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Tarot Reflections


  December 15, 2003

Deck Review: Templar Tarot
Sandra Thomson, CTGM

Sandra Thomson's specialty within tarot is that of an author and teacher. She is the co-author of three books (The Lovers' Tarot, Spiritual Tarot, and The Heart of The Tarot), the author of Cloud Nine: A Dreamer's Dictionary, and the author of a dictionary of tarot, Pictures from the Heart, published by St. Martin's Press.

She teaches tarot classes at the Philosophical Research Society (PRS) in Los Angeles, where she resides. Although she learned to read with the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, she is very fond of the Ancestral Path and the Shining Tribe decks, and uses them for comparative or special readings. She reads online for the ATA reading networks, and privately.

High Priestess card

High Priestess
Templar Tarot


Almost everyone with any kind of occult, metaphysical, or mythological interest has heard of the Knights Templar, a prestigious and mysterious twelfth century group of French warrior knights. In the centuries following their eradication in 1307, all kinds of occult motivations, purposes, and activities have been attributed to them.

I am a sucker for book and box covers. If the art or the description catches my interest, I buy, usually with an image in my mind of what this will be. Often I am disappointed, but in the case of this deck, I was not.

Although artist Allen Chester says that each painting/card was influenced by a higher consciousness, and that as we study or meditate on the cards, we can tap into that realm, the artwork on the cards speaks more to me of the unconscious. The paintings are vivid, brightly colored, often conveying a sense of chaos, and yet sometimes being very ordered. Chester says that he often paints to music, which serves to open his soul to seeing amazing visions, hearing words of wisdom, and understanding ancient mysteries, which is then transferred to his paintings. A representative for the publisher says that Chester believes the most powerful use of the Tarot is to "open the consciousness for introspection."

The 78-card/paintings, which took five years to complete, bear the names and suits of the usual Major and Minor Arcana (Wands being Staves). Those names, however, are printed lightly or sometimes transparently, so they do not interfere with the picture or with a meditation on the picture. The website describes the cards as representing the legends of the Knights Templar. It describes the cards of the Major Arcana as being "directly linked to the Templar legends”, while the "Minor Arcana cards represent influential families of the legends." Actually, it is only the court cards that represent said families. The backs of the cards bear the Templar cross and so do not indicate whether the card is reversed or not.

The little white booklet that accompanies the deck is written by Daria Kelleher and is not so little, i.e., some 54 pages thick. Suit names are printed in black bars on the edge of each page for easy searching through the booklet.

In some cases a word in parentheses, in the booklet only, refers to an alternate name for the card or expands the meaning of the card. For instance The High Priestess is also identified as Mary Magdalene, whereas Death is sub-titled The Alchemist and Temperance represents The Grand Master. The World is sub-titled Ein Sof, and is identified in the seven-page glossary in the back of the book as "the Kabbalist name for God. The term means Infinite or Without End."

All of the Major Arcana cards have such a "sub-title"; some, but not all of the Minor Arcana do. The glossary offers a brief explanation for the sub-titles, as well as other appropriate historical information.

Daria Kelleher, the author of two children's books, has been a tarot reader for some 25 years and has also done extensive research on the Knights Templar for her series of young adult novels. We are indebted to her research for the four pages in the booklet on the history of the Knights Templar and for reminding us of the unanswered questions that still remain concerning them. Neither Kelleher nor Chester read Tarot cards professionally, according to the publisher.

The booklet provides a brief description for each of the 3.5" x 5" cards, and offers a divinatory and reverse meaning for each. Although the descriptions give you some idea of what the picture is about, there are so many curious details in each card that you will have to rely on yourself to discover their meaning. That, I believe, is exactly what the artist intended, and why these paintings are so provocative.

There is a seventy-ninth card in the deck, unlabeled, but identified in the book as The Magic Flute. The card is not explained and its meaning is to be revealed through individual meditation. As the authors write, the cards are designed without borders, so that the "reader can remain limitless while delving into the esoteric meaning held within each work of art."

The business of describing what you get when you buy this deck now out of the way, let's turn to the cards themselves. Although the names may remind you of a similar card from another deck, the pictures will not. For instance, The Star (sub-titled The Bloodline) pictures a winged female (an angel) in green clothing, wearing an ankh brooch or necklace at the neck of her dress. She is described in the booklet as "representing the universe" and wearing "green signifying fertility of thought and the ankh of life." She holds the gleaming "star of spirit" in her right hand, while from her left hand, she pours two streams of water that trickle into and join with "the deep pool of the unconscious.” "Purifying fire" from the twelve candles sitting around the emerald green pool (another form of Hermes' Emerald Tablet?) "light the spiritual darkness, but the flames are small because they must be sought, not offered." The card represents "universal truth becoming visible to the seeker."

I, being astrologically identified as the Queen of Swords in the Thoth deck, look rather regal sitting on an elaborate, complex throne of horns and antlers in this deck, and, best of all, I'm quite slim. The glossary tells us that the card's subtitle, Queen Melissande, refers to the wife of King Fulk of Jerusalem. She was considered beautiful and intelligent (Yes!), but betrayed her husband with an adulterous affair (Oh, well).

The booklet description says the queen holds, in her left hand, a scepter made of a heart, which has a flaw in it. In her right hand she holds a golden sword. The background is a blue sky, but there is so much orange at the back of the throne, that it almost looks like the throne might be on fire, or reflecting fiery energy coming from somewhere. What it means to be in that environment is now up to me to find out.

The divinatory meaning of this card is "Highly intelligent and complex; quick-witted and subtle (right on the money so far, yeah). May indicate a woman of sadness (oops). She is also skilled at balancing demands from all directions (yes, indeed).” The reversed meaning is "Devious, underhanded, malicious, a treacherous enemy." Be very, very afraid.

I asked the deck what else it wanted you readers to know. The card I drew was the Strength card (perhaps no coincidence that this is my own soul card). The card is subtitled Bernard of Clairvaux, a French abbot who was influential in gaining the support of the papacy for the Templars.

The card shows a veiled, or possibly bearded, person sitting inside a stone tower surrounded by pots and either actual figures or statuary of winger figures, as well as a few grotesque ones along with bones and nails in the floor. A tree appears to grow within and around the room. A gleaming dove flies through the window. The meanings given in the LWB include: moral conviction; resolving a problem; setting as wrong right; and action, reconciliation. It is a bit difficult to get that understanding from the card painting.

If you look at the pictures as a dream image, however, we can conclude that all the items in the pictures are aspects of oneself. The card suggests at its simplest (and I do not mean to imply that the drawing is simple at all) that the inner holiness of soul unfoldment (the dove) occurs when we can go inside (the remote tower room) and attend to both the pretty and the grotesque sides of ourselves. Therein lies inner reconciliation.

So, what does the deck want you to know from my experience with the Strength card? You may never read for others with this deck, but if you're the least bit serious about your own soul unfoldment, you can't live without it. Its paintings will prompt and provoke you to understand yourself from many different perspectives.

This deck (ISBN 0-9715867-0-5) by Allen Chester is published by Inspire by Design, and is available in bookstores. Photographs of some of the cards and more information about the deck can be obtained from their website at



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