Tag Archives: Tyr

Musings on Tiw and the Skyfather

In Sanskrit we have Dyauspitar, in Latin Jupiter (Iupiter), and in Greek Zeus Pater. These names literally translate as “Skyfather” (dyaus = sky, pitar = father).

The piter element does not appear in relation to the Gothic Tius, the Old English Tiw/Tiu/Tig, the Old High German Ziu/Zio, or the Old Norse Tyr. Nor does it appear in relation to the Baltic Deivas.

While the Greeks often used the name Zeus apart from the piter element, when the name Dyaus appears alone in Sanskrit it is often taken to reference the material heavens/sky rather than the divine being. Similarly, while Zeus stood alone as a deific name, he was not sharply identified with the material sky — which was more sharply identified with his grandfather Uranus, the Titan’s sibling Hyperion, and their own father, Aether — but rather as the “King of Heaven” and those things that reside in it (gods, heroes); and as such, figuratively speaking, as “the Father of the Olympians”, who were in fact his brothers and sisters. Indeed, contrary to his name, the mythic portrayal of Zeus, his deeds and his attributes correspond much more closely to those of Indra — as well as Parjanya, Perun, etc. — including in his ancient associations with the “thunderous bull” (and the labrys), than they do to Dyauspitar, this latter of whom enjoyed only a slight and perhaps even inferred association with the Vedic “red bull whose bellowing is the thunder”, and who himself corresponds more closely to the Greek Uranus, and perhaps the Baltic Deivas.

In the Germanic context, Zeus most closely resembles, not his (near) namesake, Tiw, but rather Thunor (Old Norse – Thor, Old High German – Donar; no known Gothic); who was indeed ultimately (but not initially, ie. Tacitus) identified with the Roman Jupiter and whose image stood between and above that of both Ingui and Woden in the great Viking Age temple at Uppsala in Ingvaeonic Sweden.

Given the weak association of the Baltic Deivas and the Sanskrit Dyauspitar with “thunder”, with storm and weather, and given the evidence of the existence of a P.I.E. “Weather-God” as evidenced in Parjanya, Perun, etc., we might assume that “meteorological phenomenon” were never part of the Skyfather’s original portfolio to (ahem) “begin with”. We might assume that he was more associated with the “dome of heaven” or “upper-heaven”, and its related features, such as the sun, the moon, the planets, the stars and constellations, as a thing distinct from “storm” or “wind”.

Alternately, it might be that all things above the earth and so in the heavens were once the province of the P.I.E. Skyfather, but as man began to name his world, and consequently to refine his understanding of it, that a distinction between “sky-god” and “weather-god” emerged (just prior to the event horizon of our proverbial measuring stick as found in myth and language). Of course, while perhaps reasonable sounding, it is incredibly reaching considering that the P.I.E. Skyfather was already “fading into the background” in our oldest direct attestations, ie. the RgVeda.

Either way we find ourselves with the parallel notions…

That Indra was born from dyaus (the sky).

That Zeus was the grandson of Uranus (“Father Heaven”)

As well as the vague Baltic notions of Dievas as the supreme Godhead and dome of the sky, and Perkons as the visible embodiment of his will.

And we are left with a “point of resistance” regarding the Greek beliefs, where the name that we would expect to be applied to the Skyfather (ie. Zeus) is instead applied to the “Weather-God”. And the Almighty God, which is to say Hercules within the Graeco-Roman context — initially deemed the equivalent of Thunor by Tacitus — is left once removed from an association with weather.

Looking at the eldest sources for Germanic belief, and taking the Roman equations at conventional value, ie. Mars = Tiw, etc. we run into another “point of friction” where the root element of the P.I.E. Skyfather’s name is being applied to a battle-god; who also presides over exceptional punishments (and so exceptional crimes, eg. sacrilege) as carried out by the “tribal state”, eg. flogging, imprisonment, execution (Tacitus), while a Frisii inscription left at Hadrian’s Wall hails a “Mars Thingsus” or “Battle-God of the Legal Assembly”.

Nevertheless, in the 8th or 9th century Old English Rune Poem, the stanza that is associated with the rune otherwise named for Tiw associates him with glory — that is tir the word substituted for his name in the O.E.R.P. — as well as guidance, and the stars in the night sky. While the 10th century runic mnemonic known as the Abecedarium Nordmannicum states “Tiu, Birch, and Man in the middle” which is an obvious cosmological reference (ie. heaven, earth, man in the middle).

Most curiously, in light of all the above, we have the Viking Age poem Hymskvidha, in which we find Tiw and Thunor (a curious duo) teaming up in a journey out to the hall of the etin (titan, nature spirit) Hymir in order to win his massive cauldron; a tale which seems forced together with that of the primal tale of the Thunderer’s struggle with the World Serpent. In any event, contrary to Snorri’s assertion regarding Tiw’s ancestry in the Prose Edda, the more reliable poetry names Hymir as Tiw’s father; which is of course no more “problematic” than the titan Cronos being considered the father of Zeus or Audhumbla the mother of Buri. The name Hymir would seem to go back to a root that means “twilight, dusk“, while his hall is said to stand at “heaven’s edge“, ie. the horizon, and he is noted for his kingly herd of cattle, foremost among which was a great ox (aka. bull) named “Heavenbellower“; this last of which is a metaphor applied to Dyaus (RgVeda Book 5, Hymn 58), Parjanya (RgVeda, Book 5, Hymn 83), and Indra (RgVeda, Book 6, Hymn 44) .

And so, contrary to the oft stated assertion that Tiw, despite his name, has no sky associations, there you have it; sky associations. And even a weak association with thunder for that matter.

However, this does nothing to explain the “point of friction” caused by Tiw’s association with warfare; or at least with Mars who, as we would be wise to remember, nevertheless did have associations beyond warfare. Associations that were equally if not more important to his high status among the Romans than his association with warfare alone. Still, outside of Zeus and Jupiter, the Skyfather has no particular association with warfare within the broader Indo-European context.

The notion of the sky-god being associated with the Thing is on the other hand easily perceived within a Germanic context. The Thing was not just a legal assembly after all, but also a general community assembly in which all manner of public debate and discussion might take place. One of the many roles of the Thing was to set the calendar for the year, and indeed, the word thing is believed to stem from a root that refers to “a stretch of time“; considered to relate to the intervals between meetings of the Thing, which was judged by the new and full moons according to Tacitus. In the Eddic poem Voluspa we read of how the sun, moon, and the stars wandered aimlessly through the heavens until “the gods gathered at council” and brought order to their passage. And so order to time.

As a god of the Thing, whose name and attributes identify him with the heavens (and the general notion of tiv or div-inity, and so “the gods gathered at council”), we see a likeness to the Greek Hyperion, who is remembered as the father of Helios (sun), Selene (moon), and Eos (dawn; cognate to Easter, Ausrine, etc.), of whom Diodorus Siculus wrote (1st century BC),

Of Hyperion we are told that he was the first to understand, by diligent attention and observation, the movement of both the sun and the moon and the other stars, and the seasons as well, in that they are caused by these bodies, and to make these facts known to others; and that for this reason he was called the father of these bodies, since he had begotten, so to speak, the speculation about them and their nature.

The relation between the Thing and warfare is also quite evident, and on a number of levels. Firstly, it was the proven men (Kershaw’s *teuta), the adult warriors, that made up the Thing. And it was at the Thing that adolescent males were recognized as *teuta via the declaration and the awarding of spear and shield; which Tacitus states was the equivalent to the awarding of the toga among the tribes of Germania, which no man came to the assembly without, ie. “they sit down armed”, and which they used to show their support for issues there discussed. Likewise, declarations of war and the mustering of armies were associated with the Thing. And of course, the Thing was the arena for disputes among community members, there to be sorted in lieu of “the primal law” of violent recourse. Indeed, under specific circumstances, even men insistent upon violent recourse were given a more evolved recourse at Thing via the custom of “trial by combat”.

That a god associated with, according to conventional understanding, judging the outcome of war, might also be looked to by the warriors to judge equally dire matters within the context of the Thing requires no great leap in logic. Likewise, that such a god might be centered out as being “no peace-maker” or “incapable of settling disputes” is clearly born out in the short-term, real time functioning of the Thing as most clearly detailed in the Icelandic sagas, ie. among the very people who composed the Eddic references to his nature as being “no peace-maker”. As in war, so in law, where the loser is rarely happy, no matter his will (or those of his friends or family) to abide, which of course was, quite simply, not always the case.

Indeed, formal law takes up where the social fabric of thew has broken down. If thew hadn’t broken down, the situation would get sorted, on a social level, ie. the level of thew, and the case would never be taken to court to begin with. And law, in any day and age, is always a poor substitute for thew. To paraphrase Tacitus, “where good habits exist, strong laws are unnecessary“. A law, the reliance on an outside source to resolve conflict, is the gift “that ever looks for a gain“, and if given the chance tends to feed on thew to grow itself. And “its maw would open even wider still, if there were but more room between heaven and earth“.

That said, we would be simplistic in our thinking about the Thing, as with warfare, to fail to note the various distinctions that exist within its general category, and so to assign exclusive association of it to any one god. As we still see in modern law, the Thing was also an institute that contained lawyers, juries, judges and mediators; with the subtle distinction between judge and mediator being that the (Tiwic) judge doesn’t really care about either party, but rather about their actions in direct relation to the letter of the law, whereas the (Fositic) mediator is more inclined to seek social reconciliation, to reweave thew between the parties rather than judging winner and loser between them.

And Tiw “is the onehanded among the AEsir“, afterall.

Indeed, if one prays to Tiw in relation to legal issues, they better be in the right, technically so, ie. formally correct according to the customs of the court and the letter of the law, with all of their t’s crossed, their i’s dotted, if they are at all hoping for success. Which means one should probably pray to him for such attention to detail rather than for the legal victory itself. And even then, depending on the situation, you should be prepared to pay the wergild no matter the “larger issue”; even as Tiw paid the stipulated fine to the Wulf… and yet appears to be in nowise reconciled with Loki, Father of the Wulf, over the matter thereafter; for all that Loki cannot rebuke him on the point of the binding of the Wulf itself. “I lost my hand, Hrothvitnir thou!”, so eat it bog-scum! How does it taste? Loki – “a lot like the fact that I f–ked your wife must taste to you?”

Legally reconciled. But not socially.

Tiw is most precisely associated with legal judgement within the context of the Thing. And even more precisely with the judgement of exceptional crimes, crimes that undermine the common weal, and equally with exceptional punishments carried out by the “tribal state” in the name of the common weal; with such punishments having a taboo dimension, see the above comments on law and thew, that could potentially rank them as equally exceptional, in their ability to undermine the common trust, as the very crimes they were aimed at punishing. And so such judgements were handed out, as Tacitus relates, not on the command of the warrior-king, but only by the priest-king, and even then only in accordance with the will of “the god of the warrior ethos“.

So, what does warfare have to do with the sky? Well, Tiw is what warfare has to do with the sky. Our own inability to understand the association is entirely irrelevant to the observed fact of the association. But here it would be prudent to look at both Zeus and Jupiter for whatever light they might be able to shed on the matter.

In Hesiod’s work, Zeus is said to have been raised in Crete by an all-nourishing she-goat — reflective of both the primal cow Audhumbla, and even the goats of Thunor — where he was then surrounded by the dancing, stomping, and shouting of the Kouretes, a band of wild youths whose name stems from the P.I.E. root *koryos (see Kershaw) and indicates the initiatory wolf-bands that guided adolescent males into adulthood. While reflections of this cult can be found throughout the Indo-European world, the Germanic no exception, among the Romans the dancing youths were called the Salii and closely associated with the worship of Mars.

Among Zeus’ many epithets we find “Zeus Areius” (Warlike Zeus), but more interestingly Zeus Lykaios (Wolf Zeus), which again links him to the *koryos and the initiatory cult of adolescent males. His role in the cult’s associated myth however is peculiar, and involves Zeus striking down the “House of Lycaon” as a result of human flesh being introduced into a sacral feast, and a curse of lycanthropy, ie “werewolfism”. This is akin to the more typical Greek belief of the relationship between Zeus and Ares as expressed in Zeus’ words towards him in the Illiad,

To me you are the most hateful of all gods who hold Olympus.
Forever quarrelling is dear to your heart, wars and battles.

Jupiter’s connections to warfare are better represented, and reveal little of the Greek contempt for warfare. Beyond his association with the creation of the shields born by Mars’ Salii, this can be found in the history of such dedications to him as Jupiter Victor, Jupiter Invictus, Jupiter Stator, and most interestingly Jupiter Feretrius, where he was associated with Mars in the ritual of spolia opima and the offering of “the spoils of war”; which itself is a more limited form of the custom of mass disposal of the spoils of war, mentioned by Tacitus as associated with both the Germanic Mars (Tiw) and the Germanic Mercury (Woden), and represented in the historical record as early as the Hjortspring find (c.350 BC).

The spolia opima hearkened to the basic Indo-European battle aesthetic of a single combat fought between peers, and the claiming of the defeated’s wargear as tokens of the victor’s personal honour and glory.

As the Old English Rune Poem states, “Tir bith tacna sum“.

Among the Germanic peoples, the single combat was not simply the preferred mode of combat among the *teuta (proven men of the tribe), — which, at least prior to Caesar’s Gallic War, extended its influence into mass combat situations — but was also used by Tacitus’ Germans to divine the outcome of a potential war. And also as an alternative to war as we see in Saxo’s tale of King Offa of the Anglii and his duel against the Myging champions, or in that told by Gregory of Tours of an impending battle between the migrating Alemanni and Vandals, where the Alemanni-King said,

How long shall we allow war to make shambles of entire peoples? I beg of you; do not let the armies of both peoples perish. Instead, let two men meet on the battlefield with their war-gear and let each fight on behalf of his folk. Let that side whose champion wins take possession of the territory without contest.

The spolia opima. Very intriguing. Potentially significant to the topic at hand. But presently just distracting; to be dealt with further “at some future point”.


Now, as the Graeco-Roman sources show, Zeus and Jupiter did have an association with warfare. Relatively strong in regards to Jupiter, and relatively weak in regards to Zeus, but nevertheless visible.

Warfare and glory it would seem can be included in a cluster of ideas, along with heaven and weather, law and order, strength and power, that were closely associated in the Indo-European mind; manifest in different deities, in varying portions, in different times and places, and among the many different cultures and tribes that make up the Indo-European peoples.

Within Tiw, taking the broad Germanic body of lore in, irrespective of time or place, we see clear associations with heaven, warfare and glory, and law and order.

Of particular interest in regards to Tiw is Zeus Lykaios, as the one Eddic myth that we have of Tiw outside of the Hymskidha — and outside of Thunor and Woden, none of the gods have much more space devoted to them in the Eddas, and many don’t even have that much — involves him tending to Loki’s offspring, the Fenriswulf, and ultimately being the pivotal figure in the binding of the Wulf. Which, as with Zeus Lykaios, reveals an association with the adolescent males (*koryos) in training to become men (*teuta), for whom the wolf/dog is universally found as the “totem spirit” throughout the Indo-European world. The ambiguity found in Zeus’ relationship to the *koryos is also apparent within the context of Germanic culture, and specifically in the contrasting perceptions of the wolf within a specifically martial, indeed raiding context, in which wolfish traits are praise worthy and encouraged, and a specifically socio-legal context, in which the wolf was associated with the (second) worst kinds of offenders and offenses, and their most taboo form of punishment, execution, and most specifically death by hanging, which was generally performed on what the Anglo-Saxons referred to as “the wolfheadstree”.

A similar dichotomy can be found in the training of adolescent males among the Spartans.

The myth of Tiw and Fenriswulf can be dated as early as c.500 AD Sweden to a bracteate that depicts a long haired man, holding what appears to be a scale in one hand, while his other sits in the mouth of a wolf. In my opinion, the impetus for the evolution of this peculiar myth, which leaves us with a peculiarly one-handed (ahem) “Skyfather”, dates all the way back to the collapse of the affluent, clockwork Nordic Bronze Age (c.500 BC) and the first appearance of the equally peculiar custom of the mass disposal of the spoils of war (into lakes, bogs; c.350 BC); which, reminiscent of the spolia opima, was a rare custom that, as such, was only observed under very specific conditions; that, like the Fenriswulf myth, likely involved action that might otherwise be immediately self-denounced as dishonourable, if not for the fact that the very survival, not merely of the warrior, or warband, or fyrd — for whom killing and getting killed is both an honour and duty — but rather the survival of the tribe itself became a very real and imminent concern. After all, one’s honour and glory are of little value if the community (bestower, container, and carrier of personal honour and “the name undying”) it existed within ceases to exist.

In such situations, the spoils of war, the very tokens of personal honour and glory, the pursuit of which was the warriors main preoccupation, where thus cast into the bog of shame (where the tribes of Germania sunk the worst kinds of capital offenders), even as Tiw paid the Wulf the stipulated fine for breach of contract, and the warriors were “forced” to be satisfied with the continued existence of their people. And all that implies in terms of personal honour.

Whatever the case, this custom was associated not only with the Germanic Mars (Tiw), but also with the Germanic Mercury (Woden), the latter of whom has very strong associations with hanging and wolves and the *koryos.

From here, as we begin to move from a pan-Germanic context, irrespective of time, and into the lore born and reflective of the (Norse-Icelandic) Scandinavian Viking Age, where we run into more “points of friction” regarding Tiw, Woden and Thunor.

These points of friction are, that in the comparatively well represented North Germanic lore,

Woden appears as the predominant god of warfare, in myth, in history, in legend, while Tiw is barely given a nod in that capacity, and even then, it is a nod that is largely confined to myth. This can in fact be gleaned in the references to a Germanic Mars from the Migration Age forward, where such mention is surrounded by contextual details (eg. human sacrifice, kingship) that seem to betoken, not Tiw, but Woden.

Similarly, it was the image of Thunor that stood in the place of assembly in Viking Age Sweden (Adam of Bremen, History of the Bishops of Hamburg), while over in Iceland it was in the name of Thunor that grievous offenders were ritually executed in a legal context (Eyrbyggja saga).

While it is clear that the Viking Age Scandinavians and their descendants did not simply forget Tiw’s association with warfare, it is equally apparent that neither did they forget his association with the Thing; which is implicit in the very accusation Loki levels at him in terms of bringing peace between men. It is after all, entirely pointless to mock someone, say a biologist, for not excelling in some field that they are not associated with or otherwise KNOWN for, such as astrophysics for instance. And if this only referenced Tiw’s association with warfare the insult falls equally flat.

The insult (along with the entire aspect of legal compensation in the exchange) can only be taken as such, can only have bite, or even be understood, if Tiw did have legal associations and the audience of the poem was aware of those associations; which also speaks towards the fundamental purpose of the Thing over the long term, ie. to maintain the wholeness of the community.

The point being, that there does not appear to be any reason to believe that the Romans, or the Romanized Frisii mercenaries at Hadrian’s Wall — not to be mistaken for King Radbod’s Fosite-worshipping Frisians — were at all wrong in their estimations; even if they were were only rough generalizations, such as are common to comparative studies in which the associations tend to weaken on a point-for-point examination.

And so, we must assume that Woden and Thunor came to supersede Tiw in the respective fields of warfare and law; whether such occurred because one was better at the job than he was, or simply because beliefs about Tiw and his nature had grown beyond such functions, leaving the position vacant, and someone needed to fill them.

With out strong martial or legal associations (that we are aware of), Tiw is thus left with only his “sky” associations.

But even here we run into some difficulties, perhaps best gleaned from language, where the words for the “daylit sky” and the “Skyfather” are either synonymous or closely related, as we see in the Sanskrit and Latin. In the Germanic tongues however, the word *Day* springs from an entirely unrelated root, and is even personified in the Eddas (and possibly the O.E.R.P.).

Indeed, when we take a closer look at Tiw’s name, we see that it stems less from the Dyaus root, to use the Sanskrit, and more from the closely related deva root, and does not yield “sky” precisely, but rather the closely related notion of “god”, or more accurately, on its own terms, “paragon, shining example, glory”.

This certainly matches the word used to substitute his name in the O.E.R.P. (tir = glory). It also matches the most famous of his by-names, the Leavings of the Wolf; the wolf being a metaphor for the ravenous grave, which consumes all, except a man’s good name, a man’s “glory”. It also matches what Snorri stated regarding men of particular courage and wisdom, that such are called tyr-bold and tyr-wise respectively, in honour of the god, which also fits the general application of his name to gods, priests, and heroes (tivar, diar).

This is likely the root of of the reference to him in the Old Icelandic Rune Poem as, “Ruler of the Temple”.

It is also significant that the O.E.R.P. associated Tiw with the sky at night, albeit with the radiance of the night sky, ie. the stars, in specific — reminding one of the Greek association of gods and heroes with the planets and constellations — which fits comfortably with the notion that the name of his father, Hymir, means “twilight, dusk”.

In regards to the above, one might also note the presence of his rune on Anglo-Saxon cremation urns, where it appears more often than any symbol other than the swastika.

And so in Tiw, we do not see so much of a “Skyfather” (to whatever extent that can be found in any of the attested Indo-European pantheons), but rather a Gloryfather.

It is tempting to associate Tiw with the Eddic figure Delling (Shining), said in passing to be “of the race of the AEsir“, who coupled with the swarthy etinwife Night (Nott) to produce Day (Daeg).

In the Old English Rune Poem, Day falls within the aett (family of eight runes) of Tir, and in the stanza associated with his rune Day is said to be “sent by the Drighten” (Leader of the Warband, King, God) and to be the “Metod’s light” (Measurer, Judge, God).

The possible association of Tiw with the kingly and deific title, Drighten, at least prior to the Viking Age, perhaps even prior to the Migration Age, really needs no explanation. Though with the caveat that, much like Mars, the title most likely came to be associated with Woden, both as war-god and predominant god of kingship from the Migration Age forward, but which ultimately hearkens back to the dual rulership of a warrior-king (whose position was based on merit, and ensured by continuing proofs of merit) and a priest-king (or frea/frey), who required a sacral bloodline to even be considered for the position and held the position for life. The Wodenic kingship combined aspects of both of these offices, as something more encompassing than either the office of the drighten or that of the frea, without entirely doing away with the offices of high-priest or warlord.

It is also tempting to associate him with the deific title Metod, foremost in his capacity as judge of war and capital offense, but also in the general nature of the Thing, which was a veritable trove of various measurements … of various sorts of crimes and their legal value, of various sorts of injuries up to and including death, of the worth of various men, of the passage of the months and year.

In Saxo’s Gesta Danorum, he tells of a god named Mitodhinn who once governed the heavens, and assigned to each of the Tivar their own individual drink offering. As we might expect of a Gloryfather.

Such a title also sheds light on the relationship between the Thing of the Tivar in Upper-Heaven, the laws layin by the Great Mothers, and their relation to Wyrd, the Spring of Wyrd, and the World Tree.

There is a fine line between the collective judgement of the Tivar at Thing and the workings of Wyrd, owed mostly to the fact that, contrary to popular heathen thought, the Tivar mastered Wyrd… which is best likened, in sense, to a sailor mastering the ocean rather than anything too rigid and absolute. The un-mastered Wyrd, and the fundamental nature of Wyrd, can be gleaned in the activity in and around Hvergelmir.

Rebuttal: The Role of Tyr (by Mark Puryear)

I came across this article on Tiw (Tyr) recently,

The Role of Tyr

I’ve heard of the man who wrote it. Good people have good things to say about him. And I have due respect for his handling of the subject. Simply, some things are open to debate, and should be debated. And on such matters as these I’d prefer that a person disagree with me for the right reasons rather than agree with me for the wrong reasons.

That said, I disagree with much of what is written, and so was prompted to write this rebuttal.

So, my quotes of the author below are partial text. I encourage you to read the article in order to receive the full context and weight of the author’s argument. And so on to it,

The idea that Tyr was the original sky-father seems to have originated with Jacob Grimm. The flaw in his reasoning is that it is solely based upon etymological conclusions, which do not coincide with any other evidence known to us.

In fact, the Old English Rune Poem clearly establishes a link between Tiw, glory, stars, and the heavens. The sentiments find parallel in the ancient Vedic perception of Dyauspitar as a black horse (the night sky) draped in a necklace of pearls (the stars). It is also echoed in the Greek custom of naming the heavenly bodies, particularly the stars, planets and constellations, after the gods and heroes of their pantheon.

We also have the Abecedarium Nordmannicum and it’s cosmological reference “Tiu (Heaven), Birch (Earth), and Man in the middle”.

And of course we also have the Hymskvidha and it’s abundance of “sky references”; from the name of Tiw’s father, Hymir (dusk, twilight); to the name of Hymir’s best ox (Heavensbellower); to placement of Hymir’s hall at “the edge of heaven” (ie. the horizon).

All of this fits in quite well with the etymology of Tiw’s name, which itself goes back to a Proto-Indo-European that references the heavens and their brilliance.

A better argument against Tiw as Skyfather would focus on the slight distinction that exists between the P.I.E. root that gave us the god-name Tiw and that which gave us such other Indo-European god-names as Dyauspitar (Sanskrit), Sius (Old Persian), Zeus (Greek), and Jupiter (Latin). As I understand it, these P.I.E. roots are “siblings”, themselves both deriving from a deeper, common root, but they are not identical. The root that gave us the god-name Tiw yielded, instead, deva (Sanskrit), daeva (Avestan), deus (Latin), dia (Old Irish, reflective of pan-Celtic), and Dievas (Lithuanian, reflective of pan-Baltic). All of these words mean, to the modern Western understanding, “god”. More precisely, they mean “excellent, shining, glorious, renowned one; paragon”.

Only in the Germanic tongues, and possibly the Baltic tongues, did this precise root develop into the proper name of an individual god.

And interestingly, only in the Germanic tongues did the word for day stem from an entirely unrelated root.

One might thus reason that Tiw is not so much the “Skyfather” of the Germanic peoples, as he is the “Gloryfather”, a refinement of a basic concept, similar in some regards to what we see in the relation between the Greek Aether, Uranus, Hyperion and Zeus.

But where then is the “Germanic Skyfather”?

Some might be inclined to answer that with Woden; though Woden stands up as quite distinct and peculiar when measured against his fellow Indo-European Skyfathers. Others might, with far more justification, say Thunor, but this conclusion comes with it’s own problems which are beyond the scope of this writing. But here, it is interesting to consider the ancient Vedic belief that Indra killed Dyauspitar by pulling him out of the sky.

At the end of the day, while pan-Indo-European research is very enlightening and valuable, there is no shoehorning specific beliefs into a theoretical Proto-Indo-European model. And if Woden’s nature and place in the later pantheon is any indication, this goes double with Germanic belief.

It might very well be that there is no memory of the P.I.E. Skyfather in the Germanic beliefs of some 4,000 years later; that their perceptions had evolved away from that concept. It might be, as we see with his offspring the Divine Twins in relation to the Eddic lore, that he was dissembled, Ymir-like, and his attributes shared throughout the pantheon, living on only implicitly (or in minor form) in the surviving lore, eg. Daeg (Day).

This author continues,

There simply isn’t any proof that points to a major change of religion in Northern Europe between the time of Indo-European unity (before they branches off to become the Teutons, Greeks, Slavs, Mediterraneans and East Indians) and the coming of Christianity.

In fact, the variety and variance found within and between concrete Indo-European cultures (Persian, Greek, Roman, Celtic, etc.) provides us with ample evidence of change/evolution between the time of Indo-European unity and the coming of Christianity. This is why Germanic belief is not Celtic belief is not Slavic belief is not Greek belief is not Hindu belief, etc. It is also why the relationship between these cultures had to be deduced to begin with.

The study of the Indo-Europeans is as much a study of change as it is of continuity.

Within the context of Germanicism we have the end of the Nordic Bronze Age (c.500 BC); which witnessed a fouling of the climate, the breakdown of the trade networks that linked southern Scandinavia to the Mediterranean and the Near East, and of course the highly peculiar “bogging” of highly prized ritual paraphernalia associated with the cult of Sunne and her brothers, the Divine Twins. See Kristian Kristiansen’s and Thomas Larsson’s work “The Rise of Bronze Age Society: Travels, Transmissions, and Transformations“. These acts find parallel in only one instance in all of the lore; the conversion of Iceland and the casting of the idols of the gods into the waterfall that has since become known as “the Waterfall of the Gods”.

And in the wake of these profound changes, in what might by this point be called “Proto-Germanic” culture — where populations continued to burgeon, but both land and trade resources shrank — we have the migrations that would eventually give rise to Germania; spread out over what was once Celtic territory. And also the custom, no less peculiar than the offering of high quality ritual gear, of the mass disposal of the spoils of war.

Why is the “sun cult” so diminished in the Eddas (or the archaeology of the Viking Age) as compared to what we see in the archaeological evidence of the Nordic Bronze Age?

The reason why, once again, is change. Things changed. As per the nature of Wyrd.

The author continues,

It is most likely that Tiwaz, or Tiva was once a name of Odin that was also given to his son.

In line with the basic etymology of the name Tiw, Snorri Sturlusson’s own assertions regarding the usage of the word relate that any god could be called a tyr. The word could be used poetically to refer to some god other than the god named Tyr by affixing some attribute of the intended tyr with the word itself, eg. Hangatyr or God of the Hanged (Odin).

As such, tyr was once a word that could be used of any “god”. Woden included. But when we look out across the vast landscape of the Indo-Europeans, the gods whose names bear some semblance of the name Tiw do not at all resemble Woden.

The belief that Tiw was “most likely” a name of Woden seems almost as reaching as the casual presumption of Tiw’s Eddic ancestry. Certainly, Woden is the father of all the gods in Snorri’s Edda, but in the older poetic material one finds the etin Hymir named as his father.

That being the case, there really is nothing substantive that makes this theory “most likely”. From a more speculative point of view — looking at the issue less as one of Tiw and Woden, and more as one of hero (Tiw) and poet (Woden), or even of tiv/sacral glory (Tiw) and ve/sacral mystery (Woden) — one can see how sound arguments can be made in either direction, representing something of a Germanic yin-yang equation. A riddle that is intended to be entertained, but never solved. An honouring of the mysterium tremendum even as we happily engage in the inevitable product of the et fascinans.

Similar theories have been proposed in the past, that Woden and Tiw are in fact not separate deities at all, but one and the same; which of course runs counter to everything we know from the Norse-Icelandic Eddas to the interpretatio romana and interpretatio germanicum, to Tacitus’ clear delineation of the Germanic Mercury (Woden) from the Germanic Mars (Tiw) in terms of sacrifice, and his placing them side-by-side in his Annals as the two gods at the heart of the aforementioned custom of the mass disposal of the spoils of war.

I can appreciate an argument that Tiw is the son of Woden. Afterall, do we not know what we know of him because he is extolled in language and song? The very gifts of the appropriately named Allfather Himself? But as for one and the same — neither here nor there in the subject of this critique I suppose — that’s just not palatable. Not without more evidence and stronger reasoning anyway.

The author continues,

One of the favored ideas related to Tyr as sky-father is the connection between him and the Irminsul, because it looks like his run, Tiwaz.

The author goes on to refute this connection via his own line of reasoning; which I won’t get into as a result of the fact that I entirely agree with the sentiment that Tiw is not identified with the Irminsul. By my own line of reasoning , the god Irmin is associated with the Irminsul as per Widukind of Corvey. And of course, the Old Norse form of the name Irmin is Jormun, which is itself listed as one of the by-names of Woden in the Prose Edda. Furthermore, Widukind of Corvey also described Irmin, in so many words, as a “Marslike Mercury”. That is, he described him in terms very much befitting what we know of Woden. And finally, even as the Irminones were the predominant people of Tacitus’ Germania, so to does Snorri relate (Prose Edda) that Woden was first known in Germany and only from there made his way up into (Ingvaeonic) Scandinavia.

Now, if people like the bent palm tree image found on the Extersteine relief in Germany and want to use that image as an expression of their beliefs in modern times, no problem. But this image does not match the terms Rudolph of Fulda used to describe the Irminsul, and it is not likely that the actual Saxon Irminsul resembled this. This is not to say that the monk who carved the image did not intend it to represent the Irminsul, which is another argument altogether, only that the Saxon Irminsul did not look like this “palm tree”.

The author continues,

If you really… still think Tyr is the original sky-father and was once the highest god of our pantheon, just consult the lore. Odin is the creator of Midgard and of humans, teacher of runes, the one who grants wishes and gives success in all endeavors. Could there really be a higher duty than these? You can’t usurp the role of creator-god, you either created the earth and our folk or you didn’t. If we had to accept that Tyr once held all of these positions then Odin, who many have named our faith thereafter, would be a fraud and a liar and Tyr a defeated weakling subservient to the god that stole his position.

There is a lot to unpack in this statement. Such as the conflation of the Skyfather with the creation of “Midgard and of humans”. Our lore is certainly clear that Woden (and his two “brothers”) engaged in the killing and dismemberment of Ymir, from whose body parts the world was formed. And yet, from a broader Indo-European perspective, while we certainly find likenesses of Ymir, eg. Atlas, Purusha, we do not see those gods whose name literally translates to and gave us the title Skyfather (Dyaus, Zeus) engaging in it’s death and dismemberment. Such Skyfather gods tend to unite with an “Earthmother” so as to produce the flora and fauna and to populate the heavens with stars. And ultimately, this seems to occur/continue as a collective effort. This is reflected in the Voluspa,

“Then gathered together the gods for counsel, the holy hosts, and held converse; to night and new moon their names they gave, the morning named and mid-day also, forenoon and evening, to order the year.”

The same can be said for the creation of man, ie. is not definitive of the role of Skyfather. In the Greek belief this was the role of Prometheus and only indirectly of Zeus, while more poignantly, in Indic belief the first men came from their namesake Manu rather than Dyaus. And of course, according to the AD 1st century Irminonic beliefs of the tribes of Germania, mankind issued, not from Woden, but from their own divine namesake, Mannus, whose name is of course cognate to that of Manu.

Once again, we find that the achievement of the creation of man is not requisite to the role of Skyfather.

And this is to say nothing of the runes.

The notion of a single creator god simply is not at all apparent in the greater cultural weave of Indo-European beliefs; though once again Germanic belief cannot be shoehorned into a theoretical proto-Indo-European model and as the god of language, I see every reason to be sympathetic to the notion of Woden as “creator-god”, for all that all gods would seem to also engage in the ongoing process of Creation. Nevertheless, that is speculative and not evidence of an ancestral belief.

As for the notion of some god usurping the position of another, and how that would make one a fraud and the other a weakling; this is just coming at the matter from entirely the wrong perspective. This as a result of a very poor use of semantics on behalf of the scholars that first advocated the theory of Woden’s ascension. And also a lack of awareness of the evolution of human knowledge; in which one thing can seem primary for an extended amount of time only for it ultimately to be discovered that it is in fact secondary and itself a mere product of a formerly unknown primary. And so, the theory, the myth, grows to encompass the new awareness, as though it had ever been. Because human ignorance aside, it had ever been. Now, one could call that a “usurpation”, but on that note, this is like calling a king’s successor a usurper, or more appropriately, like calling Konungr a usurper of Jarl’s position, ie. Rigsthula, when in fact he just reached more encompassing heights than his predecessor; such as an Allfather in contrast to a Skyfather. More encompassing, more “irminic” one might even say. There is no weakening required on anyone’s behalf, only an acknowledgement of the stronger or more able, and so a strengthening of the overall whole.

Whether the issue is one of Tiw having been the original Skyfather that gave way to Woden and/or Thunor, or one of Tiw, Woden and Thunor all being the mutual heirs of the functions of the original P.I.E. Skyfather, I see less a Veda-like usurpation involved, ie. Indra and Dyaus, and more of a passing of the torch and an acknowledgement of the better suited. Even as we see in the myth of the war between the AEsir and Vanir, in which the Vanir reduced the walls of Asgard to rubble and ruled the field, and even beheaded one of the hostages sent by the AEsir as part of the truce, but, without any subsequent hostilities, the AEsir still ended up as the ruling powers, the one’s calling the shots.

There is no usurpation. Ultimately, there is only the natural evolution of mortal understanding of the “divine mystery”; a thing our mortal minds are entirely unfit to deduce the ultimate reality of.

As the Havamal states, “the minds of men are small, and not all men are equally wise”.

The author continues,

Tyr is the god of war, period. We know this from the Prose Edda, mainly. As Snorri attests (Gylf.25), the story of his hand lost as a pledge so Fenris could be bound is a testament to his bravery, and that is it. All sorts of guesswork has been used to give him several other duties among the gods based on this story alone, but the passages in Gylfaginning simply relate to us the divine image of what military generals should aspire to: cleverness and bravery.

Certainly, the Romans equated their Mars to our Tiw, and our ancestors accepted and maintained that association. But we know from Tacitus that Woden was also associated with warfare as the recipient of sacrificed battle captives; and directly in conjunction with Tiw in regards to the custom of the mass disposal of the spoils of war, which of course battle captives were a part of. We must assume, given the attribution of Mars to Tiw (and Mercury to Woden) that Tiw was the primary “god of war” among the peoples of Germania at that time. Woden it would seem existed as a secondary figure within the Irminonic cult of warfare. We might imagine the relationship between the two, in the context of war, being one of the *teuta (Tiw) to the *koryos, of glory and martial aesthetics (Tiw) to death and martial necessity (Wod).

According to Kris Kershaw (The One-Eyed God),

Razzias (raiding) was the business of the adolescent boys, who functioned as highly mobile guerrilla bands and at the same time learned hardiness, self-control, stealth and strategy, and other warrior qualities … The *koryos was the band of these warrior-novices. It was a cultic warrior-brotherhood, that is, the youths’ formation was as much religious as it was martial, and the ties that bound them were as strong as blood.


In opposition to the *koryos is the *teuta, “stamm”, the tribe, the totality of the people. And who are “all the people?” Why, the adult males of course! In other words, the *teuta are also warriors, adult warriors

Of course, as we move into the Migration Age, our descriptions of the “Germanic Mars” become increasingly Wodenic (ie. associations with human sacrifice, kingship, etc.), while by the Viking Age, and despite the veritable horde of data we have at our disposal in comparison to earlier centuries, Tiw is virtually absent in the overwhelmingly Wodenic martial lore. There is the Sigdrifumal reference, that counsels one to carve the Tiw rune upon their weapon and call twice upon Tiw for victory, but even here, the physical evidence for such a custom is virtually non-existent or, at best, subject to considerable doubt.

If indeed Tiw was “the god of war, period”, the evidence, such as it is, would seem to leave him all dressed up with no place to go. Little more than a mythic figure. As much an obsolete product of a by-gone era as the P.I.E. Skyfather himself. But the evidence, such as it is, shows us that this is certainly not the case.

While Snorri credited Tiw with both great boldness and great wisdom; and while the story he related, regarding the binding of the Fenriswulf, while it certainly demonstrates boldness, I don’t think you could use it as testimony to any sort of cleverness on Tiw’s behalf. It was afterall the collective gods that came up with the idea to meet deception with deception (ie. Loki, the Father of Lies) and bind Fenris with a magical fetter. And it was the svartalfar that forged that fetter. Both very clever. Nor was it Tiw that spelt out the terms of the contest, ie. that if the Wulf could not break the fetter either the gods would remove it or one of then would pay with a hand. And once the fetter was laid upon the Wulf, and it proved unbreakable, ie. mission accomplished, Tiw, who alone of all the gods stepped up to do what was necessary for the sake of honour, did not display even the simple “cleverness” of pulling his hand out of the maw of the Wulf.


The Gloryfather was not at all concerned with demonstrating any sort of cleverness. Rather, he lost his hand. As per the stipulations of the contract that was drawn up between the gods and the Wulf. He anted up the “wergild”, paid the fine, as per the basic functioning of crime and punishment within the context of the Thing system.

If the myth could be said to reveal any one association of Tiw — and there is a lot to unpack in the Fenriswulf myth — it would be found in the by-name for him that grew out of this myth (or vice versa, ie. that this myth grew out of), the “Leavings of the Wolf”. The meaning of this by-name becomes evident when one understands the association of the wolf with death and the grave in Germanic thought.

And so, to paraphrase the Havamal,

Cattle die, kinsmen die, and the wolf of the grave shall eat it’s fill, but I know one thing that shall endure, the righteous renown of each man dead.

The by-name, as we see reflected in the etymology of the very name Tiw, means nothing other than Glory itself. The Leavings of the Wolf. And as already been noted, Tiw shares his  name with both gods and exceptional men alike. This might gives us some insight as to why he is praised, not only as the Leavings of the Wolf in the Old Icelandic Rune Poem, but also as as the “ruler of the temple”.

To my thinking, whatever the origins of Tiw in ancient times, we see less of a diminution of him in the Eddas and more of an ascension of his own; taking on a likeness similar to what is known of the Baltic Dievas, and best known himself, in the fullness of his glory, when “the gods gather together for counsel” to shine their collective light on existence. He personifies the quality of tiv that is part and parcel with godhood and heroism, even as Woden personifies the quality of ve that is suggestive of mystery and used similarly to tiv in reference to god and the collective gods, ie. Ve (god), Vear (the gods).

The author continues,

There is only one piece of hard evidence I have seen that could possibly link Tyr to the Thing. This is an inscription from the 3rd century C.E. on a votive altar set up by Frisian legionares stationed at Housesteads on Hadrian’s wall (North England). The inscription mentions a god by the name of Mars Thingsus (Deo Marti Thingso). Of course, Mars is typically identified with Tyr, but I believe there is reason to suspect that, in this instance, another deity is intended.

The connection between Tiw and the Thing stands, primarily, on three legs. The first is Tacitus’ reference in Germania in which the doling out of capital punishment (as well as imprisonment or flogging) was pronounced “in accordance to the will of the god they believe accompanies them to the field of battle.” In other words, the “Germanic Mars”; of who the same author if we recall makes a clear and present delineation of in relation to the “Germanic Mercury”.

The second is of course the Frisian votive stones mentioned in the quote above, which links the “Germanic Mars” to the Thing. Also of peripheral interest here is the inscription’s grouping of Mars Thingsus with two female spirits, as there is a recurrence of “twos” in the lore regarding Tiw. We see this is the Hymskvidha, where Thunor and Tiw are paired up in a duo — while the gods generally travel alone or in groups of three — and also in the two attempts Tiw made to lift the cauldron of Hymir. We also see it in the Sigdrifumal and the counsel to call twice on Tiw. More philosophically, we see it in the dualistic, adversarial nature of martial and legal conflicts, as well as in competitions of all forms. 

It is indeed very fair to say that Tiw is both “no peacemaker” and ultimately “the onehanded of the gods”, as there are always two parties to any competition, but only ever one winner.

He is not a peace-maker, but rather an “edge-whetter”.

The third leg that Tiw’s association with the Thing stands on is the name given to dies Martis in German, which alone of the Germanic tongues did not name this day after Tiw, as per the standard interpretation. Rather, it is, for whatever reason, named Dienstag, which is generally interpreted as “Day of the Thing”.

A fourth leg could be added via Tiw’s ancient association with warfare among the Germanic peoples. Particularly his association with the *teuta, the men of which, beyond comprising the body of the army, also comprised the body of the Thing; which is also were they were recognized as men.

All of that said, it is worth pointing out here that, in variance to what Tacitus had to say about capital punishment among the 1st century tribes of Germania, it was upon the “Rock of Thor” that capital offenders had their backs broken in Viking Age Iceland; which, if indicative of a general phenomenon among the Viking Age Norse (which it need not be), could point to Thunor taking over aspects of Tiw’s old portfolio in terms of legal judgement, much as Woden did in terms of war.

The author continues,

There is a deity known among the Frisians who is particularly devoted to law and justice, by the name of Fosite

There is no doubting the role of Fosite in relation to the Thing. All we know of him speaks towards this. He is however no Mars of the Thing. And he has no martial associations other than those we might find among any of the gods, and even among more than a couple of the goddesses.

The author continues,

The idea was that conflicts were ended and peace was restored by the Thing, even if a dispute had to end in battle. The holmgang, or “island-going”, was a form of single-combat that may or may not have ended with the death of the defeated. No matter who won, the case was then settled, with the victor having his way in the proceedings. This use of battle to settle some disputes has been used as a justification for Tyr being considered the god of the Thing. But Tyr is the god of war, not of duels.

This estimation fails to note the Germanic martial aesthetic, the ideal mode of combat, as being precisely that of the duel, engaged in by equals; even where two opposing forces road out to the battle en masse. This ideal continued to be preserved long after it’s practical limitations were shown up — by the martially collectivist Imperial Romans in their conflicts with the martially individualist Celts — in the Viking Age name for the denizens of Woden’s Valhalla; the einherijar or single combatants.

That a martial god was associated with the Thing is demonstrated in the title Mars Thingsus, while Tacitus relates that a martial god was associated with divine judgement in cases involving life and liberty. The implication would seem to be that even as Tiw acted as divine judge of warfare, he also acted, via direct appeal, as divine judge within the Thing (in regards to exceptional cases and their punishments), and perhaps also associated in a more general sense with the institutions fundamentally adversarial nature, and even the general judgements of the Thing in regards to it’s more usual functioning, ie. cases involving fine.

That the judge of warfare, who is also the judge of capital offenders, might also have been considered the judge of judicial combats is of course completely reasonable.

And one need but read through a couple of the Icelandic sagas to know that, not only was there was a poignantly adversarial aspect to Thing disputes, but moreso that the settlement of a case did not always ensure any sort of peace; though peace was of course the overall, long term purpose, not to mention the clear historical achievement, of the Thing-based system of law, crime, and punishment. Call it a “nurturing adversarialism”, the fruits of which might be less evident in the details of any particular case — and of course the sagas only relate to us the most prolific and dramatic of cases and feuds — and more evident in the organic evolution of the community over the long term; as the community works through it’s internal problems, organically, to inevitably come to organic solutions that make for a sincere and lasting peace, and a strengthening of a common identity.

That the spirit of judgement and adversarialism and mediation all exist within the context of law seems to me a moot point. No big surprise. Each play a role in it’s overall function and mission. Likewise the common purpose of both law and war in preserving the peace of the community is fairly evident. These things are not mutually exclusive.

The author continues,

If we were going to label a god as a representative of duels, it would have to be Thor. After all, in the myths Tyr is never known to actively participate in or represent duels, whereas Thor engages in them time and time again, making up the bulk of his adventures.

A fair argument, made much more poignant by the fact of Thunor’s Viking Age Norse-Icelandic association with divine judgement in the context of the Thing. And of course his possible association with legal oaths under the ambiguous by-name “Almighty Asa”.

Nevertheless, as far as our evidence goes, Thunor was never a god that mortal men looked to for victory in martial conflicts of any kind. He was always looked to as a defense against the hostile forces of nature, ie. the thursar and etins. As a result, none of Thunor’s mythic duels took place within the context of the Thing and/or the presence of the collective gods at council, ie. none represent a trial by combat.

Indeed, as far as the evidence goes, the Prose Edda states of the obscure North Germanic god UllR that, “It is also good to call on him in duels”.

This UllR is said to be the step-son of Thunor via his wife Sif and an otherwise unnamed god from a prior union. It is a curious fact that his name, not unlike that of Tiw, means glory.

In the Danish sources, Ollerus (Latinized UllR) was said to have taken Woden’s place while he was in exile.

While there is no mention or indication of Ullr, places name included, outside of Viking Age Scandinvia, the word that forms his name can be founded in such deific titles used by the Anglo-Saxons as wuldorfæder (gloryfather).

Some have speculated that UllR is another name for Tiw. And certainly the association between the two, ie. glory, is clear and evident. Alternately, he might have taken up part of the mantle left by Tiw as he shed his martial (and perhaps his legal) associations of other times and/or places. Perhaps as much Tiw’s son as Thunor’s step-son?

From here the author’s arguments either become fanciful or circle back around to the case of Fosite. An example of the former can be found in the argument,

No other deity better exemplifies this ideal than Balder. It may seem romantic to have the valiant god of war representing the Thing, but consider the possibility of being a defendant in a criminal case brought against you. Would this be a time when you would want to pray to a god of war, or a god of compassion?

One might well reason the same in terms of an invading army (rather than a law suit) being brought against one; in which case a god of compassion could conceivably be, by the same merit, equally preferable. That merit, in either context, presumably being a conviction in one’s own inferiority and inability to adequately defend one’s self. But our ancestors show no signs at all of any such inclination, be it in law or war or any endeavor, to concede victory to another without proofs of superiority, as provided by the best judge of all… competition, adversity, ordeal.

As the Bard said, “Bid them achieve me and then sell my bones.”, itself echoed in the Old English poem the Battle of Maldon centuries prior, “It seems a great shame to let you go to your ships with our treasures unfought — now you have come thus far into our country. You must not get our gold so softly. Points and edges must reconcile us first, a grim war-playing, before we give you any tribute.”

And truly, would you want compassion, beyond that implicit in the very nature and functioning of the Thing (ie. alternative to feud, predominantly fine oriented) shown to a man proven to have stolen or otherwise damaged your property or person or people? Should they pay less than the law stipulates you are owed? As a matter of mercy or compassion? Should you leave yourself impotent and reliant upon nothing more than “mercy” in the case of false accusations brought against you? Should we have compassion for the slanderous? Is that really the god you want to pray to? Or do you want to pray to a god that inspires you to rise to the righteous defense of you and yours, no matter the personal costs, able and confident that when the harsh fires of ordeal subside, only the truth shall remain? A god who yields, perhaps not the “compassionate” judgement, but rather the RIGHT judgement, in which you get your due, even in the most unclear and precarious of situations, as we see in Tiw’s righteous dealings in the dispute that existed between the AEsir and the Fenriswulf?

By the Tiwic ideal, rooted as it is in warfare, the very act of bringing a matter before the community, before the Thing, even if only to invoke the trial by combat, was an act of mercy and compassion in one regard or another.

The mediation of Fosite was always a remedy available to those involved in disputes, be it socially prior to filing suit or legally after filing suit, but such mediators played a largely reactive role and had no right to impose itself on men. One need but look to the official conversion of Iceland, where a mediator was chosen to decide the matter out of fear that the dispute would tear the country apart.

Courage and Wisdom

“There is yet another AEsir, whose name is Tyr. He is very daring and firm-minded. His counsels rule over victory in war, and so it is good for men of valour to call upon him. There is an old-saying, that he who surpasses other men and does not waver is Tyr-bold. He is also so wise, that it is said of anyone who is very smart, that he is Tyr-wise.” — Snorri Sturlusson, Prose Edda

The connection between courage and wisdom was, clearly, not lost on our ancestors … though many today are happy to attribute Tiw (ON. TyR) with great courage while over-looking the great wisdom part; for all that one only has to read the very next sentence

But it is not at all difficult to see the connection between the two … a connection made long before Aristotle was rediscovered by the West. After all, what is the essence of courage? Is it simply to face a danger? Well, that certainly is a manifestation of courage, but on a more quintessential level it is selflessness, the ability to place one’s own self aside, a trait well demonstrated by Tiw in the tale of the Fen-Wulf’s binding. One might be tempted, in terms of the cultivation of wisdom, to call it objectivity … the ability to see and judge a thing for what it inherently is rather than as one would have it be as a result of one’s own subjective hopes, fears, guilt, pride, preferences, etc., and then to act accordingly, no matter the consequences to one’s self.

There is a word for a man heading towards a war-zone that is all wrapped up in his own well-being. Coward. And how could it be otherwise? But one need not be heading towards a war-zone to demonstrate that most despised of qualities. Take the general reaction to U.S. President Trump for example, or the Left in general. All fear-based hyperbole and projection, done from within the safety of a mob.

“Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees the others.” – Aristotle

Tiw : Our Father Whom Art in Heaven

The Old English god Tiw (also Tiu, Tig) is cognate to the Old Norse Tyr, the Old High German Ziu (also Zio), and the Gothic Teiws. These are all believed to stem from a proto-Germanic Tiwaz, which itself stems from a Proto-Indo-European root that references the heavens and their radiance.

This notion of “heavenly radiance” formed the basic Indo-European perception of godhood as seen in the various *deiwos group of words, eg. the Baltic Dievas (God), the Latin deus (god), the Indo-Iranian deva/daeva (god), Old Norse tyr (god, hero, sage), tivar (gods, heroes), and diar (gods, priests). Such Latin sprung words in Modern English as deity and divine also spring from this same root, while a brother stem provides us with such other Indo-European god-names as the Sanskrit Dyauspitar, the Greek Zeus, and the Latin Jupiter.

The very concept of the halo in the West likely has it’s roots in this perception of the divine. While we generally associate it with Catholicism and saints, the earliest depictions of halo’d figures comes from ancient Greece, where they were depicted as surrounding the heads of various heroes and philosophers from as early as the 6th century B.C., and were described as early as Homer (9th century B.C.),

Minerva flung her tasseled aegis round his strong shoulders; she crowned his head with a halo of golden cloud from which she kindled a glow of gleaming fire”. 

It’s equivalent in specifically Germanic art can be gleaned in the sun-wheeled bodied figures of Nordic Bronze Age rock-art and much later in the so-called “sunheaded” man of Anglo-Saxon art.


That the Germanic Tiw retained his ancient connection with the ideas of the heavens and their radiance that are at the very root of his name can be clearly seen in the 10th century Abecedarium Nordmannicum where we read the cosmological statement, “Tiu, Birch, and Man in the middle”, while the imagery of the stanza associated with his rune in the Old English Rune Poem is glaringly celestial; conjuring the ever constant star in the night skies and reflecting the ancient Vedic perception of Dyaus as a black horse (the night sky) draped in pearls (the stars). We might further glean Tiw’s enduring association with the heavens in the name of his Eddic father, the etin Hymir, and in the symbolism of the Hymskvidha.  The name Hymir is likely related to the Old Icelandic word huma, meaning “twilight, dusk”, while his hall is said to stand at “heaven’s edge” and the greatest of his kingly herd of cattle was the ox named Heavenbellower. 

The O.E.R.P. also connects Tiw with the notion of glory — having substituted his name with the Old English word tir (glory) — and this is laid bare by Snorri Sturlusson in his Prose Edda, where he states that a man of great boldness is called tyr-bold, while he who is exceedingly well-informed is called tyr-wise. We also see it reflected in Tiw’s Eddic appellation “the Leavings of the Wolf”, which is of course — understanding the pan-Indo-Germanic  symbolic value of the wolf as one of death and the grave — a glaring reference to the “name undying” or “glory”. To paraphrase the Havamal, “Cattle die, kinsmen die, and the ravenous wolf shall eat it’s fill, but I know one thing that never dies, a good name well earned”.

Of the various lines of speculation, investigation, and thought one can pursue from this point, one that immediately jumps out is Tiw’s association with the Thing (Assembly) — which is an interesting path of inquiry itself, as it is at the Thing that the “collective light” of the Tivar is assembled — and the Thing’s own association with the heavens, the celestial bodies, and the creation/maintenance of time, ie. observation of the celestial bodies (a tradition extending as far back as Tiw’s name, as seen in the Nebra Skydisc, Stonehenge, and the Goseck Circle). As we read in the Voluspa,

“The sun, the sister | of the moon, from the south
Her right hand cast | over heaven’s rim;
No knowledge she had | where her home should be,
The moon knew not | what might was his,
The stars knew not | where their stations were.

Then sought the gods | their assembly-seats,
The holy ones, | and council held;
Names then gave they | to noon and twilight,
Morning they named, | and the waning moon,
Night and evening, | the years to number.”

It is an interesting fact that the Old English word thing (meeting, assembly) springs from the same P.I.E. root as the Gothic theihs (time). This root meant “stretch, span, finite space” and is speculated to have originally referred to the set time that assemblies occurred in.

Here one’s mind is drawn to the “sub-pantheon” of the Eddas, perhaps the same as that (over?) emphasized by Caesar in the Gallic Wars when he wrote,

“They (the Germans) rank in the number of the gods those alone whom they behold, and by whose instrumentality they are obviously benefited, namely, the sun, fire, and the moon.”

Such figures a Mundilfari (the Turner, axis (of time)) and Delling (Shining One) — who begat Sun and Moon and Day, and who are otherwise associated with Night — would all seem to have had a special association with Tiw  … if indeed they are not, in the case of Mundilfari and Delling, aspects of him.

In light of all this (no pun intended), in doing a comparative analysis, we might place aside, at least for a moment, such figures as Zeus, and even Mars, and look instead toward the Greek Uranus or, more poignantly, that Titan’s own offspring, Hyperion, who is the father of Helios (Sun), Selene (Moon), and Eos (Dawn) and of whom Diodorus Siculus wrote,

Of Hyperion we are told that he was the first to understand, by diligent attention and observation, the movement of both the sun and the moon and the other stars, and the seasons as well, in that they are caused by these bodies, and to make these facts known to others; and that for this reason he was called the father of these bodies, since he had begotten, so to speak, the speculation about them and their nature.

Be whole!

Tiw and Irmin: Mistaken Identity

There is a wide-spread theory that has been around … for a long time now — at least since I first started to seriously research native Germanic belief back in the early 90’s — that links Tacitus’ Irmin to the better known Germanic god Tiw (Old Norse – TyR). As I was strongly drawn to Tiw in my early years, I was initially as hungry as a wolf for whatever lore I could muster on him; Irmin, Seaxneat, the Suebian “God and Ruler of All” … you name it, I was an eager-beaver when it came to anything that could be even remotely connected to him. No matter if it be by actual evidence or mere authoritative suggestion. Of course, as the information continued to flow in I constantly went back to reevaluate various pet notions that ultimately gave sincerity the upper hand over zeal, and led to a reevaluation of my opinion on the matter.

In the end I had to conclude that it was, at best, unlikely that Irmin was one of Tiw’s by-names. Why, you ask?

Well, for one, the Norse-Icelandic Eddas make a concrete connection between Irmin and the god Woden; ranking the former’s Old Norse cognate, ie. Jormun, among the latter’s many, many by-names.

Disputing this, people will often cite the theoretical ascension of the cult of Woden and it’s absorption of various elements of the cult of Tiw. And while I do happen to agree with the gist of this theory, I really don’t like to reach when a more viable answer is right at hand. I certainly don’t mind well-founded theories, but when one starts formulating theories based on theories, and offering it up as ancestral belief, I begin to get a little shy.

Getting back to the actual evidence left to us by the ancestors, we have the 10th century writings of the Old Saxon monk Widukind of Corvey, who references the Saxon Irminsul and states that it was erected in honour of Hermes, whom the Saxons call Hermin, ie. Irmin,  but whom they worship as Mars. Now, it was Woden who was equated with the Roman Mercury, who was in turn equated with the Greek Hermes. Mars on the otherhand was the customary gloss for Tiw, but we do know that as early as the 1st century AD the Germanic Mercury, ie. Woden, was being worshiped alongside the Germanic Mars, ie. Tiw, in the “cult of war”, and so must even then have had a clear martial association. Indeed, from the Migration Age forward we can plainly see that it is Woden who dominates the lore of warfare, the “port of Mars”; with Tiw’s continued association with war being limited to a mere mythic reference or two, but never actually seen or heard of in history, legend or the archaeological record. It seems to me that Widukind’s “befuddlement” of Hermes and Mars in regards to Irmin strongly suggested an association with the “Marslike Mercury” of the Germanic peoples. Namely, the Marslike Mercury that is the god Woden.

One might also observe that, as one of the noble sons of Mannus, Irmin was — like his elder brother Ingui and the Ingvaeones — a patron of the Irminonic mega-tribal-grouping of the Folk. As such, both sons of Mannus were most likely gods/progenitors of sacral leadership. This latter point is clearly “reflected” in, ie. spun out of, the clear association of their Migration and Viking Age “counter-parts” with kingship; Yngvi-FreyR and his association with the Bernician line of Anglo-Saxon England, the Danes, and the Ynglings of Sweden and Odhinn with … virtually every other kingly house in NW Europe. In contrast, Tiw himself has no direct association with kingship or the founding of kingly lines.

Finally, it is also worth a mention in passing that the Irminonic tribes occupied the interior of Germany, in relation to the seashore dwelling Ingvaeones of southern Scandinavia. According to Snorri Sturlusson, in his preface of the Prose Edda, Woden came first to Germany, and there founded lines of kings before moving up into the Northlands and his meeting with the Yngling-King, Gylfi of Ingvaeonic Sweden; which might well be a mythologization of the evolution of the cult of Woden among the tribes of Germania and the spread of these revised, Roman influenced and Woden centered beliefs, back up into the cradle of Germanicism.


Symbols of the Nordic Bronze Age


I’ve been researching and chewing on this symbol from the Nordic Bronze Age for a few months now. Prevailing popular opinion has it that the symbol is either a (magic) mushroom or is evidence of the Old Saxon “Irminsul-as-depicted-on-the-Externsteine”, and indeed my initial research was in part spurred by the latter notion.

As we have it, the symbol is present on less than a dozen Nordic Bronze Age rock-carvings and razor handles, but is nevertheless present enough and shows enough variance in depiction to see that it was known to many artists along the coasts of the old Ingvaeonic tribes.


It appears in different sizes and shapes, sometimes in the hand of an anthropomorphic figure, sometimes free standing, but always in association with the “solar ship”; where it can be found in various parts of the ship including in place of the prow and/or the rudder.


The Mushroom?

Regarding the notion that the symbol depicts a mushroom, I’ll simply quote Richard Rudgely on the matter of the mushroom in Germanic culture and belief,

“The vast amount of European folklore compiled by Wasson and his wife on the fly-agaric and other mushrooms indicates that in many areas of the Continent there were taboos in place against the use of certain fungi, suggesting an ancient ritual role for them. Despite the great efforts of the Wassons, neither archaeological sites nor archival materials have yielded up sufficient proof of such a cult”.

(The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Substances)

The Irminsul?


The supposed “bent Irminsul” of the Externsteine relief

Regarding the notion that the symbol is a Nordic Bronze Age depiction of the Irminsul, and so validates the notion that it is the Old Saxon Irminsul that is depicted on the Externsteine; well, to start, at least 2,000 years separate the Nordic Bronze Age symbol from the Extersteine relief with little to no intervening evidence to suggest a continuous tradition of the symbols use.

I personally, in my 30 years as a Germanic Heathen, have never bought into the notion that this image depicted the Irminsul; which IMO would more likely have resembled a Slavic god-pole or a Roman Jupiter column. The image on the Extersteine is simply “out of place” in the broad spectrum of Germanic symbolism; though admittedly the Nordic Bronze Age symbol might give one pause to wonder.

At this point, it would suffice to say that my opinion of the Extersteine image is that, whatever the “bent palm-tree” was meant to depict, ie. the Saxon Irminsul for example, that the actual Saxon Irminsul that was cut down by Charlemagne did not look like this image. People can of course fill a symbol with whatever content they want, regardless of it’s “original content”, and that is fine and dandy, but in terms of education there is always the matter of integrity.

So what then?

As alluded to above, symbols have little to no inherent meaning, and rely on culture and context to give them content. It is not enough to ask what does this symbol mean to me, or us here today? Nor even what might it have meant to a 10th century Saxon monk. A Bronze Age symbol must be understood within the context of the Bronze Age, which of course leaves us at a severe disadvantage as we are limited solely to the physical/archaeological record for anything even vaguely resembling a first hand reckoning of Nordic Bronze Age culture; though we do have the broader context of Proto-Indo-European ancestry and better represented Bronze Age relations to make up for this lack.

We might also care to remember that symbols can “layer” meaning in culturally idiosyncratic ways that allow for (and even encourage) a range of interpretations. They are not the product of analytical reductionist thought, but of a more expansive and poetic form of thinking.

Before looking at the evidence of the Nordic Bronze Age itself, we might take a gander at their Neolithic ancestors and Bronze Age relations, for any light these cultures might hope to shed on the matter.

The following images (below) were found etched into the rocks that make up the solar megalith of Stonehenge. They are believed to have been put there in the Bronze Age, long after Stonehenge’s construction, and are commonly regarded as upward turned axe-heads of the variety common to Bronze Age Britain; who’s people were of both Proto-Indo-European stock and engaged in trade with southern Scandinavia over the course of the Nordic Bronze Age.


The axe, particularly the double-headed ax or labrys, was also a prominent symbol among the Mycenaeans and Minoans; the former of whom, like the Celts of Bronze Age Britain, shared both a common Proto-Indo-European and carried on trade with the folk of the Nordic Bronze Age. Here we find the labrys depicted between the “horns of the Minoan bull” … otherwise known as the “horns of consecration”,


If I understand it correctly, it would only be later in hidyotu that the labrys would also take on an association with the lily, ie. layered meaning, depictions of which bare an even stronger resemblance to our Nordic Bronze Age symbol. Also, both axe and lily are often accompanied by solar imagery, not unlike the presence of the axe-head on the “solar symbol” that is Stonehenge itself.


What relation our Nordic Bronze Age symbol might have to the Minoan lily is a line of research that will have to wait for another time and/or person. From here on I will focus on it’s relation to the axe.

It is a curious fact that the evolution of Nordic Bronze Age culture began with the arrival of, not simply that culture dubbed the “Battle Axe People” in southern Scandinavia, but rather of a sub-category of that culture known as the “Boat-Axe People” in the late Neolithic era. These people were called so as a result of the boat-like shape of the axe-heads they produced. The relationship of the axe to the boat is of course inherent; as trees were felled and boats shaped via the use of axes and axe-head-like tools.

Curiously, examples of our Nordic Bronze Age symbol always occur in direct relation to the boat, and often in relation to solar imagery (other than the boat itself).


boat-axe head

In the late Neolithic era the tribes of southern Scandinavia also wore axe-heads made amber as ornamentation; or perhaps (more likely?) as charms similar to the much later “Donar’s Cudgel” and “ThorR’s Hammer”.

Note the double-headed axe head in the image below. Despite the prominence of the labrys among the Mycenae, we don’t find these during the Nordic Bronze Age. We do however find plenty of dual imagery, axes being no exception, in both the art and deposits of the Nordic Bronze Age, much of which is associated with the cult of the Sun and her brothers, the Divine Twins.


Following this trail on into the Nordic Bronze Age itself, one cannot help but be immediately struck by the similarity of our subject symbol to this ceremonial axe-head. I’ve rotated the image for ease of comparison.


Excessively large axe-heads, far bigger than would be at all practical for combat, and so which are believed to have had a ceremonial purpose, not unlike the Minoan labrys, have in fact been unearthed in Scandinavia; thus confirming such rock carvings as the following,


We again see a reflection of our subject symbol (below) in one of the very peculiar, ie. stylistically, Kivik stones ( c.1,000 B.C.), where we find what appears to be twin axe-heads depicted in association with the sun-wheel.


These two youths (below), the Divine Twins, are found on the Fogtdarp yoke. A direct comparison can be drawn between them, the twin Grevensvaenge figurines and the Vikso helmets. They are all from the Nordic Bronze Age.


In Kristian Kristiansen and Thomas B. Larsson’s excellent work, “The Rise of the Bronze Age Society”, a bird’s eye view is provided of the top of their helmets (below), where we find our subject symbol set between the horns of their helmet and mention is made of it’s Mycenaean parallel in the labrys set betwixt the horns of the bull.


Our next image is a drawing of the Nordic Bronze Age’s Grevensvaenge twins; yet another Nordic Bronze Age depiction of the “Divine Twins” as seen in the rock art and testified to in the dual or twinned offerings — of axes, swords, lur horns — of the era. The basic idea of these brothers is expressed in the Latvian word jumis meaning “two grown together as one” … each holding a half of the elder double-headed axe?


When thought of in terms of the concept of jumis, one might also note the ceremonial swords of the Nordic Bronze Age, deposited as pairs, with curling tips quite reminiscent of our subject symbol when taken together as a whole.


While best represented in Migration and post-Migration Age lore as the sons of Woden, the Divine Twins are more roundly remembered in the broader Indo-European context as the offspring of the Skyfather (Zeus, Dyaus, Dievas, etc), who’s name and attributes are reflected in the Germanic Tiwaz (Tiw, Zio, TyR, etc.). It is at least curious to note the shape of his rune-stave (below) in the elder futhark in relation to our subject symbol.


While the etymology of the Germanic word heaven is open to debate, it is interesting in this context to note that Watkins “derives it elaborately from PIE *ak- “sharp” via *akman- “stone, sharp stone,” then “stony vault of heaven.” (Online Etymology Dictionary). We are reminded at once of the characteristic Proto-Indo-European stone battle axe, and of course of the stony skull of Ymir from Viking Age Nordic myth, where it was said to be used to form the roof of the heavens. In Greek legend the stony skull of Atlas comes to form of the mountain summit; while Indo-Iranian myth also (more loosely) associates the skull with the heavens and the divine.

Anyway, this same P.I.E. root (also) yields the Proto-Germanic *hamaraz (hammer) and various other Indo-European words with a range of meanings that include “anvil, pestle, battering ram” (Greek), “stone, hammer, thunderbolt” (Sanskrit), “sky, heaven” (Persian).

This of course calls to mind the famous hammer of the Viking Age North Germanic peoples. Rotated (below) for ease of reference, of course. It is worth noting that the Balto-Slavic Thunderer, Perun to use the Slavic, plays a strong role in their solar mythology. Their names are suspected to be etymologically related to the Old Norse Fjorgyn (fem.) and Fjorgynn (masc.), the former of whom is said to be the mother of Thunor (Donar, ThorR) in the Eddic myths. I interpret this as the seemingly obvious; that Thunor is the uniquely Germanic heir to the older “Fjorgynn”.

Whatever the case, Thunor is one of the very few deities who are portrayed as driving the patently anachronistic (sun) chariot. The other chariot-drivers of Eddic myth are Freo (Freyja) — who shares solar associations, indirectly, via her (twin) brother Ingui-Frea (FreyR) and the pig — and of course the “time-keeping deities” so central to the “sun-cult” (Sun, Moon, Day, Night). It is also Thunor who was believed to force the Wulf to disgorge the Sun during a solar eclipse, while his wife, Sif, is said to have had hair as brilliant as gold.


All-in-all, it would seem that our subject symbol was related to such notions as heavenly authority, hollowing power, and protection.

Certainly, there is no way of knowing, positively, what the symbol might have meant, let alone the extent of it’s meaning. And to some this might strike one as due leave to consider all opinions to be equally valid. Of course, with due respect to the theory of it all, I will say this … it was educated guessing, and not idle speculation (or absolute certainty), that put mankind on the moon.

Reckon wisely, my friends!