Mother of Vanaheim

Offerings to Nerthus

by Galina Krasskova

Nerthus8Ways of Honoring Nerthus

Colors: greens and browns

Symbols: bog, boar, cattle, plow, fields.

Altar suggestions:  Grain and produce, cow-horns, cow’s teeth, crabapple, dock plant, lambsquarters, raspberry leaves, fir tree, the rune Jera. Should have a veil hanging behind it, with at least one special item (ideally an earth-mother-type statue) that is placed behind the veil and never seen except for cleaning.

Food and drink: Cooked or soaked grain pottage, root vegetables, fresh produce, bread, wild-gathered herbs, beef, pork, dark rich stout - the sort of "beer that drinks like a meal".

Service offerings: plant trees, especially fruit trees, weed someone’s overgrown garden, support a local farmer’s collective, committing to taking care of your own health, including engaging in regular exercise.

Contraindicated: Lifting the veil. When cleaning or adjusting is necessary, take it down without looking at it, carefully, then turn your back for a moment, then turn back and do the cleaning. Nerthus’s veil is bad luck and disrespectful to lift. Among the early Germanic tribes, those non-initiated into Her mysteries who saw Her statue unveiled were put to death.

Daily Ways To Honor Nerthus

It’s easy to think about devotion as something that one prepares for and engages in only at special, select times. It’s a lot harder (at least I find it so) to make it something that one tries to do every hour of every day. The greatest mystics in religious traditions the world over often write about how the little choices and actions of our very mundane everyday lives can be powerful opportunities, points in which we can show ongoing devotion. Those moments can be just as important and precious as the most expansive offering or blot, maybe even more so. All this devotion requires is consistent thought and mindful effort. (I write this as though it is easy, but I well know it’s not! That may sound like nothing, but it’s an ongoing discipline, one that can be surprisingly difficult to develop).

I believe that Nerthus can be an excellent guide in this process, not just in finding ways to make the mundane sacred, but in learning to be mindful about the choices we make when they touch on those things especially sacred to Her. Nerthus is the great earth Mother, She rules the land that devours and the land that brings forth life. This gives us several powerful points of connection through which we can connect to Her.

harvestwomanOne of the easiest was to honor Nerthus is through our relationship with our food. We may not be involved each day in the process of food production the way our ancestors were, but we still depend on the grace of the earth for that which nourishes our bodies. As a Goddess of the earth, the land, purity of the land we are provided with a powerful opportunity to honor Her every time we eat or drink. Taking the time to sincerely give thanks for our food is one way to honor Her, something that everyone can do. Learning to cook good and healthy meals can be done as a means of honoring Her. Another way might be to take conscious care in choosing one’s food. I know that buying organic is expensive, but if you can afford it, consider buying food that hasn’t been inundated with pesticides and growth hormones. Consider purchasing meat that hasn’t been caged or treated inhumanely. If you can’t afford to buy organic food, then try to buy locally as much as possible. Supporting one’s local community of farmers is a good and positive thing. Frey, the son of Nerthus, is a God of farmers too, after all. When done with the Vanir in mind, these can be potent ways of honoring Them and the land itself. Sometimes honoring those things that certain Gods value can be a means of connecting to and honoring those Gods Themselves. Thus by taking care to be good stewards of the land, to be mindful of our food, to treat animals with respect and kindness, we are making best use of ongoing, daily opportunities to honor Gods like Frey, Freya, Nerthus, and Njord Themselves.

Another good way to honor Nerthus might be to recycle. I do not believe that the Gods smile when we pollute the earth or the oceans. I believe very much that such a thing not only harms the land spirits, but causes the Gods immense grief. So consider learning to recycle and doing so as an offering to Her. Recycling, by the way, can include buying green products.

Another little-discussed way of honoring Gods so associated with land and the health of growing things might be to make a donation to an organization dedicated to such things. My adopted mom, for instance, regularly donated to The Big Sur Land Trust, because their goal of preserving the California coastline seemed to her a good and honorable way to show devotion to the Gods of the sea, so palpably present to her on the shores of the Pacific. She would also spend time cleaning up the beach, and for many years volunteered time cleaning up one of the local parks. All of this was devotional work for her, her way of “walking her spiritual talk”. So perhaps some will find their way to honoring Nerthus through volunteer work, or making contributions to a worthy cause.

Not everyone has the spare cash to make regular donations, or to buy organic food, but there’s always something, some way that we can elevate our mundane actions to the realm of the devotional. It just takes the gift of time and attention to figure out what the right path of action in this area might be for each of us. If nothing else, we can each pick up the occasional piece of trash 

Hail Nerthus,

Hail the dirt teeming with life.

Hail the bog, life’s ancient terminus.

Hail the pig, the fowl, the cow

and all animals and growing things

that feel the gift of Your blessing.

May we be inspired, Great Goddess.

May we be inspired in our devotion to You,

today and every day.

Hail, Nerthus.


Artwork by Matt Hughes.