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.

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.  Note the associate with the apple tree which hints at the sacred apples of Idun which renew the youth of the Gods.

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

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