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.

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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.

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