Isa, ice. This is a very beautiful rune, exceedingly strong but undoubtedly with an element of danger. Ice has an important role to play in purifying the earth, eradicating disease and pests that have spread during the warm summer and wet autumn. Isa is a pitiless rune and that which is weak will perish at its touch – making way for that which is strong and enduring. Perhaps ‘enduring’ is the wrong expression; Isa strives for stability, for stasis and an end to change. Herein lies the danger of Isa, for its influence can bring rigidity, intolerance, confirmity and restriction – if it is not tempered by other runes.
Isa is used to promote strength, stability and endurance. It is an excellent rune to work with to strengthen the soul complex, working on the ‘ego’ to mesh the different aspects of the soul and strengthen the individual personality.
Traditional meaning: Ice
Gods: Skadi, Verdhandi, Rind
Elements: Unsurprisingly the northern tradition element of ice is the element most closely associated with Isa. The element of Earth is also closely associated with Isa, the Goddess Rind is the personification of the frozen earth, still, hard and implacable.
Half month: November 28th- December 13th
Plants: Alder, henbane
Body: Base chakra, paralysis, loss of sensation
Aroma: Lavendar, yarrow
Object of power: Skis, sled
One of my favourite rune exercises involves ‘Is’, the counterpart of Isa in the Armenan Futhark. The exercise was developed by Edred Thorsson from the work of Guido von List and can be found in full in Thorsson’s Rune Might . It is important to remember that the different runes in different futharks are not completely the same as each other. ‘Is’ is much more about stability and core identity than it is about ice. I found the exercise a little bit dated and have adapted it for my own purposes – the below represents a very short introduction to it:
- Stand facing North with your feet slightly apart, legs relaxed and the palms of your hands facing forwards. Focus on your breathing for a while and relax.
- Allow your awareness to spread outwards and ,as it does so, in your mind say ‘I am’, slowly and deliberately as your awareness expands. Move your awareness ever outwards from your local vicinity. Think about the people around you going about their business, think about the animals and the plants, the trees, buildings, electrical systems, radio waves, water pipes and everything else that makes up the world of man. Expand your awareness beyond the town or countryside around you, out further to the land beyond, to the edges of your country, your continent, over the sea, to the continents beyond.
- As your awareness expands keep a a steady but fairly slow rhythmn of saying ‘I am’ – affirming your existence, your right to be present and co-exist with all other things. As you say ‘I am’, greet the world around you, acknowledging it.
- Now, move your awareness downwards, down into the earth beneath you. Greet the soil and the land spirits, the rocks and subterranean streams, the outer crust of the earth, the glowing mantle, the inner core. Continue to state ‘I am’ as you acknowledge the earth. Commune with the earth, yet know that you are separate, an individual being who exists and is seen and acknowledged by the earth and its creatures.
- Move your awareness back up through the earth, up through the lava, the rocks and soil. Feel your awareness return to the every day world around you, feel your own body and let your awareness continue to rise, up and up, rising higher and higher towards the sky. Feel the expanse of sky growing around you, see the clouds buffeted by the winds and greet the birds who circle through its vast expanse. See the azure blue of the sky deepen to indigo as you move out into space. Continue to soar upwards, up towards the moon and beyond to the circling planets of our solar system and the bright sun at the centre. Still you travel, seeing the stars circling about you in their slow and perfect dance. As you expand upwards keep saying, firmly and calmly ‘I am’ until you feel yourself at the still centre of the cosmos. Greet the stars and feel them acknowledge you.
- Move your awareness down once more, back down through the starlit tapestry of space, back down to our own solar system. Sink back down towards the earth, towards the blue sky of our planet, past the clouds and the airy realm of the birds. Descend down to the land beneath, back down to your body and then through it, into the earth. Your awareness travels downards still, back through the soil and rocks once more to the molten core of the earth and deeper into the source of all creation. Visualise this source as golden light, healing and powerful, continuously pouring life and energy out into the universe. Allow yourself to be strengthened by this energy source as you continue you slow steady rhythm: ‘I am’.
- Move your awareness up, up through the golden energy, through the core of the earth, up through lava and rock, through the soil and the place where you stand in the every day world, up through your body into the sky, up through the clouds and out into the starlit sky, reach ever upwards and see above you a silver white light, pure and radiant, the source of spirit. Feel its light bathe you and renew you, filling you with the energy of pure spirit. Continue the rhythm: ‘I am, I am, I am.’
- Now slowly let your awareness descend once more down from the light of spirit, down through the wheeling stars of the cosmos, past sun, planets, moon; through the atmosphere of the earth, down through the sky to the land where you stand, to your place in the world, to your own body. Feel yourself centred and completely present within your body, your feet planted upon the floor, hands facing the North, breath calm and quiet.
- Say out loud ‘I am, I am, I am.’
The purpose of the exercise is to strengthen the ‘self’, creating balance, atunement with the world around you, acceptance of your own being and confidence. Sometimes it is easier to visualise one of the ‘realms’ you travel through than another – perhaps indicating what you need to work on. Once you are confident you can try intoning ‘eeeee’ rather than saying ‘I am’ in your mind. You don’t have to be loud but you do have to be confident when you do it; so make sure you have some privacy if you are shy or your quavering ‘eeeeeee’ will undermine the intent of the exercise.
Discover Isa for yourself: Journeys with the Elder Futhark – The Second Aett
Isa is the third rune in the Second Aett (second family) of the Elder Futhark. Visit the Resources page to download your free Journeys with the Elder Futhark – The Second Aett includes the Isa journey.
Magin’s articles featuring Isa
What other practitioners say
Isa – my favourite track from Kate Waterfield’s album Runa Megin.