The exchange of gifts can bring us much satisfaction, if the exchange is a balanced one, and we feel we have received somethings of equal value to what we gave. The Old Norse culture had a social construct based on this rune: hospitality. One would have a space set aside for travelers or those in need of shelter. One would never know when a guest would arrive, without the technology we have today. Guests would just show up, and expect to be treated with respect, fed, and housed until they moved on. People would have extra beds or rooms set aside for guests. This was a societal expectation, and was enforced by their laws. Everyone would be glad to have a guest as it was an opportunity to get news from abroad, hear new stories, and practice the art of hospitality. People would want to please the guest by giving them good accommodation, because they never knew when the time would come that a member of their own family would be in the same position as the guest, and need someone to take care of them.
The principle behind Gebo can be found in the Hávamál a poem within the Poetic Edda. (This translation is nice, because it has notes about the translation and editing process).
Better no prayer | than too big an offering,
By thy getting measure thy gift;
Better is none | than too big a sacrifice,
These people expected gifts in return for the gift given. The return gift may not come from the one who received the gift, but in another form. “What goes around, comes around” is a statement that these people lived by. One would weigh their actions against those of others. One would not turn down a gift in response to a gift given, for that is foolish.
Gebo embodies the balance of exchange not only of physical gifts, but also spiritual, energetic, and sexual exchanges. Gebo can remind us to not give overmuch in a relationship, if the giving is not reciprocated by our partner. Gebo speaks of the balance of masculine and feminine energies, of an even exchange of spirit.
Gebo teaches us to accept gifts gracefully, and to pass on the joy of receiving to others. In the context of the inner journey, Gebo can embody the divine gifts or talents we discover we have been given, tools we can use to assist us on our journey. It can also embody a gift given by another person, offering an opportunity for us to learn about exchange and to reflect on what another person could appreciate in return for a generous gift.
Gifts given or received teach us about gratitude, opening our hearts and bringing small joys. Thinking about giving a gift can be exciting, and teach us about empathy.What would they appreciate? What would they value? This is a lesson in understanding things from another’s perspective. This rune can bring us together, and help us to connect with other people on a different level, putting ourselves in their shoes. It can help us to form healthy relationships based on a balanced exchange of energy, of input into the relationship. The gift can teach us of the sacred union between us, the magic of joining with another being. This leads us to Wunjo, peace and contented bliss.