Appeal: Peace, Fertility, Prosperity, Abundance
Amongst scholars there is some ambiguity regarding Nerthus and Njord because grammatically, Nerthus is “the same form of the name which would correspond to the Old Norse God Njord.” (ibid). This has led to all sorts of scholarly speculation but within the modern community both Deities are usually worshipped as separate entities.
In Germanic paganism, Nerthus is a Goddess associated with fertility. Nerthus is viewed as one of the Vanir (by some the Queen or Mother of the Vanir). She is the Mother of Freyr and Freya. Like Njord, she is strongly associated with frith (peace) and fertility rites. Together, Nerthus and Njord govern the prosperity and wealth of men, fertility of the land and good harvests. Very little of her and her worship is known. She was the 'Mother Earth' worshipped by the North Sea Germans, according to the Roman historian Tacitus (writing in the first century of the Christian era).
While Jord took care of the more wild natural places on Earth, Nerthus was more nurturing and gift giving Goddess of the Earth. But, like Jord, there was two sides. Nerthus was also the terrible Goddess of earthquakes, famine, flood, storm and destruction. There was bounty, but also tremendous danger and outright terror all contained at once in the holy presence of this Goddess. Tacitus specifically talks about the mysteries of Nerthus as begetting “terror and a pious reluctance to ask what that sight can be which is only seen by men doomed to die.” (Tacitus, chapter 40).
Her worship included the springtime procession of a wagon in which her image was kept, which ended on a holy island. Everywhere the Goddess then deigns to visit, she is met with celebration, hospitality, and peace. All iron objects are locked away, and no one will leave for war. When the Goddess has had her fill she is returned to her temple by the priests. Tacitus adds that the Goddess, the cart, and the cloth are then washed by slaves in a secluded lake.
In addition to having influence over fertility, she holds other Godly offices that are not stated by Tacitus. Beyond Tacitus, we have archeological evidence of bog contents including bent iron weapons, grand strings of amber, domestic animals and human sacrifices which some scholars believe are consistent with what we know of Nerthus’ worship.
In surviving Anglo-Saxon writings, there is a ritual for blessing the fields prior to ploughing and planting. During Charming of the Plough, which usually occurs in late February, a customary activity is turning the soil, mixing it with an offering of milk, flower and water. Even if you don’t have a garden, turn a little dirt near your apartment or home and leave a similar gift. This action rejoices in Nerthus’s awakening and draws the Goddess’s peace and prosperity to your residence. Take a little of that same blessing with you, just collect a bit of the soil-milk mixture in a container and put it wherever you need peace or prosperity the most.
In days of old, the many tribes gathered to give you honor.
On your island where sat the scared grove,
the priest tended your cart and sacred heiffers.
Around the land was your carriage led.
No war was made. Weapons were cast aside. Iron was covered.
The Folk knew peace and happiness.
Nerthus, goddess of sacred rites, I call you now to my devotion.
Nerthus, be present at my rite!
Nerthus, as in days of old, you are needed once more.
Let the tribes of men gather to honor you.
Let war cease and let weapons be cast aside.
Let peace and happiness pour forth through the lands.
Let the Children of Earth know and honor their Mother once more.