The Peorth Rune is a very complex rune with many meanings at different levels. I am going to look here at some of the interpretations of the runes, some of my own and some from others who also study the runes. All runes have many meanings and no sole meaning can be given since they work at very different levels, though there is an underlying link between the meanings - as we shall see.
Rune of Wyrd - This is perhaps the most common interpretation of the rune, though the modern 'blank rune' (which has no place in the rune-rows at all) sometimes replaces this one. I have mentioned before how this rune could hide a play-on-words with the Old English weorth which would link it to the concept of Wyrd through the meaning 'to become'. The rune-name could well be linked to Perchta, a Germanic Goddess, just as the Beorc-Rune could be linked to Berchta and both rune-staves are subtly linked as will become clear later.
Birth-Rune - This idea seems to have been first suggested by Thorolf Wardle in a small booklet called Rune Lore which was published many years ago. In this he gives the usual translation of the Old English Rune Poem on this rune -
'Peorth is always play and laughter to the proud ones where warriors sit in the beerhall blithely together.'
Thorolf Wardle suggests this is a 'mistaken reading' and that the term wigan ('warrior') should actually be wifan ('wives'), and beorsele (beer-hall) should be beorthsele (birth-hall). Thus we have -
'Peorth is always play and laughter to the proud ones where wives sit in the birth-hall blithely together.'
Wardle thus suggests that the rune is linked to birth and this is suggested by the shape of the Beorc-Rune which is a glyph of a pregnant mother. The Beorc-Rune is thus an 'opened-up' Beorc-Rune which suggests birth. I will return to this theme later. The rune-stave itself looks like the posture of a woman giving birth.
On the Volkish Runology Blog Runebinder suggests that this is a glyph of a foetus, which of course it is - the shape itself suggests this. This fits with Wardle's suggestion that it is a birth-rune, although it adds another dimension to this since the foetus is a being that is forming and is born when fully formed.
On this point we should also consider the symbolism since 'birth' - and more especially the foetus in the womb - is 'coming into being'. Indeed, this suggests that this rune is not just the foetus, but also the womb in which the foetus lies - especially symbolic of the time of birth when the womb 'opens'. This rune is the Beorc-Rune opened up in the act of 'birth'.
The Dice-Cup - This is another meaning given to this rune and I am sure that this is also a valid meaning. Here I have to disagree with Thorolf Wardle in that the words of the rune-poem are a 'mistaken reading' for in my own opinion they are a play-on-words suggesting that both meanings are right. The reason that this rune suggests 'play and laughter' is because it refers to a board-game (Taefl) being played by the warriors in the beer-hall, and that the rune-stave is that of a Dice-Cup which was used for the game (though today the game is played without dice).
This is the shape that the dice-cup would have taken and which would have contained the dice to play the game. But it would seem that the stave not only represented the dice-cup but also the position taken up by those playing the board-game.
In the above we see two players with the Taefl-Board, each one 'sitting' (though there appear to be no actual seats) in the position of the Peorth-Rune. The poses seem clear, but this argument is given more weight when we look at the Horns of Gallehus -
There are eight figures shown on this horn in the runic-posture of the Peorth-Rune and if we look carefully at the figures we can see a link to the board-game and to the posture used for playing this board-game -
- The top row shows three figures, two facing each other and one behind the figure to the right, a figure which is dog-headed.
- On the second row we have the same three figures, but this time between the two who face each other there lies a board (presumably a board-game), and the dog-headed figure has a 'lead' held by the figure furthest to the right.
- On the far right of the second row are two figures facing to the left with a serpent between them. The figure on the right is facing another serpent.
- On the third row from the bottom we have two men holding a board (-game) and beneath this board is yet another dog-headed figure holding the Peorth-Rune posture again.
- On the bottom row are what appears to be two boards and two dice, one above the other and both with three dots.
- It should be noted that the rune-posture is that of sitting (which may also suggest a link to 'sitting out' (utiseti).
Anyone who has read the brilliant work of Katherine Kershaw on Odin and the Germanic Mannerbunde will see the connection that I am making here (which she does not make in the book). She mentions an ancient board-game played with dice and which the 'loser' was the 'dog' - it seems clear that the symbolism on the horn is that of a dog since it has a 'lead' and is thus 'tamed'. The game was linked to Rudra and to the Dark Goddess Kali, which shows how far we are going back. Kershaw also links this to Odin and the loss of his 'eye' - the dice having 'eyes' we must remember.
We have to remember that such dice-games were not originally played for 'fun' as is the case today, but represented a cosmic battle between the Gods and the Joten which has been played out eternally. And we should note here that although the Taefl game is not played with dice - which makes it a game of logic and skill - originally it would have used dice - which would have made it a game of 'luck' and 'chance'.
Although it is not obvious from what I have said above, there is here a suggestion of a link both to wyrd and to birth since the game of chance means that it is played as a means of seeing what could come into being which connects to both wyrd and birth both of which are linked to something coming into being. Basically, all of the above meanings are thus interconnected in a very deep and meaningful way, and the basic theme is that of coming into being or manifestation.
What we have seen of the physical meanings of this rune now indicates a much deeper and more mystical meaning, that of anything that is coming into being or is coming into manifestation. We move to the next idea -
The Swan-Ship of At-al-land - Here again the rune-stave must be turned on its 'back' in order to see the meaning I am putting here -
I have shown this Mayan Stela before and it refers to the 'White Gods of the Amercas' and here to a red-bearded white god holding two 'hammers' - suggesting the Thunder-God, Thunor or Thor. I am not going to go deeply into this since I have been through this many times before, but this is the Swan-Ship on the Waters of Chaos which refers to the end of a world-age. It would seem that after the sinking of At-al-land in the north-west the inhabitants ('Giants of Renown') escaped and wandered into various other lands, taking with them a highly advanced knowledge of science and the stars, and thus giving this knowledge to the natives of the lands they set their new home in.
That this was represented by the Swan-Ship is made clearer in many glyphs from Northern Europe where the ends are swan-headed and the ship contains a sun-wheel or a 'seed' (of rebirth). But on the above we can see serpents on the ship, which cam also be found on the horn too, together with the figures in the rune-posture.
Again, we have here another symbolism connected to that which is coming into being or coming into manifestation since the boat carries the 'seeds of rebirth' of a new world-age and new Cosmic Cycle. This is the symbolic meaning of 'Noah's Ark' which is not to be taken literally but as symbolic of the 'seeds' of new life being protected from the great flood, these seeds being the new life of the coming world-age. So the meanings of wyrd, birth, board-game (of chance) and Swan-Ship are all interconnected at a deep level, all connected to the idea of birth, rebirth and resurrection, but not concerned with just the physical because this works on all levels.
Here we have an example of the use of the rune which has a vital and meaningful purpose in its symbolism. The Swan-Ship carries the Spirit 88 (twin Wyn-Runes back to back, crossed by four lines each, this being symbolic of 'matter' and thus 'manifestation'). The Ing-Rune at the bottom represents the Morning Star of the Wanir inside which is the Spirit 88 symbolised by twin Wyn-Runes but with three staves symbolising 'spirit'. The 'generator' is the Irminsul shown here as an ur-glyphic Irminsul of three arms (Woden-Will-Weoh).
Before I leave this subject I would like to look at the concept of Wyrd and its connection to the Wyrd Sisters or Norns. The Norns are usually seen to represent the past-present-future but this is better put by Garman Lord in The Way of the Heathen -
Wyrd (Urd) - 'That which is Woven'.
Weorthende (Verdandi) - 'That which is Becoming'.
Scyld (Skuld) - 'That which Shall Be'.
This gives a far better understanding of the role of the Norns or Wyrd Sisters (Waelcyrge) but I would comment that rather than 'That which Shall Be' we use the term 'That which Should Be' since the former suggests some form of predestination, and the name 'Skuld' suggests 'should' too. Looking at it this way the future is 'set down' but not predestined as such, since it can be changed by those powerful enough to do so.
We should keep this in mind when using the runes since these too could be seen to be connected to the ideas above -
- The 'weaving' of a 'rune-spell' using the runes sets down the purpose of the magical rite.
- The runes are 'charged' in order to fulfil the idea of their 'Becoming' or 'Coming into Being'.
- The purpose of the rune-spell would be the object of the magical rite, thus 'That which Should Be'. Again, this would be down to the rite being done rightly, and would thus be some change that should happen but which may not definitely come about (especially in the way intended).
1. Thorolf Wardle mentions an Old High German word gipurt meaning 'birth' which is cognate to the Old Saxon term giburian which means 'to befall', 'to happen'. and which is linked to the English bairn meaning 'child'.
2. The Old English rendering of the rune-poem for Peorth is thus -
'Peorth byth symble plega and hlehter, thaer wigan sittath on beorsele blithe aetsomme'.
We should note that the original version has the term symble in it which does suggest the beer-hall or mead-hall where this rite took place. Since this rite was designed to increase the luck of the tribe what I have said about luck being connected to the dice-cup is further underlined. The way the line is written would suggest not to discount it altogether as a 'mistaken reading' since the mention of Symble suggests the mead-hall or beer-hall. But we could go even further with this since it makes the idea of the Symble even more of an important rite and not just a 'social drink' or 'offering' - it is designed to weave the wyrd of the group/tribe. In this case the Peorth-Rune could be used as part of this rite, used in its full meanings as put together here.
3. In regard to the idea that peorth could also be rendered weorth - which is not out of the question when we consider the above ideas - the term weorth stems from an IE Root * war- which can also be rendered * wal- with the following meanings -
- To speak, inform.
- To choose, to like, to will, to believe.
- To wind, to roll, to well up (as a spring).
- To cover, to surround.
- To be hot, to boil.
- To drag, to tear, to pluck, to wound.
The Root * war- gives us our 'wyrd', 'worth' and the Old English weorthan meaning 'to become', 'to be', 'to befall'. This is why the term waelcyrge could have been used in connection with the Wyrd Sisters. The idea of 'to choose' is also inherent in this root, as can be seen above; the Valkyries are the 'Choosers of the Slain'.
4. Since the rune is symbolic of the Swan-Ship it is thus linked to the Germanic Graal-Hero, Lohengrin, who appears (and disappears) in a Swan-Ship. He is an avatar or chakravartin which seems clear from his story. Indeed, it is most likely that this Swan-Knight was lifted from the original tale of Scyld Scefing or Scef since he is the shipborne divine child who first appeared on the shores of Scandi in the north.
5. It is clear that since our heathen forebears did blot or 'offering' before a battle they did not believe that the outcome of the battle was already preordained. They must have believed that they could influence the result through strengthening their luck by doing blot. This is also clear when using the runes, otherwise it would be of no use doing so anyway; their use is to create a change through the will of the rune-master. It should thus be noted that what we care to call 'prophecy' is not something that will definitely happen but something that could happen.