Templar Tarot Reviews
The Templar Tarot is a unique art deck based on the legends of the Knights Templar, a medieval group of monks and warrior knights. It has 79 card, the extra is a major arcana card titled 'The Magic Flute'.
Tarot Deck - 79 Cards - Inspire by Design 2001
Review by AltaThis 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 compelling images.
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 planes."
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 and significance.
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 readers.
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.
As 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 artificial light.
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 Kate Hill
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 is the owner, founder and editor of Aeclectic Tarot, and has reviewed more than 200 decks over the years.