Hertha: The Goddess of Fertility And Nature

Short Facts Tribe: Vanir Goddess of: earth, fertility, nature, plant life and water Wife of: Njordr Mother of: Freyja and …

Short Facts

Tribe: Vanir

Goddess of: earth, fertility, nature, plant life and water

Wife of: Njordr

Mother of: Freyja and Freyr

Sister of: Njordr, Fjorgyn and Ran

Other names: Nerthus, Eartha and Erda

Hertha responsibilities

Abundance, the flow of water, growth of plants, life – death and rebirth of nature, plentiful fields and pastures

A painting of Hertha.
Photo Credit: oscar.fennix

Hertha spirit animal

A red fox, a white-tailed deer and a wood frog

Hertha weapon/domain of power

Her natural shelters, nature in general, and her great chariot pulled by two cows

The Mother Earth

Hertha is an important although obscure Vanir deity. She is the sister and wife of Njordr, the god of the sea. She is the mother of Freyja and Freyr, and also sister to Fjorgyn and Ran. Hertha is the Mother Earth; goddess of nature, fertility, seas, rivers, plant life, and everything that grows on the earth. She is also known as Nerthus.

Hertha lives in her island sanctuary, in a place surrounded by beech trees. She often visits the lands of mortals inside her chariot pulled by two cows. Hertha brings along nature’s calm and gifts, plentiful lands, blooming flowers and abundant crops. Sometimes, she rides a deer with hops as its crown.

In her sacred grove stands a holy cart, which only her priest can touch. The priest is able to feel the presence of Hertha and thus worships her while her cows draw her cart. The days that follow the coming of the goddess are deemed sacred. No wars are fought and peace is cherished by all. In that way, Hertha goes to the world of humans and stays with them. When the priest returns to the grove, the cart and the goddess are cleansed in a sheltered lake. The slaves that assist in this ritual are promptly drowned in the lake so that they won’t reveal Hertha’s secrets.

After the Great War

When the Aesir-Vanir war ended, Njordr, Hertha and their children – Freyja and Freyr – accepted to live in Asgard as hostages. Odin however didn’t allow Hertha to come. The Aesir Allfather disapproved of Njordr and Hertha’s union since they were siblings. Hence, the Vanir goddess remained on her sacred island from where she continued her work as a devoted Mother Earth. A little while later, Odin visited Hertha and had with her the Valkyries.

Mentions

In Germania (by the Roman historian Tacitus) Hertha is mentioned as Nerthus being elaborately worshipped by seven Germanic tribes.

A painting showing Hertha with animals.
Photo Credit: dandelion_brujaverde

It’s said that Hertha’s sacred site was a deep black lake, situated on Rugen Island in the Baltic Sea.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Is Hertha a Norse deity?

A. Nerthus is a goddess worshipped by a number of Germanic tribes during the time of the Roman Empire BC. Tacitus in his work ‘Germania’ describes a dark ritual regarding the worship of Nerthus. It’s not clear, but it’s strongly suggested that Hertha is Nerthus, who simply changed the name and became a Norse deity.

Q. What is the difference between Hertha and Fjorgyn?

A. Hertha is the goddess of earth and nature whereas Fjorgyn is the personification of the earth in Norse mythology. Although these two deities contradict one another, it is mentioned in the old texts that Hertha and Fjorgyn are siblings. Therefore, no issue arises regarding Earth and Mother Earth, or does it now?