Perthro is an enigmatic rune, its linguistic 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 their war band.
Working with Perthro is about flowing with fate and harnessing the energy of luck.
The idea of a cup or container, as well as the connection with fate, tie Perthro to the northern European concept of Wyrd – the flow of individual and collective fate. The three Nornir (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 Nornir wet the bark of the World Tree to preserve it. In the rune row Perthro appears 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.
Within the roots of the World Tree you will find not just the Well of Wyrd but 2 other powerful wells and the Elivagar or ice-rivers. The mysteries of Perthro extend into these spaces where life and death meet. The Well of Mimir gives access to collective memory and ‘second sight’ while the Well Hvergelmir is the source of the ice rivers through which the elements themselves are formed. Work with Perthro to 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 the translation of the Pertho rune poem as referring to ‘warriors in the beer-hall’ is a mistake. She believes 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.
The concept of renewal is also important to Perthro. Once the waters of change have subsided the world is left fresh and cleansed – ready for new growth. Alongside the Yew Tree of Eihwaz, Pertho connects us to the apple tree from which the goddess Idun collects apples that renew the youth of the Gods – it is thought by some that these apples come from the orchards of the dead in Helheim.
Literal meaning: Unknown. Educated guesses have included: gaming piece, lot cup, beer, song, sex, Wyrd and an apple tree
Rich meaning: Wyrd, mystery, flow, song, change, luck, karmic debt, renewal
Deepening your connection with Perthro
My Elder Futhark journeys are based on the traditional meanings of the runes. To get the most from the journey follow these steps:
- Make sure the room in which you are working will be free from disturbance. Do a simple warding if you want to.
- Have a look at the basic correspondences for Perthro. Make a note of any that stand out for you.
- Make sure you know the shape of Perthro; if you have a rune set, select the Perthro rune and hold it for a short while.
- Listen to the recording.
- If you feel a bit light headed or not fully back from your journey, have something to eat.