Keeping Our Nerthus Tradition

For many years Sassafras Grove has enacted our own interpretation of the Roman writer Tacitus’s description of the rites of Nerthus. (You can read more about the inspiration for our tradition on our Founder’s blog, The Book of Sassafras.)  In short, we bury our Nerthus idol in the ground at the exact moment of the Autumn Equinox, and we unearth her at the exact moment of the Spring Equinox as a representation of the Earth going to sleep in the Fall and reawakening in the Spring.  Once she returns to us, she “goes out among the people” with Sassafras members taking turns hosting her in our homes and taking her to festivals.  We also take turns hosting her during her Autumn/Winter sleep.  I had the honor of having Nerthus bless my garden 11 years ago–the year I bought my house–and she finally returned once again last Fall.

Nerthus pics for post

Secure in her little wagon inside of a basket, Nerthus receives some final offerings while resting on our home shrine.

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I dig a hole for Nerthus in my flower and herb garden near some zinnias and the butterfly bush, right next to the garden path.


And I prepare for her a soft bed of herbs.


She acquires more offerings as we wait for the “moment.”


Just before the Equinox, I place her in her bed, surrounded by offerings.  At the exact moment of the Equinox, I cover her over with earth.


What was seen in the Summer is concealed in the Fall.  I pour a libation of water as a final offering.

In the last minutes of Winter, my husband Nick and I make our way through the predawn darkness to Nerthus’s bed.  As Nick holds his cellphone flashlight, I thrust the large shovel into the ground to loosen the earth.  I reach into the cold yet no-longer-frozen ground and feel for the smooth wood of our idol.  As the cellphone alarm chimes the moment, I pull Nerthus from her earthen bed to waken and be with us once again.


In keeping with Tacitus’s account, we bathe our Nerthus in a “pool,” or in this case a wooden bowl set up in my sink.


After anointing her with oil, we return Nerthus to her wagon (complete with kine) and make seasonally appropriate offerings.  


Finally we install her on our seasonal shrine until it’s time for her to embark on her “World Tour” amongst the members and friends of Sassafras Grove.


Coming to a home, ritual, or festival near you!

Bright Blessings of Spring,

Emerald, Senior Druid of Sassafras Grove, ADF

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