Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Crafting the Runes: Tiw

Modified from original sketch by John Bauer
Public Domain

Tiw is a guiding star; 
well does it keep faith with princes;
it is ever on its course over the mists of night
and never fails.

Tiw in the Anglo-Saxon rune poem seems to obviously be describing the North Star.  Like the deity for which the rune is named, thought to preside over matters of justice, the North Star is a fair and impartial guide when finding one's bearings in the night.  Interestingly, neither of the other extant rune poems make a reference to the star, instead dwelling exclusively on the deity.  The Norwegian rune poem states that "Tyr is a one-handed God; often has the smith to blow".  The Icelandic rune poem says this: "Týr, God with one hand, and leavings of the wolf, and prince of temples".  The first lines link Týr with perhaps His most famous story, where He places His hand in the mouth of the giant wolf Fenris to trick him into being bound, and loses His hand for the deception - a story that strongly links Him with a sense of justice and fair-play.  The other ideas mentioned, smiths and "prince of temples" are more obscure, I wasn't able to puzzle out what they may be referring to.

This rune is one of only two in the Anglo-Saxon futhorc that are specifically named after a deity (the other being Ing).  The rune, and its meaning, are strongly linked to Tiw's nature as a deity of justice; it "never fails".  This rune can mean that something is certain to pass, or it can also represent the need to look at one's situation objectively, almost as a judge deciding a case.  Used in magic, the rune can call the aid of Tiw specifically, or merely the idea of fairness or keeping faith.  Like Sigel and Sunne, this rune can be used as a fine representation of Tiw on an altar or shrine.

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