I’ve talked about Odin’s path and Loki’s path, but they aren’t the only paths I follow. Considering it’s Tuesday, it seems appropriate to discuss Tyr today. Tyr is an interesting god because he’s one of the gods that doesn’t have a lot of surviving lore. The best known story about Tyr is, of course, the role he played in chaining Fenrir and how he lost his arm in the process.
Tyr, who raised Fenrir and was essentially best friends with the wolf, was the god instrumental in chaining Fenrir. I’ve heard a lot of interesting interpretations over the years, most falling into the category of “Fenrir was a danger that needed to be contained,” but there were others along the lines of, “If Fenrir was never chained, he would have never posed a threat.” One assumes that Fenrir was an immediate threat – the other, that Fenrir was turned into a threat. I haven’t really reached a conclusion one way or the other because both sides have merit.
And that’s really where Tyr’s path begins – looking at both sides of an argument. Or, in cases where there are multiple perspectives, viewing the situation from every perspective. In a way, this is a talent that every polytheist has to develop because we’re dealing with multiple deities with vastly different personalities on a daily basis. The only real option is to adapt and learn to deal with it.
Because of that, I try to look at the story of the chaining of Fenrir from Tyr’s perspective. Odin, someone whom he highly respects and trusts to tell him the truth in all matters has told him that Fenrir is a threat. Tyr, viewing Fenrir as one of his best friends (the two were practically inseparable before the chaining), is in turmoil because he knows that Fenrir could pose a threat. But he doesn’t know that for sure. So, at first, he resists the idea. After all, they are best friends, right? Then suppose something happens that makes Tyr start doubting his friend – something unusual in his words or behavior – and Tyr starts to wonder if maybe Odin is right. Tyr’s primary duty is to keep the universe balanced – to maintain order. The Irminsul is his symbol for a reason – he is the scales. If Tyr felt that the universe was in danger of falling out of balance, then his duty has to come before his friendship.
Tyr doesn’t make excuses when he tricks Fenrir into being chained. He doesn’t lament the loss of his arm. In a way, it’s like he knows that he has to make a sacrifice to balance out the terrible fate he is inflicting on his best friend. Sure, the loss of an arm isn’t equivalent to being chained up for eternity (or until Ragnarok – I’m still not sold on the apocalypse, to be frank), but it is a sacrifice. A payment of a debt, perhaps. It’s hard to really figure that all out because there has been so much lore lost.
Moving back to what it’s like to walk Tyr’s path – it’s not easy. I don’t think any of the paths the gods set before us are easy ones to walk, and why should they be? Life is a journey, and journeys are boring if nothing ever goes wrong. We get our best stories from our worst happenstances, ironically enough. And the good and bad have to balance out. That’s where Tyr’s path really comes into play. Walking his path, I’ve learned, is about viewing events from all sides. When something goes wrong in my life, that’s when I need to look for an opportunity to turn it around and make it better. When something goes well in my life, I’ve learned to be thankful and wary – good is necessarily succeeded by bad and vice versa.
I feel, in some ways, that Tyr’s path is really about utilizing your personal luck (hamingja) as best as you can. Some people argue that doing good deeds for the sake of doing good deeds is selfish, but that’s a convoluted statement, and I think that doing good deeds is essential to maintaining positive luck. If it’s selfish behavior, it’s selfish for all the right reasons. Conversely, becoming more aware of the effects that my actions have on others has given me insight into what deeds aren’t considered good ones. I think this varies for everyone, based on your own set of moral standards, and I think that’s okay. We’re all different, we all hold different values, and the gods – considering how varied their own personalities are – surely understand that. After all, I can’t imagine Odin and Loki getting along if they didn’t have a healthy respect for the different approaches to morality taken by the other.
Anyway, I was starting to feel like this was becoming an Odin and Loki blog, and that was never my intention. I haven’t discussed any of the goddesses yet because I have a harder time working with them, due to certain circumstances of my past, but I do walk the paths of Sigyn and Freyja. I’m not quite comfortable with Frigga yet, which goes back to the circumstances I alluded to, but I’m working on it.
I’m curious, though – if any of you walk Tyr’s path, and what your thoughts are on that path.
10 thoughts on “Tyr’s Path”
I haven’t met Tyr, and I’ve actually been a bit wary to even entertain the idea because of Fenrir. If it’s a sore spot, I don’t want to make it worse. How would I feel if I were in His situation, and then my spouse is okay with the person who betrayed me? Yeah… probably not too good, unless They’ve moved past that painful bit and mended fences. I don’t know, I haven’t asked Fenrir about that. However, I’ve been diving into my astrological chart, and I’m seeing that finding balance is kind of a big theme. Balance, like you said, is one of Tyr’s things. Hmm…
I don’t know if Tyr and Fenrir have mended fences, either – it doesn’t seem appropriate to ask! It’s interesting that your chart has balance as one of its major themes, but I think it also depends on what kind of balance is being sought. Tyr’s balance is cosmic balance – a universal balance, so to speak – but he’s not the only one that deals with balance. Odin also has his hand in balance, but that type of balance is between order and chaos. Either way, the gods that deal the most with balance are the gods that Fenrir is the most likely to be upset with, from what I understand about him after reading your blog – since I don’t work with him personally, and all :p
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Yeah, I don’t want to ask, either. If He brings it up, that’s fine. But I don’t want to be nosey. I care, but I won’t pry.
My theme of balance seems to kind of be a balancing of emotions, mostly. Balance introversion with reaching out to others, balance loving with being firm, balance letting others in with setting boundaries. Stuff like that. Believe it or not, Fenrir has been really good with this. He’s actually kind of involved with balance, Himself. It isn’t apparent at first glance, it only just now occurred to me. Balancing calm with rage, necessary action vs unnecessary action, caring about others vs caring about what they think of you… He’s pretty much a perfect fit for me. 🙂
Even my astro chart elements are very closely in balance. Air and Water lead only by one placement over Earth and Fire. (I have a lot more Fire than I thought I did!)
In contrast to your chart, my chart is balanced between extremes. I have a lot of fire and water and very little earth and air. Ironically, the fire makes up for the lack of air, and all of my houses are in their natural positions since I have an Aries ascendant. It’s interesting how much the elements affect our lives.
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Sooo interesting! 🙂
Sooo interesting! 🙂
I am very impressed by this blog. I dealt a lot with runes when I much younger and then recently found myself being back to the Nordic path and when I looked into things I found that Tyr is all about balance in fact, also about justice , honour and much more. turns out I am getting the feeling that I should be following his very same path , Tyr and I have a lot in common. way to much for me sadly shake off lol.
Not to be that guy now that I am reading this years after it’s original posting but all lore does not in any sense say that it was his arm he had given to Fenrir. It was specifically his right hand, his sword hand or more direct the “oath” hand.
Tyr is a very important god in my life because of the binding it is easy to understand from Tyr’s perspective especially if you think about pre Christian Norse culture. The people are more important than the individual as a matter of survival. Order vs chaos cannot be avoided and Fenrir is in himself a Rokkr god. One of three absolute truths. Thus, it was a matter of necessity to bind him. This is a sad reality sacrifices are necessary to live a peaceful existence. And if there was any animosity from Fenrir directed at Tyr, then surely they would do battle at Ragnarök. Instead it is Garmr that kills Tyr.
Nice perspective on Tyrs path, thank you!
To be among the gods, this requires sacrifice for the survival and thriving of society.
I see this as a metaphor for the balance of the personal selfish will, with sacrifice of self for the community. Also being the god of war, the development and friendship with his “will” was important. But as we all can see the state of the world as it is now, too much focus on our own individual will, without concern for others, left unchecked and unchained will lead to ruin in the community. As also symbolized in Tyr sacrificing his hand, the hand of his trade, he is sacrificing his will for the community, the symbol of a true warrior, protector, and one aspect of divine masculinity.
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Great points! The balance between self and community is definitely a difficult one to maintain, and I agree that the world as it stands today reveals a fundamental breakdown of that balance.
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