A Rune Awakening: Elder Futhark – Isa

Isa – Poems

Isa (EE-sa, not Eye-sa), is pretty close to the modern word for Ice – for which the rune stands. Unlike other cold runes this one isn’t so much doom and gloom or terrible storms.

It’s a bit more akin to stasis, serenity, the kind of quiet calm and glistening softness of snow or a still-frozen river.

Ice be overcold, unmeasurably slippery;
Glisteneth clear as glass, to gems likest;
A floor by frost wrought, fair to be seen.

Ice we call the broad bridge;
The blind man must be led.

Ice is bark of rivers
And roof of the waves
And destruction for doomed men.

As usual the Norwegian and Icelandic poems paint a harsher picture of Isa than the Anglo-Saxon poem. You can get a good idea of the rune itself however, if you think of it as being tri-faceted. The Anglo-Saxon poem is from the point of view of someone warm and sheltered, enjoying the view of fresh fallen snow and glistening icicles while sipping warm soup.

The Norwegian poem is more nomadic, as the tribe must cross great frozen rivers (like a frozen bridge), and unlike the snow, those among the tribe who struggle will need assistance because walking on ice sucks even when everyone has plenty of warm furs and padding.

The Icelandic poem is more like someone who would rather be swimming than walking along rough bark-like frozen rivers. This view of ice is restrictive, limiting – and entombing when you consider the doomed men.

Isa – Reading

Ice, and thus Isa, has many different forms in society today. It can be the quiet serenity of stasis – nothing’s moving so you can take your time and sort things. It can be the frustration of being frozen in place – nothing’s moving but you Really Want to Move and Do The Thing. It can be the fear of being left behind – everything else is moving but you’re rather stuck.

Isa can be the cold, brittle, and unsettling anger the rankles beneath the surface and then cracks when we least expect it. Sending us, and anyone nearby down into the shocking cold waters below. In a way it’s more dangerous than the fiery anger that you can see coming.

Isa can also be a means and a call to focus. That stillness, serenity, lack of motion is a good time to just stop. Get your feet back under you before you continue forward. Take a calming breath and cool a heated situation (Hey I said fiery anger was less dangerous, I never said you want to let it burn everything down around you).

In Relation To…

Isa would make a rune like Hagalaz colder and more bitter. It would make a rune about growth and movement – like Fehu and Raidho – be less so. The growth stunted, the momentum slowed or skewed by the icy cold.

The verve and action Thurisaz would be lessened – or considering Thor’s endless battle with the Ice Giants it might cause it to be even more determined to break past the cold stasis of Isa.

Isa wants to stay. To preserve. To focus. It is not a rune of action, but there are times when inaction is a good course, so don’t assume Isa to be a portent of bad news until you look at how it sits within the reading.

On its own it’s a good rune for focusing and could be useful in Meditation and Trance if you find your mind wandering.

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