These playing cards were designed by Thorbjörn Ingason for the Icelandic creative agency – Islenska. Islenska was hired by Icelandair (a customer-oriented travel service company in Iceland). Icelandair was interested in a deck of playing cards for their international flights. This nice deck was available on Icelandair’s international flights in 2010.
The deck: 52 playing cards + 2 Jokers + 2 information cards.
Court cards feature Nordic gods instead of royalty – “The Vikings who first settled Iceland were pagans. They left kingdoms in Norway and brought with them their belief in the old Nordic gods. Because they worshipped several deities but had no king, this distinctly Icelandic deck of cards features Nordic gods instead of royalty“.
All picture are clickable
The King of Spades – Odin (Óðinn)
Odin is a major god in Norse mythology and the ruler of Asgard (Ásgarðr) – one of the Nine Worlds (“nine homeworlds” unified by the world tree Yggdrasill in accordance with the cosmology of Norse mythology) and home to the gods of the Æsir (the major group of the Norse pantheon). He is a principal member of the Æsir and is associated with war, battle, victory and death, but also wisdom, Shamanism, magic, poetry, prophecy and the hunt. Odin died during the events of Ragnarök.
The Queen of Spades – Frigg
Frigg is a major goddess in Norse pantheon, the wife of Odin and the queen of Asgard. She is the only one other than Odin who is permitted to sit on his high seat Hlidskjalf (Hliðskjálf) and look out over the Universe. Frigg has the power of prophecy but she does not reveal what she knows. The goddess is associated with love, matrimony, hearth, procreation. Her symbols are a spinning wheel and a belt with keys.
The Jack of Spades – Hodur (Höðr)
Hodur is a blind god in Norse mythology and the brother of Baldur. Tricked and guided by Loki, he shot the mistletoe arrow which was to slay the otherwise invulnerable Baldur and killed him. After this, Odin and the giantess Rindr gave birth to Váli, who grew to adulthood within a day and slew Hodur.
The King of Hearts – Freyr
Freyr is one of the most important gods of Norse paganism and a member of the Vanir. Freyr was associated with sacral kingship, virility and prosperity, with sunshine and fair weather. The gods gave him Álfheimr (the realm of the Elves) as a teething present. He rides the shining dwarf-made boar Gullinbursti and possesses the ship Skíðblaðnir which always has a favorable breeze and can be folded together and carried in a pouch when it is not being used. Freyr fell in love with the female jötunn (a mythological race which was separate from the Æsir and the Vanir but of comparable strength and ability) Gerðr. She became his wife but first Freyr had to give away his magic sword which fights on its own “if wise be he who wields it”. Freyr was killed without his sword by the fire jötunn Surtr during the events of Ragnarök.
The Queen of Hearts – Freya (Freyja)
Freya is a goddess and the sister of Freyr. She is a member of the Vanir (a group of gods associated with fertility, wisdom and the ability to see the future). The Vanir are one of two groups of gods (the other one – Æsir). The Vanir became a subgroup of the Æsir after the Æsir–Vanir War. Freya associated with love, sexuality, beauty, fertility, gold, seiðr, war, and death. Freyja is the owner of the necklace Brísingamen, rides a chariot pulled by two cats, owns the boar Hildisvíni and possesses a cloak of falcon feathers. Freyja rules over her heavenly afterlife field Fólkvangr and there receives a half of those that die in a battle (the other half go to the god Odin’s hall Valhalla). Within Fólkvangr is her hall Sessrúmnir.
The Jack of Hearts – Skirnir
Skirnir is Freyr’s messenger and vassal. He was sent as a messenger to Jötunheimr (one of the Nine Worlds – the homeland of the Giants of Norse mythology) to conduct Freyr’s wooing of the fair female jötunn Gerðr on condition of being given Freyr’s sword as a reward.
The King of Clubs – Thor (Þórr)
Thor is the son of Odin, the stepchild of Frigg and a hammer-wielding god. His mountain-crushing hammer – Mjölnir (is sometimes referred to as an axe or club). He wears the belt Megingjörð (doubling his strength), the iron gloves Járngreipr (he requires them to handle his hammer) and owns the staff Gríðarvölr. This god is generally described as fierce-eyed (but also red-haired and red-bearded). Thor is associated with thunder, lightning, storms, oak trees, strength, the protection of mankind, and also hallowing, healing and fertility. He had a fierce battle with the monstrous serpent Jörmungandr during the events of Ragnarök and they killed each other.
The Queen of Clubs – Sif [there is a mistake on Thorbjörn’s picture]
Sif is a goddess associated with earth. She is the wife of Thor and is known for her golden hair. Sif once had her hair shorn by Loki. So Thor forced Loki to make a golden headpiece for Sif. As a result Sif got golden tresses.
The Jack of Clubs – Heimdall (Heimdallur)
Heimdall is the son of Odin, the stepchild of Frigg and a god who possesses the resounding horn Gjallarhorn, owns the golden-maned horse Gulltoppr, has gold teeth and is the son of Nine Mothers. He is attested as possessing foreknowledge, keen eyesight and hearing, is described as “the whitest of the gods”, and keeps watch for the onset of Ragnarök while drinking fine mead in his dwelling Himinbjörg. Heimdallr and Loki killed each other during the events of Ragnarök.
The King of Diamonds – Tyr
Tyr is the son of Odin, the stepchild of Frigg and a god associated with law and heroic glory in Norse mythology. He is portrayed as one-handed. Tyr was also killed during the events of Ragnarök.
The Queen of Diamonds – Idunn (Iðunn)
Idunn is a goddess associated with apples and youth. Loki was once forced by the jötunn Þjazi to lure Idunn out of Asgard. So Loki brought Idunn to climb a tree by promising unusual apples on it. Þjazi (in the form of an eagle) snatched Idunn from the tree and took her to his home. The gods forced Loki to return Idunn back to home.
The Jack of Diamonds – Baldur
Baldur is a god in Norse mythology and the son of Frigg. Frigg made everything in existence swear never to harm Baldr, except for the mistletoe which she found too young to demand an oath from. The gods amused themselves by trying weapons on Baldur and seeing them fail to do any harm. Loki, upon finding out about Baldur’s one weakness, made a missile from mistletoe and helped Hodur shoot it at Baldur.
JOKER – Loki
Loki is a god or jötunn (or both). He is the son of Fárbauti and Laufey, and the brother of Helblindi and Býleistr. Loki is the father of Hel, the wolf Fenrir, and the monstrous serpent Jörmungandr. Loki’s relation with the gods varies by source. Loki sometimes assists the gods and sometimes causes problems for them. But his normal relations with the gods end with his role in engineering the death of the god Baldur. He is associated with slyness, guile, fraud and illusion.
This blog thanks Thorbjörn Ingason, Albinas Borisevicius and World Web Playing Card Museum from the bottom of its soft heart for initial pictures of these playing cards and some information about them.