While I have been enamoured over the past few years with the notion that Tacitus got the relationship between Tuisto and Mannus wrong (not at all inconceivable), that they are in fact brothers rather than father-son, and that Tuisto might thus indeed mean “twin” or even Grimm’s hypothetical “*Tiwisko” (son of Tiw), I was looking over some random etymologies last night, and my own pet theory, that the name Tuisto is related less to twin and more to twist, came back with unexpected force.
As we have it, the name Tuisto is obscure; passing as it did through one or more Latin minds until final reaching the pen of Tacitus. And in fact, when it comes to “Tacitus'” pen, we have a number of surviving manuscripts of Germania, one of which renders the name as Tuisco rather than Tuisto.
Hence we find even Grimm reaching with his self-admittedly conjectural (alternate) proposition that Tuisto/Tuisco was a Roman corruption, as noted above, of a Proto-Germanic *Tiwisko; which itself is not an attested word, but rather Grimm’s hypothetical reconstruction, ie. if this word (tiwisko) ever actually existed, Tuisto might stem from it. The theory becomes interesting later, but only after following other theories more firmly grounded. So, interesting though it may be, it simply has too many “moving parts” as we swim in already uncertain waters, and requires too many presumptions to stand on it’s own.
The best theories look to what can be said about the name; namely that it is rooted in the Proto-Indo-European *dwoh1 which yielded Proto-Germanic *twai, which itself ultimately yielded Modern English two. And while both the Proto-Germanic and P.I.E. are themselves reconstructions, they are reconstructed based upon a wealth of linguistic certainties, ie. the word for two.
From here various academics and scholars have immediately lept on the related word/concept of twice (Proto-Germanic *twiyes, P.I.E. *dwis-) and twin (P.Ger. *twinaz, P.I.E. *dwino-), compared Iron Age Tuisto to Viking Age Ymir, and noted a possible etymological link between Ymir and the Sanskrit Yama, and then Yama’s own sibling relation to Manu, whose name and nature is cognate to that of Tuisto’s offspring, Mannus.
And from here we come into the notion that Tuisto and Mannus, like Yama and Manu, are brothers. And not just any ole brothers, but in fact the Divine Twins; who clearly stem from a P.I.E. prototype, are clearly present in at least a majority of Indo-European belief systems, whose cult was clearly dominant in both southern Scandinavia and across Europe over the Bronze Age, and which could still be perceived in Iron Age and Migration Age lore in the dual rulership of migrating tribes and the establishment of new identities (eg. Hors and Hengist, etc.).
This theory is in fact a very nice piece of work with lots to sink one’s teeth into. It is not without it’s problems however. Such as, how did the name Ymir, meaning “noise-maker” in Old Icelandic, evolved from a word that originally meant twin? How is it that Ymir, who was deemed “no god” and whose offspring were all brutal and surly and largely the enemies of god and man, evolve from Tuisto, who was celebrated and whose offspring *were* god and man? Why does the pattern reflected in the “Ancient Hymns” (god begets god begets trio of gods) match Tuisto with Buri (who begat Bor, who begat Woden-Will-Wih) rather than Ymir? And of course, even just eyeballing the Proto-Germanic words *twiyes and *twinaz, one can see that they make a clumsy, reaching fit for Tuisto, and even, if to a lesser extent, for the variant Tuisco.
Indeed, the only absolutely clear etymological clue to the name Tuisto links it to the P.I.E. *dwoh1, from which arise a veritable host of derivative words that devolve upon the quantity.
One such word, a better match in my humble opinion than the aforementioned, preserving most of the elements of Tuisto intact, is Proto-Germanic *twiz (in two, asunder, apart); which, in one form or another, academics have indeed hit on in the past, but only to immediately abandon in the “pursuit of Ymir”. And yet stemming from *twiz we have such words as the Dutch twist, the Low German twist, the German zwist, the Danish tviste, and the Swedish tvist, all of which (with the exception of Modern English twist) express the notion of “two *divided in conflict*”.
This becomes particularly interesting in consideration of the Roman association of the Germanic Tiw with their Mars; the former of whom is said in the later Eddas to be “no peacemaker”, while the latter was not merely celebrated by the Roman’s as the (ahem) “god of war”, but even more so as the father of Romulus and Remus, and the divine progenitor of the tribes of Rome. While the conflict inherent in the word twist is general, ie. not inherently martial, such a general application can be seen in the Frisian gloss of Tiw as “Mars Thingsus” (Battle god of the Legal Assembly). Indeed, both Swedish tvista and Danish tvist carry definite legal connotations, ie. legal dispute, negotiation. Or perhaps, in light of the title Mars Thingsus, we might more properly say that they *continue* to carry such connotations.
We might also consider the recurrence of the quantity two in Tiw related lore. This is immediately evident even when limiting Tiw to the role of “god of war”, and observation of any field of war, on which there are, alliances not withstanding, two sides. The same can be said of any conflict, martial or otherwise, or even, albeit more loosely in some cases, of any competition.
It really does take two to tango, after all.
More explicitly, we see Tiw’s association with two in the Mars Thingsus inscription where he is associated with two female “battle spirits”, in the counsel to “call twice” upon Tiw found in the Sigdrifumal, in his forming of a duo with Thunor in the Hymskvidha, as well as his two attempts to lift the cauldron of Hymir in that same myth. Indeed, from a broader Indo-European perspective, the Divine Twins always appear as the offspring of the Skyfather, who names are etymological relatives of Tiw.
it is a curious fact that each of the proposed theories on the meaning of the name Tuisto, even Grimm’s *tiwisko, all point in the direction of one another at some point or another. As such, while it might certainly be “un-Tiwic” of me to suggest, it would seem foolish, not so much to judge one theory as superior to the others, but to do so and hold it as exclusive, such that the others are foolishly dismissed as holding no merit as a result of a mere comparative weakness in merit, ie. they still have some degree of merit and in relation to something whose own merit is not exactly “beyond reasonable doubt”.
As unenviable a proposition as that might be to analytical reductionist type thinking, it is nevertheless in form with the poetic thinking of our ancestors, in which meaning (of words for example) was heavily reliant on context and position and relation, and myths and symbols could have multiple interpretations, layered and interwoven meanings,all equally valid, despite superficial differences, from within same cultural paradigm.
Sometimes these differences are a clear matter of variations on an underlying cultural theme, such as we seen in the motifs of Tiw and the Wolf, Woden and the Wolf, the Sun and thew Wolf, the Anglo-Saxon Sunheaded man and the Wolf, ie. Glory/Eternity and Death/Transience. Or they might be more profound and bewildering, but nevertheless clearly related, as in the case of the Bronze Age axe and lily representations.
And so, in the final analysis, each of these theories, together, might well tell us more about Tuisto, than any one might in and of itself. Which of course is the point of “tvista” (debate), ie. not to change the mind of the opposition, but to better inform the broader audience.
Tiw is no peace-maker. He is an edge-whetter.