As we head towards spring, and the first lambs of the season are being born here on the farm - I am reminded of the Gifting Cycle and how important it is to us Heathens. Some folks try to explain The Gifting Cycle as a sort of Viking Karma, two words that don't imply at all. Viking the verb means to go raiding (to take) and Karma is a Sanskrit word explaining how actions in one lifetime affect the next. Neither work as we understand TGC, but I understand the essence of that slang.
Our Gifting Cycle is the system of making offerings and sacrifices now with the hope it is returned to you later. Not in a another incarnation, but in this life. It is closer related to the "Golden Rule" if anything - gifts others as you would like to be gifted. (Forgive the baggage of that comparison.) Gifting within Heathen thew was hard for me to understand at first. In my previous worldview, a gift came without any sort of weight. I said thank you. I appreciated it. But I never kept track of it within the mindset of the Heathen view of gifting. Now a gift is returned with a gift (at a later date, as to not seem as a barter), and it matters. A lot. Everything gifted comes with a sense of attachment and relationships within Heathenry, not always weighty but worth considering. Enough to start wanting to step back from flippant gifting events, like Yankee Swaps at the Holidays. Gifts are not a game. This I learned as I absorbed more and more of what our Worldview truly is.
As a Kindred we offer gifts to our Gods at ritual. We raise the horn and speak as individuals and as a Tribe. We make this offering of ale, blood*, or mead along with the hope that the Gods nod in our direction if they desire. That our ancestors watch over us. That the wights choose to favor our best interests. We make the gift as an act of hope it will be returned at a later date.
At home I have a small Hof. There I make daily offerings to my ancestors and the Wights of my farm. It keeps me connected to my family's past. It keeps those gone to mound alive in my daily life. It is a smaller circle within the larger Heathen Gifting Cycle. Personal and sacred. Those lambs in the field are both a Gift of my farm's wights, Freyr's blessing, and a tangible return on the effort I set forth towards that flock. They are planned as much as they're luck, at least to me. For that I raise the horn in gratitude and boasting. Thankfulness for the animals that will keep this farm moving forward, in sales as well as meat for the spit and fleeces to keep warm in winter.
To give a gift is good. To understand why and what is respected in return is even better. This is the heart of the Human and Sacred Gifting Cycles. It's much of who we are.
*Sometimes we offer blood from the animals we are eating as a tribe in feast. As a farmer who raises hogs, lambs, goats, and poultry if we are eating those animals some of their blood is set aside to add to our offering.