Tyr and Heimdall: Two Gods Really Just One?

I am trying to build a relationship with Tyr. Since I’ve never been the first one to try and start a relationship where gods are concerned, this is new to me. But I think I’m on the right track.

Tyr and Fenrir, John Bauer

I’ve been aware of Tyr for a while. I remember the first time I felt Him. I was meditating on the sky, for Heimdall, as I often do, but instead of Heimdall I felt Someone Else. Very distinctly not my fulltrúi. Somehow, I knew it was Tyr. Stern. Focused. Not quite as diffuse as The Ram.

After that, nothing for a few years. I’d always associated Tyr with the bright blue sky, similar to how I associate Heimdall with a cloudy blue sky. So when I decided to forge a connection with Tyr, the sky was where I started. It was hard to sort the feelings I had for Tyr from the feelings I have for Heimdall. I’m so used to tuning myself to Heimdall’s frequency that I had a hard time finding Tyr in the one place I knew I could find him – like having two friends who live in the same apartment building, but only knowing the apartment number of one of them, and ringing the same buzzer every time.

So I’ve branched out. I know Tyr is a god of justice, honour, right action. These things have always been foremost to me. Big surprise, Heimdall is all those things to me, too, especially honour. They resonate, a lot. Tyr seems to be more about direct action, whereas Heimdall has a focus on thought and being. Attention. Perception.

Tyr is also obviously a god of war, battle, and victory. These resonate with me much less, but I’ll talk more about these aspects of Tyr in another post.

Now, the other similarities:

  1. They are both liminal gods. Heimdall, who is descended from giants, became an Ás. His job is to guard the border between worlds. His home is on a cliff, between the land and the sky (and the sea, in my UPG). Tyr is also descended from giants, and is one of the oldest gods (that we know of), and he also became an Ás. He is part of two cultures. It could be said that he witnessed the ‘changing of the guard’ when Odin became chief god, and Tyr took a back seat.
  2. They are both sky deities. Apart from being associated with the literal daytime sky, they might be associated with space and the cosmos, as well. (Heimdall certainly is, but more of that in another post, perhaps.)
  3. They both have to do with honour and duty. It is Heimdall’s duty to stand watch, no matter how cold and bitter it gets. It was Tyr’s duty to give up his hand so that Fenrisúlfr could be contained. They do their duties silently and resignedly, and the gravity of their actions speaks for itself.
  4. They both have very strong links with the World Tree. Heimdall, who sees high and low across the universe, who has nine mothers, has been compared and even equated with the World Tree. As god of perception and awareness, his consciousness is all-encompassing, as is Yggdrasil, and his nine mothers echo the nine worlds. Tyr’s symbol, the Irminsul, is a symbol of the World Tree also, the axis of the universe. Granted, worship of the Irminsul is a more Germanic occurrence than Scandinavian, and that makes it less valid to link the two, but Tyr-as-Irminsul is a very strong link to Tyr as the World Tree.

The thought I had while researching Tyr was this: given these similarities, is it plausible that Heimdall and Tyr were once one deity, or that Heimdall developed out of an offshoot from an earlier Tyr?

Honestly: there’s not tons of evidence, but since the historical record is spotty, we have no idea. It could be true.

It’s obvious to me now why I’m drawn to Tyr, even though I have a hard time with his warlike aspects. If Heimdall and Tyr are descended from the same god, or if Heimdall is an offshoot of Tyr, that would certainly explain my attraction. I’m a sucker for liminal figures and figures of honour and duty.

I personally think they are distinct deities – they certainly were in the Viking Age and later. They have distinct presences to me, even considering the similarities. But Heimdall is not about war, and they have distinct roles within the pantheon that tells me they have long been separate beings, if they were ever once the same.

This was not what I wanted my first post about Tyr to be, but it was the thought that occurred to me while doing research. More on Tyr soon.

My Reason for Revivalism

Recently, I saw a post by answersfromvanaheim.tumblr about the differences between reconstructionism and revivalism, and I’ve realised I’ve gone from one end of the spectrum to the other in the time I’ve been Heathen. I started out quite reconstructionist, and I’ve become more revivalist – and I think there’s a very good reason for it.

Coming into a new religion, you want lots of information, lots of context, lots of references for how you should do things and what to believe and what’s okay or not. Unfortunately, Heathenry does not have a lot of that. As someone just learning the cardinal directions, spiritually, who had never been in a religion before, I clung to all the references and context that I could – namely, the historical sources. But since then, my focus has changed, and I’ve become more comfortable with my religion and with my practice.

I now know my goals within Heathenism: namely, to practice in a way that develops me. I cater the religion to my own spiritual needs.

That’s pretty vague, but rest assured, my Heathenry is still markedly Heathenry. I wouldn’t be in this religion if it didn’t ring true down to my core. But maybe there are things that I don’t do much of (blóts, sumbel, rituals) and things that I do a lot of (meditation, introspection, offerings, rune magic). I gravitate towards the gods that resonate with me, either in general or in specific circumstances (I am a life-long friend to Heimdall, but my time with Baldr and Hödr was temporary, and my time with Tyr will be, too. Probably). I suppose my version of Heathenry is more “touchy-feely”, in that I am less focused on going out and doing things and more focused on getting my inner self straightened out. To put this into revivalist/recon-derived terms, my gods come from the historical record, but my way of dealing with them is very personal, and not necessarily historically attested.

This is not to say that reconstructionism is bad, or somehow less developed – just that there’s a different focus. I’m very much solitary. I’d probably be a hermit way back when.

We recon-derived (or post-recon, or revivalist) practitioners have a reputation for being fluffy, or not very serious. I don’t know why. But I am very, very serious about my religion. That’s precisely why my style has changed and developed the way it has. My religion changes and lives with me, because it’s a part of my life. It’s not separate to me. It’s a part of me. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Patience of a God

People always say that relationships change as they go, and this happens to apply also to deity-mortal relationships.

I’ve been bad lately, as usual – not meditating enough, not doing enough reflection, giving fewer offerings than I’d like – and that’s not a terribly bad thing, but it does make whatever work is ahead of me harder.

I’ve been getting nudges and signs from Heimdall for months now. I haven’t been ignoring them, exactly, but I haven’t done anything about them. I’m not sure what He wants, or if He’s trying to tell me something, but…I know where I need to start. And I’m reluctant.

I’ve been slipping back into depressive moods and habits. I need to stay aware of that and actively fight against it. Part of my work means meditating in order to relax and to get some perspective. The other part of my work is staying in touch with the spiritual side of my life, because it nourishes me and keeps me going when I don’t see a lot of point in carrying on every day.

He is patient. Patient with me when I’ve been taking no action and paying for it. Patient with me when I try to get back into the swing of things and fail. Patient with me, knowing that this battle is mine, waiting for me to start it. He’s not holding my hand this time, and it’s not bad enough that I have to hold onto Him with all I have. This is new ground for me, devotee-wise: working under supervision, but relying on my own judgment without His input.

I’m not entirely sure what I need to do. But I know where to start.

Heimdall and Kookaburras

The Scandinavians didn’t have kookaburras, but they remind me of Heimdall anyway. They’re iconic birds.

As a Heathen who lives on the other side of the world away from most of you, I’ve been inspired (and required, to an extent) to modify my practice to the landscape and climate and wildlife of Australia. Sometimes this is intentional, like celebrating Yule in July. Sometimes it’s accidental.

I formed the association between Heimdall and kookaburras sometime in 2011. On several occasions, there was a kookaburra who perched on a pole on the path where I walked every day. I was always down, often upset – and when I looked up, there was this kookaburra, sitting there staunch and still and silent, watching over everything. They’re beautiful birds, strong-looking. I would stand there, looking up at it, and…just calm down.

Laughing Kookaburra by JJ Harrison

I think it’s this calming effect that I associate with Heimdall, mostly, but there’s something else about kookaburras. They seem like more than just birds. There’s more to that animal than just bird.

Anyway, you can add kookaburras to the list of associations for Heimdall in the Southern Hemisphere.

Fearing the Silence

I haven’t heard from my god in nine months. I thought this would bother me, but it doesn’t, mostly. Constant divine communication is not a must, and at some point, one must learn how to accept long silences.

I haven’t heard from Heimdall since January. When I do hear from him, I usually get vibes. I don’t usually hear words, since I don’t get a good signal. I also suspect that he doesn’t talk very much. Of course, there are lots of issues with actually hearing words from your gods: bad signal, bad translation, garbled lines, miscommunication, discernment, so on. But every once in a while, I’ll get some very clear words ringing through my head, and I don’t think I’m the one that put them there. The last time I heard him, all he said was, “Do you trust me?” and I thought for one split second before thinking “Yes” in response. That was the last I heard. Then I was handed over to Baldr, sort of officially, until whatever there is to be done is done. I have no idea what the plan is, but I haven’t heard from Heimdall since January.

Back to what I was saying at the beginning of this post. It doesn’t bother me that I haven’t heard from him. I figure he’s there. I figure I just need to continue with what I’m doing, and make some progress. I haven’t needed his help and I haven’t asked for it.
But I am bothered. It’s not the silence per se that bothers me. I’m afraid – terrified, actually – that I’m growing apart from him, that I’m losing touch. I’m afraid if I stray too far, I won’t remember how to get back to him. I’m afraid I’ll forget what he feels like. I’m afraid of doing something that will be the last straw with him, and I’m afraid he won’t have me back.

These are the fears I always have regarding him. They come when I haven’t meditated in a while, or when I ignore my better judgment and do foolish things. When these things happen, it’s my fault, and I’m capable of fixing it myself. It’s on my head. But right now, I’m doing well. I’m using my common sense and I’m fighting the fight. Granted, I should be meditating more. But I’m wondering whether it’s me this time or not. Is he pulling away? Is he moving on somewhere else? I didn’t think I’d be in his path forever. But I hoped it would be a long time.

I’m afraid. I’ve had these fears before. I’ll have them again. If the lack of connection is my fault, then that’s okay. I can fix that. If the lack of connection means he’s not dealing with me any longer, well…I’ll feel his absence sorely. But whatever happens, I won’t stop honouring him or living my life with his ideals in mind. I won’t leave him.

And this is the important thing about dealing with silences: you have to be able to carry on just fine when they happen. It’s hard work, but otherwise, you might fall apart. Or stumble. Or get lost. If you, like me, don’t have a strong god signal, you’ll need something else in your spiritual life to sustain and even drive you through the silences.