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Published April 30, 2015 Updated June 18, 2023

Iceland Mythological Playing Cards

Iceland Mythological Playing Cards designed by Sigurlinna Pétursson, 1958

Iceland Ethnic & Indigenous Myths & Legends Add to Collection

Above: the ace of spades depicts Himinbjorg, the celestial mountains where the rainbow Bifroest touches the sky. The fallen heroes rode along Bifroest to Valhalla. The ace of diamonds depicts the Ash of Yggdrasil, the world tree. Its root is divided into three parts. One is situated in Nifilheimur (the Underworld of Mist) where the well Hvergelmir is. The second is in Jõtunheimar (World of Giants) where Mimis well is found, and the third in Micklegarth (Old Icelandic name of Constantinople) with the Urd well. From it the three Norns (Fates) bring the gods the drink of wisdom. The ace of hearts represents Valhalla, the residence of Odin and the fallen heroes. It was bright as gold and covered with shields. The ace of clubs depicts the Starred Sky, created from the skull of the giant Ymir. Four dwarfs support it; East, West, North and South.

Below: the remainder of the cards depict gods, their wives or consorts from Icelandic or Norse mythology.

Icelandic Mythological Playing Cards manufactured by Handa, 1958

Above: Icelandic Mythological Playing Cards designed by Sigurlinna Pétursson (1899-1976), manufactured by Handa, 1958. Images courtesy Rex Pitts.

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By Rex Pitts (1940-2021)

Member since January 30, 2009

Rex's main interest was in card games, because, he said, they were cheap and easy to get hold of in his early days of collecting. He is well known for his extensive knowledge of Pepys games and his book is on the bookshelves of many.

His other interest was non-standard playing cards. He also had collections of sheet music, music CDs, models of London buses, London Transport timetables and maps and other objects that intrigued him.

Rex had a chequered career at school. He was expelled twice, on one occasion for smoking! Despite this he trained as a radio engineer and worked for the BBC in the World Service.

Later he moved into sales and worked for a firm that made all kinds of packaging, a job he enjoyed until his retirement. He became an expert on boxes and would always investigate those that held his cards. He could always recognize a box made for Pepys, which were the same as those of Alf Cooke’s Universal Playing Card Company, who printed the card games. This interest changed into an ability to make and mend boxes, which he did with great dexterity. He loved this kind of handicraft work.

His dexterity of hand and eye soon led to his making card games of his own design. He spent hours and hours carefully cutting them out and colouring them by hand.


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