The Road to Runes: Isa, Waiting for the Thaw
Isa means ‘ice’ and is associated with stillness, stagnation and immobility. It is the third rune in the second aett of the Elder Futhark, also known as Hagal’s aett.
Today I was pondering a frustrating work problem and decided to see what the runes had to say. My situation was that I wanted to make a change, but there was the possibility of a certain opportunity if I stayed where I was for the time being. It’s that age-old question immortalised by The Clash: should I stay, or should I go?
I drew the rune Isa, which literally means ‘Ice’. Isa is associated with stillness and stasis. Ice seems to render flowing and fluid water suddenly still and motionless. It stops things in their tracks, yet it is beautiful and alluring. This makes it all the more dangerous, as while we pause, transfixed by cold beauty, we are not moving forward and completing our journey. Of course, sometimes a moment of stillness can be refreshing and rejuvenating. But when we stay still for too long, we become stiff, useless, and even forget why we were moving forward in the first place.
This rune indicates that I am stuck. The work situation that I was worried about shows no signs of resolving itself anytime soon, and I am left with the same dilemma; to forcefully break out of the situation or allow things to take their course, no matter how slow and frustrating this may be.
Although the frustration of being stuck is my primary reaction to Isa, Isa can mean so much more than this. Just as the earth rests in winter before new growth in spring, so do we sometimes need to let ourselves rest and be still before our lives get back on track. Isa can indicate a period of gestation; a time to let things grow and progress naturally. It could actually be the worst time to change or force change, as now is the time for rest and letting things take their course.
Isa represents Niflheim, the cold and misty world of the dead. It is a place we fear to be; frozen and unmoving, with no chance of life. This is like real-world stagnation. We yearn to be ever moving forward, achieving and progressing. Isa makes us realise that sometimes, events which are outside our control can prevent us from moving forward, and that we have to accept that and not let that stagnation prevent us from being the best we can be. Continue to live our lives, as well as we can, and trust that when the ice thaws, the water will flow again. Our river will move inexorably towards the sea.
The rune seems to tell me I just need to wait, for now. However, I should keep working at my problem, checking in, being cautious and aware of new information and changes. I should not let my ego take over but remain calm and avoid giving in to frustration. If I follow my own process and stay true to myself, eventually the ice will thaw, the problem will become clearer and the solution may even become visible.
As an afterthought, I drew another rune, which was Dagaz, the rune of breakthroughs. This gave me more hope, and I’ll discuss this further in next month’s article. Don’t forget, you can tweet me @Mabherick if you want me to focus on a particular rune for this column. Until next time!
About the Author:
Mabh Savage is a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist.
She is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors and Pagan Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways.