Review by Alta
This over-sized deck is composed entirely of original art by Allen Chester. Because of that it presents a unified look and colour theme. Other decks, also created by a single artist (apparently) sometimes have cards that do not seem to fit the overall pattern (Osho Zen, which seemed to have as many as three artists creating the cards), or minors that seem to be a significantly style than the majors (Gendron for example). In this case, while the majors appear to be more complex, with more richly symbolic background fields, the whole is pleasingly integrated both in colour scheme and approach.
The deck is supposed to be based on the story of the Templar Knights, whose self-appointed task was to protect pilgrims travelling in the Holy Land. The link with that story is weak, but the deck is redolent of Christian symbolism which fits that theme. The majors especially show the crucifixion in many of cards. It is the main theme of Judgement, but it appears often in the background, appearing in the bark of a tree, in the clouds or just casually woven into the busy backgrounds. Nails are also a prominent feature, as is the Christian Rose. The obsession of that era with death and skeletons, and even bones is very prominent as well. Curiously, pagan symbolism is mixed in with the Christian, many of the figures having the horns of the nature god. The Templars were very devoted Christians, if possibly somewhat secretive (with good reason) and obsessive.
Angels are present in many cards, but often in 'shocking' ways. With wings damaged, or destroyed. These are not the angels of the "Healing with Angels" cards. These angels are struggling and suffering. Even the devil is shown with red, distorted angel wings. Nonetheless, these images give the deck great power and strong vision. Despite the strong, if muted, colours, I would say this is a deck with a darker vision of life.
The artist shows the greatest originality in the majors. The minors, with some brilliant exceptions, follow the general Rider-Waite themes. Starting with a Hindu-goddess Magician dancing lightly on death (a cobra), through a Priest (Hierophant) pierced with feathers like St Sebastian was with arrows, a brilliant rendering of the Hermit as an angel with damaged wings wrapped in a burqa-like garment and on to the Moon showing an angel with ruined wings kneeling in a barren wildness, the majors are a source of mediation. My only complaint and it is slight, is that the cards are sometimes too busy. Strength is one that I find just too loaded with images. The mind finds it hard to find a place to lock on and absorb the meaning.
The minors move between re-working of the Rider-Waite themes and some new constructions. I would choose the suit of Pentacles as being the most original. The seven of Pentacles shows an angel wrestling with a horned man over a pentacle while 6 more surround them on poles. It is an unusual rendering. In fact the 6, 5 and 4 of pentacles are all strikingly re-created. The 5 shows an angel weeping over 5 badly damaged pentacles lying on the ground. Of the Cups, I would pick the 7 of cups, which shows a woman reaching up towards a vision of 7 cups, marked with the Templar cross and hovering in a circle around the Christian rose. It is a different slant on that card of visions and hopes.
I like this deck. It is familiar enough to be accessible, but with a different enough slant to give that changed perspective, that slight twist to the cards that most of us expect out of a new deck. The LWB is not especially strong, but the authors promise that a full sized book will be forthcoming. I think most people could read with this deck and I would recommend it.
Review by MeeWah
This striking and unusual deck is illustrated
with original paintings by Allen Chester. It is
accompanied by a hefty LWB - in this case, large white book
of 54 pages as opposed to the usual little white
book of few pages - written by Daria Kelleher. Templar
Tarot consists of 79 cards, of which there are 23 Major
Arcana bearing a caption on the top and a number on the
bottom of the cards. The minor arcana is represented by
Swords, Staves, Cups and Pentacles, bear numbers and are
fully illustrated. The court cards are King, Queen,
Knight and Page. There are winged figures but this is not
an "angel" deck. The card size is about 5 inches by 3
1/2 inches, a bit larger than the usual but manageable
for small hands.
The cards are distinguished by not
merely its stunning art, but by its lack of borders. When
the cards are laid out in a spread, there is a nearly
seamless joining of the cards that adds to the experience
of the deck. The artwork is from 79 original
paintings conceived for each card that took 5 years to
complete. Thus, each card is an independent piece of art
rendered with paint and brushwork. The colors are extremely
vibrant; flow with such energy as to appear alive! One
catches oneself looking again and again at many of the
cards because there is such a sense of movement. There
are many beautifully executed decks on the market, but
this deck has a consistent visual impact that hits one
between the eyes and pulls one into the cards. One cannot
help but be moved, enchanted, even disturbed by the
Overall, the artwork is what this viewer
would call "cosmic art". That is, Art inspired by a
higher consciousness, of a complexity that is not of the
earthly realm. Besides the symbolic imagery, there is
embodied an energy and a rhythm that speaks of other
worldliness. For those who are interested in exploring this art
concept, the book "Cosmic Art" compiled by Raymond F. Piper
and Lila K. Piper is highly recommended though it may
be out of print.
The deck takes its theme from the
legendary history of the Order of the Knights Templar who
flourished during the medieval era for 200 years. This Order
was originally conceived to protect Christian
travellers in their pilgramages to the Holy Land - what is now
Israel, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. These knights were monks
who also acted as warriors. Although they began in
abject poverty, they eventually grew in power and wealth,
gaining the respect and the support of the monarchies they
served and that of the Pope. Much of their history and
activities as well as their legendary wealth are enshrouded
in mystery, but it is evident that they eventually
attracted enemies who coveted their power and riches.
How the theme is incorporated into the cards is another
point of interest. There are Christian overtones to the
deck, but given the theme of the deck, it is natural;
does not detract from its use as a Tarot deck.
- 0-The Fool is represented by The Pilgrim, "a brightly clothed
figure [who] begins the quest of life," according to the
LWB. It goes on: "...Innocent of the perils of this new
incarnation, the Fool nevertheless steps onto the path, seeking
the answers to The Mysteries and Enlightenment that
come to all who search with open hearts."
- 1-The Magician is represented by The Troubadour, a female figure
in white who "has the many arms of choices and
sleight of hand."
- 2-The High Priestess is represented by
Mary Magdelene, "the forgotten feminine of God". She
wears red and is surrounded by various symbols. She is
to as "...the Mother and the Bride, the Secret
Church and the link between the physical and spiritual
There is an intriguing story associated with The Tower
card, which was hauntingly familiar to this viewer. The
publisher pointed out that its resemblance to the George
Washington Masonic National Memorial in Arlington, Virginia
has been noted by others; however, the artist has
never seen this structure. The resemblance is such that
it could have served as the model for The Tower. It
does cause one to ponder...
For the collector, Templar
Tarot would be a unique addition to a collection. Its
theme and its artwork distinguish it. Indeed, its
artwork is a standout on its own.
The opinion is that
the Templar lends itself well as a meditative deck.
This is based on the personal reactions of certain
images and symbols. As a reading deck, Templar commands
the attention. The cards are a bit different from the
traditional deck but there are also similarities in the
treatment of some of the cards. With some adjustments and an
open mind, Templar offers a Tarot experience worth
Review by Andryh
Isn't it a marvelous experience when one day,
while enduring the maddening mundanity of daily living
we discover a bit of magic? Finding a ten dollar
bill on the ground, hearing a baby laugh, getting an
unexpected letter from a long-lost friend... we believe in
life in such moments. The grayness gives way to
abundant color, like the scene from The Wizard of Oz.
It may sound overly dramatic, but for me, getting my
hands on the Templar Tarot was just such a moment of
magic. These cards were the exclamation point at the end
of my day. As I sat in my rocking chair, viewing
this deck for the first time, I was enraptured by the
pure flood of color on these cards. Swirling,
hypnotic, blazing color. My boyfriend, peeking over my
shoulder exclaimed, "It's a Grateful Dead Tarot!" While his
commentary was ignored for the moment, the vibrancy and
fluidity of Allen Chester's imagery is undeniably
consistent with "acid rock" art. I was a bit humored after
perusing the accompanying little white book to find that
the deck's creator cites the rock band Pink Floyd as
on of his sources of inspiration! My boyfriend may
have gotten the band wrong, but he had the right idea.
As its name suggests, the Templar Tarot pays homage
to the legendary Knights Templar. I am by no means
an expert on Templar lore, so I can't really assess
the cards in relation to the Templar story. The
little white book has a concise history of the Templars
that serves for a good starting point for understanding
the deck. However the deck is complex, and the
forthcoming book mentioned in the accompanying pamphlet
should shed more light on the deck's abundant symbolism
The deck, although far from being
a Rider-Waite knock-off has enough common symbolism
that the cards are fairly "readable" for those familiar
with Waite tradition. There are a few cards that
deviate with tradition, but their messages are potent, and
will probably convey their essential meaning to most
In spite of its dazzling color the Templar
tarot has a very serious, almost dark feel. It is
strangely dichotomous, in that its bright, almost glowing
colors often merge into very foreboding imagery.
Skeletons and images of the crucified Christ are pervasive
throughout this deck. Ironically, the Death card (a good
sample of the deck's less traditional cards)is one of the
most optomistic I've seen. It features a kneeling
Shaman. A skull, lifted high in his right hand glows;
enveloped by iconiclastic light. At his knees is
resurrecting spirit. Very untraditional and very inspiring.
I mentioned, figures of the crucified Christ are
prevalent, as are angels. For this reason, I think this deck
would be very well received by Christian and
Christo-Pagan readers. For others, this may be somewhat
off-puting. It should be noted that angels are not depicted
as cute or "fluffy" by this artist. They are bold,
dominating, forceful figures.
Another unusual feature of
this deck is the extra card. This card is entitled
'The Magic Flute', and depicts a winged being dancing
and of course playing a flute. Its divinatory meaning
is not given in the booklet. Just one more little
mystery gilding this very arcane deck.
The deck has
large cards which highlight the majestic art. They may
be a little difficult for those with small hands to
shuffle. The printing is of very good quality. Card
titles or numbers are featured at the top of each card,
and are translucent and very unobtrusive. The card
stock is good: Of medium weight, and very flexible.
The finish is not as shiny as most other decks I own.
At first this was a little odd, but I find I like
this because the images are more easily seen under
In the end, this is a fascinating,
unique tarot. I can highly recommend it to all who
appreciate good art. This is most certainly one of the most
artistically intricate decks I've seen. Allen Chester is
indeed masterful at his craft. His creation will
certainly be appreciated for generations to come. And far
more than being simply beautiful, the cards potently
convey the mystery, pain and beauty of the human
experience. After viewing these cards I feel acutely aware of
the specialness of life. Tarot at its very best is a
mirror to the human soul. I cerainly find my soul
reflected in this most beautiful and intriguing deck.
Review by Solandia
The Templar Tarot is a mystical tarot deck of 79 original paintings with its roots in legends of the Knights Templar.
The painted cards are borderless, giving the impression of a limitless feeling to readings. Cards do not seem so separated from each other when the edges almost seem to merge. The art itself are dreamlike, almost nightmarish painting. Not in the dreadful, frightening sense of a nightmare, but in the sense of overwhelming colours, swirling edges and a universe with its own logic.
The cards are unique in style, but offer enough standard tarot symbology to be familiar. They have the traditional Rider-Waite style titles in a translucent, raised and embossed font overlaid on the artwork. The full titles aren't used, only the number or type of court. The suit is left out, presumably because it's easy to tell which suit the card belongs to - i.e. check for the presence of one or more swords, wands, cups or pentacles.
The booklet also offers alternative titles that fit the theme of the deck more closely than the traditional. The Fool is also The Pilgrim; the Magician the Troubadour; the High Priestess Mary Magdalene and so on. Most of the court cards and some of the majors are medieval characters, though the minors are simply situational cards.
The deck also has an extra card titled 'The Magic Flute'. It is not part of the major or minor arcana, but an unrelated card without a supplied divinatory meaning. (The book suggests meditating on the true meaning of the card.)
The medium-sized-white-booklet packaged with the Templar Tarot is comprehensive and professional for an independently published deck. The largest part of the book is devoted to the individual cards with a description of the art and symbols pictured, the upright divinatory meaning and finally the reversed meaning.
Finally, the back of the booklet holds a glossary explaining just who and what is named in the cards, like who exactly is Dagobert III, the man shown in the Emperor card.
In the hand, the cards are thick, stiff cardboard with a minimum of gloss. They are large and wide cards, a little difficult to shuffle in small hands. The backs of the cards are textured white with a dominating red/brown Maltese cross.
The Templar Tarot is an art deck, but also a suitable deck for readings. It's not as slick as decks from the major publishers, but it is well-produced, unique and eminently useable.
Kate Hill (also known as Solandia) is the founder and editor of Aeclectic Tarot, and has reviewed more than 200 decks over the years.