These are the relevant references from the Books where Rune-Priests are mentioned.
I make no pronouncements on these matters, but report them as I find them.
Arrive at your own conclusions.
I wish you well,
The board has no Initiates, but there are corresponding pieces called Rune-Priests.
The Spring Equinox, incidentally, is also used for the New Year by the Rune-Priests of the North, who keep the calendars of Torvaldsland. They number years from the time of Thor's gift of the stream of Torvald to Torvald, legendary hero and founder of the northern fatherlands. In the calendars of the Rune-Priests the year was 1,006.
"The wergild must be high," I speculated.
The Forkbeard looked at me, and grinned. "It was set so high," said he, "out of the reach of custom and law, against the protests of the rune-priests and his own men, that none, in his belief, could pay it."
We saw thralls, too, in the crowd, and rune-priests, with long hair, in white robes, a spiral ring of gold on their left arms, about their waist a bag of omens chips, pieces of wood soaked in the blood of the sacrificial bosk, slain to open the thing; these chips are thrown like dice, sometimes several times, and are then read by the priests; the thing-temple, in which the ring of the temple is kept, is made of wood; nearby, in a grove, hung from poles, were bodies of six verr; in past days, it is my understanding, there might have been decided, however, a generation ago, by one of the rare meetings of the high council of rune-priests, attended by the high rune-priests of each district, that thralls should no longer be sacrificed; this was not defended, however, on grounds of the advance of civilization, or such, but rather on the grounds that thralls, like urts and tiny six-toed tharlarion, were not objects worthy of sacrifice; there had been a famine and many thralls had been sacrificed; in spite of this the famine had not abated for more than four growing seasons; this period, too, incidentally, was noted for the large number of raids to the south, often involving entire fleets from Torvaldsland; it had been further speculated that the gods had no need of thralls, or, if they did, they might supply this need themselves, or make this need known through suitable signs; no signs, however, luckily for thralls, were forthcoming; this was taken as a vindication of the judgment of the high council of rune-priests; after the council, the status of rune-priests had risen in Torvaldsland; this may also have had something to do with the fact that the famine, finally, after four seasons, abated;
It stood on the small hill, sloping above the assembly field. This hill was set with stones, rather in the manner of terraces. On these stones, set in semicircular lines, like terraces, stood high men and minor jarls, and rune-priests, and the guard of Svein Blue Tooth.
In the crowd, too, in their white robes, were rune-priests.
The great ring of the temple of Thor, stained in the blood of the sacrificial ox, was brought. It was held in the hands of the high rune-priest of the thing. Svein Blue Tooth grasped it in both hands. "I swear upon you the peace of the thing," said he, "and I make this oath of peace, for the time of the thing, mine own as well."
"Your oath! Your oath!" had cried the horrified, startled rune-priests.
The high rune-priest of the thing interposed himself between the violent Blue Tooth and the Forkbeard, who was, innocently, regarding cloud formations.
The rune-priest held up the heavy, golden ring of Thor, the temple ring itself, stained in the blood of the sacrificial ox. "On this ring you have sworn!" he cried.
Meanwhile the debate at the back of the dais went on. The issues seemed reasonably clear, though I could catch only snatches of what was said; they concerned the pleasures of boiling the Forkbeard and his retinue alive as opposed to the dangerous precedent which might be set if the peace of the thing was sundered, and the loss of credit which might accrue to Svein Blue Tooth if he reneged on his pledged oaths, deep oaths publicly and voluntarily given. There were also considerations to the effect that the rune-priests would be distressed if the oaths were broken, and that the gods, too, might not look lightly upon such a violation of faith, and might, too, more seriously, evidence their displeasure by such tokens as blights, plagues, hurricanes and famines. Against these considerations it was argued that not even the gods themselves could blame Svein Blue Tooth, under these circumstances, for not honoring a piddling oath, extracted under false pretenses; one bold fellow even went so far as to insist that, under these special circumstances, it was a solemn obligation incumbent on the Blue Tooth to renounce his oath and commit the Forkbeard and his followers, with the exception of slaves, who would be confiscated, to the oil pots. Fortunately, in the midst of his eloquence, this fellow sneezed, which omen at once, decisively, wiped away the weightiness of his point.
At last the Blue Tooth turned to face the Forkbeard. Svein's face was red with rage.
The high rune-priest lifted the sacred temple ring.
"The peace of the thing," said the Blue Tooth, "and the peace of my house, for the time of the thing, is upon you. This I have sworn. This I uphold."
There was much cheering. The Forkbeard beamed. "I knew it would be so, my Jarl," he said. The high rune-priest lowered the temple ring.
Many of the columns carved, with painted surfaces, on the walls, reminded me of rune stones. These stones, incidentally, are normally quite colorful, and can often be seen at great distances. Each year their paint is freshened, commonly on the vigil of the vernal equinox, which, in the north, as commonly in the south marks the new year. Religious rune stones are repainted by rune-priests on the vigil of the feast-season of Odin, which on Gor, takes place in the fall. If the stones were not tended either by farmers on whose lands they lie, or by villagers in whose locales they lie, or by rune-priests, in a few years, the paint would be gone, leaving only the plain stone. The most famous rune stone in the north is that on Einar's skerry, which marks the northland's southern border.
"Can you not read these runes?" I asked Ivar, again.
"I am not a rune-priest," he said.
I went to Torvaldsland in the Rune-Year 1,006. Years, in the chronology of Torvaldsland, are counted from the time of Thor's gift of the stream of Torvald to Torvald, the legendary founder and hero of the northern fatherlands. The calendars are kept by Rune-Priests.