wooden statue of Nerthus Nerthus

Nerthus is primarily known as an earth goddess honored by several Germanic barbarian tribes, including the Angles [Anglii in Latin] who eventually settled the island which was later to be called Angleland, or England for short.

Scholars are not in agreement about the origin of the name Nerthus. It may stem from the Proto-Indo-European root *ner-, 'virility'. While it may seem strange that a goddess would be associated with a male trait, this origin might explain some of the confusion over Nerthus' gender. The Proto-Germanic name Nerthus corresponds phonologically to the Old Norse name Njörð. The popular explanations of the diety's apparent sex change over a few centuries are: 1) The name Nerthus was originally associated with a male/female (possibly brother/sister) pair of dieties. 2) Nerthus was originally a hermaphrodite. According to Germanic language professor Rudolf Simek, "The usage of the plural form of the god's name Njörð, which occurs in several skaldic poems points to the first solution. The fact that the masculine and feminine of the grammatical u-stem fall together means that a formal differentiation according to gender becomes impossible."


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