Isa – Rune Meaning

“Ice only appears to stop a river’s flow.”

Isa – “Iss-ah” – Literally: “Ice” – Esoteric: Stasis, Stillness

Rune of concentration of things in a static or frozen state. Rune of stillness and the Ego-Self.

mental faculties, focus, ego, self-image/self-identity

stillness, contraction, stasis

Mundane: cold, self-preservation, harsh reality

Divinations: Concentrated self, ego-consciousness, self-control, unity of being; or egomania, dullness, blindness, dissipation, immobility, self-centeredness, lack of change, psychopathy.


Development of concentration, will and focus
Halting of unwanted dynamic forces as an act of self-defense (ard against demonic influences)
Basic ego integration within a balanced multiversal system
Power of control and constraint over other wights (entities), emotional outbursts
Focus of the will into single-minded action

My Notes:

Ice is beautiful and treacherous. It lulls the traveler to sleep with its peace and serenity. Nice locks life under its surface and keeps it motionless. However, there is little else as powerful as the slow moving glacier, which can tear apart even the bedrock as it inches forward. Although ice generally shows itself as it is, with little glamor, there is little so treacherous as a weak spot in the ice that will swallow the unwary with surprising swiftness, and soon enough leave hardly a trace. The hidden part of an iceberg, which represents 90% of its bulk, can remain hidden and gut a ship with little mercy. This is how the ancients saw ice: inimical, even hostile to life. Therefore this third rune of the second aett is yet another rune that represents an aspect of the harshness of reality.

In the most elementary dynamic, Isa is a building block of the physical world, slowing down fire energy and solidifying it.

Isa is a rune of control.  As your ego-self grows in strength through spiritual thinking and training, this construct matures into the individualized YOU (or the ‘I’).

There is a dark side to this enhancement of ego as you can see by the dark side of Isa. When not kept under control, the ego-self can take a path into ego-trips of self-aggrandizement, superficial desire and fall for the glitter of false trappings instead of real spiritual substance. Those who claim to know with too much certainty: beware!

Isa will control and quiet emotional distress, but be wary! It will not eliminate any persistent root cause of unpleasant circumstance. But it can help in extending stillness into your aura. Isa is particularly useful in attaining stillness of presence.

26 thoughts on “Isa – Rune Meaning”

  1. This is discourse of a very high level. If I may intrude with a question related to the more ordinary. I read of a typical New Agey kind of “Freeze Spell” to bind so to speak a tormentor. It was mentioned that the rune ISA added to that spell might increase its efficacy. Is there any foundation to such a claim to your knowledge Tyriel ?
    Thanking you in advance for your courtesy.

    1. In terms of “magic’ like that, I need to be sure what your goal is before giving any advice. New Agey kind of “Freeze Spell” isn’t very clear. My advice must be more general: use the runes to focus, in your mind, a vivid and clear goal, an end result, for your activity. Don’t expect something from nothing though. Isa is not an action in and of itself, but you might discover actions and words that help you toward your end by focusing on a well-known rune — but only if you know that end clearly and well in advance. But this is knowledge common to success psychology.

    1. The briefest and most accurate source I can point you toward is wikipedia, where you’ll also find the source documents: Bifröst.

      Bifrost appears to be “The Way” between Midgard and Asgard, or Earth and Heaven. But ‘High’, the god in Gylfaginning says it is the common rainbow.

      My interpretation of bifrost is that it is the fleeting ‘moment’ where heaven and earth intersect.

  2. I find that since 1984, the year I discovered runes, (or they discovered me) Isa has never been particularly good. An easy way not to over analyze Isa is the mantra ice is ice. The mind that took up the runes, screaming, described Isa pretty simply. And it is that simplicity which is over analized in this day and age.Isa in a divinatory reading is usually pretty cut and dried. Divinatory use of the Elder Futhark is much simpler than I think most modern day runesters realize. The Havamal is pretty much a guidebook as to the context of the runes. As is often the case, context can be everything.

  3. forgive me if this is covered elsewhere, I know I have read it will be in the book, but what would be the murk-stave of Isa; I know it depends on what was asked obviously, but I must admit that when it comes to murk-stave readings I cant seem to find much, and what I have found seems contradictory (for all the runes really)

    1. I have some good news and some bad news. Bad news first? Murk-staves will not be fully covered in the book — although each are suggested, in every rune description. The good news: “The Murk-Staves” will be the title of my second book. I wanted to make certain that Murk-Staves had their own special focus, something which to my knowledge has not been attempted by other authors.

      Isa as you can see can’t be drawn upside-down. Runes like this often come as ‘double edges swords’. In that there is little that is overtly positive or negative about them. Many people interpret them as ‘neutral’. However, each rune can be balanced, or imbalanced. The Murk-Stave of Isa might suggest hyper-focus to the point of skewing one’s perception of reality — to disastrous effects: like forgetting that there’s a lake underneath that ice! It can also indicate an imbalance toward self-centeredness… ego-tripping, or inability to think past oneself. We still use the symbol Isa constantly in reference to ourselves, in English. ‘I’ am one of the most important things to ‘myself’. But can we truly escape this, and remain ourselves? Food for thought, Jason.

      1. ahh makes sense- I might have been mistaken, I had heard that murk-stave was a rune that was face down? Or is it a rune that is face up and upside down? I suppose it would also depend on how the runes are cast and from what materials. Mine are all carved in slate and soapstone and I draw them from a bag then place them before me- some authors have suggested that I should ignore facedown runes and others have said they mean something different. I get the feeling that how and what will differ from one person to the next, and that as I use the set more often it will make more sense to me on what means what, but I like to get as much information as possible on any subject :)


  4. Hi I am studying runes for some months now and I have fallen in love with them.
    This rune speaks to me. I believe it has changed my life. When I began to understand its meaning I always thought of a correlation with Saturn.Saturn is a symbol of a cosmic principle that although it seems negative ,depressing and restricting it brings structure to our world,just like ice is solid ,defined in shape matter made out of water .Saturn is also associated with father and authoritarian figures.So Saturn and Isa (to me ) are related to the cosmic principles that you must submit yourself to and the gifts they bestow upon you are great.

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