Bonding with Gebo
I'm Kelley Harrell, author, animist, and creator of The Weekly Rune. Soul Intent Arts is my soul tending practice, and you are listening to What in the Wyrd--my podcast in which I talk about runes, animism, soul tending, deathwalking, and how all of those are in relationship on my path.
I started working with the runes in season as a devotional practice to keep my Selves together. As such I give thanks to my ecosystem--inner and outer, Allies, and Ancestors for their support in that, and to all the listeners who find meaning in the weekly runecast and this podcast. I'm grateful to be relations with the Elder runes and you, right here, right now.
Thank you to my Patreon supporters who make the sharing of my runework through the podcast and the runecast possible with their financial support. Please support my work. If you have benefitted from the runecast, the podcast, or the free articles on the runes, animism, energetic hygiene, deathwalking, and soul tending on my website, you can show your support:
* by buying my books--everywhere
* by making a one-time contribution through Paypal, Venmo, or Square
* by contributing regularly through Patreon. Just go to patreon.com and search for kelley harrell.
You can also subscribe to the paid version of The Weekly Rune there.
The Weekly Rune is out, and it’s a runecast that I've done for 11ish years focused on Nigel Pennick’s calculation of a pan-cultural runic calendar. It’s focused on the current half-month rune, which I center in ecosystem with the elements, directions, seasons, and Spirits of Place. I invite you to do the same in the way you relate to those beings and see how your rune work deepens.
There are many approaches to runic calendars. Check out Nordic Animism if you haven’t, and their work with the Nordic animist calendar, currently honoring the year of Aun with worldwide celebrations on holy days throughout the year.
If you want to learn more about runic calendars, listen to the early episodes of What in the Wyrd, or just go read The Weekly Rune. The one that I work with is explained fully at the beginning of every runecast. The full version of TWR is available weekly only through Patreon, though you can read the highlights for free on my website - soul intent arts dot com. All runecasts are fully available two weeks after publication there. You can get notified when they come out by subscribing to my substack. kelleyharrell.substack.com
In this episode of verbing with the runes, we’re focusing on Gebo. We’re geboing.
I feel like of all the runes, people feel really comfortable with Gebo. As in, they feel good receiving it in runecasts, and they typically know what it means: gift, which naturally branches into partnership. With that, it seems like the obvious verb for Gebo would be ‘to give.’
I see it. I’m with you. And I’m not not going with it just to be contrary or edgy. In this series of the runes as verbs my goal isn’t to rewrite anything or force an outcome, make something be there that isn’t there. I’m seeing the runes as active. Feeling them as doable, which to some degree means seeing them as animated, alive.
With Gebo people immediately go to gift, as in “I brought you a gift,” and partnership, which is often synthesized as romantic partnership. Any time anything remotely hinting partner comes up in divination it’s automatically ascribed to be romantic, which misses a ton of relationships, relationship possibilities. I feel like we need to get right with that where Gebo is concerned, as well as to get to what the nature of gift-giving really is.
My verb for Gebo is to bond. You go with what works for you. As with everything I teach and pontificate on, you have to go with what you feel, so use the wording--the verbing--that resonates with you.
I chose to work with ‘to bond’ because American settler culture has forgotten that bonding is the point of giving. Bonding is intentional relationship, it is intentional acknowledgement of relationship, and since the basis of all life is that we are in relationship with everything--the relationship between gift and bond is vital. We are relations. The exchange of gifts between us is a tactile representation of that bond. It’s only one way to honor that bond as its own life force, but in form, exchanges based in form are a big deal.
With Gebo we hold space for
* the gift
* the exchanging of it
* the bond made through the exchange
* the gratitude for the exchange
* the life force that is the bond, itself
That’s a lot going on, right, a lot more than just a gift or partnership. And it may or may not be romantic. It’s not that it can’t be, and it’s not that there can’t be other ways we project onto bonding. In American settler culture, we tend to romanticize and sexualize relationships right out of the gate--and as a caveat we always romanticize within the binary. That’s putting a limitation on Gebo that isn’t inherently there.
But if we just assume it always is romantic or is supposed to be--if we assume anything about it--we’ve degraded the bond. We’ve projected onto it something that could harm it. We’ve given the gift with strings attached. We’ve gebo-zoned the bond. When we don’t romanticize Gebo, when we don't project onto it, we’ve left that bond open for all possible permutations of that life force to expand and experience itself. When we think of it that way, it brings the emphasis back to the bond. Nothing but the giving, the receiving, the bond forged from it.
And speaking of attached… attachment theory has crept into our Instagram feeds over the last couple of years--how we attached to our parents in infancy and childhood, how we attach to our partners in adulthood. All about bonding.
And ultimately that bonding is based on the sharing of our unique gift--that which only we can bear into being, and feeling how that builds community.
What happens when we can’t bond healthily, though? Or maybe more accurately, can’t receive with the openness and vulnerability that bonding requires? What happens when we do our gratitude expressions and it generates distress rather than bondiness?
Gratitude practices are all the rage; have been for the last 10 years or so in spiritual spaces, also sliding into our Instagram feeds. I’ve never met a single person who said that their gratitude practice sucked. Never. But I have met loads of people who have said that their gratitude practice brought up uncomfortable, unexpected feelings that the practice, itself, didn’t resolve, and that continuing their gratitude practice actually exacerbated those feelings and left them feeling--wah wah--more ungrateful. What’s up with that?
I talk about this a lot in the soul tending coursework that I teach, which is that we can’t delve into what we project is a positive, life-imbuing practice without it brushing against some shadow stuff. Whether that’s greeting our own sacredness or learning a new approach to meditation, we will always encounter some unexpected discomfort in those practices. And some folx meet that discomfort and think the practice isn’t working, or it’s not the right one for them. Maybe. What’s more likely is that we are all connected. As in, inside, all aspects of our inner cosmology are in relationship with each other, affecting each other. You can’t affect one without affecting another, or others. So when we start a gratitude practice to enrich how we soul-in-form, we’re going to churn up stuff that may not be desirable. And frankly, being confronted by unexpected stuff means that practice is working. It means we’ve gotten quiet on some core fronts, which allowed deeper stuff to come to the surface for attention. We forget that these kinds of practices aren’t to keep us from feeling things we don’t want to, but to give us a way to breathe through when we feel things we don’t want to. We do gratitude practices to be grateful for what we have, and to cultivate graciousness within us, in how we move among.
When our gratitude practice isn’t having that effect, there be trauma. Trauma is the root of inability to relate to gratitude, the inability to bond healthily. It is the inability to Gebo well.
In the last season of Gebo in The Weekly Rune I talked about this conflict some, and I also talk in detail about this in my upcoming book, Eldering Well - Tending the Broken Path Through Lore and Interrelationship (That’s the working title; not sure how it will end up). My immediate inclination is to say that American settler culture has forgotten gratitude and bonding as integral parts of relating, though the truth is we haven’t forgotten them all, and the pervasiveness of gratitude practices proves that. We just carry deep wounds around gratitude and bonding.
Our ability to express gratitude goes only as deeply our ability to feel our own worth. Literally. The receptors in our brain that allow us to feel gratitude can’t work when we feel shame or unworthiness. They literally cannot function at the same time. And when we feel ashamed and unworthy, we do not feel bonded. We don’t feel in relationship or that we belong, and that’s a tragic loss of awareness of how we function as animists. A chapter of my book centers on this truth and is based on the work of Dr. Odelya Gertel Kraybill, who created a therapeutic model that breaks down this patterning in the brain, and demonstrates how we can outcreate it.
So when we hit a rough patch in our gratitude practice, we have to get help learning to regulate through that kluge, or we go through life knowing that we want to be grateful but not really feeling it, and are re-traumatized by trying to force it. And if that’s the relationship we have with gratitude, it’s the relationship we have with bonding.
We have to be able to bond, though when we can’t feel our own worth, we can’t bond, we can’t Gebo. And when we can’t Gebo we’re missing a vital component of being soul-in-form, which is community. I know when we say ‘community’ in American settler culture we think of a discrete group that we belong to, like family, coworkers, a spiritual or civic group, or people who meet regularly to share interest in a specific topic or to engage a hobby together.
When we talk about community in an animistic context, in a soul tending context, in a Gebo-bonding-is-required context, that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about an unbroken tradition of land-human relationship interwoven with ancestral ritual and wisdom handed down through the elders to help us find our unique bond within that tradition. Most of us in American settler culture don’t have that, yet are charged to find our soul roots in form that facilitate our agency in support of our calling. If we can’t Gebo, this doesn’t happen.
And it’s also worth mentioning that even if we have an awesome gratitude practice and feel totally worth the bonds we have in life, that our culture is set up in opposition of that, that it actively tries to tear down such bonds takes a toll on our ability to Gebo. It’s like tending complex post-traumatic stress. We can regulate around it, but the IT is still there. We can bond despite it, yet IT still works against bonding.
So yes, while most of us are thrilled to get Gebo in a runecast and we do feel its roots at deep levels of Self, we can still have complications around our relationship to bonding. But the more we bring attention to that complexity and tap into what we each bring here, the bonds we make are still strong. They are still gifts.
Thank you for listening. If you have questions or insights about working with the runes as verbs, or in season, or however you feel called to work with them, or if you just want to drop me a line you can do that at Kelley, that's k e l l e y at soulintentarts.com.
Also check out earlier episodes by downloading them from all various podcast platforms. You can learn more about me, Runic Book of Days, and my work by visiting soulntintentarts.com or on Instagram @kelleysoularts. You can also find notes on this episode on my website, under the menu option Learn… Liveable Runelore. The transcript of this episode can be found at Kajabi.
I'm Kelley and this has been What in the Wyrd. Thank you for all that you do in the world.