[Young Heathens Page]
Welcome to the Perthro column of Rune-of-the-Month Club. Perthro is the Rune
for the sound represented by the Roman letter P. This is the
sixth Rune of the second Aett, hence the fourteenth Rune, so we are moving
right along! Perthro is the reconstructed Common Germanic name of this Rune.
The Anglo-Saxons called it Peord; the Gothic name was Pairthra. The Goths
were one of the first Germanic tribes to fall under the Christian yoke, and
had their own alphabet (invented by their bishop, Ulfila = Little
Wolf), which was mostly Greek in derivation but had a few Runes thrown
in as well. However, Wolfie the Turncoat, who was, fittingly either
a former slave himself or at least the descendant of enslaved war captives,
used the Runic names, not the Greek ones, for his new Gothic letters. A nasty
process was functioning: from physical enslavement to recruitment into a
spiritually enslaving religion (early Christianity, unlike some of its
mellowed-out modern descendants, was NOT a laid-back or tolerant creed, be
it towards Jews, Pagans or dissenting Christians, check out the New Testament
writings of saint Paul for many illustrative examples) to taking
that spiritual slavery back to ones own people: for their own good
of course! This would be more of a function of Nauthiz than of Perthro, (unless
you think of the flow of a really nasty Wyrd) but seems worth pointing out.
At least Bishop Wolfie (I think of the werewolf from the old Groovy
Ghoulies and Sabrina the Teenage Witch cartoon) had the gumption to
defy the Pope by being an Arian heretic. Maybe our modern
Gothic youth could use Ulfilas alphabet as a secret code,
they ARE an odd sort of fashion slave after all! They could probably
be classified as heretics too. Just kidding about that one! Im
in rare form today. The Gothic info is off-topic but an interesting history
lesson. Thor Sheil enjoys picking at Swedes, evidently picked it up
from his Norwegian in-laws. Goths were originally from Sweden. Maybe
it rubbed off on me!
The name of this Rune is shrouded in mystery, which is appropriate, since
that is indeed one of its meanings. Perthro seems to mean lot-box,
gaming-piece, dice-cup, or something of the sort.
This meaning is borne out by the Anglo-Saxon Rune Poem, which preserves the
only verse we have for this Rune, which did not continue into the Younger
Futhark. However, this interpretation is far from adequate to explain the
Rune. the Sheils remind us that while useful, the Rune Poems contain information
as much cultural as runic. I believe that this holds particularly true for
Perthro. From this poem, Edred Thorsson correctly identifies the link between
this Rune and Wyrd or Fate on the basis of rampant gambling among ancient
Germanic peoples and their association of that gambling with Wyrd. Theyd
even gamble themselves right into slavery! Maybe they needed a Twelve-Step
Group, that IS a significant Norse number (12 times 2 Runes, both the Gods
and Goddesses traditionally but not accurately numbered at 12 each...another
joke) Kveldulf Gundarsson, Thorssons former student, is with him on
the identification of Perthro with Wyrd. Freya Aswynn concurs, and in addition,
through her own meditations also accurately hit upon birth as
a meaning of Perthro.
This Rune REALLY shoots down the so-called Blank Rune. While
hidden things, hence secrets, is one aspect of Perthro, it is more tied in
with Wyrd. This, along with the fact that Ansuz is the Rune of
the Gods in general, and of Odin in particular, is enough to expel the blank
rune-chip from the rune-sets of every serious Runeworker! Thorr and Audrey
Sheil, my own Rune teachers, identify a number of meanings for Perthro, including
Well (as in the Well of Wyrd, the Well of Mimir, and the Well which is down
by Niflheim or Hel. Think of scrying by looking into a bowl or cauldron of
water or even a well instead of a crystal ball, see the next paragraph. Others
meanings include Wyrd/Fate/Destiny (not exact synonyms, BTW), pregnancy,
cauldrons and pots (think of Ran and Aegirs brewing cauldron, or
Cerridwyns cauldron from Welsh mythology), psychic matters (hidden
things that sometimes can be brought to light), tunnels, caves and caverns,
water sources, and fishing (back to Ran and Aegir). Note the recurring theme
of hollow things which contain other things, often in liquid form!
Divination is also a function of Perthro. You could put rune-chips into a
dice-cup, or think of the rune-pouch as the Well of Wyrd. The Sheils remind
us that Wyrd is evolving constantly. Interpret the results of a Rune reading
not as what is set in stone (BTW passive Fatalism is NOT what Wyrd is about),
but rather as the most likely outcome given the CURRENT circumstances. Make
the changes you feel appropriate (the basic three-Rune reading goes from
past state or causes to current state or best action to future state or most
likely outcome), then do another reading in a week or so!
In spiritual work in the Heathen tradition, Perthro can help you gain access
to the Inner Worlds and the greater Religious mysteries. The Sheils also
mention Mother Huldas realm, which was accessed via a well, and identify
Hulda/Holda = the kindly one (their translation) with Frigga
= the beloved. Editors note: the German Goddess Hulda is
also known as Mother Holle. Etymologically, Hulda means the hidden
one, appropriate for a Goddess whose realm is reached via a well. Think
of Fensalir, Friggas Hall, which means marsh halls = nice
and wet and sunken, and also Sokkvabekkr = sunken bank, Odin
and Sagas Hall. Due to the association of Saga, Goddess of History,
with Odin, and Friggas being the silent and all-knowing one, Thorr
and Audrey Sheil identify the two Goddesses as being the same. The Sheils
are usually right!
The Sheils also mention the nine nights of Odins Initiation upon Yggdrasil
(source of his, and hence our, Rune-knowledge) and the nine months of pregnancy
as being tied in with Perthro. Since Initiation is indeed a (re)birth, this
makes sense to me. Magick Number Nine is very significant to Heathen mythology!
How many pieces did the snake fly into when Odin struck it with NINE glory-twigs
in the Anglo-Saxon NINE Herbs Charm? Right. Nine bonus points for you! Some
superstitious Christians BTW are as scared of 9, which by pure coincidence
in Arabic numerals looks like an upside-down 6, as they are of 6 (as in 666)
itself! Wonder if it is tied in to some extent with Christianized Germanic
peoples fear of the Old Wisdom? Just a thought, but...
Wells and suchlike (caves and caverns, think of the birth canal) are another
entry into the religious mysteries of Heathenism, and of this Rune in particular.
Remember all the Heathen and Celtic Pagan sacred wells and springs. They
have been taken over by Catholics in places like Lourdes. Perthro is the
Well of Wyrd. Its no coincidence that Eihwaz, the World Tree Yggdrasil,
is the Rune just before it in the Futhark. Occasionally the two switch places
in some old inscriptions of the Elder Futhark, but they are still side-by-side.
The Well and the Tree by Bauschatz is well worth reading as you investigate
the Heathen Mysteries.
The Sheils mention pear as a possible meaning of Perthro. Pears
and apples are close kin; think of Idunnas golden apples. The Sheils
equate Idunna with the Anglo-Saxon Goddess Eostre and the German Goddess
Ostara (Spring and renewal/rebirth being connected), so think of eggs and
rabbits too as related to Creation and Birth mysteries. Pears are usually
yellow when ripe, it occurs to me. I think that the yellow apples in cultivation
today date back to a 19th century mutation. Life-renewing fruits, the mead
from Ran and Aegirs cauldron, and the drink from Mimirs Well
for which Odin was more than willing to sacrifice an eye. Youre going
to be meditating for a while!
In addition to Yggdrasil/Eihwaz, Initiation, and the Gods and Goddesses mentioned
in this article, you would do well to explore the links between Perthro and
Laguz (another Rune with watery overtones) and Berkano (another
While the Havamal reminds us that a gift looks for a gift, sometimes
a gift is just that, a gift! Our Gods and Goddesses are wealthy, generous
and kind. Enjoy the many gifts which flow from them to us, and strive to
live as their worthy Younger Kin. That, perhaps, is the gift for which
their gift looks! Through your work with Perthro, may the Mysteries of the
Runes and of our Heathen Religion spring fruitfully into life within you,
and may the Wyrd you weave (weaving is another of Friggas functions)
for yourself be a good one!
Here's what Pam C. has to say about Perthro:
"Perdra is a deep well indeed."
Criticizing certain Runesters who erroneously "...take a blank stave
and call it Wyrd, ignoring the cornucopia contained in Perdra."
Works consulted (lots of them this time!):
At the Well of Wyrd by Edred Thorsson. This book is well worth its
purchase price just for the translations of the Rune Poems - but not for
much else :-(
Dictionary of Northern Mythology by Rudolf Simek (to my knowledge,
he does NOT have a red nose, and the book is VERY useful).
The Germanic Invasions by Lucien Musset. Translated from the original
French by Edward and Columba James.
Lost Gods of England by Brian Branston. Read this book!
Northern Mysteries and Magic by Freya Aswynn (www.llewellyn.com to
order). Previously published as Leaves of Yggdrasil, although
NM & M does contain some new material, particularly on Seidhr
and a CD of her tape Songs of Yggdrasil. Very good but Freya
Aswynn sounds like the Vulcan priestess Te Pao from the old Star Trek series:
Spock (with the ck pronounced as the ch in
loch); they say thy Heathen blood runs thin - art thee Heathen
or art thee Wiccan? You can groan now, but buy the book and listen
to the CD: Im right!
The Road to Bifrost Volume III: the Runes and Holy Signs and Volume
V (the Gods and Goddesses) by Thor and Audrey Sheil. Long out of
print, alas. I highly
recommend both these books. They are my top two Heathen book selections outside
the Elder and Younger Eddas, of course.
Teutonic Magic by Kveldulf Gundarsson.
The Well and the Tree by Paul C. Bauschatz. Scholarly study of Wyrd.
Winifred Hodge tells me this book helped set her on the road to Heathenry.
As degreed librarian, I remind my readers that their local public library
(in the USA and Canada anyway) can obtain virtually any book via Interlibrary
Loan for a nominal fee in about a week and a half (nine nights?).
all works used by permission of the authors