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Greetings! As you have probably noticed by now, the first letter of a rune's name usually tells you what it's sound is. So, even though Gebo looks like a big capital "X," it isn't. It's the "G-rune."
In Heathen thinking, giving has to do with establishing and maintaining a balance. In the poem from the Poetic Edda known as the "Havamal," or "Words of the High One" (Odin), we are warned against giving too much. That doesn't mean to be a Grinch or a Scrooge, but if people give away everything they've got, they not only can't help other people any more, but also they become people who need to be helped by others in order to survive.
You'll probably notice as time goes on that the leaders of many churches are always preaching that people, even folks without a lot of money, should give a big chunk of that money to them. Well, you can bet those same leaders are living in fancy homes and driving really nice cars! At the same time, they preach poverty as a good thing, as a virtue! Why do they do that? Well, if you don't spend anything on yourself or your kin, then you've got more money to send to THEM. Sneaky of them to manipulate people like that, huh? Unethical (a bad thing to do), too.
What nonsense! As Heathens, we are NOT asked to finance such goings-on. When you give money to a charity (good cause), give it to where the need is real and try as much as you can to give to charities which help people to help themselves and require them to help others in return. http://www.heifer.org/ is a really good example. Having a generous spirit is a good thing. Being willing to be taken advantage of by greedy people isn't! Use your common sense!
Back to balance. At a blot (sounds like "bloat" and means to worship by making an offering), we offer something to our Gods and Goddesses (usually mead, a sort of honey-wine). Heathens have been making and enjoying mead for a long, long time. We receive back something in return, some of their energy in the part of the blessed mead or juice that we drink for ourselves. We love the Aesir and Vanir (the two tribes of our Gods and Goddesses). They love us too. They help us and we help them to take care of this beautiful Earth we both love, and the rest of the Universe as well. They help us to grow and be at our best. We help them do things and go places they couldn't go by themselves. We could both go it alone, but do so much better together. It's good to have good friends! This is what Gebo is all about! The blot is a sort of sacrifice. Sacrifice doesn't mean killing people or animals. "Sacrifice" means "to make sacred." That is its real meaning.
Some religions aren't like that. Their God claims to be all-powerful and all good, and says that people are by nature evil. That simply isn't true. No one and nothing is perfect, not even the Gods themselves. While people aren't perfect, and some human beings do some really awful things, the important thing is that we do our best to learn and become better, and to stand up to people who do really bad things and stop them from doing them.
When people think they are evil and doomed to an awful place called "hell" when they die, and that only their God can save them, they become slaves to their God. No matter what they do, it's never enough. They are in debt forever. They can NEVER pay him back. There isn't any Gebo in that! Gebo shows gratitude, not slavery. Gebo is also a two-way street. And that, in a nutshell, is a big part of why I am a Heathen (Asatruar or Norse Pagan) and not a Christian! We are NOT the slaves of the Aesir and Vanir. We are their friends.
Back to "hell" for a second. Many people have this idea of a hell with a "devil" in it, and usually a lot of fire. We don't believe in that. Christians stole the word from us, spelled it wrong, and changed the meaning to suit their own ideas. Hel is really with one "L" and is a nice quiet place where the Dead rest. Some Heathens like me go there to ask for good advice to help other people who need answers to their questions. That is called "spae" or "oracular seidhr." You just may do that too one day. It's sad when people we love die, but death is nothing to be afraid of. More on that later.
Another place where Gebo shows up big-time is in sexual rlationships, by which I mean couples who date, live together, or are married to each other. When the relationship works, what happens is that each gives out of love and receives back from the other in the same spirit of love. It's not easy and sometimes it doesn't work out (which is why our religion allows divorce), but it is still one of the most wonderful things about being a human being. If you play your cards right when you get older and choose your partners carefully, you are in for a real treat! As you grow, try your best to grow into a good person, and you will make a good partner in a committed relationship later on.
Gebo is present in our daily lives in other ways. As you've seen, Gebo is an exchange. Something is traded for something else. Adults work and receive money in exchange. We use that money to buy what we need for ourselves and our families. A balance is maintained. That is why it is wrong to be lazy and not work, and why it is wrong to steal. That is why it is wrong for a person to mistreat his or her husband, wife, or other life partner.
Finally, remember what I said about how the Gods and Goddesses help care for the Earth and the Universe, and how we help them here on our Earth (which is also called Midgard)? Also, we were thinking about dying, and how it is nothing to be afraid of? Gebo comes in here too. Why do we have to die? Lots of people have asked that question. You have probably heard a story about "sin," whatever that is, and a talking snake convincing the first man and woman to eat an apple, which made the God of Christians, Jews, and Muslims mad at people so now we all have to die. That is NOT one of "our" stories, and we DON'T believe in it! We call the first man and woman Ash and Elm, and they never lost the friendship of the Aesir and Vanir. So why do we have to die? Here is the way I understand it. See what you think (remember to always think for yourself):
Earth feeds us every day, and to keep her going we have to feed her by dying, so that our bodies can nourish new life. If there were no death, there could be no life, either. We eat plants and animals to keep living. Nothing can last forever, at least not in the same form it now has. Even the God Balder had to die. Plus, if we never died, there would be no room for new people. A balance has to be maintained. Gebo again. When things keep changing, there is room to move forward. Death, even if we don't like it, is necessary for that to happen. Most Heathens believe that sometimes, anyway, the Dead are reborn and live new lives on this Earth. This is an exchange which binds the Midgard, the land of the Living, to Hel, the land where most of the Dead dwell. Again, a balance; an exchange. Gebo.
As todays Kids' Runes chapter finally comes to an end (it was a long one, wasn't it?), a very important thing to remember is that in life and in death, our Gods and Goddesses are with us, working and celebrating and laughing and crying with us, and that our lives and our deaths can have meaning. We can learn and grow and help others to do the same, and a lot of the time have a great deal of fun doing it!
last modified 07/21/2003