The most recent NextStage Irregular shared the anthropologic and cultural meaning of the GiveAway ceremony, the rituals associated with it and how it is used and misused in modern commerce.
Putting that email together, I was reminded of a story from another phase of my life that very much involved The GiveAway and is a demonstration of how much personal meaning and power it can have in our lives. Before reading the rest of this post and assuming you haven’t read the above mentioned newsletter, let me share the following:
GiveAways are marked by what is exchanged, usually something which was and may still be very special and/or has meaning to you, and is something which you’re willing to move beyond. Traditionally GiveAways involve exchanging something very important, something we are hesitant to give away, yet something we know we must part with in order for something else to come to us.
This can’t be something we give away then take back. Most importantly for rewarding or gifting people in commerce settings, we must give away something that we know has value to everyone involved. Again traditionally, this meant GiveAways involved exchanges of symbolic or real power, symbolic or real value, symbolic or real information, and there’s always an exchange involved.
During a training session, a student, Eliana, carefully, almost religiously, placed a small, well worn, red-velvet pouch tied with an equally old, faded red ribbon in my palm. Once there, it felt heavier than I would have thought and I realized there was something inside. She was making this pouch, the ribbon and whatever was inside her offering in a GiveAway that only involved me.
We had been studying GiveAway ceremonies and rituals for some time but this came as a surprise to me.
Once the pouch was in my hand, Eliana stared into my eyes for a moment then returned her gaze to the pouch, ribbon and whatever was hidden within still lying in my open palm. She asked me to open the pouch for her. The pouch was only closed with that old ribbon which looked like it would split if you simply breathed on it. I was unsure of her offering although I knew I could trust her because mutual trust and honoring are part of GiveAways.
But still I was confused and she must have sensed that. “I can’t. I can’t let it escape,” she said.
That really confused me. Whatever was in the pouch wasn’t moving and didn’t seem alive.
“Do you know what it is?” she asked me.
I felt the form hidden in the pouch, touching it softly, gently and respectfully. “Some kind of horse,” I said. “With a crown, I think.”
“It’s a unicorn.”
“Ok. You can’t open it because it’ll escape and I can open it? Are you sure you want me to open it?”
She started crying before she could answer. The sobs were coming from deep, wracking her body as she released some very deep energy that she’d carried for a very long time.
“This is a very important to you. A memory of some kind and you’ve managed to put it in one place, to tie it up, to bind it so it can’t hurt you any more, to put a noose around it and keep it and you safe. I’ll accept your gift and I won’t open it until you’re sure you want whatever this represents set free.”
She looked at the pouch in my hand. “Do you know what the memory is?” she asked.
“No,” I answered and that’s when the story, the reason she was studying with me and the meaning of the pouch, came out.
Eliana had been sexually abused as a child. Every time her father sexually abused her he would go out and buy her a unicorn. Through the years she’d given away all the unicorns except this one. Her father stopped abusing her when she had her first period and this was the last unicorn he’d given her.
The symbolism of the unicorn bound in the red pouch was astounding and nothing she ever intended. It simply was.
Through all the training and work we’d done she was finally able to give-away, to release all that energy. This was a very important thing to her, a very important memory. She was ready to give it away, ready to move beyond.
And then she said, “I need you to open it. You won’t let it hurt me. I trust you not to let it hurt me.”
GiveAways are exchanges and Eliana was giving me an incredible gift. Now it was time for me to offer a return.
“Let’s open it together. I’ll hold the pouch, you untie the ribbon and let the unicorn out. The moment you feel that the unicorn is going to hurt you again, I’ll close my hand so it won’t escape.”
She nodded and again was crying, releasing all the agony that had been held by her throughout the years. Sobbing and rocking, she untied the ribbon and pulled a beautiful, tiny carousel-style unicorn out of the pouch.
“It’s beautiful,” I said. Eliana nodded.
“You released all that energy, Eliana. It no longer has power over you. You’re free. And beautiful.”
There were some stains on the unicorn and she used her tears to wash them away, then placed the unicorn back in its pouch, tied the ribbon back up and curled my fingers over it.
“Thank you,” she said.
I still have that red pouch, the unicorn back inside, and haven’t opened it since.
Eliana’s GiveAway was an incredible healing because that’s what giving it away was, a statement that the last of that pain no longer had a place in her life while recognizing it had been important to her life.
To her the red pouch, ribbon and unicorn within were a symbol of abuse and pain. There was incredible emotional power and energy there. But power is simply power. There’s no good or bad, there simply is. So what she gave me was incredible power and, in Giving it Away, she utilized that power as incredible healing by releasing herself from it’s hold.
What Eliana was actually gifting me with was trust. My gift was honoring that trust.