Tiw and Zisa
(Týr, *Tiwaz, Tius; Tisa, *Týa, *Tiwon)
Although the tales of our folk speak little of Tiw, his name and what few things we do know of him hint that he held a great place in early times. Now, many are finding themselves touched by this god (and even his less-known womanly counterpart, Zisa), and seek to bring his ur-old worship back to life again and call his might forth to brighten the Middle-Garth. Among these folk stands William Bainbridge, who tells of his chosen god (and goddess) in this work, "Týr and Zisa".
The Eddic Týr may seem to some, at first blush, a relatively simple and straightforward deity; Zisa, on the other hand, appears not at all. A deeper investigation into Týr's nature and character, though, shows a complexity arising, not only out of the vastly different sources of knowledge of him, but also out of the seeming differences, even incompatibilities, in the pictures one derives from the various references. What, among all the different personalities that could emerge, is the central reality that is Týr? Is Týr the transcendent Sky Father, the cold and rational orderer, co-ruler with Óðinn, the stern but fair judge, the patron of Þing and hólmganga, or the brave and stoic warrior who sacrifices himself for the well-being of the folk. Each person who attempts to come to grips with Týr must answer this question for him- or herself, and yet one suspects that the core truths of this god and his even more obscure consort (or womanly aspect? - KHG) must remain something of a mystery - in the best and most sacred sense of the word - even to those who most honour them, as befits two of the most ancient of our deities. In seeking mysteries, however, we take them into ourselves and become one with them. It may then be that the characters of Týr and Zisa will reveal themselves more fully through the words and deeds of us who find in this pair a holy path imbedded in our own souls, and an essential aspect of the wholeness that is the Northern faith.
The earliest appearance of the god we know as Týr appears to have been as the great sky god of the Indo-Europeans. This we surmise from the apparent derivation of the names for many of the sky gods in Indo-European peoples - examples include Dyaus in the Rig Veda, Zeus for the Greeks, Jupiter or Jove among the Romans, Sius in the ancient Hittite pantheon, and perhaps Zîu, Zîo, Tîuz, or Tîwaz in the original language of the Teutons - from a single source, and the similarity in function displayed by these deities. His name originally may have meant "shining", or simply "light". For the Germanic peoples, as with others, the name was also a generic word for "god", a circumstance that continued even into Eddic times. From this, and from the position of this god in other Indo-European cultures, we believe that the Sky Father was also the chief of the gods, and probably honoured together with the Earth Mother. He appears to have been ancient, and thus, imperfectly understood, when the Indian Vedas were composed; Indra, the "king of the gods", was considered in some sense his offspring, and Varuna, as the "creator and sustainer of the world", is considered to have inherited those functions from Dyaus. According to early Vedic thought,
The Sky is the Father and, with the Earth, the origin of everything. All the gods, Sun, Moon, Wind, Rain, Lightning, Dawn, and the rest, are children of the Sky. Dyaus covers the Earth and fertilizes her with his seed, that is, with rain.
One consequence of Týr's origin is that, unlike Óðinn and despite his appearance at times as a cold and implacable god of struggle, Týr has not been viewed as embodying both light and darkness within his nature, but has remained for those who follow his path preeminently a god of light.
As might be expected, the Tiwaz of Heathen theology had undergone great changes between the time the Indo-Europeans began to split into separate peoples and the late Heathen period in Northern Europe, which furnishes us with most of our data on ancient Germanic religion. Nevertheless, a few circumstances indicate that at least some element of Týr's identity as the overarching god of the heavens persisted down to that time. First, there is the phenomenon of the sacred column of the Saxons, Irminsul. It is thought that the name of this column is related to the name Hermiones, which, according to Tacitus, was one of the earliest tribal names among the Germans. The Irminsul is said to have represented the "column of the universe upholding all things". While it is difficult to say when the tradition of the Irminsul began, it is a fascinating coincidence that, between approximately 170 and 240 C.E., there appeared in Northern Gaul several "Jupiter columns", on which Jupiter was sometimes represented mounted and holding a thunderbolt, and around which the images of the four seasons, the days of the week, or various other deities appeared. Certainly, it strikes one as at least somewhat plausible that the depiction in Northern Gaul of the Roman sky god on a column may have influenced the later use among a Germanic tribe of the column to honour the ancient Germanic sky god (showing, by the way, that at least some Germans understood who their sky god was, even if the Romans insisted on equating him erroneously with Mars). Another indication that for some, Týr retained at least the spiritual authority of the ancient Sky Father is the description of him, in the Old Icelandic Rune Poem, as "the ruler of the temple".
A second connection between the Germanic Týr and his ancient function as sky god is his identification with the pole star, Polaris. This is clearly stated in the "Anglo-Saxon Rune Poem":
(Tir) is a star, it keeps faith well
with athelings, always on its course,
over the mists of night it never fails.
Combining the idea of a "world column" with the pole star, one arrives not only at a principle linking heaven with earth, but also an ordering principle around which the heavens and the earth are organized and revolve. Whether the old Saxons and their English descendants actually made this connection or thought of Týr in such terms remains, unfortunately, a matter of conjecture.
Finally, it appears that in the most ancient times, Týr was honoured primarily on mountains and in forests. If Týr were, as many have assumed, primarily a war god and a god of the political and juridical structures, one would not expect to find his holy places in natural and somewhat inaccessible settings, but rather, mainly in towns or near places of military significance. That an ancient Teuton would have to climb a mountain - that is, to place him- or herself between earth and sky - to honour Týr completely indicates that Týr, like so many of the Heathen gods and goddesses, retained a vital connection for the old Germanics with the natural force in which he was first perceived, and never became entirely "socialized".
In his extensive account of German society, the most comprehensive such survey of Roman times, Cornelius Tacitus made prominent mention of three deities, to whom he ascribed the Roman names Mercury, Hercules, and Mars. It is generally assumed that these names correspond to Óðinn, Þórr, and Týr, and later Roman usage in Britain decisively confirms the identification of Týr with "Mars". This tendency to regard Týr as a god of war has continued, for some, down to the present day, and there is ample ground for it. It seems to have been common to engrave a "Týr rune" on implements of war, presumably so that they would not fail their wielder in battle. This custom was expressly sanctioned in the Sigrdrífumál of the Poetic Edda:
Learn victory runes if thou victory wantest,
and have them on thy sword's hilt -
on thy sword's hilt some, on thy sword's guard some,
and call twice upon Týr.
In the Prose Edda, Óðinn, in the guise of Hár, "The High One", describes Týr in terms quite consistent with his apparent function as bringer of victory in war:
There is a god called Týr. He is the boldest and most courageous, and has power over victory in battle; it is good for brave men to invoke him. It is a proverbial saying that he who surpasses others and does not waver is "Týr-valiant". He is also so well-informed that a very knowledgeable man is said to be "Týr-wise".
The Saxons' progenitor deity, again decisively identified with Tiwaz, is thought to have been one Saxnot, or later in England, Seaxneat, the divine ancestor of the royal house of Essex. The name means something like "Sword Companion".
In modern times, this tradition regarding Týr was carried on in the ritual manual of the Ásatrú Free Assembly:
Tyr, in his many guises, is the original Indo-European sky god. Long before the Viking Age, though, he had been demoted to a lesser, but still important status. Tyr is a war god, and his virtues are those of bravery, sacrifice, and devotion to justice.
Tyr, then, is a model for those who follow the path of the duty-bound warrior, responsible for the welfare of others.
The "demotion" spoken of is nowhere so clear as in the "Hymiskviða" of the Poetic Edda, where Týr serves as little more than a straight man for Þórr.
There are, however, difficulties in regarding Týr's perceived function of "war god" as an essential element in his character. First and most obviously, Týr was originally a chief deity, in an age and land wherein a people not adept at warfare had little chance of long-term survival. Under such circumstances, any deity would by necessity have become a "war god", since victory in war was one of the crucial items the deity would be expected to deliver. For example, there can be little doubt that Freyr also sometimes functioned as a "war god", for all that he is also a god of peace and plenty (see "Fro Ing"). Another problem is that none of our sources for Týric mythos show the supposed war god actually making or participating in war. Certainly, Óðinn, and Óðinnic human protagonists, are depicted in such activities, and indeed, one of the reasons Óðinn is believed to have supplanted Týr as chief god is his ability, as "chooser of the slain", better to produce victory by producing more slain among the opposing side. But the extant sources fail to show either Týr or Týric military heroes in battle. And in the one Eddic tale to show Týr in any detail, he is shown as binding violence, not unleashing it.
A third consideration is that in other Indo-European cultures, the true counterpart of Týr is not especially associated with war. In the Indian pantheon, neither Dyaus, nor Mitra (after Dumézil), nor Varuna (as inheritor of the role of Sky Father) were viewed as specifically war gods. Zeus and Jupiter, though rulers and thus capable of overcoming their foes, were accompanied in their pantheons by deities for whom war was a specialty, Ares or Apollo or Mars, respectively. Only if one identifies Dyaus with Mitra, and then follows him to Persia where he becomes Mithra, does one approach a war god, and by the time of that transformation, the Teutonic branch of the Indo-Europeans would long have parted company with the Indo-Iranian branch. Assuming, as from the standpoint of Ásatrú we probably ought to, that a god is more than a social function, and retains his essential character regardless of what people at any given time may happen to think about him, it is difficult to support with comparative material anything more than the view that Týr probably functioned more or less as a "war god" for a period because the Northern peoples needed him to.
Finally, war is not terribly compatible with the other roles Týr has performed in society. As Sky Father, Týr's function is quintessentially creative, not destructive; as noted above, he tends to be viewed as a god of light, and certainly cannot supportably be regarded as a "death-god", as can Óðinn. In making fertile the Earth through his seed, in the form of rain, Tiwaz is generally considered to be taking part in a marriage, not a rape. And as Þing god, Týr's function was to manage conflict and direct it into channels that are not destructive of the community, not to stir up conflict for its own sake, again, as Óðinn has been known to do. Thus, although Týr can certainly be, as McNallen wrote, the true patron of the self-sacrificing warrior fighting for the common good, he is not fundamentally a god of slaughter, nor does he call especially to those whose path involves physical violence. One must look, then, far past the battlefield to glimpse his true nature.
Týr is also referred to as the Northern god of justice. This term can be enormously misleading. "Justice" comes from a Latin source, and expresses a fundamentally Mediterranean concept. The word seems to imply that there is a set of abstract, universal principles against which empirical phenomena can be rationally measured to arrive at a "just" result, and also implies the existence of a judge - an impartial, disinterested, and all-powerful party who adjudicates disputes based upon the previously mentioned abstract principles of justice. A third component of a system of "justice" has in practice been a set of comprehensible, codified laws promulgated by an absolute, but definitely human, "authority". The old Teutonic system of punishing wrongdoing and resolving conflict, by contrast, was local rather than universal, based itself on precedent, rather than a rationalistic derivation of a result from abstract principles, often utilized an assembly acting as jury rather than a judge, and relied on principles of conduct that were viewed as having divine origin and as being the property of the local folk, rather than on the edicts and decrees of political authorities. Thus, the lore gives us no indication that Týr was a judge, or that he decreed laws for the people to follow. Forseti, as an arbitrator, came closest to a judge, and Heimdallr was the one who ordered society and put people in their proper places (as described in the Eddic poem Rígsþula). Týr simply established a framework for managing the struggles and conflicts inherent in any community such that the community, rather than being torn apart, emerged stronger. To call Týr, therefore, a god of right, after the German Recht, would come nearer to the truth, although perhaps the most accurate term would be Þing god, after the institution with which Týr was most closely identified in later Heathen times.
The Romans clearly knew of the connection between the Teutonic "war god" and the judicial function in society; Tacitus reported that:
Capital punishment, imprisonment, even flogging, are allowed to none but the priests, and are not inflicted merely as punishments or on the commanders' orders, but as it were in obedience to the god whom the Germans believe to be present on the field of battle.
Since Tacitus later mentions that capital cases are tried in the assembly, the link between Týr and the Þing is inescapable. This connection was also recognized by the Frisians in Britain who crafted two Latin inscriptions found at Hadrian's Wall referring to "Mars Thingsus". While this is not the place to examine in detail the remarkable institution of the Þing, it would probably be fair to describe it, at its most sedate, as a jury trial with audience participation, and at its most raucous, as the pursuit of open warfare by other means. In its judicial aspect, it, and Týr, are also associated with trial-by-combat, or the hólmganga. Particularly in the Icelandic sources, the picture clearly emerges of a forum guided to a large extent by what were regarded as the ancient laws of the locality (as enunciated by the Þingspeaker or Lawspeaker?), but in which the support of powerful factions for one side or another unquestionably affected the outcome, and the lone, unpopular litigant stood a drastically reduced likelihood of success.
Two cultural phenomena in Britain hint strongly at the persistence of the connection between Týr and the political and judicial systems. The first is a symbol known as the "broad arrow", appearing as a rather truncated Týr rune, that was used to signify the legal profession, government property, and the military. The second is the mediæval fair, discussed at some length by Nigel Pennick in his work, Games of the Gods (pp. 129-60). Pennick links these fairs to locations identified through their names either with the Þing or with Týr, and discusses how their layout, according to a "sacred grid", implies a connection with a metaphysical/religious concept of divine and cosmic ordering of the universe. The fairs also featured a pole in the center (Irminsul?) on which was hoisted a glove (Týr's severed hand?). Overshadowing these in importance, however, are the institutions of the adversarial and jury-based (as opposed to the investigative and judge-based) system of justice, and Anglo-Saxon common law. These are virtually unique in the world today to English-speaking countries, and can only have their roots in the Heathen concept of law, and in the Þing.
Týr's connection with the Þing has led Georges Dumézil, by a somewhat torturous path, to conclude that Óðinn and Týr represent two aspects of the social function of sovereignty, the "first function" in his tripartite socio-theology. In Dumézil's view, Týr represents the rational, social, and "light" aspect, and Óðinn represents the magical, inspired, and "dark" aspect. The author is decidedly not a Dumézilian, and hence will leave a comprehensive discussion of Dumézil's theories to someone more sympathetic to them. An important, and apparently sound, basis for them is de Vries' opinion that the "war god" aspect of Týr is not fundamental, and arises largely from the almost warlike character of the Teutonic judicial system (and indeed, on the tendency of the Teutons to regard war, as well as lots, as a sort of judgement by the gods and hence, judicial in nature). More troubling is Dumézil's view that Germanic law, as represented by the Þing, expresses a corrupted and "pessimistic" view of law:
At the very least theology describes a divine Order where all is not perfect, either, but where a Mitra or a Fides keep watch as guarantors and shine as models of true law. Even if polytheistic gods cannot be impeccable, they should at least, to fulfill their role, have one of them speak for and respond to man's conscience, early awakened, surely already well awakened and mature, among the Indo-Europeans. But Tyr can do that no longer. The Germanic peoples and their ancestors were no worse than those Indo-European peoples who fell upon the Mediterranean, Iran, or the Indus. But their theology of sovereignty, and especially their god of Law, by conforming to the human example, was cut off from the role of protestation against custom which is one of the great services rendered by religion. This lowering of the sovereign "ceiling" condemned the world - the entire world of gods and men, to being no more than what they are, since mediocrity there no longer results from accidental imperfections, but from essential limits.
One with a more sympathetic view of Germanic religion would note that the function of a native or folk religion is generally to support and strengthen the folk, not imbue it with guilt for not living up to artificial standards of behavior. One might also find it peculiar that Dumézil should consider those gods admirable who encourage wishful thinking, and mediocre who teach self-sacrifice for the common good. Still, if Týr and we are condemned to being no more than we are, that is nonetheless preferable to being what we are not.
Another weakness of the theory is that important aspects of Northern theology must be distorted in order to make it fit. To conclude that Týr has abandoned his "proper" function, Dumézil suggests as a "possibility" that Týr, despite the obvious derivation of his name, really has no connection with the ancient sky god, uses that lever to speculate that Týr "might have" coexisted with Óðinn, and then assumes not only that they must have coexisted, but that they must have been counterparts representing two aspects of the "sovereign function", since such a nice model of this division of labour exists in Vedic lore surrounding Mitra and Varuna, and since some very rough correspondences seem to exist in Celtic religion and in some relatively minor figures in Roman myth and pseudo-history. However, the Irminsul speaks of Týr's continuing link with the sky and the universe beyond it, and the whole of Teutonic mythology fails to show an instance of Týr in cooperation or interdependence with Óðinn, or any indication of a clear, recognised division of labour between them.
Dumézil does derive important support from Saxo Grammaticus' story of Óðinn's temporary replacement:
Thus, Odin, wounded by the double trespass of his wife... took to an exile overflowing with noble shame, imagining so to wipe off the slur of his ignominy. When he had retired, one Mit-othin, who was famous for his juggling tricks, was likewise quickened, as though by inspiration from on high, to seize the opportunity of feigning to be a god; and, wrapping the minds of the barbarians in fresh darkness, he led them by the renown of his jugglings to pay holy observance to his name. He said that the wrath of the gods could never be appeased nor the outrage to their deity expiated by mixed and indiscriminate sacrifices, and therefore forbade that prayers for this end should be put up without distinction, appointing to each of those above his especial drink-offering. But when Odin was returning, he cast away all help of jugglings, went to Finland to hide himself, and was there attacked and slain by the inhabitants.
Presumably, upon his return, Óðinn reinstated collective sacrifice. Dumézil proclaims this "undoubtedly an ancient myth", and identifies Mit-othyn, or Mithothyn, with Týr on the strength of the name's similarity with the word mjötuðinn, meaning "the judge-leader". Then, relying on Julius Caesar's description of Germanic society as communal, and in a rather jarring intrusion of modern economic theory into ancient society, Dumézil associates Óðinn with totalitarian communism, and Týr with classical liberalism and private property. Saxo's source may indeed have been an ancient myth, and could conceivably have had to do with Óðinn's replacement of Týr as chief of the gods. Caesar, however, is notoriously unreliable, having described the whole of Germanic religion as worship of tangible things such as the sun, the moon, and fire, while Tacitus, a mere century and a half later, found any number of deities being honoured, some in ways that continued in use up to the christian suppression. From Tacitus on, Teutonic society does not appear particularly communistic, nor Óðinn especially hostile towards private property or, for that matter, individual freedom.
Theories such as Dumézil's, of course, are advanced with the idea that certain predispositions and patterns recur in a grouping of people, in this case Indo-Europeans, and these shape people's religious perceptions and thus, their mythology. From the standpoint of psychology, comparative religion, or, for that matter, political economy, this approach can provide useful insights. From the standpoint of theology, however, and assuming that one accepts the possibility that a god actually exists and has a definable character apart from his social function, one cannot respect the integrity of the available sources regarding Týr as a Germanic deity and conclude that he is simply a rational and social counterpart to the divinely-mad and other-worldly Óðinn. Neither Týr nor Óðinn can be comprehensively defined in terms of one another and the roles they play in human society, or even human psychology; given the cosmic scope of both their natures, we would be presumptuous in believing we can comprehensively define them at all. As believers in the folk-religion we are studying, we seek after mysteries that expand the scope of our gods and our understanding of them, not reductionist theories that reduce them to manageable and socially productive "functions".
The single tale in the lore unquestionably about Týr, and expressing his nature so clearly that it could not be transferred to Óðinn after the latter ascended to the throne of Ásgarðr, describes the binding of Fenrir, the wolf son of Loki and the giantess Angrboða. Because the auguries told the gods to expect great harm from Fenrir and his siblings, the gods "brought the wolf up at home, and only Týr had the courage to go up to it and give it food". As the wolf grew great and strong, the Æsir sought to find a fetter strong enough to bind him. After three failed attempts, they obtained from Svartálfheimr a magical fetter, and went with the wolf to an island in a lake. When they suggested, however, that Fenrir allow himself to be bound, he balked, even though the gods promised to set him free if he could not break the bonds:
The wolf said: "If you bind me so that I can't get free, then you will sneak away so that it will be a long time before I get any help from you. I don't want to have that ribbon put on me. But rather than be accused of cowardice by you, let one of you place his hand in my mouth as a pledge that this is done in good faith." Each of the gods looked at the other then and thought that they were in a fix, and not one of them would stretch forth his hand, until Týr put out his right hand and laid it in the wolf's mouth. Now when the wolf began to struggle against it, the band tightened, and the more fiercely he struggled the firmer it got. They all laughed except Týr: he lost his hand.
From this tale, Týr is known above all as the god of self-sacrifice for the common good. The story's other implications, though, are not so easily discerned. The spectacle of the Þing god, often called the "god of justice", swearing a false oath has troubled many. Even disregarding that the word "oath" was not mentioned, however, one must remember that all the gods made the promise, and Týr alone redeemed his honour by paying the pledge-price. Beyond this legalism is also the fact that all knew that Fenrir must be bound if the earthly and cosmic order of things was to be maintained, but only Týr was capable of putting the universal need above his personal welfare; and who better to perceive the greater need and the relative unimportance of his own appendage than the god of earthly and cosmic order, Tiwaz, Sky Father?
But the real mystery embodied in this story lies only partially in Týr's act, which is readily comprehensible in human terms. Týr's relationship with the wolf adds a far deeper and more complex aspect to the myth. Whether Fenrir represents cosmic chaos and destruction, as some theorize, or violence and greed, which Týr also in some sense bound in the Þing, the striking element of the story is that Týr seemed actually to have been friends with the wolf. Whatever it was about Fenrir that so terrified the other gods seems almost to have struck a chord in Týr. A mere god of law and order would not have reacted in that way. Only a god fully cognizant of the necessary part that chaos and destruction play in the cosmos, and in his own nature, would have fed that chaos and destruction, knowing that it must bring the end of all the god himself works to preserve. Although Týr plays a decisive part - the decisive part - in binding the destructive forces that threaten the worlds, he nonetheless does so from a viewpoint that acknowledges and respects those forces, and that identifies with the totality of being and of Wyrd, rather than his own role in Wyrd's working out. Týr is thus the warrior, the constant star impassively recording the warrior's deed, and the universal axis of being and destiny that joins the two and gives them meaning, Irminsul. In Týr's defining act, the warrior, the master of struggle presiding over the great Þing of life, and the universal, boundless, and transcendent sky become one, and we see more clearly than in a thousand etymologies the essentail unity among the multitude of faces Tiwaz has chosen to show the Indo-European peoples over the millennia.
The discerning reader will have noted by this time that practically nothing has been said about Zisa. This is because, however sparse our sources of knowledge are about Týr, they are infinitely sparser as to Zisa. Discussing Teutonic religion, Tacitus tells us:
Some of the Suebi sacrifice also to Isis. I do not know the origin or explanation of this foreign cult; but the goddess' emblem, being made in the form of a light warship, itself proves that her worship came in from abroad.
Jacob Grimm, our principal source for information on Zisa, makes the eminently plausible connection between Isa and Zisa, or Cisa, and links both with mediæval Latin references from around the 11th century to the patroness of Augsburg, Germany, once a home of the Suebi, who also honoured Tiwaz. September 28th seems to have been the Feast of Cisa, in fortuitous juxtiposition with Michaelmas the following day; the archangel Michael's character does appear to manifest some similarities with that of Tiwaz. Cisa seems to have borne at least some relationship with the harvest.
Such is the nature of our hard knowledge; what we do with it is largely up to us. Some have seen Zisa as a female counterpart to Týr, out of theological necessity, and because Loki taunts Týr with cuckoldry in the "Lokasenna". Some support is given to this view by the discovery of the Raum-Trollhättan bracteate. This bracteate has often been seen as Týr because it shows a figure with one hand in the mouth of a beast. However, the hairstyle and the skirt are characteristically female, as are the clearly defined nipples or breasts: knowing of the existence of a goddess whose name is the womanly form of Týr, it is hard to interpret this piece as showing anything else. On the other hand, the picture emerging from both Tacitus and Grimm is not that of a Mrs. Warrior, a Lady Justice, or even a Queen of the Sky. Far from representing evidence of foreign origin, the ship is extremely ancient in Northern religion, and carries connotations both of early goddess worship and of death and the journey to the other world (see "Bronze Age", "Njörðr and Nerthus", and "Soul, Death, and Rebirth"). One might even be forgiven for noticing as perhaps more than a coincidence that the goddess Nerthus, although described by Tacitus as Mother Earth, has her holy place on an island in the sea, on which was found a secluded lake. Nerthus, much in the manner of Freyr in a later age, was carried about the precinct in a chariot pulled by cows, and during her procession, weapons were put up and the peace was kept as sacred. If one tends, as some do, to see in the original Sky Father Týr's most essential nature, one would also tend to seek in Zisa echoes of his earliest and only known consort, the Earth Mother, a figure in fact quite like Nerthus; and if Tiwaz incorporates within himself the blinding light of creation, then his consort would have included within herself the darker mysteries of death and the transformation within, represented since earliest times by a ship. But such thoughts at present are no more than speculation, and time must determine whether a truth is contained within them that will emerge in the minds and workings of those on a Týric path.
In modern times, Týr has attracted his share of folks who accord him especial honour. For the most part, these Týrians share many common traits derived from their patron, such as a certain reserve, a tendency to place more emphasis on thought and reason than on emotion and ecstatic experience, a deep concern for fairness to others and for insuring that the consequences of their own acts promote the common good, and most fundamental, an uncommon capacity for seeing past their personal viewpoints and interests, and acting on behalf of the community, the faith, and Wyrd itself, to bring into being what the Norns have woven for us in the most beneficial manner possible.
As Týr has many aspects, however, so those attracted to him often differ substantially in their view of Týr, and in the way they express their acceptance of him as a paradigm for their own lives. As the old A.F.A. ritual book shows, there are some who place the image of self-sacrificing warrior at the center of their concept of Týr, regarding his other facets as secondary or too far in the past to matter. While the path of a Týric warrior doubtless has much in common with other "warrior paths", such as discipline, self-testing, and, most often, training in some form of martial arts, a Týric warrior tradition would offer a stark contrast to, say, an Óðinnic one. Few Týrians emphasize magical practice much, nor would they find the berserker rage much to their taste. Other differences would exist with practices inspired by Þórr or Heimdallr, both of whom have served as models for warrior paths. A Týric warrior, for example, may incline more than most to enquire carefully into the philosophical and moral underpinnings of a cause, and the motives of its advocates, before committing to defend it.
Several Týrians see the god's path as one of service to the community and to justice. One such person summarizes this approach succinctly:
In basic terms, Týrian spirituality involves always trying to do what is right, what is fair, what is just, and what is honest, with special stress on service to, and protection of, the community, both the Ásatrú community and the general community in which one lives.
While it is difficult to find fault with this description, and most Týrians seem to adhere to it as best they can regardless of their personal ideologies, the discussion above of Týr as Þing god provides a somewhat different model, and one perhaps closer to the concepts of the old Heathen Teutons. As the Þing, and the ancient law that informed it, sought to harness the conflict and hostility in ways that strengthened and unified the community, accorded a certain dignity and respect to both winners and losers, celebrated the folk's traditions and heritage, and permitted the folk to arrive at a result that it felt and considered fundamentally right, so a modern Týrian might step into the fray, not to mediate and bring peace, but to sharpen, define, and elevate a conflict, to make it possible for both sides to retain their own dignity and honour while recognizing those of their opponents, and to strengthen the contestants and the community by encouraging better solutions and a deeper sense of responsibility. Such a Týrian would not be "called a peace-maker", but might nonetheless bring the community greater benefits than what many think of as peace. Binding the wolf, after all, was not intended to make him tame.
But yet another path calls to those who seek Týr, not on the battlefield or in the assemblies and courts, but in the crystal clarity of dawn in the high mountains, between Earth and Sky. This path has long seemed lost in the mists of ancient history and pre-history, and it yet glimmered only faintly when the Vedas were composed. It is somewhat like the path whose perceived absence in Northern religion Dumézil so lamented, but it is not the same. It is not, as Dumézil thought it should be, a path that opposes or judges the folk for not living up to an intellectual's ideals. Rather, it is a way that does justice to the complexity of the multiverse, which far surpasses the capacity of our theological vocabulary, and yet it remains firmly rooted in the land, and in the community. This way is akin to Irminsul. At its top is the blinding light and pure being of sky and sun. Its base is enveloped and supported by earth, mother of all. And from its axis radiates the sense of natural order, relation, and meaningfulness that allows one, whether in the stillness of contemplation, the flash of intuition, or the immediacy of action, to grasp and become one with the dynamic and sometimes chaotic flow of life that surrounds one, and to find the place in that flow from which one may realize one's highest ørlög. This way of Tiwaz does not sacrifice the self to the Self, as Óðinn taught; having seen the transitory nature of any self, it seeks rather to express the ever-transforming Truth of being and becoming, life and spirit. But part of that expression is to nourish the chaos and destruction at the core of transformation, and part of it is to pledge one's strength, honour, and life to nourish the Truth and spirit at the core of the folk. And another part is to seek once again the loving and peaceful embrace of Zisa, as storm-driven rain seeks the fertile field.
A pantheon is often thought of as a sort of bureaucracy, in which each member has his or her desk, or "function", where specific requests can be addressed if one only has an adequate directory. I do not believe this to be accurate, because I do not believe that gods and goddesses are functions. Certainly, it does appear that if those scholars who have studied the Indo-European and other religions have taught us anything, it is that the deities people honour are not always who and what the people imagine them to be; that is, the pronouncements of folk religion are not always to be taken literally at face value. On the other hand, the theologian is not accorded the scholar's luxury of assuming that nothing happens in religion other than what takes place in people's heads. Thus, a people may ascribe characteristics or functions to a deity that are not inherent to the deity, and that the deity later discards at the earliest opportunity. Further, although the Teutonic peoples are unquestionably Indo-Europeans, not all of their deities can be derived from and comprehended within an Indo-European context; some have uniquely Teutonic characteristics, which is to say that some have helped shape the Northern peoples in ways one does not find elsewhere. Consequently, some of the native Indo-European gods who found themselves in this new, Teutonic pantheon expressed their characters in new and different ways. One assumes that this was intentional. And of course, the origin of peoples does not necessarily tell us anything of the origin of gods.
With this as a preface, I would suggest that, over the centuries and millennia, as the Northern peoples emerged, various beings whom we think of as deities found in those peoples a fitting medium for their creative activities, and the Teutons responded by inviting those gods and goddesses into their hearts and minds. Many of these gods were more ancient than the Germanic peoples, and some, including Týr, were honoured by many other peoples as well. But all in some way committed themselves to us. For Týr, the moment of commitment came when Ásgarðr and Miðgarðr hung in the balance, when even All-Father Óðinn despaired of accomplishing what was needed to insure a future for Ásgarðr and the folk to whom he had extended his protection, and when Tiwaz, already ancient enough to have been forgotten by peoples of whom the Teutons knew little or nothing, stretched forth his hand as pledge to Ásgarðr and to us that his friend, the devouring Wolf, would not, until the end of the age, keep us from knowing and living our Wyrd together.
Týr has kept his pledge to us, and now some of us, a tiny part of the last folk still to honour him of all the peoples he has befriended, extend our own hands and offer pledges of our own. I believe that it is not too late to restore the ancient and sacred bond between us, and I know that some of us are working to that end now; may the work succeed. May Zisa once more bring peace and renewal to the tortured Earth and to the folk, and may she guide us to the mysteries we need to inform and empower her restored rites. And let Týr, Sky Father, help us to erect the new Irminsul joining heavens, earth, and folk, and celebrating the victory, not of arms over an enemy, but of our true spirit and destiny over the centuries of falsehood and forgetfulness we have survived. Such, then, is my view of the Týric path, which we now claim because it is ours by nature, and because it is ours by Right!
In the modern age, Tiw's colour is often seen as red, though it may also be a very light blue.
Some followers of Tiw think that the god's holy beast should be the wolf (which, together with its ferocity, is a beast with a highly developed social character, geared towards working within the common society of the pack). However, Jamey Hrolf-Martin argues well for seeing the dog (Gamlinginn suggests, specifically the Wolfhound, that noblest of all dogs) as the beast of Tiw, mentioning that "The next semi-major role Týr plays in myth is his battle with the helhound Garmr. The choice of Týr's doom-foe has caused some well-founded confusion, given the latent antagonism that exists between the lord of law and Fenrir, the wild wolf. Despite this, given the nature of the opponents faced by the other major gods at Ragnarök, I feel Týr's pairing with Garmr is ideal. Þórr faces the earthly wyrm, Óðinn faces the wild wolf, and keeping in context, Týr faces the trothful hound.
"Keeping in mind Garmr's role as guardian of the Helway, he serves a lawful purpose. Among men the hound/dog has come to be known as an ever loyal companion to man, and in Germany, the hound/dog was a sign...of the foundation of justice and the codification of law...Given this, one might draw the conclusion that the hound/dog is an animal sacred to Týr, much as the wolf is sacred to Óðinn (note the contrasting nature of both beasts and gods)". And what is a hound if not an even more socialized wolf?
The horse may also be associated with him: the English place-name "Tysoe" is paired with the red horse cut into the slope of Edge Hill.
Tiw's weapon may have been the spear in earliest times; there is some question as to whether the great spear-casting men of the Bronze Age rock-carvings represent *Tiwaz or *Woðanaz.
From the second paragraph to the discussion of Tiw's colour, this chapter was written by William Bainbridge, Elder
Jamey Hrolf-Martin, from "Fenrir's Binder", Idunna V, ii, 19, For-Litha 1993, p. 37.