Jörð is attested to in the Prose Edda and the Poetic Edda. She is further attested to in the archaeological record, being invoked in various charms, spells and prayers, such as the common Saxon charm, Aecerbot.
Like Máni, she is often attested to in magic spells; and like Ullr we know she played a larger role in the daily religious observances of our forebears than the surviving literature about her might suggest. One particular cultic practice attested to her involved the pouring of milk and honey into the soil of farmland, asking for her blessing.
She is Mother Earth, the goddess who is the earth herself. Her name is pronounced “ee-YURth” with a soft “th” like in “leather,” rather than a hard “th”, like in “earth.” However, as English is a Germanic language, it is completely appropriate to also call her by her English name, Earth. She is known around the world by many different names, and is perhaps most famous to Westerners under her Greco-Roman ones: Gaia and Terra.Likewise, she is probably connected to Irish Danu.
She is referred to as Frigg’s parent by the name of Fjörgyn, with another deity called Fjörgynn (the masculine version of Fjörgyn). While masculine-feminine name pairings are common among the Vanir, who married brother to sister, Jörð is older than both Æsir and Vanir tribes of gods. One theory is that Frigg was conceived through parthenogenesis. Jörð may be something of a reincarnation of Ýmir, with her body made out of the recycled remains of the hermaphroditic entity, who likewise created life with him-herself.
Jörð in the lore is considered a jötunn, one of the elder race of giants. She is also counted among the Asyjnur, the major goddesses of Ásgard and she is looked to as a benevolent deity who receives veneration in modern North pagan practice. One of the distinguishing traits of the Jötnar is that they tend not to care for, and are even hostile towards, humankind. The Jötnar counted among the gods of Ásgard are those who, like the gods, care for and watch over us.
Interestingly, there are said to be nine Jörð-like giantesses, one for each of the Nine Worlds. Whether Jörð has eight sisters, our forebears were aware of the other planets in our solar system, or Jörð exists inter-dimensionally, is not known. Like other matters of divinity and spiritual speculation, we leave that to you to decide for yourself.
Jörð is the daughter of Nótt (Night) and Annar, both primordial Jötnar. She is the mother of Thor and another god named Meili, by Óðin. She is called “Óðin’s bride” in skaldic poetry and is one of his concubines – a position that would have been one of great honour.
In the lore, she is described as wearing a girdle, and ditches, turf, gullies, escarpments, and other earthwork ledges were referred to metaphorically as this girdle.
Her name seems to be related to mountains and the physical terrain of the earth mass. You walk upon her, live in a dwelling constructed of her – she is inescapable, immanent, all around. She is, in many ways quite the opposite of many of the Abrahamic notions of the divine, who see the divine as necessarily outside of the world: she is the divine that is the world, herself.
Thoughts on Jörð
Many modern Heathens consider Jörð to also be the goddess known as Nerthus, the latter being an earth-mother name associated with the more southerly Heathen lands now known as Germany and Austria. It is also possible that Nerthus is a separate goddess, the feminine aspect of Njörð.
There are are other goddesses with similar associations, including Freya, Gefjon, and Gerð. As pre-Christian pagans in Northern Europe did not have a systematic theology, it is likely that many of the names of the numerous earth goddesses are simply regional names of the same archetypal deity. As Germanic tribes traded with their southern neighbors, religious practices also passed back and forth and influences between cultures have been noted by many scholars. It is highly likely that Jörð is related to Hellenic Gaia, an older Titan mother earth goddess who continued to receive veneration alongside the Olympians who came after her.
Jörð is among the deities shared across other modern pagan faiths. According to historian Ronald Hutton in his book Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft, Jörð (along with Diana and Aphrodite) helped influence and inspire modern-day conceptions of The Goddess of Wicca.
She is called “Mother of Mankind” and in prayers and petitions in the lore, she is called upon as the mother of all of the gods as well. In particular, Jörð is invoked for help in finding and accessing healing herbs, and in activating their maximum potential. She is among the many deities who speak to Northern paganism’s inseparable interweaving with environmentalism and ecology movements. An important aspect of practicing any paganism is environmentalism, so much so that calling yourself a pagan often implies environmental activism.
The gods, who count Jörð’s daughter as their queen, and her son as their champion, cannot be truly honoured with garb and by-standing. To say something is sacred is to say that it is truly beyond profit and convenience. In Northern paganism we are our actions and it is our duty to take action on behalf of the sacred earth and to help the gods delay Ragnarök for another day.
Signs and Symbols
The Earth, hills, mountains, and unspoiled wilderness. Healing herbs, bees, and grandmothers. Natural features that resemble a woman (womb-like caverns, hills shaped like breasts) and soil. Girdles, both as a garment, as a metaphor for ditches, turf, gullies, escarpments, and other earth-work ledges. Icons of ecology movements and environmental rights groups.
Earth, Jorth, Fjorgyn, Nerthus, Eordan Modar (Mother Earth), Eorde, Erce, Fold, Fira Modor, Hlodynn, Hludana, Grund, Erda, Drighten. Also Gaia/Gaea, Ge, and Terra in Greco-Roman tradition.