Tyr – the god that danced with wolves

Golden brakteat of Trollhättan. Tyr’s hand in Fenrir’s jaws.

Tyr is presumably one of the oldest germanic gods. His other names in other Germanic languages are: Gothic Teiws, Old English Tīw and Old High German Ziu and Cyo, all from Proto-Germanic Tîwaz. The Latinised name is Tius or Tio. All forms share the common indoeuropean core dyas-deus-teos “a god” or “a demon” (compare to Zeus “Thyas” – and like Zeus he is the oldest and the most powerful at the beginning).

He was a god of war, warfare, brawl, strenght and justice. He was called einhendr – onehanded – he lost his hand while trying to tame Fenrir, the wolf-son of Loki and Angeborda. Fenrir agreed to be tamed with magical ribbon Glepinir made by dwarves, but on one condition – a tamer must put his hand in Fenrir’s jaws. When Fenrir discovered the plot and the magic of the ribbon, he had bitten off Tyr’s, who was selected to be a tamer, hand.

It’s not the end of a “canine” story of Tyr. When Ragnarok comes, Tyr is destined to fight Hel‘s dog Garm. The result of that battle will be the death of both combatants.

Tyr was known in the Roman times and was equated with Mars in the interpretatio germanica. Tuesday is in fact “Tīw’s Day” a translation of “dies Martis“.

One of the runes is named Tiwaz and dedicated to this god:

Týr er einhendr áss
ok ulfs leifar
ok hofa hilmir.
Mars tiggi.

Tyr is a one-handed god,
and leavings of the wolf
and prince of temples.

Take a look at the kenning “leavings of the wolf”, it was used very often by skalds while singing or reciting about Tyr.

Tyr lost his “head-of-a-pantheon” role to Odin, who took many Tyr’s features.

If you live in Nothern Europe you’re probably familiar with names like: Dewsbury (“Tiw’s Burg”), Tuesley (“Tiw’s Clearing”), Tisvilde (“Tyr’s Spring”) or Tyrol (“Tyr-Odall”). There are many other similar names of towns and villages. If you live near on of those – now you know the ihabitants of your land worshipped Tyr 1000 years ago 🙂

Celtic coin from Ic found near Paris. Tyr and Fenrir.

Sources:

Leszek Paweł Słupecki “Mitologia skandynawska w epoce wikingów”.

Snorri Sturlusson “Prose Edda”

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