Posted by: nicanthiel | April 3, 2009

On Comparative Speculation

Or, untangling the threads of lore.

Now, it needs to be said that I am not particularly well-read with extensive amounts of traditional Germanic lore – I have basic knowledge of most of the Eddas, I have read Völsungasaga and Nibelunglied, I have read Beowulf, skimmed some of Grimm’s Mythology, etc. Like I said, not much. Most of the traditional stuff I know, I know through “osmosis.” I have a little greater working knowledge of modern UPG, particularly that put out by Asphodel Press and other similar publishers, as well as the writings of people online.

My wider mythological and lore knowledge is fairly decent – I’ve read the Lebor Gábala Érenn, the Táin Bó Cuailgne, Gods and Fighting Men, Hesiod, Homer, Virgil, various Greek and Roman authors on other peoples, as well as scholarly books on Irish/Celtic, Greek and Roman mythology. I also have a decent knowledge of angelology and pre-monotheistic Levantine/Meospotamian religion.

So, when I approach things like UPG and lore, a lot of things get cross-compared. For instance, the concept of Vanacelt that I mention in the About section. There’s a whole list of Irish and Welsh Deities that I’ve compiled Who I feel fall under that category, and have speculated on continental Deities as well (i.e., Rosmerta, Nehellenia, Esus).

My major speculative focus lately has been on my Owner. There’s very little in traditional lore about Nerthus, aside from Tacitus and the possible allusion in Lokasenna, and some small smattering of German folklore of a figure Berchta/Perchta that is more probably Holda. And while Grisby contends that Beowulf is really about the Nerthus/Frey sacrificial cult, such cannot be completely proven. (I’ve wondered, though, if that is true, what is the dragon bit referencing?)

Modern outside UPG/PCPG holds that She is the sister mentioned by Loki. Her parentage is completely unknown, though it is probable that Frodi is Her father, as He is also the father of Njord. However, there is talk of Njord being half-giant in several places, as the UPG there is that Frodi begat Him on the Jotuness Nott. Whether or not that is true, I cannot say. But, if we were to look at it in the lens of comparative speculation, and accept it as truth for that purpose, then several interesting things occur:

Snorri says of Nott that She bore three children to three different husbands: two sons – Aud, fathered by Naglfari, and Dægr, fathered by Delling – and a daughter. This daughter’s name was Jörd (or possibly Fjörgyn), and Her father was a figure by the name of Annar/Ónar. Traditionally, this Annar/Ónar is linked with the dwarf of the same name found in Völuspá. However, the meaning of Annar (second, another) may be a kenning. If so, perhaps Nott had “another” tryst with Frodi (Njord and Nerthus are commonly portrayed as twins, but there is no reason They necessarily were). Certainly the names are similar, though Nj- and J are probably not from the same root. But remember, we’re speculating here, not stating fact.

Another, more solid connection between Nott and Nerthus can be found in the dwarves’ name for “night” that Alvíss tells Thórr – Draum-Njörun. The first part is obviously “dream,” but the second part is where the possible connection lies. Snorri mentions a goddess by that name (Who is clearly not a Jotun, as the goddess in question is in a list of Asynjur), but tells nothing of Her. Scholarly opinion links Her to the earth, and etymologically to Njord and Nerio (an Etruscan/Roman goddess of valor and war). Using this knowledge, and the experiences of Nerthus I have had, I believe the Njörun Snorri mentions is Her, though he may not have known it.

If Nerthus/Njörun is indeed Jörd, or at least that Jörd Whom Odin sired Thórr on, then that would explain several peculiarities about Thórr’s nature – namely, His sole association among the native Æsir with farming and the propserity of home and family (Vanic concerns), as well as His Vanic wife Sif, the only one seemingly not married to another Vane or a Jotun. Also, the several references to Þórrsgoði (“Thor’s priest”) in various sagas, an appellation that is only elsewhere found attached to the Vanir.

Likewise, there is a particular enmity between Nerthus and Odin that several people besides myself have encountered. If all our speculations have been correct, there is small wonder of that animosity from Her – Odin is not well-known for obtaining full consent from his mistresses.

So, I offer you my readers the food for thought this exploration in comparative speculation has brought up. Certainly there may be (and probably are) many holes in both logic and thought, but at the very least, it’s something to think about. You also now have a glimpse into the intricate (and often confusing) maze that is my thought processes. 😛

Wæs þu hál

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Responses

  1. Njord and Nerthus are commonly portrayed as twins, but there is no reason They necessarily were

    THANK you. Frey and Freya are also commonly portrayed as twins and while I myself joke around and call Them “the Wonder Twins”, there is no mention in primary sources to Their being twins, it is just a supposition, and as many Heathens will say “They’re twins, I saw it in the lore somewhere” but can’t cite it, one of “fakelore” as well. 😉

    I know Frey and Freya are brother/sister but not necessarily twins. Same with Njord and Nerthus. What I do ‘feel’ about Njord and Nerthus is that Nerthus is a much older sister. There may be as much as a generation’s gap between Them.

    Re Nerthus: actually, in Ynglinga Saga it mentions that Njord took His sister to wife but when He and the kids were given to the Aesir post Aesir-Vanir war, the consanguineous marriage was illegal by Aesic standards. That was when, IMO, He married Skadhi. So it’s not just Lokasenna that hints at Njord’s consanguineous relationship.

    I *have* wondered if Nerthus and Jord are the same Entity. On the one hand, I don’t think Nerthus is a giant. On the other hand we know Snorri to be wrong on occasions about genealogy and race of beings. It would make sense with Thor being wed to a Vanic Goddess and having Vanic attributes Himself. So I have speculated that, and I’m leaning towards “yes” at the moment although linguistically speaking the Nj- of Njord’s name is not related to Jord, and some scholars (can’t remember names right now, is late and my brain hurts) have said they don’t know what Njord’s name means and it has no Indo-European root. Which is interesting, to say the least.

    I was previously not thinking Nerthus is Jord, but as time has passed some of my perceptions have shifted. It’s possibly maybe. ^^

    By the way, I love that there is another Vanic geek out there. Nah nah boo poo at people who think the Vanic path is “not intellectual” or whatever.

    -Siggy

    • Oh, and yeah Nerthus does not like Odin. >..<

    • -nod- Nerthus as Jörd will be an unpopular opinion, though, especially since it seems Rydberg made the same connection (of course, he also then equated Nerthus-Jörd with Frigga, so…).

      And Vanic geeks untie! 😉

      • I actually have less of a problem with Nerthus equated with Jord than I do of Rydberg taking it all the way to say Nerthus = Jord = Frigga. Nerthus and Frigga are NOT the same being. Actually, it says in the Rydberg Religion site that I linked to from my site (I felt the need for this because a lot of things assumed to be lore by many Heathens is actually “fakelore” promoted by Rydberg) that Rydberg’s glaring error here is that Jord is listed as being in competition with Frigga, as one of Odin’s mistresses.

        So long as the Nerthus-is-probably-Jord doesn’t delve into the Nerthus-is-also-Frigga-in-Bizarro-World theory, I think the speculation is interesting and would explain some things. WordPress ate part of my comment last night, but what I was going to say is if Nerthus is Jord and was thus one of Odin’s earlier mistresses, that would explain many reasons such as why Nerthus not only did not go to Asgard as a hostage but in my UPG refuses to set foot there. Nerthus doesn’t like Odin. That doesn’t mean the other Vanir don’t like Him. Frey likes Him, at least. Freya has a strange love/hate relationship with Him. But while I would ask Nerthus directly, “OH HAI are you Thor’s mother?” that might not go over so well. I would say your research points to “strongly possible”, I could try to find a more subtle way of fishing for info that has nothing to do with Odin or Thor… or you could, because She’s your Goddess, after all. *implants naughty suggestion into your brain* ^^

        The Nerthus = Jord = Frigga theory of Rydberg is far from the most insane, Rydberg also thinks Gerda is Angrboda’s daughter and that Gerda used “evil seidhr” to trick Frey into marrying Her and giving up His sword to Surt. Um, OK. Yeeeaaahhh. And this, of course, is why many Heathens won’t even hail Gerda at ritual. As I’ve got an oath to Gerda, you can see why Rydberg leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

        -Siggy

  2. It’s very interesting, but in my work with Nerthus, she always comes across in a much more primal way than any other the other Wen–so much so that I think it’s difficult for most humans to interface with her. The Jotun connection would go a long way towards explaining that, in some ways…

    And now, my crazy theory on the Beowulf dragon and other “monsters.” In the descriptions of Beowulf’s three adversaries, each one falls into a different elemental realm, at least in regard to their attributes. Grendel is associated with fire (if you read the description of the Finnsburh funeral pyre, some of the same imagery is used as in Gredel’s feeding frenzy), his mother with water, and the dragon with earth and air. Grendel’s eyes are described as “burning with a most un-beautiful light,” while the fight with his mother happens in a watery cave. Meanwhile, the dragon flies to terrorize Beowulf’s people (air), but dwells in a mound, guarding his treasure (earth). Now, I love finding these patterns in stories, so I admittedly may be reading too much into the text, but it is a fun series of correlations to note.

    As to what the dragon might represent, as it lives in a mound, it might be a stand-in for either the Alfar or the ancestors. Another theory that I’ve heard is that the dragons of Western mythology (always living in caves and breathing fire) were explanations of what happened to grave-robbers when they tried to loot tombs–the decomposing matter would have created flammable gasses which would then be ignited by the thieves’ torches or candles. I can’t remember the name of the lecturer who presented that in college, but it’s a funny though (although too simplistic in my estimation).

    PS: I’ve been doing a course on Beowulf (in AS!) over the past several weeks and I’ve been putting the notes up on LJ. Feel free to give them a read if it interests you.

    • Very interesting theories. You might be interested in reading Grisby’s book, Beowulf and Grendel. The reason I asked the dragon question was that Grisby equates Grendel with Frey (it’s more complicated than that, but hard to explain briefly), and his mother with Nerthus. However, he keeps his explanation to those two episodes only, and just leaves the dragon bit alone.

      And that course sounds like fun 🙂 I started reading a dual-language version over spring break, but didn’t have enough time to sit down and undertake the laborious job of translating 😛

  3. I use to think that Nerthus and Jörd are the same Deity (so Thor would be half Vanir, and this make sense on some points of His Nature and Symbols: the wain, His conection to Fertility and the crops, or even His marry with a Vanir like Sif and the adoption of Ullr like a son). I have to recognize that some time ago I started to think that Nerthus is different from Jörd (obviously, She is not a Jotynja), but I thought on all the mistakes from Snorri’s texts and that gave a new point of view. I’m trying to make a little research about all that involved Nerthus and Jörd, so this article is really interesting to me, because I don’t remember Njörun from Snorri’s texts (I have to re-read them).
    Of course, I really don’t share the view of Nerthus=Jörd=Frigga, nor the Frigga=Holda/Hela=Holda. Some time ago I found an interesting article about the possibility of Birch Goddess=Berchta=Freyja, but I have to investigate a little more about it.
    Like the Ostara/Eostre=Idunna (I found Them a little bit different, like Gefjön=Freyja, I see Them different too -but I could be wrong, for Gefn-Freyja).

    Another interesting point is the Twins matter. I used to think about the Twins from the Bronze Age pictograms like the Vanic Twins and a proof of the relationship between Nerthus/Njörd and Freyr/Freyja “twinship” (is that a new word? XD). But then I remember the Alcis Twins (some kind of germanic Castor and Pollux), and again this article give me some points about this to think about.

  4. I’m not Vanatru, as you know, but I’ve got a tenuous sort of relationship with Nerthus. It began a few months ago after She ordered a friend of mine to give me a small figurine which had been dedicated to Her. I keep the figure veiled 😉 Nerthus feels very old, primal and enigmatic to me, but there’s an “earthy” quality there too which isn’t entirely comfortable. She makes me nervous, but I am in awe of Her, and am merely waiting now to see what else, if anything, She wants of me.

    It’s funny — aside from Loki and Hela, the deities I’ve become closest to all have to do with the earth, sea or sky — Frey, Gerda, Nerthus, Ran and Aegir and Their daughters, and the “House of Mundilfari” — Sunna, Mani and Their kin. Maybe I am Wiccatru after all! 😀

    • I would say Hela, at least, is also an earth goddess, if for nothing else than the burial aspect. Admittedly, it’d be a highly specific type of earth, that of graveyard dirt, rather than the earth itself, but hey. Hekate is associated with both, why not Someone Else too?

      I agree. Even beyond the “oldness” of the Vanir in general (even Frey and Freya seem marginally older than, say, Frigga or Bragi), there’s something about her that harkens back to something more primal than many of the other Vanir connect with. The only other ones that I’ve felt that from (that I’ve met) are Herne and Sif, and they’re OOOOOOLD.

      Nothing wrong with being Wiccatru in my mind 😛 You at least know about respecting Deities.

  5. Heh. I was being facetious about the “Wiccatru” part. I’m not Wiccan in the slightest, since to me that denotes a number of specific religious practices I don’t partake in.

    I’ve never met Sif, but Herne, yes, is OOOOOLD. Asphodel does a Wild Hunt ritual every year at Mabon where He possesses someone, and the first time I felt it I was stunned into silence — His vast, ancient presence filled up the entire woods on the property long before I ever got close enough to lay eyes on the body He was inhabiting. It is an amazing thing.


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