The I Ching
For three thousand years, the I Ching (pronounced ee-ching) or Book of Changes has been used in China and the East. This ancient oracle, which deals with the relationships between individuals, society, and the Divine, is thought to have been created by Confucius. Some researchers believe it is based on a method that dates back five millennia that involved reading meaning in cracks in the shell of a tortoise.
In 1950, an English translation of the I Ching, published by Princeton University Press, introduced Westerners to this Chinese oracle. Compiled by Richard Wilhelm and Cary F. Baynes, this edition is still the most popular version of the I Ching and has sold more than a million copies.
Presented in book form, the I Ching consists of sixty-four hexagrams (patterns made up of six lines) composed of solid and broken lines. Each hexagram has a specific meaning, conveyed in symbolic language. As Carol K. Anthony explains in her book A Guide to the I Ching, “When we correctly understand the meanings of the hexagrams, they bring a sense of enlightenment and release from the tensions that come from misunderstanding the meaning of life.”
Consulting the I Ching
To consult the I Ching, most people today contemplate a question then toss three coins together six times; each coin toss corresponds to a line in a hexagram. Heads equate with solid lines, tails with broken lines. When a toss results in three heads or three tails, you have what's called a “changing line.” Changing lines show the development of the matter at hand.
After completing the six coin tosses to form a hexagram, you look up the pattern and read its meaning. If any changing lines appeared, you read additional information relating to that line. Next, you reverse only the changing lines — a broken line becomes a solid line and vice versa — and look up the meaning of the new hexagram that's evolved from the first. The combination of initial hexagram, changing lines, and second hexagram provide insight into the current situation, advice about how to handle it, and predictions for the future.
The early Chinese used yarrow sticks to determine which hexagrams answered their questions. Some of the new I Ching kits use cards, marbles, or other methods to produce an answer. Barbara Walker suggests that you can turn an ordinary chessboard into a tool for querying the I Ching. Label each of the sixty-four squares with a particular hexagram, then toss a die onto the board. Whichever square the die lands on is your answer.
“Like many other systems of divination, the I Ching was founded on the theory that random mixing of the system's units would imitate the constant mixing of the elements in the cosmos, to bring the incomprehensible future and the secret plans of the gods into human understanding.”
— Barbara G. Walker, The I Ching of the Goddess
Other Magickal Ways to Use the I Ching
Hexagrams may be included in talismans, amulets, or other spells. Examine the sixty-four hexagrams to determine which one best relates to your intention, then draw it on a piece of paper and place it in a charm bag with other ingredients. If you prefer, lay a hexagram such as Peace or Joy face up on a windowsill, then set a glass of spring water on the pattern. Leave it overnight in the moonlight. In the morning, drink the water that has been imprinted with the hexagram's vibration to incorporate its energy into yourself.
You can also display the image in a spot where you'll see it often; each time you look at it your intention is impressed on your subconscious. If you know feng shui, put a drawing of the hexagram you've chosen in the appropriate gua in your home. For example, if you'd like to increase the joy in a primary partnership, draw hexagram fifty-eight (Tui) on a piece of paper and place it in your home's relationship gua. By combining these two magickal systems — feng shui and the I Ching — you can create some very powerful spells.