Nerthus lived in a sacred
grove on a Frisian island. At regular intervals Nerthius travelled
inland on an oxcart attended by a priest. During these visits
peace prevailed and all weapons were put away. Afterwards she
bathed in a specific lake and all slaves who helped during the
rituals were drowned in her honour. Sacrifice by drowning was
also practised by the ancient Slavs.
Her name refers to strength
or powerful one and it is possible that the Nerthus cult was
a local version of the popular cult of Freyja. However, some
versions of the Asgard myths describe Nerthus as the sister
and wife to Njord the sea god, and the mother of Freyja and
fertility rituals were biannual. Her chariot or cart was bedecked
by flowers and pulled by two heifers, which symbolized primal
motherhood and abundance.