Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Our culture has an innate distrust of "one-true-wayisms." We would like to believe that one creed is just as good as another and that everyone is entitled to believe whatever they like so long as they don't force their ideas on anyone else. Postmodernist philosophers have suggested that objective truth is merely a tool used by the dominant classes to maintain their privileged position. This worldview is challenged by Teiwaz, the Tyr-Rune. Teiwaz proclaims not only that objective truth exists, but that there are some truths which are worth fighting, dying and even killing over.  But if it has little patience for relativism, neither is it a rune of simplistic moralizing. Like truth, Teiwaz is often hard, complex, and even paradoxical.

Tyr, the God who gives this rune its name, became most famous for his role in trapping Fenrir, the great wolf who threatened to devour the Nine Worlds.  Before he would consent to being bound by the magical rope, Fenrir demanded that one of the Gods place his sword-hand in his mouth as proof that no treachery was involved. Tyr agreed to do so: the wolf was tied and, in its efforts to escape, bit off Tyr's right hand. In breaking troth with the Great Wolf, Tyr preserved the universe from destruction. He proved himself willing to sacrifice not only his life but his honor for the greater good.  When Teiwaz comes up in a reading, it may require this kind of sacrifice from the querent - not romantic martyrdom but squalid shame and degradation for that which Must Be Done. Teiwaz reminds us that honor is about living righteously, not about acclaim from the crowd.

But though Teiwaz can demand difficult choices, it can also provide stability. Teiwaz points toward the facts which underpin our world. Gravity sends the earth spinning around the sun, whether or not we choose to accept it.  2 + 2 = 4. Those who say it equals 5 are not expressing a different but equally valid way of looking at things: they are simply wrong.  And like mathematics and physics, there is an underlying truth to the ways of righteousness. Those ways may be as complicated as calculus or quantum mechanics: they may lead us not to the bright new future of Broadway musicals but to the terrible conclusions of Greek tragedy. But they are still there, and may still be followed by those who choose the right over the convenient.

Needless to say, Teiwaz can be a terribly dangerous rune. To claim the truth and take responsibility for protecting it is a mighty obligation.  Wielding Teiwaz requires tremendous humility and compassion: you must know well the difference between righteousness and self-righteousness and you must be prepared to mourn for that you must destroy.  If you are not worthy to take up Teiwaz it will turn on you. It will find all your weaknesses and failings and use them against you: in the process it will either teach you a hard lesson or it will destroy you.

When angered, Teiwaz can attack with a fury that would give Thurisaz pause. It combines that rune's pinpoint rage with the massive irresistible power that Isa brings to a problem: its strike carries the weight of the inevitable.  Those who are willing to follow Teiwaz wherever it might lead them can use that might toward a final victory. They may not survive the battle, but if their cause is worthy they can know that it will ultimately triumph, no matter the cost.