Tiw – The Anglo-Saxon God of War

Today is Tuesday and in the Anglo-Saxon world which I am mentally inhabiting at the moment it is Tiw’s day.

Tiw was an important god for the bellicose Anglo-Saxons. He was the god of war, the sky and niffty swordplay. They also called upon Woden and Thunor when off to battle just for extra insurance.

However Tiw was the main man and supposedly the most skilled when it came to a dust-up despite the slight handicap of having only one hand.

Inevitably the details of how this came about vary but the substance of the tale is the same.

There was a prophecy (of course there was) that Tiu’s father Woden would be killed by a ferocious monster wolf called Fenris. The dwarves of the kingdom fashioned an invisible chain to hold the creature. Some accounts say it was a magic ribbon made from hairs of a woman’s beard (honestly I haven’t made it up) and the roots of a mountain.

Whichever bondage was used, unsurprisingly, Fenris was having none of it…unless one of the gods put his hand in Fenris’ mouth. Step forward dutiful son Tiu. He thrust his hand into the beast’s mouth and the rest of the gods wrapped the creature in chains/hairy ribbon, He was condemned to stay in chains until Ragnorok – the end of the world.

In the process of binding the furious Fenris, Tiu got his hand bitten off…his right hand…his sword hand.

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Fortunately Tiu was ambidextrous and just as proficient in swordplay with his left hand. This brave and filial act endeared Tiu to the Anglo-Saxons ever after.

There is never a happy ending with these myths. Poor Tiw is fated to have yet another encounter of a canine kind when he kills and is killed by the giant hound Garm at Ragnarok.

2 thoughts on “Tiw – The Anglo-Saxon God of War

  1. Okay, I’m never going to face any Tuesday without visualising a hairy blond with his hand thrust down the throat of a large wolf with amazingly evil eyes. Love the story, and that illustration is just fantastic. The men seem remarkably matter-of-fact both in your account and the picture.

  2. For less than prevalent reasons I find Tiwāz to be my favourite God.

    I see him as an embodiment of paternal sacrifice, mindfulness and virtue. His sacrifice of the hand to me illustrates his role as a God of masculine Virtus.

    Similarly he could not have had the justice gods for sons were he not one to look to in times of moral uncertainty.

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