Highlight of the month

Folktale Playing Cards by Ásta Sigurðardóttir

For some reason the playing cards that author Ásta Sigurðardóttir drew up from Icelandic folk stories in the years 1960-63 were never printed and so we only have her original sketches. The drawings are coloured with watercolours. Around the mid section of each card is a rather large diagonal border splitting the card into two sections, one black and one white. Between the two sections is a circular frame that depicts a specific magical symbol for each suit. The hearts have the helm of awe, the spades have the hammer of Thor, the diamonds have ginfaxi and the clubs have kaupaloki. The two sections might be intended to symbolize white and black magic. The black section definitely looks more sinister.

In her stories and linocuts Ásta would often use opposites in a setting of horrific atmosphere. The same applies to the playing cards. They depict life and death, god and the devil, good and evil and the meaning of one is formed by the understanding of the other.

All the original drawings by Ásta Sigurðardóttir´s cards are preserved at the library (Lbs 300 NF). A selection is now on display on the exhibition Points of View (Sjónarhorn) at the Culture House.

Here are examples:

Ace of hearts: Pseudorchis

King of hearts: Rev. Snorri á Húsafelli − Rev. Eiríkur í Vogsósum

Queen of hearts: Galdra-Manga − Miklabæjar-Sólveig

Jack of hearts: Erik the Good − Djákninn á Myrká

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