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Tuesday: Honoring Tyr and Our Military Dead

Thank you to everyone who sent me prayers to put on Mani’s shrine. I made offerings to Him last night and printed or hand wrote (depending on what each person requested) your prayers and they are tucked carefully behind a large hourglass on His shrine. I will offer this every Monday for Him and I’ll post reminders throughout the year. 

Today is Tyr’s Day. Tyr is a God of valor and justice, honor, and is strongly associated with the sword. His most sacred mystery involves the binding of Loki’s son Fenrir, the great Wolf. In essence, Tyr broke His word to protect His people, which is a powerful mystery: the sacrifice of honor by a God of honor and one that I will leave to Tyr’s people to discuss. 

We actually don’t know very much about Tyr other than this story about Him and Fenris. One mythographer Jakob Grimm suggested that Tyr is the husband of the Goddess Zisa (1). We also don’t know very much about Her, but I find this very intriguing. It’s one of the things that I want to research when I have more time. She does have some cultus amongst modern Heathens. 

The surviving sources are even unclear about Tyr’s parentage but that isn’t surprising. We see this sometimes with the Gods. If you look at the cultus of Dionysos, for instance, while the majority of sources give His mother as Semele, others list various Powers including Kore. It depends on region. More importantly, it depends on how the God Him or Herself wishes to be entwined into the stories and cosmic architecture of a region and for a people. I think this is, in part, a way the Gods created connections with the land and the people of a particular place. I also think it’s a powerful, powerful mystery. Is Semele Dionysos’ mother? Yep. Are the others? Yep. Is Odin Tyr’s Father? Yep. Is Hymir? Yep (2). This ability of the Gods to birth and rebirth Themselves, to embed Themselves in the sacred stories of scores of different people, to create new connections and relationships is something that opens up the road to devotion to our individual Gods in a thousand different ways and if there are places where the edges don’t meet, where the stories conflict, where they disagree then that is a good thing. It is an interstice of life and vitality where we can learn to venerate Them in new ways.  

Now, one of the ways that I’ve been able to connect to Tyr is through the rune Tiewaz, which is the warrior’s rune, and which is inextricably connected to Tyr. It speaks of a warrior’s obligation to protect his or her people, of responsibility, of strength, courage – the courage to stand in the face of evil. That opens up a pathway for me to honor Tyr, as one Who goes into the darkest places, who stands alone on the border of the Godly worlds and protects, fighting against that which would bring corruption and wickedness, warding against that which would attack the structure of creation…and bearing the terrible price of doing so. 

I also connect to Him through honoring the military dead. My first introduction to Tyr –and this has really stuck and colored every other interaction—was as a God of warriors and soldiers (3). Today, on the first Tyr’s Day of the New Year, this is how I chose to honor Him: by honoring the military dead, especially those Ukrainian soldiers who have fallen fighting for the independence and freedom of their country. 

I keep a special section of my ancestor shrine (which fills nearly an entire room – I gave over my dining room to it years ago) specifically for the military dead. I’ve felt called to honor them as a group for the better part of twenty years now (along with a couple of other groups). Today, I plan on cleaning and re-ordering their shrine – as with Mani’s shrine, even though I dust it and refresh offerings regularly, this shrine needs a good top to bottom cleaning at least once a year. I make offerings to the military dead as a whole, and also to those in my immediate family, most especially my father John Dabravalskas (1917-2006) who fought in WWII and Korea and remained career military; my maternal grandfather Roland Hanna (1903-1991), my first cousin twice removed S. Wesley Heffner who died in WWI (1898-1918).

I invite you all to share your own stories of your beloved military dead in the comments section if you like. Today is a good day to remember them, honor them, and maybe pour out an offering. Regardless, may our military dead be hailed, and may Tyr ever be honored. Happy Tuesday, folks, from your occasional insomniac vitki. 

(image “Tyr” prayer card, image by G. Palmer)


  1. Many other scholars, including Rudolf Simek, reject the idea of the Goddess Zisa based on insufficient historical evidence. 
  2. See the Skaldskaparmal and Hymiskviða respectively. 
  3. As I write this, I suddenly find myself thinking strongly on the Goddess Athena, Who is also a God of soldiers, but then also of strategy, wisdom, weaving, textile arts, craft…and in some cases prophecy. Our Gods can be so many things to so many people, and have facets we cannot even imagine. I wonder often about our tendency to categorize the Gods as we do. I think it is excessively reductive. Gods are *Gods* and while we may like to restrict Them to neat categories, the reality is very different. Still, such reduction does help us to conceptualize how to begin devotion so maybe there is an upside. I wrestle with this all the time. 

Remembering our Vets

In Remembrance and for our Veterans

In Flanders Fields – by John McRae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
        In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
        In Flanders fields.

Never Forget, Never Forgive.

I’m pretty sure this was written by the composer for a friend who fell in battle

An Interesting Find for my Ancestor Shrine

So, I’m gallery sitting today (the show ends tomorrow) and right next to the gallery is a book store/antique store. This is my happy place and when I take lunch, I usually go over there for a half hour and browse. Today, I think my military dead were with me because I scored most unexpectedly. 

I’d been in the store last week and this item was not there. Tucked into a corner in the back room was a sword. I like weapons. I have quite a collection of weapons. I studied sword work (Japanese and western fencing though very little of the latter). I had to check this out. No one was there so I unsheathed and studied it. It turned out to be a WWI Italian Cavalry sword. I deal quite a bit veneratively (is that a word? I’m using it anyway regardless) with WWI dead, partly because I have a cousin who went over with Pershing’s forces and didn’t come home. In the part of my shrine given to the military dead, there’s a ton of WWI tokens (I have, for instance, an extensive collection of WWI knives. I’m very tactile and stuff like this really helps me to connected with the dead in question, plus in this case, I like blades). 

Now this is one more addition to the shrine. It’s in excellent condition, has great balance, and feels really nice in the hand. I’ll hang it in that section of the ancestor shrine and call it a day but what a lucky find. Hail to our military dead, to those who suffered and laid down their lives, or suffered and soldiered on so that their children wouldn’t have to (we’re not so good at living up to that sacrifice are we?). 

Here’s a pic of my find. 

My photo, WWI Italian cavalry sword, sitting on a windowsill in Pawling, NY.

Today is the Anniversary of D-Day

Today we remember those who fought and those who died on the beaches of Normandy. This is the anniversary of D-Day, when Allied troops launched the invasion (of the largest invasion force ever assembled) that would eventually liberate Europe from actual Nazis. Read about it here and here. May these brave soldiers be remembered. Always.

Thank you to all who served

This year is the 80th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Here is a link to the national memorial site. Here is an account of what led to Pearl Harbor (this is a pretty good recap). Here’s another timeline and account of this “day that will live in infamy.” Thank you to all those brave souls who served.

Today I learned about the Harlem Hellfighters

Pearl Harbor Day 2020

I had nearly forgotten about this in the rush of finals — the days all blur together in a mass of work! Thankfully, it came up in my morning class. As someone who honors the military dead as part of my ancestor practice and who also had a father who was a WWII veteran, I try to note key WWI and WWII remembrance days. It’s a good day to make offerings to your dead who may have served.