Inevitably, when someone learns that I am Vanatru, the first thing they ask (likely around the same time they stop snickering about how I’m using the Vanir as an excuse to get dates) is which deities I honour. Most are familiar with the three Vanic deities who are explicitly named as such in the Eddas:
However, some have said “Waitaminute, who the Hel is Njord’s sister?” and though it is purely a matter of speculation/UPG/arguing over etymology, some add a fourth personage to the “primary” Vanic deities:
There’s also a big list of “deities who are speculated to be Vanir/have Vanic origins/are Vanir-in-spirit-if-not-by-blood-or-marriage which you can see here. I definitely don’t agree with all of them, but there you go.
Anyways, more learned folks argue back and forth over whether Nerthus was once absorbed by Njord but then they became separated over the years or whether she even existed and Tacitus was doing that Roman thing of saying “X is actually Y” based on superficial traits possessed by X, or whether or not Jacob Grimm was full of shit when he compared Nerthus to a bunch of different earth deities. I’ll leave that for other people to puzzle out. I get the sense that people like Nicanthiel Hrafnhild care less about the historicity of their deity and more that there is a lady talking to them who seems happy to call herself Nerthus and take their offerings.
Anyways, all scholarly type questions aside, why does Nerthus scare the crap out of me?
No other deity really gives me such a feeling of dread. Sure, other deities have their dark sides, even the happiest, most laid back, chill deity in the universe has a side that you probably don’t want to see. Even the Virgin Mary, usually a kind and understanding mother figure, has a more martial side (as visions during the crusades attest):
Let me be clear: I’m not reacting this way because she showed up in a dream and freaked me out or anything of the sort. This is a reaction I had based solely on reading about her. This is the same kind of visceral reaction I have when reading about kinky things that I absolutely, 100% know that I DO NOT WANT, EVER.
It was going fine in Germania until the very end, nice procession, everyone’s happy, waitaminute, WHAT DID YOU DO TO THOSE SLAVES?!
And, now that I think about it, I think this is pretty much the reaction I’m supposed to have, this sense of holy terror, something awful (awe-full, not GAH, THAT’S TERRIBLE!).
I just can’t seem to deal with it. I want happy Earth with flowers and trees and a never ending cornucopia of abundance, not the Earth that demands human sacrifice (by drowning, which is one of the most painful ways to go) but you don’t always get what you want, right? A gift demands a gift in return, reciprocity and all that.
I’m sure someone’s going to chime in and be all “She’s not that bad, you know?” Yes, yes, I believe you, she just scares the crap out of me right now, okay? I’m sure at this moment, I’m no better than Trixie when she badmouths Freyja but I wouldn’t say I badmouth Nerthus, I just say “you know what? She scares me, but obviously she means something to other people.” I don’t think it’s a good idea to badmouth deities, especially when you honour deities who are related to them. Do you honestly think any deity is just going to sit there and be chill about you dissin’ their relatives and friends?
Yeah, I wouldn’t be very happy either.
Anyways, I don’t know if my perception of Nerthus will ever change (maybe it’s just one of those things where you just don’t mesh with that deity) but this is where I am right now, take it or leave it.