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.
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.
Bright Blessings of Spring,
Emerald, Senior Druid of Sassafras Grove, ADF