I have been aware of Nerthus since I was a child. She has inspired in me an awe and holy reverence that was nearly indescribable before I learned of Paganism and its vocabulary. It’s only within the last few years that I learned Her name, but I have known and loved Her presence as far back as I can remember.
I had some helping hands in that: my grandmother who talked constantly of the presence of her God in the natural world, growing up in a small town where I was expected to be out of the house between breakfast and supper, a healthy love of fantasy novels and fairy tales where the world was enchanted and full of spirits.
Since learning Her name and lore, I’ve developed relationships with many of Her family. The UPG of many Heathens names Nerthus as the sister-wife of Njord, mother of Frey and Freya. Tied to fertility, prosperity, mysteries and magic, the cycles of growth and death and life and decay; this family of Gods has laid claim on my life and sent me in directions I never imagined I’d be going.
What does this have to do with the little girl I was, drawn inexorably to the bottom of the lonely ravine outside town (never mind the brambles and the scratches, the tears in my clothes or the leaves that stuck in my hair)? It poses a nagging question, one that pokes the back of my mind in quiet moments when I sit to consider the path I am on, and what brought me to this place.
Who called who? I wonder. Was I born as I am: drawn to the places empty of people, intimately tied to the cycles of the seasons, with a yearning in my heart for the sacred? Or was this a thing placed inside me, a call issued, a less than gentle invitation I wasn’t even aware of receiving?
And does it matter? Whether I chose the Vanir as kindred spirits, Gods with concerns and goals familiar and close to my heart; or whether They shaped me to hold dear Their own ideas, I am still here serving Them and have no intention of giving up these relationships that I cherish. In some ways I feel the question is moot; with many possible answers, no certainty, and with no real effect on my spirituality no matter how it is resolved.
And yet the question remains, scratching at the back of my brain. I don’t know if I ask it for me, the person I am now, or if I ask it for the girl who climbed to the tops of evergreens and rode them through the wildest storms. Probably a little of both. Things can change so quickly in life; and honoring deities rooted in the cycles of change has certainly made mine a wild ride so far.
In some ways, the question of who calls who is about validation, and an absolution of personal responsibility. If I can say that my Gods made me who I am, that They placed in me an innate draw towards Them and an affinity for Their ways, then I don’t have to examine why I stay Pagan or Heathen – I am because I am called.
But if it’s something I chose, if I seek the Vanir because I embrace the wild world and find value in passion and prosperity just as They do, then it’s all on me. The effect my relationship with the Gods and ancestors and spirits has on my life, on my family, on my community is placed at my feet for good or for ill; because it is I who invited Them here.
This is perhaps why the question keeps coming back to me. It may be unanswerable, but it is helpful for me in thinking about my own agency versus that of my Gods. Whether I am called or I call to Them, it is my responsibility to consider Their requests and continue to act in the best interests of me and mine, as well as the world as a whole.