Tag Archives: Nerthus

The Rest of the Vanir: overlooked goddesses, waves, and women

After my last post, on Freyja and Odin, I had a response on Reddit that intrigued me. The poster was responding to my deliberately provocative description of Freyja as the only Vanir goddess, pointing out that there were other females associated with the Vanir or Vanaheim.

Unfortunately, the comment was lost or deleted, but they did have a point, so I decided to discuss their candidates for Vanir goddesses here.

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Who is the Birch Goddess?

Berkana, or Birch, the 18th rune, is often said to be named after the birch goddess. I think however the “goddess” part is modern mythology. Before I go any further I want to say that there’s nothing wrong with that – that’s how mythology gets made. It is interesting to see how ideas get put together and grow into something new.

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Nerthus and Njorun: a Norse Mystery

(This post is adapted from material in my new book on Njord and Skadi.)

One of the great puzzles of Norse mythology is the problem of Nerthus and Njord. The Germanic goddess Nerthus, whose cult is described by the Roman historian Tacitus, in the first century AD, is not attested in any other source, but her name is linguistically the same as that of the Scandinavian sea-god Njord, who appears in sources roughly 1 000 years later.

Since Snorri tells us in the Ynglinga saga that Njord had a sister who was his wife, the mystery seemed solved: Nerthus was his sister, just as Freyja was Freyr’s.

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Lytir: Prophetic God

I have written many posts about Celtic goddesses who are known by their names alone, gleaned from an inscription or two made in Roman times. The Norse god Lýtir is almost as obscure. Apart from his name, the only evidence we have for him comes from a post-Christian tale which clearly does not think much of the god or his powers.

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