- This article is about Tyr, the god. Tyr is also the abbreviation for the amino acid tyrosine. Tyr Sports, Inc. is a brand of swimwear.
Tyr (Old Norse: Tır or Tívar) is the god of warfare and battle in Norse mythology, portrayed as a one-handed man. He was a son of either Odin or Hymir. Corresponding names in other Germanic languages include Tyz (Gothic), Ty (Old Norwegian), Ti (Old Swedish), Tiw, Tiu or Tew (Old English) and Ziu (Old High German).
The name Tyr meant "god" (cf. Hangatyr, the "hanged god" as one of Odin's names) and goes back to a Proto-Germanic Tîwaz, continuing Proto-Indo-European Dyeus, originally the chief god, the precursor also of e. g. Zeus in Greek mythology, and Dyaus Pitar in Vedic religion. The oldest attestation of the God is Gothic Tyz (Vienna cod. 140  (http://www.northvegr.org/lore/grimmst/009_03.php))
Tîwaz was overtaken in popularity and in authority by Odin at some point in both the North Germanic and West Germanic traditions. In among East Germanic tribes, however, he seems to have remained the supreme god: the Goths of the 3rd century were feared because they sacrificed the captives they took in battle to Tyz, their god of war, and the hung the arms of the victims in trees as a token-offering. This custom of human sacrifice seems to have been transferred to Odin in Scandinavia, as reported by Adam von Bremen in the 11th century (c. f. also Odin himself hanging from a tree as a sacrifice to himself in the Havamal).
It is possible that the transfer of supremacy from Tyr to Odin was facilitated by the Germanic custom of diarchy (see Germanic king and c.f. e.g. Hengest and Horsa, Yngvi and Alf and Erik and Alrik), so that the two gods might have ruled the early Germanic pantheon as equals at some point. A trace of their relationship may be seen in the appearance of Tyr as Odin's son in Norse mythology, and also in Anglo-Saxon, if Tiw is identified with Saxnot (Seaxneat), the 'war-god' and son of Woden, who was revered as the ancestor of the Saxons.
There is sketchy evidence of a consort, in German named Zisa: Tacitus mentions one Germanic tribe who worshipped "Isis", and Jacob Grimm pointed to Cisa/Zisa, the patroness of Augsburg, in this connection. The name Zisa would be derived from Ziu etymologically, in agreement with other consorts to the chief god in Indo-European pantheons, e. g. Zeus and Dione.
Tyr in the Edda
According to the Edda, at one stage the gods decided to shackle the wolf Fenrisulfr, but the beast broke every chain they put upon him. Eventually they had the dwarfs make them a magical ribbon called Gleipnir from such items as a woman's beard and a mountain's roots. But Fenrir sensed the gods' deceit and refused to be bound with it unless one of them put his hand in the wolf's mouth. Tyr, known for his great courage, agreed, and the other gods bound the wolf. Fenrir sensed that he had been tricked and bit off the god's hand. Fenrir will remain bound until the day of Ragnarok. During Ragnarok, Tyr is destined to kill and be killed by Garm, the guard dog of Helheim.
In the Lokasenna, Tyr is taunted with cuckoldry by Loki, maybe another hint that he had a consort or wife at one time.
Tyr/Tiw had become relatively unimportant compared to Odin/Woden in both North and West Germanic. Traces of the god remain, however, in Tuesday ("Tiw's day"), named for Tyr in both the North and the West Germanic languages (corresponding to Martis dies, dedicated to the Roman god of war, Mars) and also in the names of some plants: Old Norse Tısfiola (after the Latin Viola Martis), Tırhialm (Aconitum, whose helmet-like shape might suggest a warlike connection) and Tıviğr, "Tı's wood", in the Helsingor dialect Tistbast, modern Swedish Tibast (the Daphne mezereum, a shrub which blooms before the leaves appear in spring). The Swedish forest Tiveden may also be named after Tyr, or reflecting Tyr as a generic word for "god" (i.e. the forest of the gods).
The Tyr rune
The t-rune ᛏ is named after Tyr, and was indentified with this god. The rune was also identified with Mars as in the Icelandic rune poem:
- ᛏ Tır er einhendr áss
- ok ulfs leifar
- ok hofa hilmir.
- Mars tiggi.
- Tyr is a one-handed god,
- and leavings of the wolf
- and prince of temples.
In the Anglo-Saxon rune poem however, same rune is identified with polaris (c.f. Shakespeare's sonnet 116):
- ᛏ Tir biş tacna sum, healdeğ trywa wel
- wiş æşelingas; a biş on færylde
- ofer nihta genipu, næfre swiceş.
- ᛏ Tir is a star, it keeps faith well
- with athlings, always on its course
- over the mists of night it never fails.
A bonepiece from Lindholm (Skane), dated 2nd to 4th century and usually interpreted as an amulet, is inscribed with ekerilazsawilagazhateka:aaaaaaaazzznnn?bmuttt:alu:. The part between the colons has been interpreted as a magical formula: the three consecutive t runes as an invocation of Tyr, and the eight As runes as an invocation or symbolic list of eight Aesir.
The Tyr rune has been used as a Fascist symbol. It was the badge of the Sturmabteilung training schools, the Reichsführerschulen in Nazi Germany. In Neo-Nazism it has appeared, together with the Sol rune, in the emblem of the Kassel based "think tank" Thule Seminar, and, probably based on the this, in the logo of the fashion label Thor Steinar (incorrectly, might be added, since both Thor and Thule would be spelled with a Thorn). The Thor Steinar label was popular among neo-Nazis until it was banned as containing symbols prohibited by the German constitution on 17 November 2004.
- an album by the rock band Black_Sabbath is named after Tyr.
- The Faroese heavy rock group Tır is also named after Tyr.
- Tyr had a slight mention in Neil Gaiman's book, American Gods, referring to his importance in the Norse Mythos.
- Grimm's Teutonic Mythology (http://www.northvegr.org/lore/grimmst/009_01.php) (English translation, chapter 9)
- Tyr in Germanic Religion (http://www.angelfire.com/empire/martiana/tyr/index.html)
- Tır and Zisa (http://www.thetroth.org/resources/william/tyr.html) by William Bainbridge