Do you wish you had an ancient oracle in your pocket that could give you insightful answers about any issue you have in your life, and how to follow your true will?
The I Ching is exactly that - it's the oldest oracle in the world, and some estimates place its origin at 3,000 BC, while others place it at 1,000 BC. China arguably has the longest history of any country in existence today, and is known for its record-keeping - but even still, the details of the I Ching’s origin are shrouded in myth.
The I Ching, or Book of Changes, is an actual book, with the meanings of each of the possible trigrams described. The trigrams are a series of 6 lines which can be either solid or broken, and there are 64 possible combinations.
The trigrams for your own readings are created in one of several methods. The most traditional is by using a bundle of 50 yarrow stalks, and many readers in the East continue to use this method. The difficulty with yarrow stalks is that they are bulky and inconvenient; they don’t exactly fit in your pocket. It’s also tedious to arrange 50 sticks any time you want to consult the oracle.
However, there is an easier method that you can incorporate into a busy, real-world schedule.
Many people choose 3 coins to throw, like dice. They don’t even have to be special coins, but they can be. Even pennies work just fine - you just need coins with a distinct front and back side. Each coin combination corresponds to a number, which in turn corresponds to a solid or broken line. Throw the coins 6 times and you have your trigram! There are even artists who have created pocket-sized I Ching sets where each small stick pulled from a bag represents one line, making your divination even simpler to perform.
The sections below are adapted from the Master the I Ching course taught on Magick.me, and will answer some of the biggest questions students ask when they begin. You can learn to consult the oracle through this course, which will not only teach you how to have a better dialogue with the I Ching, but how to use it as a magickal system, and which translations of the Book of Changes are the most applicable to seekers today.
What Are I Ching Coins?
I Ching coins can be any coins you have on hand, as long as they match and have a distinct front and back side. Lots of people use quarters, since they have them in their pockets already. Pennies and other forms of currency are just fine as well, as are collectible coins if you have a preference for them. Aesthetics help some people to get more into the reading, so you’re welcome to find coins that fit your taste.
Traditionally, the I Ching uses Chinese coins, which are used both in currency and for charms for various purposes. It’s up to you if you prefer the type sold in gift shops or the kind that have purchasing power. The important part is that you can connect with the oracle in a meaningful way.
How Does I Ching Work?
The I Ching oracle is like a conversation with a hyper-intelligent being that’s embodied in the book and the coins (or yarrow sticks). To begin, clear your mind of the mundane chatter and the daily business of life. It’s beneficial to meditate before asking questions of the I Ching to ensure your issue is clear in your mind.
When you ask the I Ching a question, you can expect a discussion about life, the universe, and everything, and how it pertains to your situation. You’ll receive an answer rich with context and symbolism that can be applied to every aspect of your life as it is at the moment. Your reading will be a picture of the factors that you should pay attention to, especially if you have a desired outcome in mind.
The I Ching, when used frequently, will decondition you from the appearance of reality, and recondition you to the deeper and more subtle currents that flow through everything in this life. You will be reminded that all is not as it seems, and that you have a great many more options than you may think. The I Ching will inform you and keep you aware of what you need to know… but only if you choose to listen.
Which I Ching Book is Best?
The I Ching Book of Changes has been translated dozens of times, and each author has a different tone and perspective when it comes to interpreting the hexagrams. The Legge edition is the most common, and is the most influenced by Christian ideals. The Cleary edition is alright if it’s the only one you have available, but you’ll want to keep an eye out for a better one.
The Richard Wilhelm version is quite popular, and gives lengthy commentary on each hexagram. This version is highly recommended for both new readers and those experienced with the I Ching and other forms of divination. There are a number of editions in print, so it should be fairly easy to come by. The Wilhelm translation includes context and explanations of each hexagram to make the conversation with the oracle clear to readers and applicable to their lives.
The Eranos I Ching is a hefty volume that is closest to the original Chinese version. The interesting part about this book is that the translators used the I Ching oracle itself to advise on the translation. It’s a fascinating addition to your library, but is not advised if you’re new to the I Ching, since it doesn’t include context on the passages, and some of the symbolism isn’t explained.
There are quite a few condensed books published on the I Ching, and you will know them by how short they are. The I Ching is a large book given the depth of meaning attached to each hexagram. The small, thin books often sold in gift sets are not recommended due to their brevity and possible inaccuracy.
Can the I Ching Predict the Future?
The I Ching oracle can guide you along a path when you have cleared your mind and asked a well phrased question. It can’t exactly tell you the future, but it can tell you what elements are in play, what variables you need to be aware of, and what may happen if you continue along your chosen path. Don’t like what the book told you? Remember, it’s a conversation, and if you change what you ask, you’ll get a different answer.
The I Ching is a useful resource for understanding the currents that are moving your life forward, so it gives a holistic picture of you and everything going on in your life. It’s best to ask well-formulated questions such as, “What can I do to ensure the success of a business venture.” Simple yes or no questions don’t tend to work well, since the answers the I Ching will give you are deeper and more profound. It’s not impossible for the oracle to be insulted by such simple questions, and may return an answer that forces you to contemplate your choices.
Interestingly, it is possible to map the I Ching hexagrams to the cards of the Tarot, but it’s an artificial correlation, and the deeper meanings don’t match.
The I Ching and the Tarot are two different kinds of oracles that can work well together, since they answer different kinds of questions. The I Ching is more quantitative and logical, advising from a comprehensive view, where the Tarot is more qualitative, and connects more on an emotional level.
The I Ching oracle can help you to understand the currents of your life and how to best take advantage of the position you are currently in. The world can be chaotic and unpredictable, and having an ancient oracle in your pocket will prepare you for anything life throws at you.