Casting the Hexagram

It is in the method of arriving at the hexagrams that the real skill of I Ching lies. Ifpossible use:

The Yarrow Stalk Method

Take 50 Yarrow stalks and put one between the ring finger and little finger of your left hand. Don't ask why. Just do it. Then split the rest into two bundles and count off the first group in fours. What is left, you put between the ring finger and middle finger of the left hand.

Do the same with the other bundle and put the remainder between the middle finger and the index finger of the left hand. According to the book you will now have either 5 or 9 stalks sticking out from odd places in your fingers, though there is a reasonable chance that you could have anything between three and 47. The first time you do this you ignore the first stalk. So if you have 9 stalks in your hand you count that as 8 and if you have 5 you count that as 4.

This is where it starts to get complicated. If you have 4 stalks, it is regarded as a complete unit which counts as 3, but if you have 8 stalks it is a double unit which of course counts as 2. This isn't a joke. This is the proper way to do it.

Having worked this out with great difficulty the natural thing to do is to put them aside and start again. This time you are supposed to get either 8 or 4, which seems pushing the laws of coincidence just too far. They also end up as 2 or 3. If by some miracle you actually manage to do this, you are then asked to do it one more time. You add the three scores (that's the ones that came out 2 and 3) and this should give you:

a) 9 - the old yang written as o b) 8 - the young yin written as a broken line c) 7 - the young yang written as an unbroken line or d) 6 - the old yin written as x each represented by a different kind of line.

And that is how to get the first of the six lines of the hexagram.

With us so far? No? Well don't worry. Neither is anyone else, and that includes the experts. In fact the Yarrow Stalk method is one of the all time great bluffs. That is actually a simplified version. The real thing goes on in that vein for three pages and means absolutely nothing. Even renowned I Ching experts don't like to do the Yarrow Stalk method in front of another expert in case they're doing it wrong. It is thus a real must for the bluffer. As long as you carry out your own method with enough assurance, no-one will challenge you.

The Coin Method

If you want to consult the I Ching for real (for those few occasions when you are not actually bluffing) use the coin method. This involves three coins which tradition insists should be old Chinese bronze coins with a hole in the middle and an inscription on one side. Or use the first three coins you can get. (Make sure to pocket them afterwards so at least you make a profit from the reading.) Pick one side as the yin (2) and by a process of elimination the other side becomes the yang (3).

Throw the three coins in the air and count the total of yins and yangs. This tells you what kind of line you have (as above) so you have to do it six times for each hexagram. Look up the correct hexagram and your future is revealed. Unfortunately you won't have a clue what it all means, but that's just a problem you have to face.

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