Krause does not associate any specific meaning with Pertho. Using the fact that a celtic word, Perth, means 'bush', he states that one possible meaning for Pertho is 'fruit tree'.

In a book on traditional Germanic feasts, by Reinsberg-Düringsfeld, I found one bit of information that might show that this name has perhaps not totally been forgotten. I must say that I cannot certify anything about the authority of this book. This author claims that one of the many names given to the better known Frau Holle (recognized for being a late manifestation of Frigg, Wotan’s wife, by some of her facets) is Perchtha, or Perhata, or Perch, or even Berch. I have however no knowledge that would allow me to prove that those names are linked in some way to Proto-Germanic *pertho. Thus, tragically, the root *pertho had no descendant in any of the usual Nordic languages, except perhaps (my hypothesis) through the name given to Frau Holle in Tyrol, Bavaria, and Low (Salzburg-side) and High Austria.

We are forced to make more conjecture on this rune than on the others, especially since it disappeared from the Viking Futhark and the only rune poem we are left with is the Old English rune poem.

Its form is and it doesn’t appear until after 400, only in the Futharks, as is the case with the rune Ihwaz. It represents the sound 'p', which is rare since, in the Germanic world, it is taken care of by Berkanan, the representation of the sound 'b'. In England, Pertho was also used in texts, essentially on inscriptions found on coins. This British innovation came a bit later, dating from the year 600. One theory that has been criticized is that Pertho actually comes from Berkanan, by sort of ‘turning it inside out’, in other words Berkanan’s two central bars, , rotate about the two outer points of Berkanan: indeed gives . This theory is supported in a manuscript called 'Bodly MS 572' that contains a long text in Old Norse which describes a number of secret rune systems. In the middle of its explanations, it discusses the form of the rune Pertho by calling it "piastr biarkan", which means an opened Berkanan rune.
The many similarities between the two runes must also be taken into account. Clearly they both correspond to sounds that are very close for the Germanic ear. There are in fact runic inscriptions where a ‘p’ sound is expected, and Berkanan has been used. It is very well possible that the grapheme for Pertho does not derive historically from Berkanan, but moving from one to the other is beautiful and certainly is an opening of the center of Berkanan. This explains why in the next chapter, I suggest associating Pertho and Berkanan to the runes of Delivery.


Texts related to Pertho

The Old English rune poem

Peorth (game table) A table-game is always
a source of recreation and amusement to proud ...
where warriors sit happily together in the mead-hall.


Old English Rune Poem, as translated by Marijane Osborn


Peorth is some sort of playing,
a game where women meet
like warriors to sit and drink a little and laugh together.

I offer an interpretation that is quite divergent from the text that has been left to us:

Peorth is always a source of recreation and amusement
For the proud women seated
Happy together in the hall of magic

First Merseburg charm

Original text (Alt Hoch Deutsch):
"Eiris sazun idisi, sazun hera duoder.
suma hapt heptidun, suma heri lezidun,
suma clubodun umbi cuoniouuidi:
insprinc haptbandun, inuar uigandun!"


English translation:
Once the Idisi [Disir] sat, sat here and there
Some hefted fetters [on the enemy], some stopped the host [of the enemy] Some loosened the fetters.
Jump the bonds, evade the bad wights!

Sigrdrifumal (Runes of Delivery)

You must know the runes of Delivery
If you want to help a woman's labor,
And deliver the baby from her womb;
You must firmly trace them on the palms,
Clasp her wrists,
Success will come by imploring the Disir.


They are found ...
[Boyer: On the palm of the woman in labor
Genzmer: "on the (she)-healing hand";
Auden & Taylor: "on the palm of the child-loosener" ;
Larrington: "on hands which deliver"]


Return to Rune Page

Fehu Uruz Thurisaz Ansuz Raido Kaunan Gebo Wunjo
Haglaz Naudiz Isaz Jeran Ihwaz Pertho Algiz Sowelo
Tiwaz Berkanan Ehwaz Mannaz Laukaz Ingwaz Dagaz Othala