Further Analysis of the Tiwaz Rune


ᛏ / T

Tiwaz is a peculiar rune, representing a broad spectrum of meanings, associations, and uses. In Proto-Germanic, Tiwaz means “deity/god,” and would later develop into the Norse god Týr.  In most cases, it is agreed upon that Tiwaz is a rune of victory, war, warriors, justice, and the sky.  Tiwaz stems from the proto-Indo-European word deywós, meaning “god,” which was a deification of the daytime sky. When Tacitus wrote of the Germanic tribes, he spoke of a certain war god they worshiped, identifying it with the Roman god Mars. Tiwaz is cognate with the Greek god Zeus, another great sky god of the Pagans. The Luwians of Anatolia had a sun-god named Tiwaz as well, with another epithet of tati, meaning “father.”

There has been much debate over whether Tyr or Odin was the chief god of the Germans before Christianity, mostly due to this word and the emphasis on the god in Germania. Not only this, but on the Negau helmets found in Slovenia, dated 450-350 B.C., we have a runic inscription reading “Teiva,” which would indicate ancient worship of this god. I think it is possible there was more emphasis on this god in some areas of Europe, although it’s possible it could have just been a term used for Odin. There are many names for Odin ending with the word –týr, including Valtýr (god of dead warriors) and Farmatýr (god of cargoes). When viewing Tiwaz (and its shape) through the lens of Odin, we can attribute this rune to his magic spear, Gungnir, which he hurls over enemies that are to be conquered. In Voluspa verse 23 it is said:

“On the host his spear

did Othin hurl,

Then in the world

did war first come…”

Evidence for Tiwaz being invoked in war or magical purposes can be found in Sigrdrífumál, verse 6,where the great valkyrie, Sigrdrífa, states:

“Winning-runes learn,

    if thou longest to win,

    And the runes on thy sword-hilt write;

    Some on the furrow,

    and some on the flat,

    And twice shalt thou call on Tyr.”

In Old English, this rune/god was called Tīw. This is where we get our modern word Tuesday from, as the second day of the week in the time of the early English was called Tiwesdæg. The“Old English Rune Poem” states:

“Tyr is a certain sign, it keeps covenant well

with athelings; it is ever on course

above the night’s mists; it never misleads.”

This poem invokes Tiwaz as a “certain” sign, meaning one that is unwavering. It keeps its oaths and promises, as Tyr is a god of honor, justice, and judgement. This is reflected in another Old English word, tīr, meaning “fame, glory, honor.” As an Aesir god, his duty is among them and his dharma is unclouded in their ranks. Tyr is the law. The last line mentions this rune as a star, likely Polaris, which has been used to navigate the northern hemisphere since antiquity. With this perspective, one can see the Tiwaz rune in the “little dipper.”

The “Old Norwegian Rune Rhyme” is less descriptive but more cryptic in tone, stating:

“Tyr is the one-handed among gods.

Oft the smith has to be blowing.”

The poem invokes Tyr’s mythological context of being one-handed, as he is said to have one bitten off by the wolf Fenrir. The second line refers to Tyr as a war-god, as during wartime, a smith is hard at work making weapons and tools of battle. Tyr is usually identified with the sword, and thus, would further connect him closely with the smith and smithing.  The mysterious tone of this poem is likely due to poetic artistry.

The “Old Icelandic Rune Poem” adds another element to the previous poem, stating:

“Tyr is the one-handed Ase, and the wolf’s leftovers,

And the helmsman of holy sites.”

Here we see the same concepts brought up as in the former poem, although the second line clarifies the connection with the wolf, as “leftovers” refers to Tyr’s hand that wolf Fenrir bites off. The “helmsmen” of holy sites is an interesting line, showing Tyr’s role as a mediator, judge, or presence of justice. Tyr is truth, law, and vigilance.

Tyr’s shape has been theorized to symbolize a pillar holding up the sky, perhaps giving deeper insight into his role in the ancient worldview of the pagans. Tiwaz was a protector and upholder of the glorious daytime heavens, the unobstructed sun and fair weather on the land. Another proto-Indo-European root word for Tiwaz is dyew-, meaning “sky, heaven” and “to be bright.” Together, with the notion of a god, I believe it is without doubt we are looking at a sky-god representing the unobstructed sun. The glory of the daytime sky was was synonymous with god and heaven.

In conclusion, it is clear that Tiwaz, in his many forms and titles, has persisted for many thousands of years throughout time and culture. Whether associated directly with the sky, heaven, and sun, or whether associated with honor, oaths, and justice, we see a god of high rank and merit. No matter which pantheon we look at, Tiwaz can be found in some way, ranking highest or near the top. The Old English associated this rune highly with honor, fame, and glory, while the continental tribes associated Tiwaz more directly with war and victory. Either way, Tiwaz can be attributed to warriors, weapons (spears/swords), and victory in battle. For modern pagans, we shouldn’t overlook this god in our practice, as Tuesdays should be dedicated to his admiration and veneration. Tiwaz is a good god for those interested in criminal justice, honor, or warfare. In this respect, Tiwaz has long been a god of warriors and military personnel. Therefore, practicing pagans in the military should look to this god for protection and guidance.  May he protect you always and fill you with the courage and stability to do what is right.


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