Nerthus Blot

for Midsummer

 

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By Jordsvin, based on a blot by Lisa Wilson

The following is an outline of the blot to Nerthus and the Landwights that I led at the 1997 Trothmoot in Indiana, USA. It is based on the Nerthus blot written by Lisa Wilson, Gydhia of Hammerstead Kindred, and ultimately on the blotar published by Steve McNallen, with a bit of Kveldulf Gundarson's ideas thrown in, especially the breadman. I have continued to do the blot every year at Trothmoot since then, and it has been very well received.

Introduction: Nerthus is one of the Vanir. She is the Mother Earth Goddess mentioned by Tacitus in his book Germania, written in 98 CE. Her name corresponds etymologically with the much later Njordhr, and my own interpretation, which seems fairly common in contemporary Heathenism, is that she is his sister and wife, as mentioned in Lokasenna. As this is a Vanir-blot and thus a frith-stead, all edged weapons must be deposited outside the Ve before the blot begins. We processed to the blot site, carrying the materials for the blot and Nerthus' image in an improvised God-cart, as was done long ago. The harrow was already set up, and I asked for Nerthus' permission to put her on the harrow and waited to do it until it felt right to do so (read Tacitus for further details as to why).

Hallowing with recels (incense) - I used vervain, an excellent purification herb which unfortunately smells like a "pot" (=marihuana) party. Rosemary, hawthorn and/or frankincense would have worked fine too. As I walked around the Ve area, I chanted Diana Paxson's chant: "Hallowed herbs all ill dispel, as fuel on the fire, as smoke on the wind." Elhaz hallowing at the four directions, beginning in the West, the direction the harrow is facing (this is a Vanir-blot, as I mentioned): "Elhaz, helga Ve thetta ok hindra alla illska." ("Elk-Rune, hallow this sacred space and hinder all evil things.") I then invoked Nerthus. Since she is Mother Earth, she didn't have to journey to us from somewhere else. Rather, I invited her to extend her consciousness up to us from within the Earth. Winifred Hodge did an Earth-blessing based on the Anglo-Saxon Aecer-bot and sang a song. Diana Paxson chanted her Nerthus chant: "Strength of stone, depth of Earth, Mother Nerthus gives us birth. Fur and feathers, scale and skin, all her creatures are our kin."

I used a breadman for this blot. I made him from a variety of different flours, and put food in his stomach before baking him. Please note that you want to try for a very solid breadman, not a flaky, crumbly one. I did the ausa vatni water-sprinkling/naming ceremony on the breadman as a part of the blot, giving him the name "Heathen-frith" in hopes the Gods will help us get along better! Each person present had the opportunity to charge him with some of his or her own energy as I carried him around the Ve. I then went around and collected offerings to accompany Heathen-frith into his previously-prepared grave when he is sacrificed. Nine pennies of the Nine Worlds is a good offering (there is no inflation in Asgard). A small crystal or amulet, a lock of hair, etc. is also nice. I had some bread on the harrow for folks who didn't have anything else at hand. I then ritually strangled Heathen-frith, placed him in the grave and pinned him down with bamboo skewers (sacrificial victims were often cut in some way as well as strangled, whether or not the sacrifice was to Odin), and added the grave goods, which represented things being let go of, sacrifice, or planting a seed for future growth. Many had already spoken of the motive and symbolism of their offerings as they made them earlier.

Next came the hallowing of a horn of mead to Nerthus, and the sprinkling of the harrow, Nerthus' shrouded image on the harrow (traditionally few were permitted to see it), the sacrificed Heathen-frith in his still-open grave, and the blot participants, myself included, with the charged mead. We then toasted Nerthus while passing the horn. As she is one of the Vanir, we asked for peace and good seasons, including better weather than we've been having this year! I then offered to the local landwights of the working apple orchard where the blot was held. I gave them cornmeal and tobacco, which is what they used to get from the First Nations living in the area, and put these offerings in with Heathen-frith and the other gifts to Nerthus. I then covered the grave, and poured the mead left in the hlaut-bolli (bowl used for sprinkling) on one of the apple trees, asking for good harvests and prosperity for the family which has owned the grove for generations. Someone had left a lovely little wreath of red and white clover blossoms on a stump by the harrow, and one of the participants put it on the grave and placed two crossed sticks in the middle, forming a Sun-Wheel. We all greatly enjoyed this lovely and reverent spontaneous gesture. We then bade Nerthus farewell, and in doing so at each of the four directions released the sacred Ve-space as well. Most of the assembled Heathens then departed, but a few who wished to draw closer to Nerthus stayed to assist me in the unwrapping, traditional washing of the image, and its re-wrapping. This experience was very moving to me, and I believe to all others present. We omitted the anciently-practiced drowning of slaves. Not only is that now highly illegal, it was unnecessary as well, since all the participants had charged Heathen-frith before his sacrifice, and we had thus already given Nerthus a bit of ourselves. We loaded the God-cart and reverently departed the blot site.

Please feel free to use this outline/description as a guide to your OWN blot to Nerthus and the landwights, the guardian spirits who care for her. I deliberately didn't write it out verbatim as a script to keep folks from reading it off note cards. (OK, I admit it, I started off doing blots that way too!) Nerthus' blessings be with all of us, and may we prove worthy of them by caring for her. Hail Nerthus!

Jordsvin

Note: Feel free to forward as long as you give me credit. Put it on your web page if you like. Translate it! Cross-post it! But,...please email me if interested in publishing it.

Created by Chandonn and Jordsvin

all works used by permission of the authors

last modified 07/19/2003