Nobility of character could not be better exemplified than through the great Sky-God Tyr, patron of the Teiwaz rune. He sacrificed sovereignty, wholeness, power and the strength of his sword-arm for the greater good. Although Odin was to usurp him as leader of the Aesir, Tyr’s sacrifice is acknowledged in his role as priest and keeper of divine truth.
Teiwaz is the first rune of the third and final Aett (group of eight runes) in the Elder Futhark. Tyr is the patron of Teiwaz, and of the Aett; he sacrificed his right hand to ensure that the Fenris wolf ( a fearsome beast who it is foretold will kill Odin) could be tethered – none of the other Gods were brave enough to do this. This myth hints at a connection between Teiwaz and Gebo, for Tyr places his hand in the mouth of Fenris as a sign of trust (which is why Fenris allows himself to be bound). Tyr knew that Fenris would bite off his hand when the wolf realised the Aesir did not mean to release him, the loss of his hand is both a price paid for binding the wolf and a penalty for breaking his word.
Tyr is a God of Justice and the sacrifice of his hand demonstrates the strength of his character and his understanding of divine justice – the rune Teiwaz can be used for aid in legal matters (as long as you have right on your side!) and was also worn by warriors to ensure victory. It is believed that Tyr was a later manifestation of the God Twisto, an hermaphrodite sky god. My work with Tyr has led me to wonder whether the sacrifice of his right hand was in some ways reminiscent of an earlier mythic sacrifice of a balanced male-female being. Although Teiwaz is a ‘warrior’ rune, it has often been of great assistance to me in healing work – particularly for clients who have suffered injury rather than illness. Teiwaz promotes balance within the body and Tyr has taken great interest in these healings – his understanding of loss and the consequences of ‘wounding’ seem to draw him to these types of healings and, I believe, he has much to teach us. Following the formation of the individual through the First Aett and the testing of the second Aett, I see the third Aett as a coming into maturity – at this point the individual is able to act upon the world in profound ways and so participate in the creation of not just their own Wyrd, but the Fate of all the Worlds.
The rune poems for Teiwaz are more varied than for some of the other runes giving us a very rich tapestry of meanings to draw from. The Old Icelandic rune poem speaks of Tyr and Fenris but also alludes to the temple and provides Tyr’s Latinised name (Mars). Tyr is sometimes referred to as a priest of the Gods. I believe that the act of sacrifice drew him into this role, conferring the necessary depth of wisdom and maturity of understanding.
The identification of Tyr with Mars is interesting. Teiwaz is most certainly a rune of victory and likely the one alluded to in The Poetic Edda which advises the placement of victory runes upon ones sword. The shape of the rune itself has also been likened to a spear thrown in battle.
The Old Norse poem refers to the ‘one handed God’ and notes ‘often has the smith to blow’. This is an intriguing addition. Smiths are well known in many traditions as possessing magical powers and were normally surgeons as well as metal-workers. It’s possible that this alludes to the cauterisation of Tyr’s wound after Fenris took his hand – but it is just possible this is another aspect of Tyr himself. Note that the more well-known Smith from the Germanic tradition Weyland/ Volundr is also a wounded hero. Likewise Hephaestus from the Hellenic tradition is also a wounded Smith.
Anglo-Saxon Rune Poem: tīr meaning the god Tir, or ‘star’
Tyr is a (guiding) star;
well does it keep faith with princes
it is ever on its course
over the mists of night
and never fails.Translated by Fries, Helrunar Mandrake
The Anglo-Sazon rune poem speaks of Tyr as a guiding star. It adds a new layer to the motif of luck, guidance and navigation which came through from the preceding three runes Perthro, Algiz and Sowilo respectively.
It is one of the tantalising hints at an astronomical/ astrological system within the Germanic tradition. It seems very likely that the star referred to here is the North Star which is known for holding its position whilst the rest of the stars move around it.
Teiwaz is normally known as a rune of movement and action (based on its more military and judicial aspects). There is, however, a deeply still energy behind it that comes through particularly strongly from this poem. It reminds me that action without intention is energy wasted. Like all the runes that follow it in the last Aett Teiwaz unifies opposites and embodies polarity. Its incisive, active and visionary energy make it the embodiment of the divine masculine that pairs with and complements the Berkano rune that follows. The picture below is of the Irminsul pillar, a sacred symbol of the World Tree in its own right but (as you can see form the shape) inherently linked to the Teiwaz rune.
Literal meanings: The God Tyr
Rich meanings: Guidance, victory, judgement, divine truth
Deepening your connection with Teiwaz
- Make sure the room in which you are working will be free from disturbance. Do a simple warding if you want to.
- Have a look at the basic correspondences for Teiwaz. Make a note of any that stand out for you.
- Make sure you know the shape of Teiwaz; if you have a rune set select the Teiwaz rune and hold it for a short while.
- Listen to the recording.
- If you feel a bit light headed or not fully back from your journey, have something to eat.