And the loss brings longing to both;
Ill fares the wolf | who shall ever await
In fetters the fall of the gods.
--the words of the Norse god Týr, from Lokasenna, st.39, in the Icelandic Poetic Edda (heroic sagas)
Today we’re going to discuss Týr, one of the Asatru Nine Noble Virtues, often described by their runic names. Asatru (also spelled Asatro) is a living modern-day religion honoring the traditional Gods and Goddesses of Scandinavia (the Gods of Asgard). As a virtue, Týr stands for Courage, emphasized by many Asatru elders as their most important value.
Týr is also the name of one of the Old Norse Gods. Known for his courage and wisdom, Týr was the deity of war-making and combat, as well as justice. It is fitting that the virtue of Courage shares its name with this God, for the story of why Týr came to have only one hand demonstrates his bravery. (Also fitting, we do this on a Tuesday, a day that takes its name from this deity.)
Once upon a time, a great monster, the Fenris Wolf, menaced the realm of Asgard. While the Gods attempted to chain the beast, he always broke free. Finally the Gods asked the dwarves to make a magical leash for the wolf. The dwarves took six magical ingredients from the world: the sound of a cat’s footfall, the beard of a woman, the roots of a mountain, the sinews of a bear, the breath of a fish, and the spittle of birds. (Because they used these things, they are no longer found in the world. Well, almost.)
From the six elements the dwarves wove a fine ribbon they called Gleipnir, which the Gods used to leash the beast. While the Fenris Wolf was confident he could break the chain, he sensed a trap, and so insisted one of the Gods put a hand in his mouth as they put the leash on him. Týr agreed. Once Gleipnir secured him, the Wolf, struggling unsuccessfully to snap the chain, bit off Týr’s right hand. For this reason, Týr gained the nickname “Leavings of the Wolf.”
Most of us will never face bloody sword battles or monsters like the Fenris Wolf, but this does not mean Týr has no place in our journey. As Asatru scholar Lewis Stead commented in the online ritual book of the Raven Kindred:
Few of us face such turmoil as a literal battle for one’s life. In fact, I believe it might be easier to manifest courage in such a situation than to do so in the many smaller day to day occurrences in which courage is called for.
Today, the Wolf at our door may more likely be the fear of poverty or loss as we struggle to make ends meet, holding onto our jobs or, for those out of work, struggling to keep above water while seeking employment. In these circumstances, I can think of no better quality than Týr to summon within us. Virtues such as Resilience, Resourcefulness, Faith, Endurance, Creativity, and Humor (all of which we will visit later in our journey) are close cousins to Týr and its brethren-in-arms.
Today, think about the people in your life who manifest Týr, whether in boldly battling monsters, or simply persisting against the challenges so many of us face in difficult economic times.
May we see the gates of Týr and perhaps make a home there.
Note: Graphic gratefully borrowed from the online journal Tyr.