It is possible that Tiw could have been the original and oldest of the Gods worshipped by the Anglo-Saxons and other Germanic peoples. In his oldest guise he was called Tiwaz, and was regarded as the Sky Father, and was probably venerated alongside the Earth Mother, whom together may have been worshipped in a cult of sky and earth. Slight evidence of this is when we find the line, “Earth I pray and sky” in an Old English charm, that was recited to bring fertility to the land. Tiwaz was at one time the all-powerful God of the Germanic peoples, but he was eventually overtaken and dethroned by another God, and amongst the Anglo-Saxons Wóden seems to have done the dethroning. But Tiwaz or Tiw didn’t disappear; was merely relegated to a “lesser” role, that role being one of the war God. In this role he was worshipped and invoked during times of war. His symbol, the Tiwaz runic symbol, has been found stamped on weapons, giving further evidence of his role as the war God. Tiw’s name can also be found in the second day of the week, Tuesday. The Romans called Tuesday dies Martis or day of Mars after their own war God. So when the Germanic people accepted the Roman week, they replaced the Roman war God with the Germanic one, which gave us Tiwes-dæg or the day of Tiw, which became the modern English Tuesday. We also find the name of Tiw or Tir in the Anglo-Saxon rune poem accompanying the Tiwaz rune, the poem says:
is a star
(Translation from Runlore by Edred Thorsson)
This reference to a star, that keeps faith well, could be a remnant of the ancient belief of Tiw in the role of the Sky Father as it firmly places Tiw/Tir in the sky. And more evidence showing such can be seen upon the purse lid found within the Sutton Hoo ship burial. Here we find a symmetrical design that shows an interesting human-like figure, whose head is about to be devoured by two wolf-like creatures. And as pointed out in his book The Lost Gods of England, Brian Branston emphasizes the interesting broken outline of the figures head, which seem to resemble the rays of the sun, not to mention the fact that the only part of the figure that is golden in color is the figures face, again pointing to the possibility that his head could be a representation of the sun. So it’s very possible that this figure is a representation of Tiw in his role as the Sky Father, worshipped by the Anglo-Saxons and their ancestors in the most ancient of times.
A bit of evidence has survived in the form of place names that show areas of strong Tiw worship and veneration in England. We find names such as Tislea, Tuesley, Tysoe and Tyesmere. Tislea and Tuesley mean clearing of Tiw or Tiig, Tiig was another name for Tiw, and suggest strong devotion to him. It’s very possible that the area of Tysoe was a place especially sacred to Tiw. In this area there is the famous Red Horse of Tysoe, a now lost image of a huge horse carved into the steeps of a hill. As the place name Tysoe, means hill spur of Tiw, it is possible that there could be a strong link between Tiw and the horse as a symbol.
Source: Anglo-Saxon Heathenism
Copyright © 2000-2005 by Stuart Alan