Jörð (Old Norse: Jǫrð, lit. 'earth') is the personification of earth and a goddess in Norse mythology. She is the mother of the thunder god Thor and a sexual partner of Odin. Jörð is attested in Danish historian Gesta Danorum, composed in the 12th century by Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus; the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century by an unknown individual or individuals; and the Prose Edda, also composed in the 13th century. Her name is often employed in skaldic poetry and kennings as a poetic term for land or earth.
Old Norse jǫrð means 'earth, land', serving both as a common noun ('earth') and as a theonymic incarnation of the noun ('Earth-goddess'). It stems from Proto-Germanic *erþō- ('earth, soil, land'), as evidenced by the Gothic airþa, Old English eorþ, Old Saxon ertha, or Old High German (OHG) erda. The Ancient Greek word éra (ἔρα; 'earth') is also possibly related. The word is most likely cognate with Proto-Germanic *erwa or erwōn-, meaning 'sand, soil' (cf. Old Norse jǫrfi 'sand, gravel', OHG ero 'earth').
Fjörgyn is considered by scholars to be another name for Jörð. She is similarly described as Thor's mother and her name is also used as a poetic synonym for 'land' or 'the earth' in skaldic poems. The name Hlóðyn, mentioned in Völuspá (50) (as "son of Hlódyn" for Thor), is most likely also used as a synonym for Jörð. The etymology of Hlóðyn remains unclear, although it is often thought to be related to the goddess Hludana, to whom Romano-Germanic votive tablets have been found on the Lower Rhine.
In the Poetic Edda, Jörð receives mention in the poems Völuspá and Lokasenna. In Völuspá, he is referred to as mǫgr Hlóðyniar and Fjǫrgyniar burr (child of Hlóðyn, Fjörgyn's child). Hlóðyn, although etymologically unclear, must therefore have been another name of Jörð.
- The earth was [Odin's] daughter and his wife. Out of her he begot the first of his sons, that is Asa-Thor.
Additionally, the section describes Jörð's ancestry as follows (the included note is Faulkes's own; Faulkes uses the anglicization Iord throughout his edition of the Prose Edda):
- Narfi or Narfi was the name of a giant who lived in Giantland. He had a daughter called Night. She was black and dark in accordance with her ancestry. She was married to a person called Naglfari. Their son was called Aud. Next she was married to someone called Annar. Their daughter was called Iord [Earth].
This section, however, varies by manuscript (see discussion below).
Section 25 of Gylfaginning lists Jörð among the ásynjur (Old Norse 'goddesses', singular ásynja):
- Thor's mother Iord and Vali's mother Rind are reckoned among the Asyniur.
Skáldskaparmál mentions Jörð numerous times, including in several quotes from skaldic poetry. The second section 4 of the book list kennings for the god Thor, including "son of Odin and Iord". Section 17 quotes Þjóðólfr of Hvinir's composition Haustlöng, in which the skald refers to Thor as "the son of Iord" twice. The poem is quoted again in section 23. Section 18 quotes Eilífr Goðrúnarson's composition Þórsdrápa, in which the skald refers to Thor as "Iord's son".
Section 19 contains a list of kennings for the goddess Frigg, including "rival of Iord and Rind and Gunnlod and Gerd". Section 90 contains a list of kennings for Jörð, referencing a variety of skaldic kennings for the goddess:
- How shall earth be referred to? By calling it Ymir's flesh and mother of Thor, daughter of Onar, bride of Odin, rival of Frigg and Rind and Gunnlod, mother-in-law of Sif, floor and base of winds' hall, sea of the animals, daughter of Night, sister of Aud and Day.
Additionally, as the common noun jörð also simply means 'earth', references to earth occur throughout the Prose Edda.
According to philologist Rudolf Simek, Jörð is "[a]n Æsir goddess, even though she is also called a giantess". Simek highlights parallels between Thor and the Vedic deity Indra: "Just as Thor's counterpart in Indian mythology, Indra, is begotten by the god of the heavens Dyaus and the Earth, so Thor is also the son of the Earth, just like the proto-ancestor Tuisto ... ".
According to folklorist John Lindow, "Jörd must have been a giantess in the beginning. If so, Odin’s marriage (or, more likely, sexual relationship outside marriage, perhaps not even a willing one on her part) to Jörd should be regarded as parallel to his other strategically minded relationships with giantesses."
Philologist Haukur Thorgeirsson points out that the four manuscripts of Gylfaginning vary in their descriptions of the family relations between Nótt, Jörð, Dagr, and Dellingr. In other words, depending on the manuscript, either Jörð or Nótt is the mother of Dagr and partner of Dellingr. Haukur details that "the oldest manuscript, U, offers a version where Jǫrð is the wife of Dellingr and the mother of Dagr while the other manuscripts, R, W and T, cast Nótt in the role of Dellingr's wife and Dagr's mother", and argues that "the version in U came about accidentally when the writer of U or its antecedent shortened a text similar to that in RWT. The results of this accident made their way into the Icelandic poetic tradition".
- Lindow 2002, p. 205.
- de Vries 1962, p. 295.
- Orel 2003, p. 86.
- Kroonen 2013, p. 118.
- Simek 1996, p. 86.
- Lindow 2002, p. 117.
- Lindow 2002, p. 206.
- de Vries 1962, p. 239: "... aber die deutung bleibt ungewiss."
- Dronke 1997, p. 150.
- McKinnell (2022: 541).
- Völuspá 53 (56).
- Dronke 1997, p. 22.
- Lokasenna 58.
- In Hárbarðsljóð 9, Thor calls himself son of Odin and brother of Meili, who therefore may also be Jörð's son.
- Faulkes (1995: 13).
- Faulkes (1995:13–14).
- Faulkes (1995: 31).
- Faulkes (1995: 72).
- Faulkes (1995: 80–81, 89).
- Faulkes (1995: 85).
- Faulkes (1995: 86).
- Faulkes (1995: 90).
- Faulkes (1995: 90–91).
- Faulkes (1995: 157).
- Faulkes highlights these occurrences in the index of his translation of the Prose Edda; cf. Faulkes 1995: 244.
- Simek (2007: 179).
- Haukur (2008:159—168).
- Examples include Pierer (1844: 204), Barth (1846: 396), and Uhland (1868: 18).
- Barth, Christian K. (1846). Teutschlands Urgeschichte, Vol. 5. Erlangen: J. J. Palm & Ernst Enke. (in German)
- de Vries, Jan (1962). Altnordisches Etymologisches Worterbuch (1977 ed.). Brill. ISBN 978-90-04-05436-3.
- Dronke, Ursula (1997). The Poetic Edda II: Mythological Poems. Clarendon Press. ISBN 978-0198111818.
- Faulkes, Anthony. Trans. 1995 . Edda. Everyman. ISBN 0-460-87616-3
- Haukur Thorgeirsson (2008). "Hinn fagri foldar son" as published in Gripla XIX, pages 159–168. Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies.
- Kroonen, Guus (2013). Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Germanic. Brill. ISBN 9789004183407.
- Lindow, John (2002). Norse Mythology: A Guide to Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-983969-8.
- McKinnell, John. 2022. "The Earth as Body in Old Norse". Religionsvidenskabeligt Tidsskrift 74: 534-550. Viewable online.
- Orchard, Andy (1997). Dictionary of Norse Myth and Legend. Cassell. ISBN 978-0-304-34520-5.
- Orel, Vladimir E. (2003). A Handbook of Germanic Etymology. Brill. ISBN 978-90-04-12875-0.
- Pierer, Heinrich A. (1844). Universallexikon der Gegenwart und Vergangenheit, Vol. 21. Altenburg: H. A. Pierer. (in German)
- Simek, Rudolf (1996). Dictionary of Northern Mythology. D.S. Brewer. ISBN 978-0-85991-513-7.
- Uhland, Ludwig (1868). Schriften zur Geschichte der Dichtung und Sage, Vol. 6. Stuttgart: Verlag der J. G. Cotta'schen Buchhandlung. (in German)