Njord | The Tranquil Lord | Norse Gods


*Niærþer, Njǫrun; Njǫr›r

Over the sea, a shining ship comes sailing,

The giving god has gained the golden shore,

Abundance he brings for all our ills availing,

Steer our ships safely in, good father Njord.

—Diana Paxson, “Winternights Feast”

He is called upon for favorable winds and good luck in sailing. His home among the Æsir is Nóatún, literally “Ship Enclosure;” Skadi complains about the crying of the seabirds and the noise of the waves when she is wedded to him and they try to live together at his home (Grímnismál 16; Gylfaginning 23). 

Freya Alfredsdotter sees all safe harbors as aspects of Nóatún, whether they lie on enclosed bays, estuaries, inland rivers, lakes, or any other haven (“Hearing the Pointed Guidance of Njord,” pp. 12-13).

From earliest times, the peoples of northern Europe have depended on the earth and the sea for their food and ultimately for their wealth.


Some Heathens feel that the Goddess mentioned by Tacitus in the Germania “Nerthus” and Njord are the same—perhaps both are aspects of a bigender deity, or a deity who is beyond gender. The reason mostly has to do with how the function of both deities seems to be similar, and there is sadly little about them in medieval literature:

  • The only direct documentation of a goddess named Nerthus comes from Tacitus, who called her “Mother Earth” and said that she was worshiped among the tribes of what is now south Jutland (Germania 40). There is no mention of this Goddess in any later sources.
  • The only direct documentation of a god named Njord (ON Njǫrðr) comes from the Eddas and a few sagas, written down over a thousand years after Tacitus wrote. Despite their separation in time and space, their names are cognates.

Jan de Vries suggests that the most probable origin of both their names is an Indo-European root *ner- meaning “strength” (compare Old Irish nert, “strength;” Greek anēr, “man;” Latin neriosus, “strong, vigorous”). Alternately, their names might be related to words in various Indo-European languages meaning “to dive;” “to procreate;” “to dance;” “the underworld/the North” (compare Greek nerteros, “belonging to the underworld”); or “satisfaction” (compare OE geneor›) (Altnordisches Etymologisches Wörterbuch, pp. 410-411).

Whatever the case, their powers seem to complement each other: both deities are linked with earth and water, and both bring peace and prosperity. 

Symbols of Njord

The Ship and the Wagon

Snorri lists “wagon-god” (vagna gu›) as another kenning for Njord (Skáldskaparmál 6). While the lore does not directly depict a wagon procession for Njord, he could certainly have been honored in this way, as both his counterpart Nerthus and his son Freyr were honored.

As a god who brings wealth, Njord may be linked with silver and gold.

 The Viking-era Scandinavians were skilled traders, and their bullion economy used silver and gold as a means of exchange. Some consider Njord to be the god of the stock market and commerce, because the Vikings managed wealthy trade routes, importing Arab coins, Chinese silks, and other exotic goods. But unlike modern markets, Njord is trusted to keep an honest eye on the balance between human wealth and nature’s resources.


Furthermore, in the surviving myths, while Freyr and Freyja both have warrior aspects, Njord is a keeper of frith and a pledge of peace, and he is never depicted fighting, even at Ragnarok.

That being said, Viking Age shipwrights used axes, not saws, to split logs into planks and to shape the planks for shipbuilding. It may be fitting to think of the god of ships and ship-building, who lives at Nóatún or “Ship Enclosure,” as bearing an axe— perhaps not a weapon of war, but a well-made broadaxe, such as a master shipwright would use to split and shape planks for a watertight hull.

Njord in Medieval Germanic Heroic Literature

Njord the Giving God

Njord is described as a god of wealth. Snorri notes that Njord is so rich that he can grant wealth to those that pray to him for it (Gylfaginning 23), and gefanda gu›, “the giving god,” is a kenning for him (Skáldskaparmál 6).

A wealthy man was proverbially said to be au›igr sem Njǫrðr, “as rich as Njord” (Vatnsdoela saga 47). Water and wealth are closely linked: for those who can sail it, the sea is not only a source of abundant food, it is the cheapest and easiest way to move goods and people from place to place, especially in the rugged terrain of much of Scandinavia.

Snorri mentions a belief that Njord also controls the winds and moderates fire (Gylfaginning 23). 

In Ynglinga saga 9 he is euhemerized as a legendary king of the Swedes: “In his days good peace prevailed and there were such good crops of all kinds that the Swedes believed Njord had power over the harvests and the prosperity of mankind” (ÍF 26, p. 23). 

Njord the Peaceful Lord

Njord is characterized as a god of frith as well as prosperity, much like Freyr Yngve. Grímnismál 16 calls Njord manna flengill inn meins vani, “prince of men, lacking in harm.” This “lacking in harm” is an interesting detail. We’ll come back to that.

We know that the war between the Æsir and Vanir was ended by the exchange of hostages; Njord and Freyr came to live with the Æsir, and the Æsir sent Hoenir and Mimir to the Vanir. The Æsir hostages were found lacking in wisdom and leadership, and the Vanir sent Hoenir back to the Æsir bearing the head of Mimir (Ynglinga saga 4). 

Yet the peace was maintained, because Njord still upheld the terms of the truce by staying with the Æsir. Loki may have indicated that Njord has been a frith-hostage more than once, alluding to a time when Njord was sent to the Jotnar as a hostage. 

One of Loki’s more vulgar insults (in a drama that is replete with them) in the Lokasenna is directed at the Njord, referencing this particular episode. Loki says: hǫfðu flik at hlandtrogi, “they had you for a urine-trough” (Lokasenna 34). What this particular insult reveals are a few assumptions the audience may have had about Njord as a pacifist–the insult pattern in the Lokasenna usually takes a known characteristic about a God and exaggerates it for comic effect. In this case, Njord’s pacifism.

Njord the lord of tranquility

In Skáldskaparmál, Snorri tells the myth of Njord’s most famous frith-keeping role. The Æsir offer Skadi compensation for killing her father by allowing her to choose a husband from among them, but she is only allowed to see their feet. She chooses the most beautiful feet, hoping that they are Balder’s feet—but they turn out to belong to Njord. 

Unfortunately, the marriage does not work out, because Njord cannot bear living in the mountains and Skadi cannot bear living beside the ocean (Skáldskaparmál G56). 

Let’s dwell on Njord’s feet for a moment, because this might be playing to audience expectations. 

Notice how the question of why Njord seems to have the nicest feet is neither asked nor answered. While some Heathens might think this is an invitation to consider a mystery, let’s instead imagine that the pagan audience knows something that we don’t.

What if the audience got a kick out of this story precisely because they already knew Njord would have the nicest feet out of all the Gods. 

The question of why Njord seemed to have the nicest feet isn’t answered because everyone in the audience already knew.

Someone assumes that Baldur would have the most beautiful feet, being the most beautiful God, but think for a minute about the circumstances of Baldur’s life as described in the literature: He’s a warrior and the son of the King. His feet must be calloused, toes stubbed, nails hanging off…

Meanwhile, think about Njord. Never lifting a sword. So wealthy he doesn’t have to labor. In fact, he walks around on soft sand and cruises the waves everyday. His feet are probably spectacular! 

Instead of this being a mystery, this detail could have been a kind of joke that the audience would understand because it drew on what they already brought to the story.

Freyr and Njord: Twin Princes of Peace?

Njord is very often mentioned together with his son Freyr, suggesting that they were thought of as working closely together. The Icelandic oath-taking formula recorded in Landnámabók (H270, ÍF 1, p. 315) was “so help me Freyr and Njord and the all-mighty Ás [probably either Odin or Thor].” 

At holy feasts, special toasts were drunk to Njord and Freyr together, til árs ok friðar, “for good harvests and frith” (Hákonar saga ins go›a 14). Egil Skallagrimsson calls on Freyr and Njord together twice, once when cursing Eirik Bloodaxe (Egils saga 56) and once in Arinbjararkvi›a, his praise-poem for his friend Arinbjorn, when he credits them both with granting riches to his friend (Egils saga 78).

Likely, these kinds of curses or oaths would be to swear on all one’s prosperity. Whatever goods might come to them by harvest or by chance. 

 According to Ynglinga saga 4, Freyr and Njord were appointed together to be blótgo›ar and díar among the Æsir. Blótgo›ar means “sacrifice-priests;” díar is less clear, but Turville-Petre suggests that it “probably implies priests of a particularly exalted kind” (Myth and Religion, p. 163).

In Vafþrúðnismál 38, Óðinn says of Njord that hofom ok hǫrgom hann ræðr hunnmǫrgom, “he rules countless temples and altars,” even though he was not born among the Æsir. 

Grímnismál 16 states that “Njǫrðr rules a high-timbered harrow” in his dwelling, Nóatún. 

Place-name evidence confirms that he was widely worshiped, mostly in southern Norway, where there are places like Norderhof (“Njord’s temple”), Nærum (originally Njar›arheimr, “Njord’s realm”), and Nærland (originally Njar›arland, “Njord’s field”; see Brink, “How Uniform was the Old Norse Religion?,” p. 118). Njarðvík, “Njord’s bay,” is a bay and small town in southwest Iceland, suggesting that at least some of the settlers of Iceland worshiped him. The Norwegian island of Tysnesøya, “Island of Tyr’s Headland,” is called Njarðarlǫg in the sagas, meaning “Njord’s law district.” 

Njord Today

Modern Heathens experience Njord in very positive ways. Jordsvin writes:

 “He is quite popular in contemporary heathendom, and is seen by most who contact him as friendly, practical, affable, and generous. . . . My own patron, Frey, has a lot of his father in him” (“Germanic Sea Deities,” p. 16). Freya Alfredsdotter finds that Njord can change the wind and calm the sea, but he does not actively fight the tide. His “go-with-the-flow” nature does not mean he is passive; it just means he demands right-action and justification for that action. A holiday dedicated to him might include fishing, swimming, surfing, water-skiing, or just general frolicking at your local beach, river, lake, or swimming pool. Heathens might also conduct trash cleanups at such places as an offering to him.

Njord the Water Lord

Some Modern Heathens take Njord’s description as a Lord of Water and Sea quite literally and see Njord as a God of those waterways and all things that go on or under the water. From this metaphor, they see Njord as an eternally giving Lord: that provides the water of the sky, the rivers, the lakes. The water that we need to survive and its constant replenishment–seemingly endless and boundless.

We can think of Njord’s bounty as endless in exactly the same way as we think of the ubiquity, necessity and utility of water itself. 

Njord the Lord of Good Orlog and Prosperity

Pre-Christian Pagans were far from literal in their thinking, and far more likely to use symbols and metaphors. Their poetry is rich in complex verbal puzzles which relies on a deep symbolic vocabulary in order to be appreciated. Does it make sense to call Njord just a God of fishing and waterways? How does that connect to wealth? What does water have to do with that?

Think about fishing for a minute. And what makes fishing different from other forms of food gathering.

Fishing wasn’t agriculture. Growing grain and raising cattle is one thing, but when you go fishing, you don’t know if you’ll catch anything at all. No matter how much you work, how much you toil sweat and bleed in the boat, if the fish don’t come–they don’t come. If the fish aren’t there to be caught, they won’t be caught.

Think also about the symbolic role of fish in the mythology. Fish are typically depicted as slippery and hard to catch. A symbol not just of food, but also of the fickle nature of luck. It’s always an uncertain outcome when you put your line out in the water, and that outcome isn’t always influenced by your own efforts.

But some days, everything goes right. The fish are practically jumping in the boat. What is the difference?

That is the essence of the worship of Njord and what it means to have Njord’s favor. That fortune falls your way. 

Njord the Gracious Lord

There is very little we see in the way of “grace” in Germanic Heroic literature. Grace is defined as being something that we don’t deserve, but something that we receive regardless of our deserving it. 

More often in Germanic Heroic Literature, the characters are seen as being “lucky.” Which would have been a distinct characteristic about them. In fact, the words “lucky” “fortunate” and “happy” all come from the same idea. But they all are characteristics of a person themselves. Something about them makes them lucky. Luck is not a result of things being bestowed on them, it comes from within them. It’s part of what makes them “heroes” to begin with.

But grace comes from without. It is something that is given to us. It is a gift. If someone is “graceful” in essence, we are saying they are gifted. Those gifts, presumably, came from someone. In some sense, all our Gods are gracious, as they give without expectation of a return. No single God seems to embody this more than Njord in giving us not merely what we believe we deserve, but some things we may not feel like we truly deserve. 

Heathens today see Njord as a particularly gracious God. A God who gives without expectation and without demand. He exacts no price because Njord is already satisfied with himself. 

This article and others like it are only possible through the work and support of our membership

The Troth is an all-volunteer organization that is supported by donations and membership fees. If you found this article helpful, and want to support our work to educate people on our faith, you can donate here to help fund work like this and more. And if you share our vision of inclusive Heathenry and want to participate in our mission, then you may want to consider joining our organization as a member today. You will get access to even more resources, workshops, our Discord Server and membership publications as well as a vote in our elections.

This article was created with substantial excerpts from Our Troth Vol. 2 which was edited by Ben Waggoner and has been used here with the editor's permission. This article also contains substantial contributions from the insights and practices of many members of The Troth, whether quoted directly or unquoted. If you want to read the full book, please find our publications page here.