Tiwaz is the rune of Tyr, the god of justice. It is the first of the final aett of runes, the aett of Tyr. This rune is representative of balance, laws and compromise. It represents that which provides structure and order in appeasement to both sides of an issue. You will win your battle through truth, sacrifice, and thoughtfulness.
Tyr is the god of war, and the image of Tiwaz is said to be that of a spearpoint. War was believed to measure justice, where the victor was the one who had been blessed by the gods that day. The Romans viewed Tyr as being similar to Mars, their god of war, and is thus attributed to Tuesday (Tyr’s day), the day of Mars. Tyr not a violent fighter, however, this title is given to Thor (Thurisaz) who slays giants on a daily basis. Tyr’s role was that of the peacemaker, ruling over treaties, assemblies and balance, rather than by brute force.
Tyr’s role was that of the peacemaker, ruling over treaties, assemblies and balance, rather than by brute force.
This shows that Tyr, though having an aspect of fiery Mars, is more closely attributed to air. Air is the element attributed to mental acuity, and when the Tiwaz rune comes forth the message is that your victory must be achieved through intellect, not force. This is also a very true aspect of war and chess, as often your opponent’s strength in numbers can be overrun by greater strategy.
The most infamous act of Tyr was the sacrifice of his hand to the great wolf Fenrir in an attempt to delay Ragnarok and save the world. Fenrir was one of the spawn of the mischief god Loki and the jotun Angerboda, the others being Hel, she who ruled the dead, and Jormungandr, the serpent that encircled the world. These offspring were fated to bring about the end of gods and man, and so the Aesir needed to mercifully deal with them. They had decided to chain Fenrir in a magical rope forged by the dwarves from things that no longer exist because they were used to make the rope, such as the sound of a cat’s paws and the roots of mountains. To trick Fenrir into allowing the gods to fetter him, they told the wolf they wanted to test his strength and that they would remove the rope afterwards. Tyr placed his right hand in the mouth of the great wolf to show the wolf that they did not mean harm. Once Fenrir was caught he realized he could not get free, and he bit Tyr’s hand off. Fenrir will be freed during Ragnarok, but it is another great hound, Garm, the hound of Hel, who is destined to kill Tyr at the end of days.
One of the most important messages of the Tiwaz rune is embedded in this story. The Aesir gods were committing to an act that was unjust. Loki was one of them, and they betrayed him by imprisoning one of his children, and they lied to Fenrir to trick him into submission. The gods themselves were committing crimes, and acting outside the law, in what they believed to be a greater purpose in delaying Ragnarok. Nothing was more important to them than this at the time, and even their honour and laws were set aside for this purpose. So, one message of Tiwaz is that sometimes we must do unthinkable acts in the name of a higher purpose. But then we also must pay for them, and in this story the sacrifice was that of Tyr’s hand. Tyr was the only one of the gods who was brave enough to stick his hand in the mouth of the wolf, and the hero of the tale for taking the entire punishment for the dishonourable deed they had done.
I also would like to point out the duality of wolves in Germanic beliefs. Fenrir is a dreadful figure in Norse mythos, and Garm is not any more appealing a character. Wolves would kill cattle and were likely one of the major adversaries of Nordic ways of life. But there are two benevolent wolves that sit at Odin’s feet, named Geri and Freki. Geri and Freki translate to ravenous and greedy, and were said to feast on the dead after battles on Midgard. Though this sounds macabre, it is a realistic reflection of how wolves have large appetites and is also an important reflection of their link to carrion feeding ravens like Hugin and Munin. Geri and Freki were said to also have accompanied the humans after they were created by Odin, where wolves’ understanding of companionship and tribe were the knowledge that they passed onto humans so we could learn to form societies. There are also Norse tales in the Volsung Saga of a hero who was raised by two wolves, highlighting again their value and importance as being more than just monster creatures of the night.
Wolves’ understanding of companionship and tribe were the knowledge that they passed onto humans so we could learn to form societies
The figure seated on the throne in the image is that of Tyr, his gaze forward and piercing in judgement. He holds Odin’s mythical spear the Gungnir which never misses its target in his hand. This accentuates the spearhead shape of the Tiwaz rune. The shadow of a wolf, be it Garm or Fenrir, stalks him in the background, which is also reminiscent of Odin and one of his wolves that sit at his feet. The wolves are representations of day and night, darkness and light, and this rune is the balance or decision between one and the other. The spearpoint shape is said to be that of a pillar (or Irminsul) that holds the heavens above earth, which is how I have used the rune here.
In the sequence of the runes, Tiwaz correlates with the third trimester of pregnancy. The expecting mother is on the last stretch before the birth. She is tired, sore, and feeling ready to get this part over with to meet her soon to be child, but sacrificing her own comfort for the well being of her little one. It can be a long, tough, and enduring trial, when the glowing light of Sowilo is no longer filling our awareness and we find ourselves dealing with the more difficult parts of reality. This last trimester feels like it goes on forever and the birth can’t come quickly enough. This is when the hero prepares to leave the safety of his sanctuary of Algiz, carrying with him the glow of Sowilo. He is now looking forward; ready to face the next trials that life will bring his way. He is making the just decision to go back into the world.
Inverted, merkstave, Tiwaz represents a trial that does not go favourably. This could mean you have been judged as the one who is unworthy, or guilty of a crime. It is time to reflect and see where you may have gone wrong, what actions you might have done that were unjust. Or perhaps it is simply one of life’s many challenges that right now is not going fairly or justly, but you must keep your eye on the bigger picture and realize that these challenges have a greater purpose and meaning to them. Now is the time to take the judgement that has been given with honour and humility.