Monday, May 10, 2010

The Incompleat Workes of Beth the Jester

Oh, wow, I’m breathless! I just received my latest Beth Seilonen decks, among them, the Tarot of the Red Jester. And I also just received the originals of a deck not otherwise published, Owls in the Night. Beth lives and breathes art and tarot in Maine. I would like to say I’m one of her oldest fans, but I think there are people older than I am who love her work too. At least I hope so.

I first saw mention of her work on Aeclectic Tarot where some of her other fans were oooh-ing and ahhh-ing over her decks. I had to see what the fuss was about. And what a delight! Now, I know that there’s a time and place for those bite-you-in-the-neck-scream-and-swoon decks; I have those too, trust me. Even the relentlessly optimistic have a dark side. But Beth’s work fills a gap in the whimsy department like no other tarot artist. So I’ve become one of her frequent patrons of the arts.

Besides those two new arrivals, my collection of Beth’s work is, to my mind, small: Another Way, Arcana Cats, Fishy Tarot (true, I’m a fish-nut but I love these fish), Foxy Arcana, Funky Lighthouse, the incomparable Isabel Snail, the Pink Arcana, Purple Penguin, Home Sweet Home, Split View, Tree Women, Watchers, Whimsy Tarot, Witches II and Jester’s Tarot (not to be confused with Tarot of the Red Jester). It is by no means a complete collection! Yet to be snagged are The Maine, Sun Conure, Symbolically Simplistic, Hues, Sails, Baby of Thine, well, good grief, you guys, just go look at all this lovely stuff!

Beth’s decks aren’t just whimsy and color. Her trees bear messages of the harm we do to the environment, the preciousness of our earth, the delight of life and the enormity of circumstance as viewed by the individual. Take a close look at her Watchers and you’ll start looking over your shoulder. Her Tree Women have deep roots. Even bouncy little Nestor the Jester in the Pink Arcana shows the emotion and ambiguity of the tarot much deeper than his pink rolly-polliness may at first glance convey. The Jester makes us laugh, but stay a moment because he (or is that she?) makes us think too. The Jester plucks the conscience of the king as Shakespeare might suggest. Even slow-moving, unsuspecting, gentle and delicate Isabel Snail can ooze up to rest on the wrong golf ball of life with dire consequences. As in that funny-but-true song, “Sometimes you’re the windshield. Sometimes you’re the bug.”

Beth’s limited edition decks are easy to read with but personally, I don’t usually want to take the risk of ruining them with shuffling and use. I do like to get them out to admire and meditate. Isabel Snail’s Tower feels just like October 2002 for me. I can still feel that *whoosh* of the wind I caught just before life hit me right square in the snail shell. The Foxy Arcana “Yearn” shows we all have dreams, the fox and the chickens: If you have sweet little dreams, you sleep; if you have obsessive dreams, you’re up all night.

Just this past weekend, though, I broke my own rule about reading with Beth’s cards. Owls in the Night is so tiny (most of Beth’s decks are “normal” playing card size, but the Owls deck is a bit smaller) that it easily slips into my purse along with what seems to be several hundred pounds of other stuff in there (the Hubs swears this is where the missing Mr Hoffa may be…gotta love those vintage Dooney & Burkes for durability). I read for a private party, some delightful ladies, one of whom had been the successful bidder on my silent auction offering at the Benicia Vallejo Humane Society’s Barkitecture fundraiser. Our hostess plied me with the always-welcome endless glass of water and a glazed donut, plus treated me to a break between readings with a walk in her backyard full of roses and a glorious view of the Carquinez Straits. As a special treat, each sitter got to pick an owl’s card as their closing message for the day. It ended what might have been a “heavy” session on a light note.

Each of Beth’s decks has come with its own hand-decorated box and usually a little drawstring pouch. They are generally laminated, numbered, signed and easy to hold. Beth’s note cards are nearly as much fun as her decks. And, with Beth’s permission, I wanted to share some examples here with you.

The best news of all is that Beth appears to be nowhere near the end of her creativity with tarot. Her Red Jester comes in two alternatives, true to her tailored to the customer’s wish, in its limited edition. For those who want only to be guided by the image, there is the choice of having the card interpretations printed on additional cards supplied with the deck. For those collectors who want to preserve both her images and words together on each card, there is the choice to have the Red Jester “with interpretation.” In addition, there’s a silk cloth, 11” x 11” in choice of 4 colors. I picked “with” and red, being subtle in my collecting.

I’m quite pleased to note that we have available to us here the (happily) Incompleat Workes of Beth the Jester, a whimsical Maine artist and mom, with wonderful new visions of the funny, scary, angry, sad, joyful and loving world of tarot. Encore! Encore! May your inks and watercolors never run dry!

You can find Beth’s decks through this website:, on Etsy, on eBay and if you’re really nice, she’ll accept your friend invitation on Facebook. Please write to her to encourage her to come to this year’s BATS (Bay Area Tarot Symposium) too!


Psst! Registration for BATS just opened and they accept PayPal. The dates are August 28-29, 2010 in San Francisco. It’s loads of fun for tarot enthusiasts and always features fabulously informed experts and a luscious marketplace. For more information and registration, go to

Best wishes!

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