Tarot of the Templars

Tarot of the

Jean-Louis Victor and Willy Vassaux, 1996

Katia writes: Years ago we found this deck in France
and ordered several decks from Yves
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

Mark Filipas writes in 2000:
This is a beautiful French deck titled
Le Tarot
des Templiers
, or
The Tarot of the
. 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
, 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

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

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
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
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
, 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

, 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
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
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


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
Three, Positive
change of orientation required by destiny;
Four, Creative
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)
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
seems to be currently available in
France. You may be able to purchase a copy through
, a wonderful merchant for French decks.

Review by Mark
, 12/22/00

See Pictures of More Cards

(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

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