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Nehalennia: Dutch Goddess of the North Seas

A couple of years ago I learned about the little know Dutch Goddess of the North seas, Nehalennia. Since my main deities are Gods and Goddesses of the seas I had to dive into who this Goddess is and her importance. Nehalennia is the Goddess of the North seas, Sailors, fortune at sea, safe passage at sea and sometimes considered a Goddess of life and death. She is also considered to be a Mothergoddess. So in many ways you can see similarities between Nehalennia and the Norse God Njordr, Ægir and the Goddess Rán. I always like to give lesser known Gods and Goddesses the spotlight they deserve and Nehalennia definitely deserves such honor.

In 1645 a large part of the Zeeland Dunes in Domburg were eroded due to a huge storm. What they found were altarstones or votive stones dedicated to the Goddess Nehalennia. These stones dated back to the second and third century BC. They also find the remains of a Temple. Which suggests that there once was a Temple dedicated to Nehalennia there. Although it is still not known whether this Goddess was Celtic or Germanic, it is known that the Romans in the area worshipped this Goddess. The texts on the votive stones are in Latin. Therefore it is thought that Nehalennia is the name the Romans gave to the Goddess. The stones found in Domburg were displayed in the church, which turned into a sort of museum. However in 1848 lightning struck the church tower, burning it to the ground. Most stones were destroyed.

In 1970 a fisherman at Colijnsplaat in Zeeland noticed four large stones in his fishing net. He decided to take them to shore and showed them to a lot of people. They recognized the name Nehalennia, which was still readable on one of the stones. In the years after this discovery they excavated more of these votive stones, together with pieces of building materials. Suggesting that here too, once a Temple dedicated to the Sea Goddess stood. SOURCE.

Nehalennia Dutch Goddess Statue, Colijnsplaat. Date
ca. 100 CE–ca. 250 CE
Nehalennia, a Dutch Goddess Kindle Edition
by Ingrid de Haas

Further Resources:

Nehalennia (Celtic: “she of the sea”): ancient goddess, venerated in the Roman age at the mouth of the river Scheldt.

A Dutch Goddess, Nehalennia

Nehalennia – the ‘Cailleach’ of Zeeland?

Nelahennia is a native Dutch Goddess

Ancient Goddesses Indigenous to The Netherlands: Nehalennia, Hludana and Tanfana

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Encyclopedia of Norse and Germanic Folklore

It has been a while since I posted a book recommendation so here we go with this true literature gem. Encyclopedia of Norse and Germanic Folklore, Mythology and Magic by Claude Lecouteux is a book filled with such great details and images it is one I refer to often as a great resource. Not only does this encyclopedia give brief yet detailed descriptions of every know God and Goddess of the Norse and Germanic pantheons but also of places, creatures and other things from the Böxenwolf, the Werewolves of Northern Germany, to the Goddess Sinthgunt, Goddess of the Cosmos and time, plus so much more. This brilliant book is one I highly recommend for the personal library of anyone who has interest in this subject.

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Goddess Ostara – What is Known

As much as is written and as many websites along with Youtube videos you can find regarding the Germanic Goddess Ēostre (Ostara, Ēastre), so little is known historically. But does this mean we disregard her as a true Goddess? I say no because as we see with Gods and Goddesses of other Pantheons such as the Norse, Celtic and Slavic, it does not lessen their importance. So being that Spring has begun I felt the need to offer this post to my readers to get a deeper insight and see other opinions regarding Goddess Ostara.

Ēostre (Ostara, Ēastre) is an obscure Germanic and Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and dawn, and is thought to be the namesake of the Christian holiday Easter. Her festival is celebrated on the Vernal Equinox, the first day of Spring.

Her name is thought to mean “to shine”, therefore Ēostre is seen as a goddess of the dawn. However it is also thought that Ēastre is the ancient word for “spring”. There are also links to the name Ēostre and “east”, the direction of the sky where the sun first rises, which gives Ēostre the name “Eastern Star”.

Ēostre is connected with growth, renewal, abundance, new beginnings and fertility. As symbols of rebirth and fertility, eggs and rabbits are sacred to her, as is the full moon.

Ēostre represents the transitional time between childhood innocence and adult passion, and reminds us that life is full of untold possibilities and adventures. SOURCE

Ostara/Spring Equinox Vernal Equinox March 21-22

A point of perfect balance on the journey through the Wheel of the Year. Night and day are of equal length and in perfect equilibrium – dark and light, masculine and feminine, inner and outer, in balance. But the year is now waxing and at this moment light defeats the dark. The natural world is coming alive, the Sun is gaining in strength and the days are becoming longer and warmer.

The gentle whispered promise of Imbolc is fulfilled in the evident and abundant fertility of the Earth at Ostara. It is time for the hopes of Imbolc to become action. The energy is expansive and exuberant. It is the first day of Spring!

Ostara takes its name after the Germanic goddess, Eostre/Ostara, who was traditionally honoured in the month of April with festivals to celebrate fertility, renewal and re-birth. It was from Eostre that the Christian celebration of Easter evolved, and indeed the naming of the hormone Eostrogen, essential to women’s fertility. The Goddess Ostara has the shoulders and head of a hare. SOURCE

The changing of the seasons, phases of the moon, even our personal experiences-all are reflections of the Divine Feminine. Create a stronger connection to the sacred world and your own divinity by welcoming these thirteen powerful Celtic and Nordic goddesses into your life.

All About Eostre – The Pagan Goddess of Dawn

Goddess Ostara

OSTARA: Saxon Goddess of the Dawn and Spring

Who is Ostara?

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Nerthus, The Earth Mother Goddess

Nerthus, the Earth Mother Goddess of the Norse Vanir Gods. Lady of trees and sacred bogs, Lady of the fertile earth plowed up to give us food, Lady who is always veiled, and whose face is death to look upon.

Nerthus still to present time is quite the mysterious Goddess seeing how there is so little known about her. Some feel she is a Goddess just of Germanic tribes but there are some hints and clues that lead to showing that not only is she of the Vanir but may possibly be Njord’s sister and possibly Wife. Despite the mysterious origins of her I feel she is deserving of honor.

Nerthus is associated with Spring, cycles, health, energy, peace and prosperity. Her symbols are fire, chariots and soil.

We first learn about Nerthus from the Roman historian Tacitus, who was writing in the first century C.E. He called Her ‘Terra Mater’ (earth Mother) and noted that She was worshiped by several Germanic tribes. He describes a ritual setting in which an image of Nerthus stands concealed in a cart within a sacred grove. Only Her clergy were permitted to touch or approach the sacred image. All others were put to death. Tacitus writes that this cart would be driven in a holy procession, after which the statue and its accoutrements would be tended to and cleansed in a special lake (and the slaves who assisted with this would be drowned in that lake). (Simek, p. 230). Simek considers Nerthus to have been a Baltic and/or Danish Goddess, since the tribes Tacitus specifically refers to settled east of the Elbe River. He also associates the ritual washing of the statue and its gear with the sacred marriage, or hieros gamos. (ibid).

Because Tacitus, in good Roman fashion, compares (or syncretizes) Nerthus with the Roman Terra Mater, examining how the Romans viewed their own Earth Mother may provide valuable clues into the nature of Nerthus. (Krasskova, p. 88). The Romans had no sentimental illusions about Terra Mater. She was a nurturing and gift giving Goddess of the earth, but She was also the terrible Goddess of earthquakes, famine, flood, storm, and destruction. There was bounty, but also tremendous danger and outright terror all contained at once in the holy presence of this Goddess. (ibid). Tacitus specifically talks about the mysteries of Nerthus as begetting “terror and a pious reluctance to ask what that sight can be which is only seen by men doomed to die.” (Tacitus, chapter 40). In this, it would seem, Nerthus contains within Herself the embodiment of holy power and perhaps holy terror as well.

In surviving Anglo-Saxon writings, there is a ritual (Æcerbot or ‘field remedy’) for blessing the fields prior to ploughing and planting. Despite its rather late provenance (11th century) in this ritual “Eorðan Moðor,” or Earth Mother is invoked. Contemporary Heathens, particularly those with an Anglo-Saxon focus, look to this rite for one of the Holy Tides: Charming of the Plough, which usually occurs in late February. While few of us today are bound to the earth in the way that our largely agrarian ancestors were, we can still honor its cycles and honor the gift of our own creativity too in such rites. SOURCE

Useful Sources: “Dying for the Gods” by M. Green, “Looking for the Lost Gods of England,” by Kathleen Herbert, “Boar, Birch and Bog” by Nicanthiel Hrafnhild, “Exploring the Northern Tradition” by Galina Krasskova and “Dictionary of Northern Mythology” by Rudolf Simek

The Germanic Kingdoms and the Eastern Roman Empire in 526 CE

Nerthus and Njorun: a Norse Mystery

The Goddess Nerthus

Goddess Nerthus

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Arminius (Hermann the German)

One of my favorite historical figures during the Roman empire age is Arminius (Hermann the German). Who lived a life that was filled with so much that I felt the need to feature him on my Blog with the best resources I believe exist.

Arminius (b. circa 18 BC, d. circa 21 AD, assumed to be the Latinized form of Hermann) was the chief of the Germanic Cherusci tribe during the later stages of Augustus’ reign. Prior to the great revolt which pushed Rome permanently out of the Germanic interior, and after the conquests of Drusus and Tiberius, Arminius served as a Roman auxiliary (c. 1 to 6 AD), apparently with much success. Some have painted a picture of a young Germanic warrior with the ultimate goal of freeing the tribes by learning Roman military ways, but his service and that of his fellow Cherusci warriors, actually exemplifies the completeness in which the Romans had spread their influence throughout Germania (as well as identifying the early stages of the barbarization of the Roman Legions). Though at this stage, Germania Magna was not an official province, and was still unsettled per Roman victory conditions, the slow process of Romanization had begun in earnest. Arminius, it seems, even earned Roman citizenship as well as equestrian status, perhaps in part, as a peace settlement.

During the revolt in Pannonia, which forced Tiberius’ withdrawal from Germania, and his replacement by Publius Quinctilius Varus, conditions seem to have deteriorated considerably. Varus, it seems, (one must consider the conflicting reports by Dio Cassius, Tacitus, Florus and Paterculus regarding the political climate and the battle itself) was probably given the task of completing the subjugation of Germania and implementing Roman provincial standards by Augustus. Regular taxation, undoubtedly a condition that the Germanics were unaccustomed to, as well as other ‘excesses’ seem to have turned the tribes against their Roman occupiers.

Arminius returned to the Cherusci as early as 7 AD, and likely began preparing for a massive revolt soon after his arrival. Inter-tribal warfare and lack of unity was something that would plague the Germanics for centuries, but in this one instance, the tribes were uniquely brought together in their zeal to throw off the Roman yolk. Everything was not completely in unison, however. Arminius’ rival, Segestes, actually his own father-in-law, reportedly betrayed the plans of revolt to Varus, but these reports were unheeded. Perhaps writing off the idea as political infighting for personal gain, or trusting Arminius due to his service as a Roman auxilia, and equestrian, Varus ignored the warnings, with predictable results. In 9 AD, the situation had come to a head and reports of a growing uprising in northern Germania (perhaps the Chauci) began to reach Varus. Encouraged by promises of allied assistance from tribal leaders like Arminius, Varus set out northward for the Chauci.

In late summer of 9 AD, Varus marched in loose formation with the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth legions, and did so through what they thought was friendly territory. According to Cassius Dio, ” They had with them many wagons and many beasts of burden as in time of peace; moreover, not a few women and children and a large retinue of servants were following them. one reason for their advancing in scattered groups.” As the Romans approached a particular hilly and forested area (and likely fortified in advance) known as the Kalkriese, Arminius and fellow allied chieftains ‘begged to be excused from further attendance, in order, as they claimed, to assemble their allied forces, after which they would quietly come to his aid.’ Unbeknownst to Varus, regional tribes had already put the ambush in motion by killing or capturing legionary detachments that had been working on various projects throughout the region.

Over a period of 4 storm filled and rain drenched days, the Germanics launched a series of blistering attacks on the disorganized and unprepared Roman columns. All three legions and accompanying cavalry were so scattered and beaten in the surprise attacks that communication and cooperation between the two were non-existent. The cavalry attempted a breakout and escape but was cut down before they could. The infantry continued to fight, with little success in hopes of reaching safety. By the 4th day, the cause was lost and Varus committed suicide rather than submit to capture (and the shame). All three legionary standards (eagles) were captured by the Germans and the survivors, of which there were very few, scattered in various directions to safety. Conflicting ancient source material tells differing tales, but some officers joined Varus in suicide while others surrendered. The battle itself was little more than an overwhelming massacre. Read the entire article HERE.

The Hermannsdenkmal (German for “Hermann’s Monument”) Located in
Teutoburger Wald, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

The Varus Battle

Hermann the Cheruscan

The Battle of Teutoburg Forest