Berkano often comes up for me as a protective Rune in galdr-song, and it does this in the role of the protective mother. Berkano is a feminine Rune connected to motherhood, pregnancy, birth, nurture, nourishment, shelter, new ideas, new beginnings, and related life changes such as weddings, funerals, or coming of age. I believe Berkano also to be associated with the Disir, the Matronae, and the Norns, including the group of women souls (and birth planners) who help the Norns with the work of overseeing ørlög. The Disir are strong matriarchs within the ancestral line of Norse clans, and they have also been associated with the Valkyries, Norns, and Vaettir, or land spirits. The Matronae are mother goddesses, appearing in groups of three, worshipped in areas of Germania, Eastern Gaul, and Northern Italy that were occupied by the Roman army from the first century to the fifth. These beings represent the female principle in her fullest empowerment.
In pre-Christian and pre-patriarchal times, women managed the tribes and the villages while the men were away at hunting or war. The Nordic women were practical, efficient, productive, and expedient. They had to make all the hours of the day count for taking care of children and the elderly; the animals who supplied meat, milk, and wool; the crops which would be needed to eat through the cold months; and the washing, spinning, and weaving of the wool and flax into the clothing for the kindred. The point is that women of those times were as respected and as capable as men in any area of life, and that women are not less now, nor should have ever been so regarded at any point in history. In fact women were stronger, as it was their role to bear life, and this they did without the modern advantages of hospitals, pain medication, or cesarean section.
When Berkano shows up with Perthro it is indicative of the women’s mysteries. Ancient ways of feminine initiation included birth and birthing rites; coming of age for young women upon the first menses; there were gender specific rituals that were used by the gythia (priestess) for those women who accompanied the men to war or on the hunt; and marital and death rites. Death was a fact of life for the Northern peoples; they considered women who had born living children to have come near the realm of death and returned. Women held a special power to work with the spirits through the practice of seidr, galdr, or shamanism. [See GNG Definitions] These powers would have been used to nurture the livestock and crops, calm the powers of life threatening storms, locate animals for the hunters, and as charms for good luck and protection put into the weaving of clothing and the processing of food.