A little introduction to Perthro…
Perthro is one of the most enigmatic of runes, it’s meaning is unknown and can only be inferred from the Old English Rune Poem which refers to it as ‘ever play and laughter’ where warriors sit in the beer-hall together. The most common meanings assigned are the ‘lot cup’ or ‘gaming piece’ – both referring to games of chance which were taken very seriously by the Germanic peoples as they were believed to reveal the extent of a person’s ‘luck’ (or hamingja). A warrior with luck on his side in the gaming hall was likely to have good fortune on the battle-field too and would be highly prized by his war band.
The idea of a cup, or container, as well as the connection with fate, tie this rune in with the concept of Wyrd – the flow of individual and collective fate. The three Norns (fates) tend to the waters beneath the World Tree which periodically overflow, causing cataclysmic events across the world; but the waters are also life-giving and the Norns wet the bark of the World Tree to preserve it. This rune comes immediately after Eihwaz, the rune of the World Tree which endures eternally; Perthro is the force which flows back and forth through the tree – it is the adventure of life itself.
There are a series of rivers, and more than one well beneath Yggdrasil, and the mysteries of Perthro expand beyond that of ‘Fate’. For example, the Well of Mimir gives access to collective memory and ‘second sight’ while the Well Hvergelmir is the source of the eleven rivers through which the elements themselves are formed. Work with Perthro can help you perceive the deeper mysteries of life, and align your actions with the flow of energy both within and external to you.
Freya Aswynn proposes an intriguing theory that ‘warriors in the beer-hall’ is a mistake and that the original Old English rune poem actually referred to ‘woman in the birthing-hall’. Perthro certainly has a deep connection to the mysteries of birthing and this reading fits with the concept of Perthro as Wyrd, new souls being born from the Well and bringing joy to their families. For myself, I have found this rune very effective in workings designed to help women and their unborn babies through the process of labour.
Traditional meaning: Unknown. Educated guesses have included: gaming piece, lot cup, beer, song, sex, Wyrd and an apple tree
Gods: Frigg, Nerthus, Mimir, Norns
Colour: Green, black, silver
Elements: As the rune of Wyrd, the appropriate element for Perthro is water.
Half month: January 13th-January 28th
Plants: Pear, elm, aspen, apple, aconite
Body: Female genitalia and breasts, the process of birth
Aroma: Yarrow, nutmeg
Object of power: Distaff, cauldron
Meditate on the symbol of the magical cauldron in which individual elements are combined and a new substance created. Work with Frigg and the Norns to explore the mysteries of Wyrd and Fate or commune with Mimir to access the collective memories of the past. Perthro is a beautiful rune to chant and your voice will help you open to the rune’s mysteries. Remember that when you work with the waters of Wyrd the substance of Wyrd is different to the physical substance of water we know within our own world. Wyrd is the flow and physical manifestation of time and consciousness and as such should be approached with care; it can teach us deep mysteries and bring about huge transformation but as you are a conscious creature dwelling within time it will work on you whenever you work with it. Ensure you have sought patronage and guidance before undertaking any work with Wyrd. The rune Perthro is a gateway into the mysteries of Wyrd and as such you can work with it to prepare yourself and to open the channels of your consciousness. Before undertaking a journey to the Well of Wyrd draw the symbol of Perthro with your finger over a coin and then flip the coin to check it is a propitious for you to undertake the work – that way you’re already working under its guidance and placing yourself in the hands of the rune of fate.
Perthro is an excellent ‘patron’ rune for Seers. Wear it, draw it, chant it and visualise it when you are doing readings, journeys or trance work. If you are having trouble ‘seeing’ clearly Perthro can be of assistance. The recorded pathworking I have created for Perthro as part of the Journeys with the Elder Futhark series (see bottom of page) includes Perthro chanting to allow time for the rune to reveal itself to you. When doing rune readings I find it very helpful to visualise the rune bag as a large, three dimensional Perthro rune out of which I draw or cast the reading. Perthro can be used as a gateway through which to journey to the Well of Wyrd and seek counsel from the Norns. When I teach rune casting I work with my students to connect the with their guides who are ultimately far better qualified to help a Seer interpret the individual meanings of the runes as they come up; use Perthro to help yourself open to guidance.
Perthro helps us to open to spirit and the mysteries of Wyrd. Many naturally gifted Seers struggle to shut themselves down once they have opened to spirit. If you are working with Perthro to open your psychic senses use a rune such as Mannaz (the rune of man and the balanced soul complex) or Uruz (for physical grounding and earth connection) to centre yourself afterwards.
For me, the Perthro rune has a feminine energy although its links to Mimir suggest its healing properties might also stretch to work to improve memory and, more generally, the connections within the brain. I have found Perthro to be very effective for work with the hips (note the shape) as well as with the womb and for assistance with birthing. Perthro is a rune of transitions and it will help with the crossing over of a new soul into the world, as well as with the transition from life into death. My work with this rune suggests it can be used to very powerful effect when sung to ease the transition of a soul. In society today we tend to place oversight for birth and death into the hands of ‘professionals’ and forget that we have an essential role to play. A new born baby can have the best medical care in the world but nothing can replace the touch, voice and tender care of its mother. Work with Perthro to help you tune into your own instincts and intuition about what you and your loved ones need from you during times of difficulty, illness, transformation, initiation, death, birth and rebirth.
Perthro is a rune of magic and gifts us with the ability not only to interpret the flow of Wyrd but also to work with it. It will work well with Fehu to increase your magical abilities and attract good luck. Work with the correspondences to draw the power of Perthro to you: charge a piece of aquamarine with the energy of Perthro; decorate your altar in its colours; charge an apple or pear with its power before you eat it. Fill spaces of seership, birthing and transformation with its energy.
Very little is known about the true meaning of Pertho. It only features in the Anglo-Saxon rune poem and as I note in the ‘little introduction’ interpretations differ concerning the meaning of its rune poem as well as the Anglo Saxon word Peorth.
What other practitioners say…
- Oswald the Runemaker’s summary analysis of Perthro
- RuneSecrets analysis and rune community comments
- RuneMeaning summary and video
- Jordsvin’s rune page