Reprinted from "Rainbow Wind" Magazine
Last year I wrote the Hagalaz article while snowed in. Later in the year I somehow managed to get the Nauthiz article written. (Library School is going well, got 3 A's and a B, should be finished by the end of 99, and in the spirit of Wunjo, a moderate "hurray for me!") Now I'm writing the Isa article while stuck at home due to ICY roads and a bad "COLD." Had to cancel a trip to Tennessee to see my relatives. Could be worse. There's no good time to be sick, but I'm still on break from school and off work for the trip, so I guess this is the least bad time to be both literally and figuratively "under the weather." According to my good friends Thorr and Audrey Sheil, Isa is occasionally a short-lived opportunity to be seized at once, and I guess the opportunity for me is to actually LET myself be sick (when I taught, out of sheer stubborness, I was known to teach with a fever of 103 back when my allergies were worse than they are now and consequently my sinuses were getting infected a lot), lay low and stay in for a few days, and hopefully get some long-postponed tasks done. Like this article, and the Jera one, for instance. Then I'll be over half done with this series. 12 of the 24 runes plus the introductory article down, 12 more runes to go.
When I started this series, I thought there'd be some follow-up articles after Othala (the last rune, although some transpose Othala and Dagaz and that seems to work; other than that the order of the Futhark is very precise), but I don't know about follow-up articles now. I think I'll provide a further reading list to go with the works cited list at the end of every rune article plus the books described in the introductory article (before Fehu). Then, it's up to you. I seek colleagues in the study of the Runic Mysteries, not students or hangers-on. Still, everyone must start somewhere. If you absorb the material that will be contained in this series when it's finished, you'll have made a fine beginning, and it will be time for you to explore the Runic Mysteries on a more intimate, personal level. By all means keep on reading, but EXPERIENCE the runes within yourself and the world around you, and you'll find yourself developing your OWN slight variations in understanding the runes. This is entirely normal and desireable, and marks the difference between a REAL Runic Wizard/ess and someone who has merely read a lot about runes!
This is the "I" rune, and in all the Germanic languages in which this rune has been recorded, its name is simply that particular tongue's word for "Ice." My research indicates that even more than is usually the case with the Runes, Isa's mysteries are revealed by the meaning of its name: ICE. While the shape of a rune seldom has a lot to do with its meaning, a good memory aid for Isa is to think of an icicle. It's shaped like the rune Isa. The meanings of this rune are brief in number compared to some other runes, but rather chilling (no surprise there): "Ice," freezing, treachery, standstill, coldness, blockage, unseen danger, and, once in a great while, opportunity. You can't trust ice, it can bring things to a standstill, block roads, even kill you. Car wreck, drowning in a frozen lake or pond after falling through the ICE, or, more creatively, stabbed to death by an icicle (ICE-SICKLE?, which is NOT the correct etymology, actually icicle comes from an Anglo-Saxon compound meaning, roughly, "a piece of ice" which is just what it is) which your assailant then puts where it will simply melt away. On the other hand, it can facilitate travel. Think of skating, sledding...not the main forms of winter transport for most of us anymore, but historically these were very important.
Ice is an unavoidable fact of life in the Northern Climes where Heathenism and the Runic Mysteries originated. While, according to the Sheils, the Four Elements can and should have their place in Norse magick, the mythology also shows a polarization between Fire and Ice. Ice is not a fifth element, but is sometimes "Water trying to act like Earth." Not the most tame and secure thing there is, huh? Ice stops action. That's its main function. Think of that frozen chicken not spoiling in your freezer. The natural process of decomposition has pretty well been stopped in its tracks. Or me, iced into my apartment writing this. Secondarily, it can help you move. Back to those ice skaters and dogsled drivers. Mush! Mush!
The suspension caused by Isa can be used to buy time, although follow-up action is often required to truly remedy a situation. Isa can stop bleeding in an emergency, until medical help can be obtained. Use a tourniquet too.
Ice is brittle. You can brittle up a situation with Isa before whacking it with Uruz and shattering it. Be careful! The Old English Rune Poem comments on ice's beauty. Think of diamonds. The Old Norse Rune Rhyme and the Old Icelandic Rune Poem, however, both point out at least indirectly that ice is dangerous too. "The blind need to be led"(or else they're in big trouble) and "Ice is a danger to 'fey' (= 'unlucky'?) men." In the Havamal, Odin has a few words to say about ice as well. Stanza 81 declares that one should not praise ice until you've crossed it. Stanza 86 warns against trusting "ice one night old." You might slip on ice and bust your butt. Painful, embarassing, but usually reparable. Or, you might fall through and drown or freeze to death. Wouldn't take long at all. Think of the two young lovers in the movie "Titanic." Ice did the Titanic in by the way. Iceberg (="ice-mountain") to be exact. Little bitty bit of the iceberg sticks up above water. Lots more below. Ice is tricky stuff.
As to mythology, the Sheils suggest looking into the Mysteries of Ullr and Skadi, as well as to those of Jotunheim and its inhabitants, and into Niflheim, to better understand Isa. They also point out that Thurisaz, Uruz, Sowilo, Raidho, and Jera can all be used, depending on the situation, to either get around problems caused by Isa or else take advantage of them. "Wit ye more, or how?" Then buy and read their book: Road to Bifrost Volume III, The Runes and Holy Signs! Check out their website at http://users.aol.com/OnkelThorr/. At the Well of Wyrd by Edred Thorsson, published by Samuel Weiser Inc. is also well worth consulting. While I disagree with most of what he has to say about Isa, the translations of the three Rune Poems that have come down to us make the book well worth having. See you real soon for the rune Jera, then must hunker down and continue turning into a Librarian. Good New Year to all!
This Rune's comment from Pam C.:
"Isa is in a traffic jam, but also in a situation where one must struggle to not say out loud what one is thinking."
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