(contains probably the same elements as the words earth, erde
), the goddess of the earth, in contrast to the god of the regions of the air, among the ancient Germans.
She appears either as a female Hertha, that is, as the wife of Thor, or as a male being Herthus or Nerthus, and a friend of Thor.
According to Tacitus ( Germ.
40) there was a sacred grove in an island of the ocean, containing a chariot, which no one but a priest was allowed to touch.
This priest alone also knew when the goddess was present, and such seasons were spent in great festivities, and people abstained from war, until the priest declared that the goddess wished to withdraw. Tacitus further calls her the mother of the gods. We cannot enter here into an examination of this great German divinity, but refer the reader to Grimm's Deutsche Mythologie ;
J. P. Anchersen, Vallis Herthae deae et Origines Danicae,
&c.; Hafniae, 1747, 4to.; Rabus, Dissertatio de dea Hertha,