Saturday, March 20, 2010

Tyr As Father Protector And Provider

Tyr As Father Protector And Provider Cover TYR has often been misunderstood and even more often misrepresented. The Romans simplistically equated him with their god of war, mars. Consequently Tiw, as the Anglo-Saxons called him, has the honour of giving his name to Tuesday, but is otherwise neglected by many as being embarrassingly militaristic.

Tyr is the father-god, as his name suggests, the god of fatherhood, the father figure amongst gods. Too much importance has been attached to the question of who is the chief god. As polytheists we are entitled to have differing views in this matter. Odin was acknowledged as Allfather and supreme god because the values which he epitomised became most highly honoured, not by all, but by most, or at least most of the rulers and skalds in the Northern world.

Regardless of his title, Allfather, Odin's numinous, ecstatic, mystic, Mysterious, poetic, runic and inspirational qualities do not characterise him as a fatherly archetype. Typically the father is not a poet but a provider, not a magician but a protector, a caring figure not a shaman. Odin gave up his eye for wisdom; Tyr sacrificed his hand to protect the others from a danger. It is Tyr who acts the father.

The masses turn to the father-god in times of need. It is a basic human instinct, instilled in childhood. In a patriarchal society, such as the early Germans', the father is head of the family, a ruler of that microcosm of society, laying down the law. His is the duty of instructing children in the knowledge of right and wrong and distinguishing praiseworthy behaviour from the punishable.

Thus Tyr is the god of personal and public ethics and governs whatever applies to the ethical code. Hence the inscription 'Mars Thingsus' (i.e., of the Thing), for the Thing is the parliament which makes laws and the court which enforces them. Tyr is the fatherly god who implements justice in order to protect us and preserve our social order. He is a caring and noble god, teaching us that order is better than chaos.

Tyr, god of war and victory, was no soldiers' and generals' god. He was no mere 'crude deity of slaughter', as Ellis Davidson says. Quite the contrary! Certainly, soldiers in the thick of battle would turn to him for protection. But who had greater need of defence than the defenceless? Who would sacrifice more fervently than the non-warfaring folk, the women and children, the farmers and fishermen, the thralls and churls? Who, following defeat at the hands of land-hungry tribes, would be raped, slaughtered, driven from their farmlands into starvation? Who, if unlucky, would be enslaved, but they?

War was no contest of justice, as Ellis Davidson argues, but a struggle for survival. The god of war and victory, Sigtyr, like a father to his people, his children, would guard them from the horror of defeat. The good father may be stern but never cruel. He is the protector of the family and the tribe.

One reason why scholars underrate Tyr is that he is little mentioned in the Eddas and little worshipped in Iceland (where the Eddas came from) or in Norway (where the Icelanders came from). Elsewhere, as many place names attest, he was much venerated by the masses.

Odin and Tyr are contrasting gods. Their cults may well not appeal to some people. The importance attached by society to the attributes they each represent has varied throughout history. But to claim that one has supplanted the other is to ignore the great differences between their two characters and to ignore the durability of fundamental archetypes.

As polytheists we should Understand the necessity for the many different paths to the truth and then choose the way which suits us best.

Books in PDF format to read:

Aleister Crowley - The Star And The Garter
Sepharial - Astrology And Marriage
William Wynn Westcott - Numbers Their Occult Power And Mystic Virtues
Ragner Storyteller - How To Invoke Freya Valkries For Protection And Defence