This is the first day of the fortnight (September 28-October 12) governed by the rune Gyfu or Gebo. Shaped like the Roman letter “X,” Gyfu’s form is the “sacred mark” used to denote things dedicated to the gods. It is usually interpreted as symbolizing “gift,” and its form esoterically represents the intersection of heaven and earth. It describes a part of the mystery of sacrifice as the gift, ultimately of power, that is given to mankind by the gods in order to maintain the ecology of cosmic power. The rune’s phonetic value is a hard “G.”
Gyfu refers to a gift and the act of giving or receiving. Gifts played an important part in German culture. A chief would give his young warriors gifts of horses, weapons, and lavish feasts. Relations between tribes were always conducted with the exchange of costly gifts. Tacitus wrote in Germania: It is usual to give the departing guest whatever he may ask for, and a present in return is asked for with little hesitation. They are greatly charmed by gifts, but they expect no return for what they give, nor feel any obligation for what they receive. The giving to, and receiving gifts from, the gods would have been looked upon as a natural extension of these customs.
Symbolically, Gyfu describes the gift of one’s own ability or talent in the service of another. Talent and ability are gifts from the gods to the individual. When anything is given, a relationship is established between the giver and receiver. Gyfu signifies the unifying effect that the exchange of a gift makes between the donor and the recipient. It expresses the qualities of linking seemingly separate parts of society or individual people in a common bond that produces a creative power greater than their sum total.
It can also signify cooperation between people. This may take the form of a common cause, a business partnership, or a magical working involving a voluntary sacrifice of one’s resources.
Even before the advent of Christianity, Gyfu was linked with charity and sacrifice—but sacrifice within reason. Generosity was the virtue of great chiefs. The covetous were despised and believed to suffer an ill fate. Gyfu means giving away something of personal value freely and willingly. It might mean forsaking present comfort or advantage for future joy, or giving your life for a higher good. Consistent with ideas of wise stewardship, however, it was considered good to sacrifice the lower for the higher, and evil to sacrifice the higher for the lower. Or translated into a principle of modern risk management: “Always risk a little for a lot; never risk a lot for a little.”
In modern usage, Gyfu is the sign used to represent a kiss on lovers’ letters. Gyfu is also the rune of brotherly or sisterly love, and it is the unity and psychosexual force exchanged between two poles of power—human to human, divine to divine, human to divine. In the latter case Gyfu describes the sexual life force used in fertility magic in shamanistic practices. It is the rune of ecstasy.
Gyfu is one of the runes I most cherish. It has been my experience that this fortnight in the annual cycle is one of the easiest and most prosperous times of the year. It is a time when the most appropriate wisdom is to feel gratitude.
However, setbacks and misfortune can and do happen in this cycle phase. Even in the face of difficulties, Gyfu reminds us that we must be grateful. By being thankful for whatever is, we are in a better position to make the most of our situations and recognize the solutions, opportunities, and lessons hidden within problems. Problems, too, are gifts from the gods.
Esoterically, Gyfu is the quality of abundance personified in the Norse goddess Gefn the bountiful giver, who is the equivalent of the goddess Abundantia, formerly worshipped in central Europe.
Magically, Gyfu is a sign of initiation, of what must be given up in order to gain wisdom and spiritual power. No advance is possible without occasional pain and loss.
91° and Clear
Note: This is the final post of twenty-four describing the runes. You can access all 24 posts from one place by going here.