Gebo the seventh rune of the Elder Futhark is the rune of exchange, the gift. Its balanced shape already suggests that we are talking about a fair exchange here. Nobody is being screwed over by Gebo. You give and you receive in equal measure. Maybe sometimes the receipt is delayed a bit but it will come. Sometimes you give without expecting an immediate receipt but in times of need, Gebo will return to you. In that regard, it is related to the flow of Fehu and it also re-introduced the idea of karma into the runic context. What goes around comes around sooner or later. In the Northern tradition karma is known as “hamingja”, the personal luck one accrues through his or her deeds. It is the karmic currency our Northern ancestors took into battle and onto their journeys. Like Ansuz the Gebo rune in some ways lays down the law. It implies that all interactions between people should be fair and balanced. Especially when it comes to material possessions and physical wealth Gebo is a reminder that abundance must flow. A lopsided deal will unbalance the natural order of things and create poverty and misery. We will revisit this concept later with the Nauthiz rune which has the shape of an unbalanced cross for a reason. Gebo is the rune of proper action, noble conduct, and of trust that is well-placed. If we trust that the good deeds we do and the gifts we pass out will eventually return to us then they will.
One image that the Gebo rune always conjures up for me is that of the windmill. Windmills produce energy by harnessing the power of the wind. But they do not use up the wind. They release it again. Water wheels do the same thing. They use water and turn it into motion that in turn powers a mechanical device. The water, however, is released from the wheel just as it was. Fair exchanges both, nothing exploited, nothing forced.
I came to understand the x2 SHAPE OF Gebo in two different ways. First, is the “X” on the old parchment that shows the location of the treasure. If I follow the ld and honorable ways, I will get my reward. Second, it is the roadblock that shows me when I´m about to overstep my boundaries. It is the sign that says “Do not trespass…”
It is one of those instances where the runes not only offer power to shape one’s life. They also offer guidance on how to live and what to live for. The decision will always be ours but the hunch is out there. Going back to the examples of the windmill and the water mill Gebo is a renewable resource, one that may be used without being used up because it renews itself in the process.
Wunjo the eighth rune is – among other things – a special landmark in the Elder Futhark. This alphabet with its twenty-four runes is divided into three sections of eight runes each. The sections are called Aetts. Wunjo concludes the first Aett that is often associated with the early formative stages of our lives. We come into being, we are shaped by the world and the events around us. We learn the rules. We learn about our power and its limits and the consequences of our actions. We learn to interact with society. And as a final rite of passage, we learn about the opposite (or the same for that matter) gender. Wunjo, the rune of joy, family, and partnership also has a connotation that relates to sex as in joy and ecstasy.
Wunjo is the principle and energy of joy, friendship, and support happily given. Spoken out loud it expresses the joy felt when mutual goals are achieved. It is also the promise to support each other to achieve the goals of the future which are perceived as mutual goals. . With Wunjo we hold each other accountable to follow up on the promises we made to ourselves and others. Wunjo is the guidance we receive from friends and family. It is the bliss of a fulfilled intimate relationship and of deep feelings shared.
But it is no coincidence that Wunjo looks a lot like the Thurisaz thorn only with the sharp point moved upwards. Wunjo can hurt and it can cut. It is the friendship betrayed, the lover unfaithful, the bad advice given with an ulterior motive. Wunjo is when love and friendship go south and the pain cuts through like a knife leaving a bitter taste like bile in the mouth.
Wunjo also has a strong connection with Odin.
Odin has many gifts for mankind. Two of them are poetry and the bliss of divine connection. The latter already shines through in Ansuz and it returns with Wunjo. Wunjo is the fevered restless of the poet and the vision quest of the shaman. Both push their physical and mental boundaries until they break through. Wunjo is in the orgasmic bliss and pain of that little death. As someone who has both created poems and visited the shamanic worlds many times, I know that this ethereal moment is almost impossible to put into words. It is a high that no drug can give you and that is over in a moment, leaving you yearning for the next time. This is Wunjo, joy that knows no equal but leaves you with a feeling of loss once it is gone. But unlike pharmaceutical substances, this trip has no side effects that I know of and causes no harm. It does break boundaries though. That is another quality of both Wunjo and Odin. They go to extremes. Odin is notorious for pushing boundaries both in himself and in others.
One of his most well-known legends is this. Odin wounded himself with his own spear and hung himself upside down from a tree so that in his extreme physical discomfort he could learn the secrets of the runes. Odin hung on that tree for nine days and nine nights and the legend says that then I took the runes. I understood them, they felt them and he fell from the tree screaming. This is shamanic initiation, enlightenment by going through extremes. This is one face of Wunjo and the rune sanding on its head often appeared to me as the symbol of the Hanged God, Odin who is divine yet still an eternal seeker. Knowledge and wisdom are two of his joys, two things that give him the high of Wunjo.
Ultimate joy and ultimate despair, they can both be found in the energy of Wunjo.
Hagalaz is the ninth rune of the Elder Futhark and the first rune of the second aett. This Aett is also known as Heimdal´s after the god who guards the gates of Asgard. These eight runes deal with the hardships and challenges life throws at us when we leave the safe nest of childhood.
Hagalaz literally means “hail” and that is what you get. Hagalaz is destructive. Hail destroys the crops, the houses, in modern times our cars outside. Hail can even kill people, literally, beat them or freeze them to death. But like a snowflake, every grain of hail has a delicate unique crystalline structure that is one-of-a-kind in the universe. No two grains of hail are alike. This fact reminds us that within destruction also lies creation. Every end brings a new beginning. The grain of hail is like a cosmic egg with all possibilities inside of it. When the hail thaws it moistures and fertilizes the ground. We can see the green grass again and the rich soil. Old things have been destroyed and washed away and new things grow in their place.
It is the nature of time and the very nature of life that everything that is born and grows must wither and die. That is the inevitable circle of life. It is the reason why our lives are not dress rehearsals. Every moment is there only once and then it is gone. Hagalaz is the agent of the universal law. We fear Hagalaz because every change is a bit like death and reminds us of our mortality. It is scary. But it is natural. And the good thing is this. Every moment of Hagalaz that we experience in our lifetimes is the beginning of the rest of our lives. It is a rebirth and like every rebirthing, it is accompanied by a moment of pain. For that reason, Hagalaz is often called the mother rune because its power brings forth our new life. It can surely be a mother***er rune as well at least in the first moment. I know these painful moments. I know the fear of change, maybe even more so than others. But once you pass through that moment there is bliss. Our organism strives for a status quo to conserve energy and ascertain safety. It´s probably a leftover from the times when we were little primates constantly afraid of bigger predators. But as much as our DNA longs for safety, it is still designed to adapt and grow and thrive on it. Hagalaz opens that door.
But first, it hits us hard. Hail strikes without warning, without asking for permission. We feel betrayed and unfairly treated at the very least. Only when we realize that life has been rejuvenated through the hail storm do we find the strength to pick up the piece and more importantly, see the benefit of the situation. Hagalaz is in many ways like The Tower from the Tarot. It is a sudden, dramatic change, never subtle, often painful for a moment. But it is what we need for the next step in our evolution. That is why for me Hagalaz is actually a verb. I´ve been hagalazed time and again. Sometimes I thought I would die. Given what I just wrote, I probably did it in a metaphorical way. And then I started to live again, more intensely than before.
Hail the hail!
Make sure to check more articles from Marco on his blog Fire Stealer’s Torch.
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