Exploring Tarot and Runes: 7 – Gebo


Gebo [pronounced Gay-bo] means “gift”. Far easier to unpack than previous runes, Gebo nonetheless carries a vital message about the importance of generosity, reciprocity and charity in maintaining friendships and happy communities. Amongst the Germanic peoples, practicing good hospitality and generosity were the glue that held communities together, and there were few insults to a person’s honour more serious than the accusation of being ungenerous. At its heart then, Gebo tells us that to build strong bonds of friendship, love and community we must be giving of our time, resources and compassion.

We were first introduced to ancient attitudes towards wealth and abundance in the rune Fehu, which counsels that material equality amongst kith and kin is necessary for harmonious relations. Gebo consolidates this message and offers positive advice about the use and sharing of resources. Within it, we can see a reflection of the Three of Cups, where friendships thrive with joy and plenty shared equally and celebrated.

gebo upright

The rune poem for Gebo tells us that “Generosity brings credit and honour, which supports one’s dignity; it furnishes help and subsistence to all broken men who are devoid of aught else”, which also reminds us of our social responsibility towards those in need, as seen in the alms giving in the Six of Pentacles.

Gebo also speaks of the establishment of partnerships (including marriage or joint business ventures) and good relationships, the ideal vision of which we see reflected in the lasting material prosperity and stable familial foundations of the Ten of Pentacles. Everything is secure, yet also dynamic; there is material wealth but also harmony. The ultimate lesson that Gebo teaches us is that abundance shared is abundance gained.

hanged man

On a deeper spiritual level, Gebo also speaks of sacrifice to the gods, reminding us that if we wish to receive the blessings, favours, and power of the Æsir, something must be given in return. This idea of sacrifice, exchanging gift for gift, can be seen in The Hanged Man. Amongst the Vikings, animals and even humans were given as offerings in blót sacrifices, which occurred seasonally, within specific god-cults, or if the community was in desperate need of divine assistance.

Unrelated to tarot, an easy way to remember this rune’s meaning is in our own modern usage of X as both the symbol for love and kisses, and the shorthand Christmas, “X-mas” – reminding us not only of gift giving but also of the sacrifice of Christ.

gebo rX

Because of its shape, Gebo cannot appear merkstave, and as a general rule it uplifts any spread in which it appears. However if its positive energy seems seriously impeded by other runes in a spread, it can indicate the greed implied in a reversed Four of Pentacles (some see this as the upright meaning, however I disagree) or the dodgy dealings seen in the Seven of Swords, which comes with the added warning to remain diligent against impoverishing yourself around those who take freely but do not reciprocate.


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