In this video, I will demonstrate a quick exercise for those who are beginning their intermediate training with the runes. This practice should be undertaken once a person has learned the correct names, translations, and order of their chosen runes of study. This will help you quickly broaden the scope of each rune, leaving endless room for further philosophical development and growth. May all beings benefit from the power of the runes.
Gebo / Giba / Gyfu
Gebo is the rune of exchange and generosity; of gifts both given and received. Gebo represents the most important qualities in heathen ethics; balance, appreciation, and respect. Gebo, in this way, represents the sacrifice; a gift for a gift, a sacrifice for a sacrifice. This is a very foreign concept to the religions and institutions that have instilled in the modern man that he must only give, without expectation of reward or gift in return. This is the way to ensure defeat and destruction of ones limited energy, as it will be directed always towards “lesser” ends. In other words, generosity can be seen as a type of insurance, as usually, if one has been generous and finds themselves in need of assistance, they should have no issue acquiring it. Because they were generous in the past, they have fulfilled the appreciative and exchanging qualities that the Gebo rune requires in the present. This system enables the “wheel” to move onward in balance.
However, this does not mean the heathen society did not value charity, as this rune also represents the very concept of charity, as ones “gift” to society. We see this reflected in the Old Saxon/Faroese word geva which means “gift” and also “favor.” Throughout the Germanic linguistic timeline, it seems as though this concept, all the way down to its’ proto-Indo-European root gʰebʰ-, are consistent with the concept of giving, gifts, and goodwill. It is difficult to penetrate the Gebo runes deeper layers, but with these “outer” layers peeled away, we can begin to look a little closer at this rune and concept.
When looking for cognate words and connections with Gebo, I started to gain insight into the way in which the Germanic people (especially the Goths) viewed not only giving, but wealth and “richness” in general. In Gothic, we have the word gabigs meaning “rich, wealthy” which relates to the proto-Germanic word gabigaz which means “rich” but also “to give.” This implies the ancient Germanic person viewed “richness” in regard to how much one gives; further implicating a society based on mutual fulfillment of “favors” rather than purely financial movement. Although, monetary exchange would later replace much of this concept, as instead of doing “favors” for others to ensure you would receive favors in return (much like the Amish), people would now simply pay others to do things for them; the societies sense of appreciation, respect, and community suffer poorly because of this.
We see evidence for these theories in the “Old English Rune Poem” where it is said:
“Gift to men is adornment and approval,
A help and an honor, and for every exile,
Who lacks aught else, it is respect and sustenance.”
The poem alludes to many ways this rune can be applied. From the gift, to approval, to just the simple show of respect to others. Without a doubt, we can see this rune played a major role in how people interacted with each other. We perhaps find the best evidence for this theory in verses 40 and 41 of the “Hovamal”, where the High One says:
“40. None so free with gifts,
or food have I found,
That gladly he took not a gift,
Nor one who so widely,
Scattered his wealth,
That of recompense hatred he had.
41. Friends shall gladden each other,
With arms and garments,
As each for himself can see,
Are longest found,
If far their fates may be.”
Here we see this concept in concrete form, and straight from the “horse’s mouth.” We are told that gifts and generosity deter “recompense hatred,” meaning something like “the prize of hatred,” referring to what someone is rewarded or compensated. In short, one who “scatters” his wealth will “win” the opposite prize of hatred, meaning respect, love, and renown. Verse 41 alludes to long friendships being held intact by the giving of gifts.
There is the theory of “Odin’s 9 Runes” within the Elder Futhark. These runes are those of which remain the same whether upside down or right side up, generally conceding that there is no “reverse” or negative aspect of the rune. Gebo would be the first one we encounter in this system, symbolizing complete balance, unity, and exchange. In reference to Odin, this rune symbolizes his sacrifice on the tree, where he was given (X) the secret of the runes. This sacrifice (or gift) is the shedding of the lesser self in order to bring forward the higher Self, represented by Odin. Gebo is also reminiscent of the original gifts that Odin, Vili/Hoenir, and Ve/Lothur (arguably 3 forms of Odin), give to mankind. In “Voluspo” verses 17 and 18 it is said:
17. “Then from the throng, did three come forth,
From the home of the gods, the mighty and gracious;
Two without fate, on the land they found,
Ask (Ash) and Embla (Elm), empty of might.”
18. “Soul they had not, sense they had not,
Heat nor motion, nor goodly hue;
Soul gave Othin, sense gave Hoenir,
Heat gave Lothur, and goodly hue.”
Another esoteric journey through this rune leads us to a further connection with this type of “Odinic” system. The related Sanskrit word gábhasti reveals other avenues of interpretation, having an array of meanings such as “arm, hand, ray of light, sunbeam, the sun” and, “shining.” When I read this, I immediately pictured the “sun wheel” as symbolized by ⨁, which clearly resembles the X rune on its’ side, as the “spokes” of the wheel. With this avenue in focus, we can with full confidence attribute aspects of the sun with this rune, as the sun can be seen as the ultimate bestower of “gifts” upon man, which throughout the ages we have done our best, until recently, to show our respect, admiration, and appreciation to.
Another obscure connection can be seen in the Gothic word gibla, which means “pinnacle or apex of a building.” This word resembles the Gothic cognate of Gebo (giba) and alludes to this sun-like, or rather, “Odin” like apex; as the building could represent the human and Odin the apex of that expression. This could also be a reference to the part of the building that is closest to the sun. Strangely, we have another cognate word in the ancient Greek kephalḗ which means “the head, most important part, risking of one’s “head” (life).” This word is where we get our modern English cephalo, which in biological terms means “relating to the head or brain.” Yet another example of the strange journey language takes as it moves through different peoples and different times.
In conclusion, it is clear that when speaking about ancient Germanic Pagan ethics and morals, Gebo was the law. Gebo drives our interpersonal relationships, applying to both the physical and divine. All relationships revolve around a giving and receiving mechanism of some form, and this balance of nature was represented by the ancient Germans in the form of the equal armed, crossing X. Always the same, always in balance, and ever present… no pun intended.
An altar should always be in use; if one is to be created at all. It should move, breath, and be in constant motion. Fires should burn on it more often than not, and offerings should be in constant flux and flow to and from the altar space. This space should be viewed as sacred, and nothing should be placed upon it that doesn’t belong there. The more seriously you interact with you altar space, the more benefits you will gain from it.
Energy taken away from the altar space needs to be put back in, and there are many ways to “charge” a sacred space. Meditation, prayers, and offerings are easy ways to charge your sacred space, and these activities should be done multiple times a day; or as often as your lifestyle permits. Practicing these activities will ensure your sacred place holds power and meaning in your life; giving you a foundation for workings of magic and sorcery. More complex charging methods would include sacrifice, ritual and elaborate ceremonies.
Sacrifice can mean a variety of actions; and sometimes only includes yourself as the medium of sacrifice. Personal sacrifices could range from the giving of blood to the taking or declaring of vows, and all methods have their time, use and function. Sacrifice can also take the form of an animal or object; the destruction of life-force (or perceived life-force) in order to create something from it. Sacrifice can transfer power and also directly connect us to the Veil; the divine world.
Meditation, chanting (Galdraz) and drumming are excellent ways to charge a sacred space. These activities should make up a majority of your time with your altar; each being a way to directly flirt with the Veil and other realms. Through this practice, you can create a balance within yourself; disrupting and healing impeding feelings of depression, restlessness, and anxiety. Your altar should be your center in space and time.
Meditation guides us away from the constant onslaught of the mind, and we are given vision into the deeper layers of truth and existence with its’ application. Meditation brings us closer to that part of us which is immortal; that which exists beyond the flesh. Meditation allows us to see the parts of us that are as old as time; the true essence of our being. Through this practice, we attain insight into ancient and archaic wisdom.
Patience is a virtue when practicing meditation, and we must try to discard all expectations when entering this state. The key is to allow things to flux and flow within and around us; becoming mere vessels for the Earth and Cosmos to interact and mix within us. Do not attach your mind to anything that appears in this state, you will do this when you are finished. Instead, allow all thoughts and emotions to enter and pass through without attachment.
Offerings usually differ from person to person based on the intent and purpose of the altar or ritual. Some offerings might include stone, wood, metal, bone, fire, ash, smoke, incense, feathers, various food items, seeds and beverages. Some things are left for good to age with the altar itself, others are left for a certain amount of time to accumulate or disperse power. Items taken away may be used for magical purposes or be turned into amulets or talismans. If offerings are meant to be taken by others, such as animals, it is best to leave them be after placing them.
Galdraz, Galdr, or Galdor is a means of accessing, communicating, or commanding the forces of the Divine, based on the use of the voice. This can be done by chanting, singing, screaming, yelling, growling, hissing or any other manifestation of rhythmic vocal activity that will form the spell or incantation you are trying to send forth. Rune names are most commonly used in this practice; emphasizing their vowel sounds and calling them out with full and uninhabited intent. This is probably the most common and practical form of Northern magic, and can be utilized anytime and anywhere.
Some will argue that the volume of your Galdraz is not important, but personally, I disagree. Unless you have no other option (due to circumstances) but to Galdr quietly, you must practice this with a belly and chest full of air; exhibiting full power behind it when released. The reason for this, is because sound, like all matter, is based on vibration. With this in mind, it would seem logical that the stronger and more powerful the vibrations that your Galdr create are, then the more they will affect the world around you by altering its’ vibrations; like a ripple in a pool of water, expanding outward from the source.
Having this relationship with a sacred space keeps your mind, body, and soul balanced and in unison. When you can anchor your soul to a physical place, you can more easily travel the realms of existence. Like Yggdrasil, Irminsul, or the Axis Mundi, this place gives you a pillar into the heavens; and a portal down to the underworld. With this space, we can create an atmosphere dense with power and become more tactful with our energy use.
Spiritual energy is vital to us. Without the fire within the soul we cannot thrive and flourish, and in turn deteriorate and lose momentum. The more momentum we lose, the harder it is to regain; for it is much harder to build strong habits than to break them. This is where spiritual discipline comes into the equation, and we must be disciplined in order to achieve any sort of ascension beyond our current state. This is why having a living altar, practicing meditation, and carrying out sacrifice are all so important to our well being.
Having a connection to the divine gives us purpose and strength. We can pull anything we need from the Veil at any time; whether it be for the purpose of creation, healing or destruction. We can manipulate our world in endless ways, simply by the application of our Will, and the belief in our own power. Your spirituality should give you confidence, strength, and protection from fear.
Building your altar is a personal and ever evolving process. It will develop organically with your experience, research, and changing circumstances; so don’t expect it to stay the same always. You may venerate one God or many Gods; one force or many forces. Whatever forces you choose (or encourage) to inhabit the altar will do so, and the more you interact with these forces, the more they will do for you.