Reading the I Ching with a Tarot Deck
by R. T. Gault

That old tarot deck with the one or two missing cards may be useless for tarot reads but it's pretty nifty for generating an I Ching reading. All that needs to be complete in the tarot deck is one full suit (all 14 cards), 10 of another, 6 of another and 2 of another. I usually use 14 Pentacles, 10 Swords, 6 Wands, and 2 Cups. This will give you an I Ching reading as accurate as the ancient Chinese method of using 49 yarrow stalks.

The original yarrow straw method of divination for the I Ching was based on 16th ratios. The ancient Taoists believed that there was more Yin in the universe than there was Yang, and more static non-movement than change or movement. The original proportions in the yarrow stock method was 1/16 Yin changing; 3/16 Yang changing; 5/16 Yang static; 7/16 Yin static.

Any proportion of these ratios will do. Schoenholtz (see below) suggests 16 balls, in four colors, drawn from a box or bag. My tarot deck method simply doubles the quantities to 32nd ratios. The suits of the deck also nicely correspond to the ancient concepts of Yin and Yang, but the whole operation will work just as well as long as the proportions are the same.

2 Cups = Yin changing (- -) 6 Wands = Yang changing (---) 10 Swords = Yang static (---) 14 Pentacles = Yin static (- -)

These 32 cards are sorted out and made into a small pack where they can be shuffled and mixed with ease. To generate the 6 lines, the subject simply picks one card, which is noted, then replaces it to the pack of 32, and repeats the operation 5 more times.

Example (I Ching hexagrams are built from the bottom up):

6th line: Pentacles. Yin static. --- --- 5th line: Wands. Yang moving. >---------- 4th line: Wands. Yang moving. >---------- 3rd line: Swords. Yang Static. ---------- 2nd line: Cups. Yin moving. >--- --- 1st line: Cups. Yin moving. >--- ---

This turns out to be Hexagram 31, Hsien, "Influences" or "Wooing" (better meaning: "Mutual Attraction"): Lake (Tui) above, Mountain (Ken) below.

--- --- >--------- Tui, "Lake," the Joyous. >--------- --------- >--- --- Ken, "the Mountain," Keeping Still (unmovable). >--- ---

The divinatory meaning of this hexagram is generally: "Mutual attraction. Firm correctness will lead to success. There is advantage in marrying a young girl. There will be good fortune" (Douglas).

This is a surprisingly busy hexagram because it is full of moving lines denoting change (which in our method should be a fairly rare event). Each of the moving lines has a further meaning:

It's easy to see why a busy hexagram with lots of change in it is not always a good thing. Our subject already has a whole pile of advise -- some of it in conflict with itself.

The moving lines change to their opposite (Yang to Yin, and Yin to Yang), to form a new trigram. This turns out to be Hexagram 46, Sheng, "Pushing Upward" (or "Ascending"): Earth (K'un) above, Wind below.:

--- --- --- --- K'un, "Earth", the Receptive (or responsive). --- --- --------- --------- Sun, "Wind" (& "Wood"), the Gentle. --- ---

The divinatory meaning of this hexagram is : "Ascending. Great progress and success. He need suffer no anxiety when seeking an interview with the great man. Proceeding towards the south will be fortunate" (Douglas). In Chinese symbolism, south is the place of warmth and joyful activity.

The subject will probably be relieved to know that there is no further judgements forthcoming from the I Ching on this matter!

Knowing and using the I Ching can be useful to a tarot reader, because the two divination systems have much in common, even though from two different cultures.

Occasionally a tarot reading subject is not satisfied with the read or wants a clarification. The usual procedure is to do a second read using the final outcome card of first read as the "significator" card. Almost everyone who has read tarot regularly will attest that this second clarification read is almost always a mistake. For some reason, the tarot deck does not like to be questioned, or to give out second opinions (then again, maybe it's the reader who getting fatigued and short).

I found that if a clarification was called for, it was often useful to turn to the I Ching instead. Use of a different method of divination also offers a fresh new way of looking at a problem. The fact that I had the tarot deck already in hand, meant that this method could be used without a lot of hunting around for three coins (or 49 yarrow stalks, god forbid!).

I still have no idea why the I Ching answered that I should marry the young girl, when my question concerned a new tarot class I was teaching! Divination is like that sometimes!