Isa. Ice. It is a representation of stillness and turning inwards. It is when we set our emotions and problems aside for another time, when we are grounded and better able to deal with them. Isa tells us to just stop, let things be as they are and focus on keeping our energy still. This is the time to pause and reflect, not act.
Isa is a representation of stillness and turning inwards
Isa is a rune that is somewhat simple to explain, but as always there is a greater depth of understanding that one discovers the more time spent working with any rune. It is essentially a hermitage, a closing off from the world to seek inner peace and wisdom. It is greatly linked with meditation and provides a way to focus or still the ego so one can take in more of what is surrounding them.
I personally find this rune comes often in emotionally turbulent times. It’s not always a warning, it is usually just good advice. Taking a moment to find inner peace can be useful in both ups and downs. For example, I’ve found this rune to sometimes mean that I need to not be too excited about something because there might come disappointment later, or the reverse where I need to not be upset because if I just wait a bit there will be good things after whatever the event is.
I find the “I” shape of the rune to be very useful in understanding its vibration. It is sort of like a zipper, a closing off or sealing of something. I often draw a line over my body from chin down to act out that sort of zipping or closing action when using this rune.
The image of Isa is that of an icicle. It represents the cold, still iciness of winter, when everything is frozen and calm. It is peaceful and beautiful, rather than rash and hard, but there is still a coldness about it. It can be seen as positive or negative, but the truth is that it is neither, it just is. The ice also links back to the icy realm of Niflheim, and is thus part of the primordial flow from which all life is created.
Isa is the last of the three Norn runes, and represents Skuldi or the future. Skuld is known as “debt” or consequences, coming after the choice we make in Nauthiz. The future is often chaotic and messy, and will be full of ups and downs. When one is looking ahead to their fate, they must be open and still and most of all, able to set aside their ego and listen to the bigger picture being told. One must also think of the future to be able to set aside things and find stillness in the moment, they must know that the spring will once again melt the snow and the time for activity will come again. This is similar to how jays stash food for winter, or how bears go into hibernation in preparation for the spring.
In the wake of Hagalaz, Isa is what finally brings us to a place where we can process what has happened. Hagalaz represented both ice and fire, and was the crisis. Nauthiz was the fire and now Isa is the ice aspect. Nauthiz was the immediate “need” response where we did the work to be safe and now, in Isa, we can reflect and learn in the aftermath. Isa asks us to take our time, be slow, be mindful, and process that which has happened so we can move forward into the future when spring has come again.
Isa has no merkstave (inverse position), representing that stillness is not good nor bad, it simply is. One could argue that the opposite of a freeze is a thaw, or the opposite of stillness is motion. But motion and warmth are aspects of other runes, such as Raidho, which can be applied to Isa to soften it. The lack of an inverse of Isa, however, makes its meaning very clear and without ambiguity.