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I have tried to pick together what information I can find about Nerthus. I find the reasoning logical, but that can of course be disputed. I you find the information contradictory or simply wrong, please make a contribution Wiglaf

I have trouble understanding this last sentence: "Slaves do this ministry and are then swallowed by the same lake: hence a mysterious terror and an ignorance full of reverence as to what that may be which men see only to die." Does this mean that the thralls sacrificed themselves in a ritual?

I believe it means that after doing their work and hiding the goddess, the slaves were killed and given to the lake.--Wiglaf 15:51, 2 Dec 2004 (UTC)


I added the paragraph "It should also be noted that the same root as in Nerthus …" and so on. I used “Svitjod, resor till Sveriges ursprung” by Swedish archaeologist Mats G. Larsson as main reference here. Salleman 16:10, 27 Apr 2005 (UTC)

I have now formed a theories-section and written a few more paragraphs. My sources are still Larsson, along with Dumézil's works. Salleman 02:45, 1 May 2005 (UTC)


I found the following website which is, upon brief inspection, a verbatim copy of this article. I'm not sure which came first, but I thought I'd bring it to everyone's attention:

I checked the mouse print at the bottom of that page and it says "This is the "GNU Free Documentation License" reference article from the English Wikipedia." So ... there is nothing to worry about it was written at Wikipedia (having written some of it) and they're stating that in mouse print. Goldenrowley (talk) 02:29, 28 November 2007 (UTC)

Questions on relevance[edit]

I made some comments inside the article inside <> editor marks. Inside Etmology, what do the names of other Gods have to do with the etymology of the name, Nerthus? The names don't sound etymologicaly close, to me. What does the war of the Gods have to do with Nerthus? The relevance is missing. Goldenrowley (talk) 02:47, 28 November 2007 (UTC)

Nerthus is generally thought to be the female counterpart of Njörðr. Such pairings were not uncommon and most likely this figure probably warped into another in the surviving sources we have, such as Gefjun and, through Gefjun, potentially even to Freyja later on.
Since it would seem that Nerthus was a figure of the Vanir and a fertility goddess and because this is often seen as an invasion of the Aesir (often seen as a sort of magic-using group of ruling gods) against the Vanir (largely associated with agriculture and fertility) Nerthus is often figured into this subject. This is most likely why it's mentioned but at the moment I agree it is a confused garble.
I've since gone through and restructured some things, switched some sections around and added some new information and references. It's not done by any means but I have used all the time I have for it at the moment. :bloodofox: (talk) 10:22, 29 November 2007 (UTC)
There's also some other things missing at the moment, by the way. The cart is of a particular relevance, I will add more information later. :bloodofox: (talk) 10:35, 29 November 2007 (UTC)


I assume that this section is inspired by Reginheim:

Some scholars note that Nehalennia and Nerthus might be the same goddess, they both had ship symbols and were protectors of ships.

First of all it is unreferenced and begins with a weasel term and secondly it reminds of Reginheim's entry. I have skimmed through Reginheim and I must say that although it is commendable that people present their own theories on homepages, the information we add on WP should abide by WP:reliable sources.--Berig (talk) 12:57, 26 February 2008 (UTC)

You don't have too wonder any longer, I think the article used to cite Reginheim here. I wish people would leave cites in place especially on speculation (since we do not propoose to speculate, but we can cite sources that speculate). Goldenrowley (talk) 02:09, 27 February 2008 (UTC).
Berig: I will read WP:reliable sources to make sure I am using them. keeop in mind Reginheim did not write everythingon his cite and thats not the author's name, some of his articles are English translations of other published sources. Goldenrowley (talk) 02:11, 27 February 2008 (UTC)


The reason I originally deleted the ref to Reginheim is that the author says some scholars believe Nehalennia=Nerthus, but does not identify any of them. If there is any scholarly support for this theory, the statement should be referenced directly to the relevant scholar or scholars. If there is no such support, the section headed Nehalennia is speculation, and should be deleted. Rsradford (talk) 17:41, 26 February 2008 (UTC)

I have already deleted it, and I see no reason why it should reappear unless someone can indicate any scholar that has made the connection.--Berig (talk) 17:45, 26 February 2008 (UTC)
The scholar was ^Ansuharijaz^ on Reginheim, and you've already told me your opinion of him ^or her^ in the edits: "Sorry Goldenrowley, but that site is anything but a reliable source. Even in its first entry it has unsubstantiated speculation.)" -- I am willing to entertain the notion he is not a scholarly, but it leaves me wondering why would we refer to some people as scholars and other people not. I beleive there are many speculations, why not this one. I think he mentioned they both have a travelling ship on wheels motif, which is a strong argument in my often does one see a goddess travelling on a ships on wheels? Goldenrowley (talk) 02:06, 27 February 2008 (UTC)

Here is Ansuharijaz's credentials (found on the Reginheim site). Honestly going by our WP rules, they are kind of vague, has he been "vetted" and is he "mainstream" enough to be used. I would say yes? "Greetings visitor, I am Ansuharijaz and I have created most of this site in 2002 and 2003, the building started on June 2002 ...I was born in 1981 in a small town in the Netherlands and have been interested in history since I was a little boy, during my childhood I was always fascinated by the ancient legends and fairy tales ... and like many other people I was in search of my roots, when I got older I started searching for the answers to my questions and I wanted to know who my Germanic ancestors were...Therefore I decided to create this site on which I shall try to provide accurate and historical information ...please don't be shy to email me if you have any further questions. Enjoy exploring the wondrous world of our ancestors." Goldenrowley (talk) 02:58, 27 February 2008 (UTC)

With all due respect to Ansuharijaz and his admirable efforts, I don't think this is a solid reference as it's simply speculation and only that as it doesn't, in my opinion, have much basis. Other than this, I don't think this is particularly notable. Further, there is no traveling ship mentioned - Tacitus mentions a wagon. The notion of gods associated with wagons in Germanic paganism is not isolated to Nerthus. Freyr is also connected with a ritual wagon in Flateyjarbók and so is a mysterious god referred to as Lytir in the same source. :bloodofox: (talk) 06:19, 27 February 2008 (UTC)
I see two points here. First, the idea that two goddesses must have been the same because they were both associated with boats seems implausible on its face. If true, this wouild probably apply to hundreds of goddesses in as many different religious traditions around the globe. (And of course, Nerthus was only tenuously connected with boats in the first place.) More important, however, this is apparently just one layperson's random speculation. Without scholarly support of some kind, Ansuharijaz's personal web page just doesn't count as a verifiable source, imo. Rsradford (talk) 17:54, 27 February 2008 (UTC)
Ok its plausible, but after some research last night, to look for others who may hold the same opionion, and not finding any yet, I can agree. Goldenrowley (talk) 03:25, 28 February 2008 (UTC)
Good. If you come across any published scholarly support for this point, I'll be the first to agree to restoring this section. I just haven't seen anything reliable on it, so far. Rsradford (talk) 14:21, 28 February 2008 (UTC)

Someone's taken rather a high hand and deleted about half the article. That's what you get for not giving sources for every statement, I suppose. So tiresome, really. Shall we pull together and get some references in? --Wetman (talk) 13:16, 14 April 2008 (UTC)

If you're referring to the material I cut earlier today, the problem generally was not lack of attribution. Much of it was argumentative -- the anonymous editor felt the need to explain to the world which scholars are right and which are wrong, based on how closely their work conforms to his personal opinions. As I said in my comment, that's not the purpose of an encyclopedia. The rest of the deleted material had no direct relevance to Nerthus, but might appropriately be relocated to the articles on Freyr, Freyja, the Aesir, etc. Rsradford (talk) 15:56, 14 April 2008 (UTC)

Tacitus translation[edit]

I see someone's tagged the present translation with a "citation demanded" tag. Would the H. Mattingly and S. Hanford translation (Penguin 1986) be acceptable? Before I take the trouble of hand-transcribing the Nerthus passage I want to be sure that it won't be reverted by someone, wasting my labor. --Wetman (talk) 13:48, 14 April 2008 (UTC)

Mattingly & Hanford would be fine. Presumably, it will be pretty close to the unattributed quote that someone already inserted into the article, so it shouldn't involve too much transcribing. Rsradford (talk) 15:49, 14 April 2008 (UTC)
Just add it :). It seems very unlikely that anyone would revert you.--Berig (talk) 16:36, 14 April 2008 (UTC)

I think I found a better translation but someone reverted it back almost immediately... I propose the translation I found as follows. I thought it was better because it was done in 1877, and because I was alarmed to find the translation we were using mispelled half the tribe names in the 1st sentence. Proposed:

(English translation) There follow in order the Reudignians, and Aviones, and Angles, and Varinians, and Eudoses, and Suardones and Nuithones; all defended by rivers or forests. Nor in one of these nations does aught remarkable occur, only that they universally join in the worship of Herthum [Nerthum]; that is to say, the Mother Earth. Her they believe to interpose in the affairs of man, and to visit countries. In an island of the ocean stands the wood Castum: in it is a chariot dedicated to the Goddess, covered over with a curtain, and permitted to be touched by none but the Priest. Whenever the Goddess enters this her holy vehicle, he perceives her; and with profound veneration attends the motion of the chariot, which is always drawn by yoked cows. Then it is that days of rejoicing always ensue, and in all places whatsoever which she descends to honour with a visit and her company, feasts and recreation abound. They go not to war; they touch no arms; fast laid up is every hostile weapon; peace and repose are then only known, then only beloved, till to the temple the same priest reconducts the Goddess when well tired with the conversation of mortal beings. Anon the chariot is washed and purified in a secret lake, as also the curtains; nay, the Deity herself too, if you choose to believe it. In this office it is slaves who minister, and they are forthwith doomed to be swallowed up in the same lake. Hence all men are possessed with mysterious terror; as well as with a holy ignorance what that must be, which none see but such as are immediately to perish. --Tacitus, Germania, 40, translated 1877 by Church and Brodribb.[1]

Proposed by Goldenrowley (talk) 02:44, 30 May 2008 (UTC)

The problem can be solved in that it's a pretty big quote, so we're going to need to transcribe as much of it as we can. I suggest that we just convert the directly quoted areas into our transcription, including the spelling variants into what we have for our article titles, as well as pointing out specific Latin terms. Something similar was done just recently at Tuisto, which is also based off of a passage from Germania. :bloodofox: (talk) 14:49, 30 May 2008 (UTC)

Can anyone complete the McTurk cite?[edit]

The last version of the article contained the following claim:

Today, a majority of scholars concur that Tacitus provides the first detailed account of a heathen ritual recorded in the Germanic territories. Serious scholars scarcely neglect it when discussing Germanic pagan beliefs and practices.[ref:]Rory McTurk, A Companion to Old Norse-Icelandic Literature and Culture, edited by (Blackwell Publishing, 2005), ch. 17.[end ref]

The second sentence is argumentative, and accordingly I have deleted it. If the McTurk cite is going to support the first sentence, more detail is needed. McTurk did not write the book in question; he edited this collection of essays by a variety of Old Norse scholars. Can anyone give a title, author, and page reference for an article in this book that supports the sentence above? Rsradford (talk) 21:22, 7 July 2008 (UTC)

Though I don't have the book, Peter Orton's essay, "Pagan Myth and Religion" pp 302-319, will be the one with material on Nerthus. But anybody might have noted that just by googling. --Wetman (talk) 21:44, 7 July 2008 (UTC)
Good; thanks for that. Now can anybody confirm that Orton supports the statement that a majority of, or most, or many, scholars "concur that Tacitus provides the first detailed account of a heathen ritual?" (I suppose it should be modified to refer specifically to a Germanic heathen ritual.) A page reference would be good. Rsradford (talk) 21:58, 7 July 2008 (UTC)

Hi Rorik, I have provided the exact page numbers you lacked in the current revision, I own both books. If you have a question regarding them, do not hestitate to ask. I'm happy to help. Wetman has correctly supplied the title of the Orton essay. Why not just buy a copy of the books, they are not difficult to obtain. Don't you run some sort of library out there on the left coast? Jack the Giant-Killer (talk) 05:23, 15 August 2008 (UTC)

If you wish to be taken seriously as an amateur scholar, Mr. Reaves, you should learn how to cite properly the material you copy from Google Books, rather than expecting others to follow you around, cleaning up your messes. Nevertheless I have done so again, correcting your citation and repositioning the Orton quote to the correct section.
Rsradford (talk) 19:59, 15 August 2008 (UTC)

Intelligent people know that new books are not quoted on Googlebooks in any meaningful way. As you accepted the page numbers I provided, there is no point in lecturing me on proper citation. Wikipedia is a team effort. Truth be known, I have cleaned up a number of your messes in the last months as well. If the McTurk book was really on Googlebooks as you suggest, you would have had no trouble finding the name of Orton's essay and citing the page numbers, rather than leaving an underscore after the "p." and fishing for the title. It is also incorrect to say that McKinnell agrees with Grimm, he doesn't, that's your unsourced opinion. (If not, please provide a source). McKinnell makes a convincing argument independent of Grimm. I have now included both in the entry so you may see the difference. McKinnell's quote on the manuscript evidence for and the etymology of the name Nerthus, clearly belongs in the etymology section, not buried in the footnotes. If you wish to provide Motz's argument as well, I have no objection. The broken quote by Simek is inadequate and should otherwise be removed. Jack the Giant-Killer (talk) 22:25, 16 August 2008 (UTC)

For what it's worth, Simek doesn't mention Motz's theory at all in his dictionary entry for Nerthus, and, from my experience, the Njörðr-Nerthus connection is near universally accepted. The actual question seems to be if a change of sex occurred or if the two represented a sort of Vanir twins. Generally, the latter is also considered more likely. This is also reflected in Simek's entry (English, 2007:230). :bloodofox: (talk) 08:33, 17 August 2008 (UTC)

Edit War?[edit]

It looks like we have another edit war going on here. RSRadford keeps reverting my revisions, in favor of promoting a laudatory comment toward Lotte Motz's article "Nerthus: a New Approach" making it look as if 21st century scholars are in agreement with the conclusions of 19th century scholar Jakob Grimm, which suggests that no research has been conducted since that time. This is verifably false. If you compare the statements of Grimm and McKinnell which I provided in my most recent revision (immediately reverted), you will note that McKinnell doesn't mention Grimm and certainly doesn't rubberstamp Grimm's reading, as the current revision suggests. This is original research being promoted elsewhere by the same editor.

The statements of Grimm and McKinnell are both relevant and show the reader the historical progression of ideas. Motz was not a linguist [her training was in German and Old English], and her observation that the manuscripts don't all say "Nerthum" is hardly original, and certainly not "new". Both Grimm and McKinnell discuss their differing reasons for accepting the reading "Nerthum" (Nerthus) among the mss. reading as their quoted works, now excised, show.

Undue credit is being given to Motz's novelty article. The statement by Simek is quoted from an introductory biographical sketch of Motz published in a work memeorializing her. In his scholarly works, Simek says that "The earth mother Nerthus in Tacitus, Gmc. Nerþus, is exactly the same form of the name which would correspond to the ON god Njorðr." (Dictionary of Norse Mythology, p. 230). Similarly, Andy Orchard (1997) says "The name Nerthus readily recalls that of the god Njörd" (Dictionary of Old Norse Myth and Legend, p. 117). Peter Orton (2005) says "He describes the cult of the goddess Nerthus", "Tacitus glosses the Latinized name Nerthus as terra mater," and "it is not inconceivable that Njörðr and Nerthus represent twin sibling deities."

None of these general reference works make mention of the alternate readings, which were new to Motz apparently, precisely because these are not accepted based on sound linguistic principles, Motz was obviously unaware of. Her statement that Grimm chose the name Nerthus precisely because it corresponded to Njörðr demonstrates this ignorance. Grimm chose the reading Nerthus, based on his knowledge of linguistics as he states in the excised quote. There is no reason to delete it, other than to hide these facts. Jack the Giant-Killer (talk) 03:54, 18 August 2008 (UTC)

Does anyone find this relevant?[edit]

Does any objective reader / editor / administrator find the following detailed linguistic analysis at all relevant to an article on Nerthus, other than in a footnote?

"The usually accepted stemma has three families, and readings shared by the best manuscripts of any two of them are thought likely to be correct. The best X group manuscripts (Vatican, Cod. Vat. 1862, Leiden UL XVIII Periz.Q.21) read Neithum; the best y manuscripts (Cod. Vat. 1518, Codex Neapolitanus) have Nerthum, and the best Z manuscript (Iesi, Æsinas Lat. 8) reads Nertum. The sound /th/ did not exist in classical Latin, though the spelling is found in words derived from Greek or the Germanic languages (such as thesaurus 'treasure', or the name Theodoricus). Tacitus would therefore be unlikely to introduce the spelling th gratuitously.
In the fifteenth century, the Italian scribes who produced most of the earliest surviving manuscripts (including the Iesi manuscript) would have a natural tendency to replace th with t, as was consistently done in their native language (see Italian tesoro, Teodorico), but would be very unlikely to do the reverse. Nerthum is therefore more probably correct than Nertum. If both Y and Z should read Nerthum, that reading must be preferred. A different stemma, proposed by Robinson, has only two groups, and the best manuscripts in both read Nerthum. Whichever stemma is correct, Nerthum therefore seems the likeliest reading, although it could represent either a grammatically masculine Nerthus or a grammatically neuter Nerthum.”

Rsradford (talk) 17:17, 18 August 2008 (UTC)

As it pertains to the NAME Nerthus, the general news seems important,without it I think a general reader will be confused if seeing 3 different spellings of the name (and not know which is the "the best" reading). It is legitimate for the etymology section to summarize this information. The emphasis being to summarize the 2 paragraphs of quoted text. Goldenrowley (talk) 01:16, 19 August 2008 (UTC)
Manuscript information is extremely relevant to the article. However, big quotes are definitely bad. As Rowley states, we require a summary here. :bloodofox: (talk) 04:07, 19 August 2008 (UTC)

I have gone back and restored and summarized Grimm's view. This is necessary since there is a tendency by one editor to promote Motz's view that Grimm chose the reading Nerthus precisely because it corresponds to Njördr, which is clearly not the case according to Grimm's own words. I also removed Simek's laudatory comment toward Motz. Since Simek gives no specific examples of why he felt Motz's 1992 article added anything significant to the discussion, it has no business in a general entry on Nerthus. I suggest the editor in question move it to the Lotte Motz entry, where it belongs, if at all. I also see no reason to quote Polemé at length, since neither his nor Motz's view were ever generally accepted. I also restored the citation for Nerthus being the generally accepted reading, and reduced the spin in the previous summary of McKinnell's clear statements to this effect. McKinnell's views are not a fringe opinion like Motz's and Poleme's. They are the mainstream view. If necessary I can cite a number of modern sources that accept the reading Nerthus without question to demonstrate this point. I don't believe this is necessary, however, unless someone wishes to challenge this rather obvious point. Jack the Giant-Killer (talk) 06:30, 20 August 2008 (UTC)

Strangely, editor RSRadford continues to restore a version which boldly promotes the views of Lotte Motz. Motz's view probably does not belong in the 'etymology' section at all as her views simply restate the raw manuscript readings, but in the interest of cooperation, I have now summarized her view within that section. The quote by Simek, really doesn't say anything of significance, and as already noted, Simek does not support Motz's view in his independently published works. I have re-edited the section to more accurately reflect the consensus of modern scholarship. If Motz's minority view is to be retained in the entry in any detail, it is best placed in the 'theories' section, alongside those of Viktor Rydberg and others, as they are not etymological arguments. Finnrekkr (talk) 17:57, 21 August 2008 (UTC)

Please stop spray-painting modern scholarship out of the article simply because you do not agree with it. And if you do not understand how to use footnotes, please stop changing them to incorrect forms. Orton's article stands as an example of what you are saying; he does not say what you are saying. This is not a particularly fine distinction. Rsradford (talk) 22:56, 21 August 2008 (UTC)
Original Research: Motz's views are modern[edit]

There is no valid reason to quote Simek's view that Motz's theory "opened up new paths of thought" in the article. Clearly, it didn't. Motz proposed taking the manuscript variants of the name Nerthus at face value, regardless of the textual evidence for their accuracy and validity. In the decade since she published this argument, no one of any importance has taken it seriously or used it as a "point of departure". As noted, even Simek doesn't take this view seriously in his own work. Nor does he give any indication of how or where exactly her theory "opened up new paths of thought." It's an empty complement from a biographical sketch of Motz published in a memorial festschrist. There Simek acknowledges that he was her personal friend. The view that Motz had "influence on the younger generation of scholars" is original research. The same view is currently being promoted on the discussion page of the Lotte entry. There the administrator has rejected these attempts outright. Does anyone else see the value of inserting this empty statement here?Jack the Giant-Killer (talk) 14:45, 22 August 2008 (UTC)

Your personal opinion of the views of leading Norse scholars is of no interest to anyone. Simek's quote is relevant to establishing that this question was opened to scholarly reevaluation in the last decade of the 20th century. The fact that you have found a scholar (Orton) who is apparently unaware of this development hardly puts you in a position to make pronouncements on the present state of the debate among professionals. Leave the Simek quote alone.
Rsradford (talk) 16:15, 22 August 2008 (UTC)
Motz's views have had little influence and are hardly a good example of the state of "modern scholarship." What it comes down to is that Motz had some theories that seem to have generally been considered fringe in the English speaking world, and subsequently they are generally not accepted. We can, of course, mention Motz's theories alongside the others in the "theories" section, but the laudatory quotes are going to need to be exorcised. :bloodofox: (talk) 16:54, 22 August 2008 (UTC)

Rydberg's Theory[edit]

Why are we giving space in this article to Viktor Rydberg's imaginary "identification" of Nerthus with Jord? No real scholar has ever bought into this nonsense, and repeating it here seems to give it undeserved credence, in addition to misleading uneducated readers. It carries the same weight as something one might find in a comic book. Rsradford (talk) 16:21, 22 August 2008 (UTC)

People are going to want to know where this stuff comes from. Rydberg's views have had some influence and sometimes are still bandied around. When people realize they're coming from Rydberg, they'll know how to approach it. Mentioning Rydberg's theory basically inoculates the article from it being added again randomly, as another editor has mentioned before. :bloodofox: (talk) 16:50, 22 August 2008 (UTC)

Hi Bloodofox. I think this is the best solution. Thank you for cleaning up the article. I have now added the theories of Grimm and Rydberg to the Theories section in chronological order. I have no objection to the theories of Polomé and Motz being added alongside these. I do object, however, to the addition of Simek's quote because it is obviously a flattering statement included in a memorial, not supported by evidence there or in Simek's works. The theory that Nerthus was a hermaphrodite is also a minority view that received some attention when it was first proposed, but now is generally rejected. I think this theory should also be relegated to the Theories section. The modern opinion holds that Nerthus (Earth) and Njordr (Sea) were worshipped as a brother sister pair. Several scholars since 1995 state this clearly with supporting evidence. Orton's view, of course, is a peer-reviewed summary of the current scholarship, representing the mainstream view.Jack the Giant-Killer (talk) 22:39, 22 August 2008 (UTC)

Hello, and no problem. I've been intending to bring this up to GA-status, and once I have done this with the Njörðr article, I will do it here as well. Well, the "hermaphrodite" element is probably worth mentioning in the etymology as the etymology of the term essentially breaks down to being the same word, just with a change of sex, so without the supporting evidence of other twins and the later attested figure of Njörðr, it would just appear that the god changed sex. I've noted there that, as Simek states, the "twin" theory is generally considered more likely. As for the "earth" and "sea" thing, I don't think this is the case - both Nerthus and Njörðr seem to have been associated with water, they're both Vanir (which means an association with things fertility), and anything beyond that is going to probably derive from someone's theory of an apparent division. This also seems to be the general opinion across the board. I would also add Motz and Rydberg into a chronological "identity" overview as you've started doing there. :bloodofox: (talk) 23:49, 22 August 2008 (UTC)

If we could quote McKinnell here, I think we would better frame the hermaphrodite argument. McKinnell notes that the best manuscript reading gives the form Nerthum, which yields a masculine Nerthus or a neuter gender, not the expected female gender. Thus one scholar in the 1960s or '70s, whose name escapes me at the moment, suggested that Nerthus (female) had changed sex and become Njörðr (male) in the time between Taictus Germania, c. 100 AD, and the Icelandic Eddic Poems, c. 1000 AD—. The theory was mentioned for five or ten years and then basically rejected in favor of a male-female set of twins. This argument was heavily fueled by the statement in Lokasennna 36, that Njördr's sister was the mother of his childen, supported by Snorri in Heimskringla, Ynglingasaga, ch. 4. This argument is the gold standard today.Jack the Giant-Killer (talk) 22:04, 23 August 2008 (UTC)

What we should probably do since the hermaphroditic element is usually mentioned as being "unlikely" and often not mentioned at all nowadays is to take it out of the etymology section, and then give it its own section called "change of sex" in the "theories" area, and then deal with it there. Of course, we can't make any judgment calls on our part or produce any original research in this area, so it needs to be fully referenced. :bloodofox: (talk) 03:55, 24 August 2008 (UTC)

I agree. And better yet, I say we just find and cite the actual scholar who first purposed this theory as a a solution to the problem of a masculine name form (Nerthum) for a female diety (Terra mater, Mother Earth), as well as citing the subsequent scholars who critiqued or repeated it. No need to generalize. A couple of scholars remark that the name Skadi, also associated with Njord, also is masculine in form.Jack the Giant-Killer (talk) 16:06, 24 August 2008 (UTC)

Skaði and Elli aren't really masculine in form, they're just of a fairly rare feminine declension class. As for the Latin, there are some Latin feminine nouns in the second declension Haukur (talk) 16:11, 24 August 2008 (UTC)


I've substituted the sentence:

Njörðr is often identified with the Vanir god Njörðr

with this one:

Nerthus is often identified with the Vanir god Njörðr

I suppose that's the right correction but I'm not sure. Could anyone check? Jalo 15:03, 12 September 2008 (UTC)

Ah, glad you caught that! I've fixed it. :bloodofox: (talk) 16:33, 12 September 2008 (UTC)

Restored text: any issues?[edit]

The following sourced text was anonymously deleted (by an "expert" as usual); I have returned it. Deleting is not always editing. However, Nerthus is not directly linked. Other opinions might be reported (and cited) to balance this, or does it not belong at all? Wetman (talk) 23:41, 29 June 2009 (UTC):

It has been theorized that evidence of the veneration of a mother goddess, representing the earth, survived among the Angles (Tacitus' Anglii) into Christian times as evidenced in the partially-Christianized pagan Anglo-Saxon Æcerbot ritual.[2] The earliest history of the Longobardi states that this tribe revered Odin's wife, Frea, suggesting her role as an earth mother.[3]
I've got Roles of the Northern Goddess here and I'll check it over to see what Davidson actually says. At the very least the paragraph needs to be rewritten. :bloodofox: (talk) 02:56, 30 June 2009 (UTC)
I just checked all mentions of Nerthus in Roles of the Northern Goddess (three mentions) and Davidson doesn't come to this conclusion in this work. While I am certain that this observation has been made before, I suggest we pull it until we can hold someone accountable for it with a solid reference. I'll dig through my books and see if I can find a scholar making the 'earth mother' connection. Note that nearly all goddesses in Germanic paganism have some connection to the earth in some way or another, but calling them all representations of a single "Mother Earth" is extremely dubious to me. :bloodofox: (talk) 03:01, 30 June 2009 (UTC)
The reverence given Frea as described in Historia Langobardorum does not support a so-called earth mother role during the time that Historia Langobardorum was written, or prior to that time. Aside from the inherent silliness of such a leap of deduction, there is no corroborating evidence that I have ever encountered to support such an idea. Bloodofox is on the correct thinking here in his parting comment.
Æcerbot is hardly a reliable primary source for native Saxon pagan beliefs; to use it as such here would be like using the Heliand as an unassailable primary source for pre-Christian religion in the north. (talk) 01:02, 22 October 2009 (UTC)


  1. ^ Tacitus', Germania, 40; translation from The Agricola and Germania, A. J. Church and W. J. Brodribb, trans., (London: Macmillan, 1877), pp. 87- 10, as recorded in the Medieval Sourcebook [1]
  2. ^ Davidson (1998).
  3. ^ Anonymous Origo Gentis Longobardorum and Paulus Diaconus, Historia Langobardorum, ch. 7.; Both works appear in English as History of the Lombards by Paul the Deacon, translated by William Dudley Foulke, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1907.

Germania ms readings of Nerthus[edit]

Lotte Motz proposed that the Germanic goddess described by Tacitus may not have been called Nerthus at all, stating her opinion that Grimm selected the name Nerthus from among the manuscript readings precisely because it bore an etymological resemblance to Njörðr Since there is only one surviving manuscript of Tacitus' Germania how can there be variant readings? See also the article Lotte Motz. Id it possible that editors have it backward: that Motz suggests Grimm selected the name Njörðr from among the manuscript readings precisely because it bore an etymological resemblance to Nerthus? Direct quote would help. --Wetman (talk) 04:20, 6 February 2014 (UTC)

I think there is a bit of a misconception. For the Germania, there are indeed many manuscripts, but it is known that they all descend from the single text in the Hersfeld Codex, which is now lost (some of the Agricola of this manuscript does actually survive, though). (Reference: Rodney Potter Robinson, The Germania of Tacitus: A critical edition. Middletown, Conneticut 1935. Reprint: Hildesheim 1991, p. 1). Also, as I understand it, even some of these manuscripts are known to have been corrected with reference to other manuscripts independent of the Hersfeld Codex. (And I assume there is indirect evidence, i.e., testimonia, but I have no idea about that). --Atethnekos (DiscussionContributions) 05:04, 6 February 2014 (UTC)
Wow, are Tacitus or Grimm actually considered authorities on this? Tacitus also said Germans had red hair, let's remember, and I don't believe he ever encountered them directly himself, correct? Grimm, while a notable scholar, was from an era of bad scholarship, folk etymologies and bunk linguistics. The scholars of his age may have been well-motivated but they were too driven to find authoritative answers. "answers." Obotlig interrogate 08:33, 14 December 2014 (UTC)

Name unattested? (Närsys?)[edit]

Is the name really unattested? "Nerthus" seems like a Latin speaker who had a lisp. "Njörðr", I am sure there is good reason for this interpretation but it doesn't seem a sure thing. *Nerþuz is um. People at that time spoke "proto-Germanic"? Come again, I'm not up on the linguistics but that seems flakey too. Is this the best we have, and there is no other mention or piece of information? Maybe the name is wrong because it was a real name, not a linguistic construction. Närsys maybe? *shrug* Seems like there must be more speculation on this. No documentation in all those scrolls? No rune stones? Unfortunate. Obotlig interrogate 08:26, 14 December 2014 (UTC)

Or look at the Swedish words:

  • nord (nord)
  • nåd (grace)
  • nöd (distress)
  • närsluta (near stop - enclose)
  • när (near)
  • sys (sis or blood relative, like sif or sib maybe?)
  • narciss (Narcissus!!!)

Given the propensity for puns, nicknames, double entendre, etc., I have no idea how any attempt at reconstructing this name was made. And if she was from Gotland? They still speak a different dialect. Obotlig interrogate 08:54, 14 December 2014 (UTC)

There are interpretative issues with Tacitus's account (for example, why bodies were placed into bogs), but a lot of Germania subsequently has checked out (for example, bodies placed into bogs). Here and there, Tacitus also provides readers with examples of Proto-Germanic words (such as the Latinized Ingvaeones, itself containing a theonym). Nerthus is one such word. As you note, linguistically, it's clearly cognate with Old Norse Njörðr, which has been observed since Grimm. There's no good reason to assume that this was therefore simply a wild coincidence, especially when their associations and geographic areas match up. I would also be very careful about dismissing Grimm. While some of Grimm's conclusions aren't very useful to us today, his work continues to be an important source to draw from, and, for example, Grimm's Law was and remains extremely important. However, we're not here to speculate; we only report on what others have said. :bloodofox: (talk) 16:41, 14 December 2014 (UTC)
Yeah I am just wondering that there isn't any other research. The word "German" itself has fallen victim to latinized folk etymology even though it had a clear and simple meaning and there are runes for both words. Similarly there is a rune for Ing. There's no rune for "Nerthus" and the ending seems suspicious by any measure - it is indeed a happy coincidence to decide the "us" was a vowel-z ending rather than a lisp. Also the general theme of gender ambiguity, role shifting, shape shifting, etc. really make this questionable and the article is taking for granted the conclusions of two unreliable sources. Maybe at the least it could make some mention of why those sources are unreliable - which wouldn't be a difficult observation to source. Obotlig interrogate 00:32, 15 December 2014 (UTC)
And if I might repeat: "answers" Obotlig interrogate 00:38, 15 December 2014 (UTC)
I'm not sure what you're getting at regarding rune names and that particular exonym. A lot has been said about the Njörðr-Nerthus gender situation, but it's not particularly strange to begin with. Here's something that should probably be getting more attention here: Sister-wife of Njörðr & Njörun. It happens that the corpus provides us with a mysterious feminine twin of Njörðr, which is itself not unique in a comparative context. :bloodofox: (talk) 03:54, 15 December 2014 (UTC)
I meant that for the correct meanings of things like "Ing" or "Ger-man" there is very straightforward evidence. The question about gender identity is exactly what I am getting at. If we are saying Njördr = Nerthus because they sound very similar, adjusting for sound shifts, because of basically one source, Grimm, that seems questionable and like both his claims and those of Tacitus should be couched with reasonable questions about the quality of their scholarship, if it can be sourced and seems worth including. If you think this article is fine the way it is, I'm good with it, since you are the primary editor on these pages. Personally neither Grimm nor Tacitus seem like reliable sources except on themselves. Obotlig interrogate 05:02, 15 December 2014 (UTC)
This is a widely accepted observation in modern scholarship. As a result, this page reflects that. In this case (as with many others examples in Germania), Tacitus is widely held in academia to be a reliable primary source. The same goes for Grimm's observation, which isn't dependent upon Grimm but is openly observable—he simply pointed it out (and thus it's not a simple matter of 'sounding very similar'; that's not how historical linguistics works). :bloodofox: (talk) 06:35, 15 December 2014 (UTC)
Plainly Tacitus is not very reliable, given that the most fundamental observation was false - that Germans have red(dish) hair? It's not even very common. Picts or Scots perhaps have it most often. Similarly, I don't see how any reconstructive linguistics is patently empirical. If something is thoroughly unattested, the logic and deductions that went into the conclusions are always subject to doubt. Just to toss out another example, the classifications of West Germanic, North Germanic, East Germanic are questioned by some linguists, especially more recently. The older scholarship is really in doubt, from what I understand. There is not solid deduction behind it, only correlation and speculation. But, again, if you are completely satisfied with this, I don't think any other editors even pay attention. Thanks for your replies. Obotlig interrogate 13:49, 15 December 2014 (UTC)

Check Chambers quote[edit]

@Bloodofox:There is a quote which reads: "strange has been the history of this goddess Nerthus in modern times. Sixteenth century scholars found irresistible the temptation to emend the name of 'Mother Earth' into Herthum, which nineteen century century scholars further improved into Hertham, Ertham. For many years this false goddess drove out the rightful deity from the fortieth chapter of Germania".

The text "nineteen century century" looks wrong, but I don't want to correct it without access to the source. Thank you,  SchreiberBike | ⌨  00:36, 28 February 2015 (UTC)

Good catch—fixed it! :bloodofox: (talk) 15:09, 28 February 2015 (UTC)
Should it be "nineteen century" instead of "nineteenth century"?  SchreiberBike | ⌨  16:19, 28 February 2015 (UTC)
"Nineteenth" is correct. By the way, you can view the source here: [2] :bloodofox: (talk) 21:13, 28 February 2015 (UTC)
Thanks.  SchreiberBike | ⌨  22:08, 28 February 2015 (UTC)