I am your brilliant spirit, oh mother of all

A single land, I opened to the touch of your warmth

I split apart and bore life

I am the flowering child of Ymir, the bearer of your loving gifts

This quote is a prayer offered by the goddess Erce to Audhumla, the divine cow.  It came as part of my vision-questing work preparing for our Hearthspace story-session ‘Audhumla’s Dream: The Earth Mothers’.  The trail of the Earth Mothers is hard to follow as they appear almost as bit-parts in the Eddas, Sagas and lore hinting at ancient rites and lost stories which we can only reclaim through a re-making.   

Erce's trail

Erce is only attested to in a single source, the Æcerbot which is an 11th century Anglo-Saxon charm known as the ‘field-charm’.  Her name is chanted three times ‘Erce, Erce, Erce eorþan modor‘  (earth-mother) and a ritual is performed taking a full day.  In the ritual four sods of earth are taken from the field and a poultice applied to the root-mats.  They are then returned and chanting of the charm continues as the field is ploughed.  There are some Christianised elements of the ritual (e.g. use of Frankincense in the poultice and the addition of small crosses on each of the sods); the main elements of the ritual, however, do seem to be part of an older authentic tradition.  Erce is that to stem from eorcnan meaning ‘true, genuine or holy’ or from an earlier goddess name most likely to have been ‘Eorce‘ meaning “mother of earth”.

Erce's voice

In her prayer (which, to be clear, was channelled by me as part of a sequence of work with the Goddesses so is not an original source) she strongly identifies herself as the land itself.  Ymir, whom she claims as a parent, was the primal giant from whose body the earth, sea and sky were made. When vision-questing for her I saw the first continent Pangea before it split into separate continents – her memory is certainly ancient.  As often happens when you start any form of questing work a programme came up on the radio that lunchtime talking about the way in which plant life slowly evolved upon the land; as the roots went down they broke up the rocks forming the layer of soil which we call ‘earth’ today. For some she might seem to be the same being as the Norse earth mother Jörð.  For my money they are perhaps part of the same original being (similar to Pangea) which then split into distinct Earth Mother forms.  Of note was my sense that Jörð might well walk the Halls of the Gods, hold court and interact with other ‘speaking’ beings in a way that Erce is perhaps less inclined to.  As the land itself she seems to stay rooted, centred and less ‘sapien’.  Another distinction might be that Erce resonates more with the landmass of Great Britain and Jörð with the Scandinavian countries. The four sods of earth in the charm are an irresistible flag, reminding me of the quarter guardian dwarves (Austri, Sudri, Nordri, Vestri) and  the four landvættir (land spirits) of Iceland.  Erce is, perhaps, a binding principle connecting the various aspects of the physical and spiritual ecosystem of the Earth.

Getting to know her

If you want to work deeper with Erce here are some pointers to consider:

Her name combines the Ehwaz rune (partnership/ horse), Raidho (road, riding, ritual, rhythm) and the Kenaz rune (physical transformation, creativity).  As Eorcan she would also claim the Othala rune (estate, inheritance, legacy).  The ‘Eorcan’ form of her name could therefore be a useful variant for work you want to do with land you possess or hold stewardship over.   

She responds well to greens, blues, browns and blacks.  An out door altar displaying treasured ‘findings’ from the earth would please her including ancient plants like ferns, fossils, and ethically sourced crystals.  Use of a four quarters motif highlighting the four seasons or four directions would also be a powerful way of honouring and connecting with her.  As an offering you would also do well to include nature walks, researching the geology and ecology of your own land and land conservation work. 

References

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