Gebo is the rune of the gift and, as such, we often see it as being about altruism and generousity when, to the Teutonic mind, gift-giving served a rather different function. Traditions such as the giving of golden rings to warriors and the debt of weregild (where a family is compensated for a member that is killed) speak of an answering gift being required – regardless of whether something is freely given or taken by force. Gebo is the embodiment of balanced exchange, each action entails an answering reaction or the worlds will be in imbalance and chaos take hold.
When I was younger I was horrified to hear the story that Mother Teresa did good works solely to win a place in Heaven. To my mind good works were done altruistically, with no hope of reward. What Gebo has taught me is that the act of exchange is a universal law, it doesn’t matter whether we seek for our good deeds to be acknowledged or not, the force of Gebo will inevitably seek a fair return for our efforts. I don’t know what Mother Teresa’s personal motivations were, or even if the story is true, but what I see now is that an action undertaken with love and generousity is not compromised by an acknowledgement that we are getting something out of it too.
In Viking society the ‘price’ of a particular action was clear and fixed, as were ones obligations to family and friends. This meant that the force of Gebo usually had clear channels to run through, restoring balance through the exchange of a gift. Today we can still see this Gebo force in operation when we send a thank you letter to our aunty for the delightful fridge magnet she sent for Christmas. If we send our thank you letters aunty will be pleased as punch but, if we don’t, she will still get her reward by being able to tell all and sundry how ungrateful the younger generation is. I like to feel that by declaring that she did good deeds to receive a reward, Mother Teresa was absolving those she cared for from their sense of obligation towards her, allowing them to accept her gifts without guilt.
While we may still send thank you letters and punctiliously turn up for family birthdays, my feeling is that, as a society, we are rather short on meaningful rituals of exchange these days. What the Gebo runes tells us, however, is that its energy is still flowing and, without clear channels for it to flow into, it’s simply doing the best it can. Gebo informs me that many, many of us are empty, and the more we cry out to be filled, the more it flows through the channels we have created for it: bigger TV screens; more realistic computer games; sweeter more more-ish junk food; cheaper and cheaper clothing; faster and faster ways of communicating with each other. These are the ‘rewards’ we have set up for ourselves, and this is what Gebo gives us, filling up the empty places with more consumable products which dry up, run out or were nothing more than trash in the first place. The ritual of exchange has not died, it has simply become corrupt.
Giving and receiving with mindfulness…
Imagine, even if it is only for today, that every single thought and action will automatically, necessarily, draw an influx of energy towards you. You don’t have to feel guilty about it, or worry that you don’t deserve it – it just happens, it’s the law of Gebo. All you can do is decide whether you want to let the channels our society has constructed dictate what it is you get in return – or whether you want to have a say yourself. People who practice positive manifestation or the law of attraction will be familiar with the next bit: tell the universe what you want. Sometimes it is clear what you are doing something for: I go and see a friend because I want our friendship to continue, I drink a glass of water because I am thirsty. But there are hundreds of things you do every day that are done on auto-pilot, or for reasons which buy in to our consumer-created emptiness. If it isn’t clear to you straight away what you are doing something for (e.g. I am getting up because I have to go to work, because I need the money, because I have bills to pay, because I need to buy stuff…um, why do I need all this stuff?), then you have a perfect opportunity to change the rules. Gebo doesn’t care about the WHY of stuff (other runes take care of that bit), it simply cares about the law of return. It won’t tell you to give up your job so you can stay in bed or do something you find more fulfilling; it just fulfills the rule that you deserve to get something in return for your effort so you might as well ask for something that you really want.
Another trick we play on ourselves is the use of the ‘should’ word. ‘I am doing exercise because I should, I am drinking this vegetable smoothy because I should, I am doing the weeding because I should, I am picking up the litter in the park because I should’. All of these things are highly commendable and, indeed, you may get a nice warm glowy feeling inside because you feel like a good person – but that will disappear very quickly and you will have to move on to the next ‘should’ item to keep it going. With every action you undertake, think about what you personally are getting out of it. The warm glowly feeling of complacency is not enough of a reward for your actions. You might think of exercise and smoothy drinking as inherently selfish activities (i.e. you are the one receiving the reward), but ultimately you are going to live for longer and the world is going to benefit from many more years of your wonderful presence, effort and energy. You should rest easy in the knowledge, therefore, that asking for something that you really, really want, even as a reward for something seemingly self-serving, is okay.
Give it a go today. Write down your dreams, you know, the really big ones as well as the eensy weensy ones. As you go about your day, give of yourself mindfully, affirming that every action is an exchange and you are calling what you truly desire to you.