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.