This deck and book set is a remarkable collaboration between scholar John Matthews and artist Giovanni Caselli, based on stories of the Holy Grail and the Knights Templar. For those unfamiliar with the subject, the Grail is, among other things, the cup used by Jesus at the Last Supper, long sought and perhaps obtained by the Knights Templar and other spiritual seekers, both historical and legendary. The basis of the set is a mystical, heroic Christianity that even this "recovering Catholic" finds intriguing.
Matthews, a lifelong scholar in this field, illuminates the essentials of the stories, cites the most important sources, and provides descriptions, keywords, divinatory meanings and meditative questions for the cards. There's a lot of material, and if it's absorbed slowly and carefully, the reader will be amply rewarded.
Caselli's artwork, in the late-Medieval style, is absolutely first-rate all the way. A unique feature of the deck is that if the cards are laid in order, side by side, they form five continuous friezes (long artworks), one for the Major Arcana and one for each of the four suits. This is a sumptuous visual banquet. The Majors and suits are based on the traditional tarot designations, with some variations that are explained in the book with a helpful comparative chart.
Card zero is the Grail Seeker, card one is the Gnostic Christ, card two is Mary Magdalene, card three is Queen Sheba, and so on. The "Queens" are beautifully realized aspects of the Virgin Mary, patroness of the Knights Templar. The rest of the deck is quite masculine, concerning the spiritual and worldly journeys of the young male Seeker from novice to Grand Master, with a fair amount of bloody swordfighting along the way. Incidentally, the Arthurian legends are only briefly touched upon, since Matthews and his wife Caitlin have explored that theme in depth in many other works.
This is a superb set for committed spiritual seekers; art, history, literature and mythology lovers; tarot collectors and anyone interested in this fascinating subject.