to Tarot came in a
dream, a dream that turned into a prophecy. There is a
wonderful sharing here of the importance of dreamtime, and
of the manner in which dreams, and their symbols can
be interpreted. As with all of this book, the writing
is clear, concise and leaves the reader feeling as if
they have been in a personal conversation with the
author, rather than winding their way through a scholastic
The scholarship is there, don't get me wrong. It is
sharp, and clear, and sings of research and personal
experience. The history section that begins this book is
lucid, fair and intriguing. We feel as if we went through
the times under discussion, and are left with a clear
timeline on the Tarot and the people involved.
There is a
wonderful section on mystics, gnostics and saints, based on
mythology, that is a wonderful trip down memory lane. It also
presents clear lines between these categories, and makes
for a better understanding of this deck.
on the mystical interpretation of the Tarot should be
required reading for all levels of Tarot students.
Beginners will understand a little, those who have worked
with the Tarot will start to have the foundation of the
cards fall into place and advanced students will find
information here that may help them past individual "stumbling
blocks". Place discusses the Tetracys, the Pythagorian
symbol for ascension from the physical to the spiritual
He discusses the four-fold physical world (four
elements, four directions, four seasons), and connects them
to the four suits. Included are some wonderful
classical images, including the Madonna Enthroned and French
Tarot card images from the seventeenth and eighteenth
Each of the Major Arcana cards are presented
with a black and white scan, a discussion of the saint,
a discussion of the nature of the card and a
discussion of the wisdom held within the card. Each of the
Pips are presented with a black and white scan and a
short paragraph on the nature and meaning of the card.
Each of the court cards are presented with a black and
white scan, a discussion of the saint portrayed and the
meaning of the card.
The Fool - Saint Francis
The Magician - Saint Nicholas
The Papesse (High Priestess) - Saint Mary Magdelane
The Empress - Saint Helena
The Emperor - Saint Constantine
The Pope (Hierophant) - Saint Peter
The Lovers - Saint Valentine
The Chariot - Saint Christopher
Justice - Saint Michael
The Hermit - Saint Anthony of Egypt
Wheel of Fortune - Saint Catherine
Strength - Saint Jerome
The Hanged One - Saint Blandina
Martyrdom (Death) - Saint Stephen
Temperance - Saint Benedict
The Devil - Saint Margaret
The Tower - Saint Barbara
The Star - Saint Therese
The Moon - Saint Mary
The Sun - Christ
Judgment - Saint Gabriel
The World - Saint Sophia
The deck itself is 2 3/4" by 4 5/8"
- a nice size for shuffling and a good size to use
for larger layouts. The backs are black and white,
with a 1/4" white border and a pattern of alternating
symbols. There are three diamond shapes down the center of
the card - the top one contains the symbols of a
triangle with an eye within it, the center one contains the
symbol of a dove and the lower one contains the symbol of
a heart, bound and dropping one single drop of
The face of the cards uses a 1/4" white border,
followed by a smaller gold border, followed by a border
that is coded for the suits (Staffs - red , Cups -
green, Swords - blue, Coins - yellow) and the Major
Arcana (purple). The Major Arcana are labeled across the
bottom with the number, saint and card title. The Pips
are labeled across the bottom with the number and
suit. The Court Cards are labeled across the bottom with
the saint, the card title and the suit.
literally every single card in this deck. I picked out a few
for reference that stood out more for me than the
others did. Saint Anthony of Egypt (The Hermit) is
portrayed and an elderly man, walking with a staff in one
hand and a bell in the other. He wear a red hooded
garment, covered by a brown cloak, and has a lemniscate
over his head. The intriguing thing here is that the
figure is facing the right - towards the future, rather
than the left - towards the past.
The Ace of Coins
struck me because of the letters held within the symbol
for the coin. They are the monogram for Jesus, from
the first three letters of Jesus' name from the the
Greek alphabet. I keep being drawn back to this - as
simple as it is.
The Papesse (Saint Mary Magdalene)
shows a woman standing in front of a crypt, wearing a
white dress and a red cloak, with her hands crossed in
from of her at chest level. Over her head we see the
Saint Francis (The Fool) shows Saint Francis, garbed in
a brown robe, standing with his hands held up and
facing outward so that we can see the stigmata on each
palm. There is a rabbit seated at his feet, and a dog
standing in front of him, look out at the reader. The
landscape is lush green, with birds seated in a tree in
front of him and one bird flying over his head, where we
see a Lemniscate.
The Pips were done in an
interesting manner, with the suit symbols taking up
approximately two-thirds of the card, with the bottom third
depicting scenes with figures in them.
I highly recommend
this deck for all levels of students. It is a given for
meditation, a good source of study for symbols, and an
excellent deck to use for both personal and public readings.
Bonnie Cehovet is Certified Tarot Grand Master, a professional Tarot reader with over ten years experience, a Reiki Master/Teacher and a writer. Bonnie has served in various capacities with the American Tarot Association, is co-founder of the World Tarot Network, and Vice President (as well as Director of Certification) for the American Board For Tarot Certification. She has had articles appear in the 2004 and 2005 Llewellyn Tarot Reader.