Thursday, June 09, 2011

Gift

Yesterday our very first wedding gift arrived!

All over the world, gifts are the glue that hold societies together. Gifts are given to create new relationships, and strengthen existing ones, and sometimes — as with an engagement ring — to mark a change in the kind of relationship. Somehow, the arrival of this first wonderful gift makes our wedding seem even more real. After all, a wedding is about the union of families, the binding of community, as much as it is about two individuals.

The word gift comes from Proto Indo European ghabh, "to exchange", which descended into Proto Germanic as giftiz and Old Norse as gift or gipt; the Norse used it to mean both "gift" and "good luck". In Old English, giftiz became gift as well, but only referred to a dowry (bride-price); but in Middle English the Norse meaning was borrowed. Among the Germanic tribes, kings were chiefly esteemed by their gift-giving: the more wonderful gifts they could bestow on their followers, the greater their honor and prestige. It was the same with their gods: Odin, for example, had a magic ring called Draupnir, "dripper", which dropped eight golden rings every ninth night. This gift-giving was a custom similar to that of the potlatch of the tribes of the American Northwest.

Spiritually, gift is such an essential concept that the sound 'g' is associated with gift-giving. The word gift specifically indicates an offering which is raised up, held poised, and then released, free to follow its own path.

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