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-LouisVictor and illustrated by Willy Vassaux. Victor has authored several bookson the Tarot and other esoteric subjects, and directed a seven-volumeencyclopedic work titled The Universe ofParapsychology and Esoterism. The book whichcomes with the set introduces the deck’stheme(1): The initiatic source of this Tarotlies 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 BeaudoinII in Palestine to protect the Holy Land and to fight the Moslems. This Orderwas originally installed in a room adjacent to the Temple of Solomon inJerusalem, hence its name.

Even before the end of the crusades, the Order of Templars spread throughoutthe countries of Europe where they there acquired thrice-great power. Theywere persecuted in France by Philippe the Fair and universally abolishedin 1312 by Pope Clement the Fifth. Jacques de Molay, the last Grand Masterof the Order of Templars, was burned alive in Paris on March 111314. Magic, alchemy, and the metaphysicalarts were gaining ground during the age of the Templars, setting the foundationsfor later Western occultism. It was also an era which witnessed some of themost violent and horrific crimes of the Roman Catholic church. Military aswell as religious orders had to maintain levels of secrecy to avoid inquisition.Within ten years of its institution, the Templars had become a wealthy andpowerful military body, and eventually became too powerful for the likesof the Papal autocracy. They were ultimately branded as heretics and eradicatedby the very Church which instated them. The author writes in hisIntroduction: Templars did not invent the Tarot,but by reviving the sacred occultism of those ancient times, it willsimultaneously pay homage to those Initiates who gave their life for theirideals and their search, as well as bring new light to the study of Tarotwhich takes, in this context, another dimension. The poet will find hereinthe continuation of his dream, the lover his love, and the student the wayto true initiation – because let us not forget that “what doesnot become conscious returns to us as destiny,” as was said byC.G.Jung. The Major Arcana of this deck are saturatedwith Hermetic and Kabbalistic symbolism. Trumps I through X are associatedwith their corresponding Sephiroth, indicated in English on small banners.Other Hebrew words are found on banners as well.

The first Trump, LeBateleur, shows the initiate at the debutof his journey toward the Absolute. His banner inscribes the name of theSephiroth associated with this card,Kether, as wellas the Hebrew name of GodEhieh. The Moonat the initiate’s right symbolizes the repository of primordial ideasfrom which he can draw; the Sun at his left symbolizes those ideas whichhe 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 Doriccolumn symbolizes the masculine principle. The Doric order is the oldestof the orders of Greek architecture, characterized by sobriety. To his left,the Corinthian column symbolizes the feminine principle. The Corinthian orderis one of the architectural orders characterized by the use of acanthus leaves.Behind his head, the Ionian column symbolizes the principle of wisdom andharmony.” These three pillars reflect the pattern of the KabbalisticTree of Life.

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

LePapesse, shown at the top, wears a papal tiaraand sits at the arched entrance to a temple. She alludes to the story ofPope Joan, believed to have disguised herself as a man by taking on the identityof her brother killed in battle. She entered the Church as a scholar andeventually ascended the ecclesiastical ranks to became Pope. It was believedby many in the Middle Ages (and by some today) that she actually reignedas Pope during the ninth century. Not bound by convention, she broke withthe vows of celibacy and became pregnant. Her identity was thereby discoveredwhen she prematurely gave birth during a procession. The image shows a boychild 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, whileat the same time representing the mystical aspects of the Roman Church. TheMoon symbolizes our receptivity to the Solar force, which parallels theChurch’s receptivity to the light of Christ. The moon also representshere the Christic mystery of spiritual increase, death, and resurrection.

This card also symbolizes the Duality which is found throughout nature: dayand night, knowledge and ignorance, construction and destruction, spiritand matter. The author includes numerical calculations for some of the Trumps:“This law of the binary is shown in several Arcana. Examples:Force, ArcanumXI = 1 + 1 = 2 which shows the dominance of spirit over matter;Judgement, ArcanumXX = 2 + 0 = 2 which separates, in this case, good and evil.”Le Papesse alsorepresents 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 thisinfluence of the Moon, with its pale gleam, that one carries out feminineinitiations 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 techniqueis that of deduction.” The eighteenth TrumpLa Lune showsthe roots of two trees being watered by lunar emanations, which seem to besummoned by the lobster below. A small banner contains the wordTzedek, meaningrighteousness,and reflects the author’s description of the Moon as “spiritualitywhich takes root.” The trees allude to the Garden of Eden story, andthe serpent can be seen on the right. Once Adam and Eve had tasted of theTree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they were not allowed to prematurelyeat from the Tree of Life. The implication here is that maturity does notoccur simultaneously with germination. The author writes that “the Moonis 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 seedhas not emerged from the ground, she is threatened, remaining fragile, andis cause of all covetousnesses. Arcanum of unsatisfied desires, the Moonstands for the worst but also the best in this merciless fight of embryos,seeds, or ideas in their reach toward the light of Realization.” Theauthor also describes how an understanding of lunar energy might be practicallyapplied: The influence of the Moon is foundto 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 favorableperiod for preparing projects and to set in place the initial elements ofbasic structures.

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

FL (full moon): The full moon especially favors love and sexuality. Its influenceon concrete life disturbs reality somewhat because, during this time, creaturesare ‘dans la lune’, so tospeak(2).

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

The pips are illustrated with suit emblemsand ornate floral designs. The book provides a detailed interpretation foreach card which includes history, psychology, and numeric symbolism. Eachcard’s meaning is also summarized into a single sentence, which is theonly 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, Positiveresults and integral solidity of ongoing projects;Two, Creativedesire;Three, Positivechange of orientation required by destiny;Four, Creativepower;Five, The cosmicforces accompanying the action;Six, Sign ofdelay because of hesitancy before decisions;Seven, The forceleading to success is omnipresent;Eight, Interestingoutcome but the path is difficult;Nine, Positiveresult differed because of calm reassuring of the energetic context;Ten, Excellentachievements, and great satisfactions are announced.

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

This deck is beautifully illustrated, and uses earthy tones to imply thesense of antiquity. The cards are sturdy, the printing is crisp, the entirepackage is well done. The Tarot of theTemplars seems to be currently available inFrance. You may be able to purchase a copy throughYvesDaniel, a wonderful merchant for French decks.

Review by MarkFilipas, 12/22/00

See Pictures of More Cards

(1) The book is written in French; I have translatedthe excerpts which appear here
(2) This phrase is a French idiom which I am unfamiliar with. Though it literallytranslates 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

 Read another Review

Order a deck from Amazon France

Back to New Order of the Templars