Teiwaz, also known as Tyr, bears the name of the warrior god who sacrificed his hand to chain the wolf of greed (Fenris Wolf), thereby gaining more time for the existence of the world, because this wolf has the power to consume the world. Tiwaz is a warrior Rune of sacrifice, impeccability, the inner discipline of integrity, and the understanding that sometimes one must be the instrument of betrayal of trust for the greater good.

Let me start by defining the names, as they add depth of meaning to the story. Etymologically, the name Tyr is linked to ancient words for gods: Teiwaz; Ziu; Indo-European counterparts Zeus, Dyaus, and Jupiter; and words for “god” – Old Indian deva, Latin dei, and old Norse tívar (the plural of tyr).[1] A second meaning of Tyr’s name is “Beast” or “Animal.”[2] “Fenrisulfr” translates literally as the “Wolf of Greed.” [3] In this tale, the ancient poets bring together Tyr and Fenris as the mirrored aspects of passion: that which makes courageous sacrifices, and that which craves power and material goods.[4] These mirrored qualities of the human soul struggle within the warrior spirit – a paradox of integrity.

Fenris was one of three children of Loki, the Trickster God of the Aesir, by Angraboda, Hagia (head witch) of the Iron Wood in Jötunheim, home of the giants. Foreseeing the potential in these three children for great harm, All-Father Odin bound the Serpent Jörmundgand into the waters surrounding Midgard; sent their daughter, Hela, to her place overseeing the dead in Helheim (her appearance as half-corpse, half-young beauty reveals her power between death and life, the Other World and this one); and the Fenris Wolf. Whatever his reasons, Odin took Fenris to Asgard to rear among the Aesir. Tyr was given the care of this animal, and as the Wolf grew, his appetite became larger and larger.

The Aesir feared Fenris Wolf and desired to have him chained. They tried three times. Twice the wolf broke his fetters. The third time the Aesir commissioned the dwarves to make a very special chain that the wolf could not break. By this time, however, Fenris was mistrustful of the new chain, which was light and flexible, and refused to test his strength against it no matter how the Aesir cajoled him. Only when Tyr, who had fed and befriended the wolf, offered to put his hand in the wolf’s mouth as assurance against trickery, did the wolf agree to let him self be bound.

Try as he might, Fenris could not free himself from the new chain. He bit off Tyr’s hand at the wrist, and the Aesir laughed. Tyr, also called the Just, in sacrificing his hand, had brought a greater good to the larger number of people with his betrayal of the wolf. The Aesir themselves, representing as they do the higher mind, lied and tricked the wolf into testing the new fetters. The paradox in the story is the price one pays to do the right thing. The effort to do the right thing co-exists with the voice of self-deception. We have seen in the story how the higher mind, represented by the Aesir, lied and deceived the wolf, which lives within each of us.

There is fear behind greed: fear that there will not be enough, fear of loss, fears that the warrior in each of us must keep in check through self-knowledge, discipline, and temperance. Tyr was given the task of standing watch over greed. The greater group of the Aesir, warriors all, could not overcome its fear, and decided the wolf must be bound. Tyr, who knew how to feed the wolf, fed the wolf his hand, a part of himself, in the task of binding the wolf.

There is an old story attributed to the Native American Indians that has a grandfather talking to his grandson. “Within each of us, grandson, live two wolves. One is fearless and industrious. The other one is lazy and greedy.” “How will I know which wolf will win, Grandfather?” asks the boy. “The one you feed will win,” the Grandfather sagely tells his grandson. I believe that Tyr fed the wolf that part of himself that could rise above betrayal as long as life conditions were right. But when life conditions became untenable, he had to act against his own nature for the greater good.

This Rune is about impeccability – doing our best and being our best, especially under trying situations. It is about holding our own integrity, even when the choices within the circumstances we are facing may lead to poor outcomes. Tiwaz is the rune of warriors and soldiers, those who have fought for survival, and spiritual warriors. Tiwaz is about keeping your head high and doing what you know is right, even against the odds. Tyr sacrificed his sword hand, which was also his oath taking hand, in a mythology wherein one needs to be physically whole in order to be a leader. His sacrifice included betrayal. The pain of betrayal becomes shame a man of integrity must then live with, even knowing his action led to a greater good.

Tyr is the wounded warrior. I feel we must be mindful of those modern soldiers who return home from war, wounded in mind and/or body, betrayed by a government system (VA) that fails to meet their needs, or the Vietnam veterans who came home and were despised because the war they fought in was despised. Whether we the people agree with the reasons our government sent these soldiers to war, they went forward, putting their lives and their wellbeing on the line for the nation. They deserve honor and our respect for that. American leadership needs to step up and repair its damaged word to its wounded veterans.

Tiwaz’s appearance within a reading may indicate a soldier, the need for a warrior’s approach, a call for integrity of purpose, honor and justice, keeping one’s word, choosing the best course of action from contradictory choices, or justice. I did one reading in which Tiwaz turned up amidst romantic Runes, and the woman’s fiancé was a soldier. The battle one faces might be a real war; it might be in the legal, marital, or political realms; or contained within one’s job situation. There are also battles to overcome serious, life threatening diseases that demand one’s entire inner temperance and fortitude. I am inspired by those who survive years of debilitating cancers with a smile and cheerful attitude despite their pain. One has said that her bones feel better when she remains in a state of laughter. Another turns to her inner artist to keep going. I believe that every human being has some special purpose to honor. Tiwaz energizes us to keep going.

[1] Kvilhaug, p. 350

[2] ibid., p. 350

[3] ibid., p. 344

[4] Ibid., p. 351