I’m going to walk you through an easy beginner’s methodology for I Ching and tarot divination. We’ll be doing a simple one card tarot draw plus casting I Ching hexagrams by the coin toss method. So in addition to the instructions here for the I Ching divination, I’m presuming you have a tarot deck and know how to operate one. If not, no worries. This doesn’t need to be I Ching and tarot. It can just be I Ching! 🙂
I use traditional coins for my personal practice, but we won’t be needing those today. Any three coins of the same value in your change purse will do. Go find three pennies, or three nickels, or three quarters–whatever pleases you. And give them a good wash.
Here I’m using disinfectant soap and water. Dry them thoroughly. You can use a towel. Anything. Just be practical.
Then bury the three dried coins in salt. The above photo shows Epsom salt. You can use sea salt or just regular table salt.
Make sure the coins are buried beneath the salt. Oh by the way there is the more old school methodology of doing this with rice consecrated before an ancestral altar, rather than just table salt, but hey. You do with what you’ve got.
If you’re fancy, then do this on the eve of a full moon and wait until the morning of the new moon to proceed with the subsequent steps (about two weeks later, give or take). If you’re asking yourself, “how would I know about the moon and what’s with caring about moon phases?” then don’t worry about it. Just skip the moon stuff and do this as you will.
On the morning of a new moon (or whenever), consecrate the three coins with either holy water or holy oil. For me, holy water is just collected rain water that’s then been filtered and gone through, you know, stuff. Holy oil is, like, frankincense essential oil, myrrh, sandalwood, or cedar wood essential oil that’s been through, you know, stuff.
What I like to do, because it’s easy, is scoop out a tablespoon of holy water from my container and set the filled tablespoon on the counter. Then submerge each coin one by one in the tablespoon of holy water. Alternatively, anoint, or rub, a little bit of essential oil on both sides of each coin. Towel the coins dry. Yes, you can skip this step with the holy water and oil if it’s overwhelming you.
Next we’re going to be making a Ba Gua divination mat. This will be a simple one you print out from the templates I provide. It’d be preferable if you used nice, thicker cardstock, but if you can’t, that’s fine. Here I’m using yellow paper. It was supposed to come out printed black, but my home printer is running out of ink, so it’s gray. Yours should be black or red. See below.
Choose from any of the above designs. Click on the below hyperlink for a zip file folder of the high-resolution image files for all designs.
Click the above to download zip file.
A quick explanation of the various mat options.
The file labeled “Ba Gua (Divinity)” depicts the holy trinity up top with the three-star constellation; to the left is the Chinese character for moon; to the right is the character for sun; and below it the whole character is the Chinese oracle bone script for “Divinity.” This would be the optimal one to use for communion with a pantheistic or monotheistic sense of the Divine, for connecting to “Spirit” or “the Universe.”
The file “Ba Gua (Lao Tzu Psychic Amplifier)” features the Seal of Lao Tzu, a Fu talisman used in Taoist magic, mostly by psychics and mediums as a talisman to amplify their clairvoyance, clairaudience, clairsentience, and claircognizance. This might resonate more with those who identify as a psychic or a medium, who specialize primarily in connections that qualify as psychic or as mediumship, or that’s what you’re aspiring to do.
The file “Ba Gua (Witch-Shaman)” features the oracle bone script for “witch” (wu) but it can also be translated as “shaman.” This might resonate more with those who identify as a witch, witch doctor, magician, sorcerer, or shaman. So the sigil energies of this mat is keyed into that particular attunement.
Then you’ve got the “Early Heaven Ba Gua” and “Later Heaven Ba Gua” divination mats. My book The Tao of Craft explains the different uses, purposes, and distinctions between Early Heaven and Later Heaven. The “Double Ba Gua” is the Later Heaven Ba Gua circling the Early Heaven Ba Gua, with the yin yang symbol at the enter. These come with the yin-yang symbol for harmony and inner balance. These three divination mats are for more secular and neutral intentions behind the casting. Thus, these would be ideal for connecting to your own higher self, personal development, inner reflection, or using the divination for finding inner balance.
Choose the one that resonates with you. Print it out from your computer in black ink or red ink. If you can get it on yellow paper, that’d be awesome. If not, then that’s fine. Just use regular white paper. Again, cardstock is preferable, but not a requirement. You can trace the images by hand and have a drawn one, too, if that appeals to you more than a computer print-out.
I then cut it out carefully, about half an inch (or a little over 1 cm) from the outer lines of the trigrams, so that I get an octagonal cut-out of the mat rather than a square or rectangular mat. See below.
Of course it’s not like my octagonal mat is going to be more magical than your square or rectangular print-out mat. If you don’t want to cut it, that’s fine, but you do get a slightly different vibe off the octagonal one as opposed to the quadrilateral, so just something to think about.
Here I’m surrounding all eight sides of the Ba Gua divination mat with clear crystal quartz single terminated points, with the tips pointed inward. It’s kind of the idea of harnessing amplified energies with a crystal grid. Feel free to use any crystals or gemstones you like. You don’t have to stick with clear quartz. Use what vibes with you.
Hardcore folks are also going to align the divination mat to the four cardinal directions, so the top edge, Fire, will be aligned on your tabletop to the south direction, the bottom edge, Water, to the north. Left side of the mat as you look at it would be aligned with the east and right side aligned with the west.
We’ll begin with a single tarot card draw.
Hold your tarot deck in your hands and visualize white light connecting from your crown chakra upward into the heavens beyond. Imagine a solid beam of white light connecting your crown to the heavens. Then white light energy is sent down through the beam, entering your crown, illuminating your third eye chakra, then your throat, then heart, and down into your arm and hand, into the tarot deck you’re holding. Visualize the tarot deck illuminating with the white light energy. Take a good three or so minutes to do this. Don’t be hasty.
Then shuffle the deck as you do and draw a single card. Place that single card at the center of your divination mat.
The One Card Tarot Reading
For the I Ching and tarot reading, I read the tarot card in tandem with the hexagrams. It’s kind of like if loving, concerned Mom and Dad both sat you down to give you advice on something. They’re both telling you the same thing, but we all know Mom and Dad have totally different ways of conveying that message to you. If we’re being wise, it’s usually the collective counsel from Mom and Dad together that will be most helpful. So that’s how I see it–both the I Ching and tarot, Mom and Dad, will offer culminating revelatory insight into your situation.
What’s interesting is almost always, both in effect say the same thing to you or what they say is in perfect harmony. It’s one of the cool “wow” factors of divination, which is why it’s going to be epic for you to give it a try and see for yourself.
For example, here, I drew the Four of Water (Four of Cups) from the Vision Quest Tarot. The keyword here is “Abundance,” which is a non-traditional meaning for the Four of Cups in tarot per the Rider-Waite-Smith tradition.
Since I’m using this particular deck, though, I read within the universe of this deck, so the meaning for this card is about having much more than you need and now having to come up with a revised plan for what to do with your abundance so that it remains a positive point in your life, and not negative.
Later once the I Ching divination instructions get under way, you’ll see that the message divined is essentially the same message as the Four of Water. Furthermore, the I Ching divination also touches upon the essence of the traditional card meaning for the Four of Cups. Weird how that works out, isn’t it? Love it!
Next we’ll toss the three coins six times to cast the I Ching hexagram. Cup the three coins in both of your hands, then toss the coins onto the mat. Try to be gentle and make sure the coins land on the mat. In the above photo, the toss yielded 3 heads, so I draw a yang line. When it’s three heads it’s called a plenary yang, which is why you see that circle there next to the line on my notepad.
Let’s see if we can convey the theory by way of some diagrams.
Okay, let me explain further.
Coin Toss Correspondences
When your toss yields 3 heads, this is called a plenary yang (it’s called other things, too, so don’t freak out if you’ve heard it referred to as something else). When this happens, draw a line like this:
(That’s supposed to be a solid line, followed by a circle.)
If your result yields 2 heads, 1 tail, then that’s an adjusting yang. The line you draw is the same as before, but without the “0.” See below.
The result of 2 tails, 1 head is called an adjusting yin. If that happens, draw the line you see below. It will kind of look like a broken line, or two baby lines.
If you get 3 tails, then that’s plenary yin. Same line as before, with the two baby or mini lines, a broken line, but now with a “0” behind it.
____ ____ 0
Earlier for my first coin toss, the result was 3 heads, so I draw that long solid line with the 0 at the end. The “0” is just a notation to myself that reminds me this was a plenary yang.
For my second toss, the result is 2 tails and 1 head. So I draw that broken line. I draw it on top of the first line I drew. For the six coin tosses, you’ll be drawing the lines, or constructing the yao upward. So draw the second line from Toss #2 above the first line from Toss #1.
My third toss yielded 3 heads again, so the same notation is made again as was made for Toss #1. I draw it on top of the broken line I drew for Toss #2, as shown on the notepad in the above photograph.
For the fourth toss, the result is two heads and one tail. That the adjusting yang line.
For the fifth toss, it’s 2 tails, 1 head. That’s an adjusting yin line.
For the sixth and final toss, my result was 2 tails, 1 head, so I draw the same line I drew from Toss #5. I’ve now completed construction of the first hexagram.
If your six tosses did not yield any “3 heads” or “3 tails,” then none of your lines will have the “0” following it. That means you’ve cast a locked hexagram. A locked hexagram means judgment has been rendered by the fates and all variables that needed to be in play for deliberation to occur have played out, so this is your divinatory message. The end.
If at least one of your lines has that “0” because you got 3 heads or 3 tails at least once, then this is your primary hexagram and from this first hexagram, you will need to construct a second.
The heart and core of your I Ching divinatory message with be the primary hexagram (or locked hexagram). This is like the main thing for you to know, the most important point or revelation that the Divine wants to impart upon you.
General rule: for every line that has the “0,” if it was a solid line, it becomes a broken. If it was a broken, it becomes solid. That’s all there is to it. If there is no “0” after the line, just copy the same line over to the second hexagram.
When a secondary hexagram is cast, not all relevant variables needed for the fates to decide the outcome have played out yet. Casting a secondary hexagram also means a choice needs to play. You know, the whole two roads diverged in a wood, yada yada. Yep. That’s the scenario if your result yields a secondary hexagram.
Think of the secondary hexagram as being prefaced with “That being said…” after the message of the primary hexagram, or like, “So in addition to what I just, there’s this other thing you should pay attention to…”
Okay now let’s demonstrate how you cast that secondary hexagram, since a couple of the lines from my primary hexagram had a “0.”
So my Toss #1 was 3 heads, yielding a plenary yang. That’s why there’s the “0.” So I draw its opposite– a yin line.
For Toss #2, no “0,” so I copy the same line over.
Toss #3 also had a “0” so since it was a yang (solid, unbroken) line, I draw its opposite, the yin (broken) line, as pictured above.
Now the final three lines, Toss #4, #5, and #6 all do not have the “0,” so I just copy the same line over into the second hexagram. Now I have two hexagrams, primary and secondary.
Now these hexagrams, or six-line figures, are made up of two trigrams, a top three-line figure and a bottom three-line figure. The top three-line figure is called the upper trigram. The bottom three-line figure is called the lower trigram.
You’re still following me so far, right? This is pretty simple, yeah?
Trigrams to Hexagram Reference Chart
Now look up the upper trigram with the lower trigram in the above reference chart to identify that primary hexagram you just drew. In my example, the upper trigram is Thunder. The lower trigram is Fire.
Across the top row of the hexagram graph, locate the upper trigram Thunder. It’s column 4. In the left column, locate the lower trigram Fire. It’s row 3. Now go down column 4 until you hit row 3 (Thunder over Fire…) and you’ll hit hexagram 55. Check to make sure it looks exactly like the hexagram drawn. Yep.
So my primary hexagram is 55.
Do the same for the secondary hexagram. Mine is upper trigram Thunder again, so column 4 and lower trigram Earth, row 8. I get hexagram 16.
So my secondary hexagram is 16.
If it’s hard to read the info off the above image file, I have a document download below with hyperlinked bookmarks that provides some printable reference material on how to do an I Ching divination with the coin toss method, which I just narrated.
You’ll then have to look up the hexagram numbers and read the entries. But wait, the instructions aren’t done yet. There a little more.
The lines of the hexagram are numbered 1 through 6, bottom up. So the bottom line is 1 and the top line is 6. When there were plenary lines, meaning you cast lines with “0” in the primary, then in addition to the main entry in the Book of Changes (The I Ching) that you read for the oracular message, you also read the corresponding line of the six subsequent entries following the main oracular message.
Take, for instance, my primary hexagram, hexagram 55.
Opulence; Height of Advancement
Here’s the oracular message, per my own translations (something that may be published in the far future as a complete book on the I Ching… maybe, who knows):
Thunder and lightning come: honors bestowed upon the family. You possess both movement and clarity. The sage renders judgments and verdicts, sentencing punishments that fit the crimes. You are in a position of great influence and you use your authority to bring justice.
The king attains abundance and is free of worries. Prosperity and fortune at the noon hour: you will reach great heights of success, like the sun at the highest point in the sky. Fruitfulness; the symbol of prosperity: Thunder over Fire. The inciting of movement brings light, clarity, and success.
However, abundance soon becomes opulence. When abundance becomes opulence, the king will fall. Thus, abundance comes in cycles; opulence comes in cycles. Every age of enlightenment will decline. Every king’s reign will end.
A period of tremendous power is upon you. A time of advancement: the height of social and civil progress. However, keep in mind that this, too, shall pass. What goes up will come down. Embrace the tides of change, come what may. Enjoy the moment of power and prestige while it lasts.
If the hexagram I had cast was locked (meaning no lines had that “0”), then the above is all I’d read. That’d be all of my divinatory message.
However, since I cast plenary lines (with “0”), the lines with the “0” correspond with entries following the above entry, usually with sub-headings like Line 1, Line 2, Line 3, etc. Read the line entries corresponding with the lines in your hexagram with the “0.” For instance, I’d read the first line after the main message.
I would read Line 3 or the Third Line after the main message as well, since my Line 3 was a plenary line, with the “0.”
Recall how I also had a secondary hexagram, hexagram 16. So after studying the selected entries for hexagram 55, I move on to 16 in the I Ching Book of Changes.
For your secondary hexagram, just read the main divinatory message. I don’t observe reading the corresponding subsequent lines, but some practitioners do, so it’s a matter of preference and personal approach. Below is English translation of the oracular message for hexagram 16.
Free Online Sources for Hexagram Look-Up
There are many online sources for looking up the hexagram entries. The below is a bullet point listing of a few that should be able to work just fine for you.
- I Ching Hexagram Look-Up
- James DeKorne’s Gnostic Book of Changes
- Hexagram Detail Pages at Café au Soul
- IChing123 Hexagram Index
- Yi Jing Oracle of the Sun Hexagram Look-Up
- I Ching Hexagram Look-Up at Tarot.com
A Rhyme and a Reason
Although I encourage customizing, personalizing, and adjusting any step of the process to tailor it to your preferences, there is a rhyme and a reason for every measure instructed.
We begin with the cleansing and consecration. The physical cleaning makes sense, right? Most money is dirty and who knows where that coin has been, so this is about sanitizing it. Then there is the energetic cleaning. That process is about changing the energy of the objects and reprogramming them for new purposes. Assuming the innate binary quality of all objects, the salt and the consecrated water or oil procedure is about cleansing and changing the binary quality.
The divination mat with the eight directions it represents is what will create a nexus between the mundane, material world and the spirit, divine world. The purpose of the mat is to align certain points in the earthly realm with certain points in the heavenly realm and then, once the points are aligned, poke through or produce that nexus through which earthly and heavenly energies can now flow back and forth, and so that’s how the divinatory messages will be coming through from the heavenly realm to the earthly realm, to you, the practitioner.
I liken the 78 cards of tarot as the complete compendium that represents 78 major sensitive points of the universe, resonant with the same philosophy behind acupuncture, acupressure, the chakra systems, or feng shui. The single tarot card you draw for the divination is about identifying the main sensitive point that the matter you’re inquiring about operates upon.
We use three coins to represent the holy trinity in Taoist cosmology– Heaven, Earth, and Man. The whole point of divination is to connect Heaven, Earth, and Man and once the three realms are connected, energy or messages can flow back and forth between these realms. So there’s power in the numerology of three.
The yin and yang lines superimposed into the three coin tosses represents the ways the binary, yin and yang, can come together by way of combinations to form the trigrams. This was illustrated in a previous diagram where you see Qi energy, or the universe, composed of the yin and yang binary, and then how yin and yang come together to form the trigrams, or trinities. There’s an energetic as-above-so-below sympathy at play here.
The upper and lower trigrams coming together to form the hexagram represent the coming together of Heaven and Earth that defines the divinatory process, through the channel that is Man, or you, the practitioner.
The point The Tao of Craft tries to convey is the same point I am trying to make here. Yes, of course the core mission here is to encourage you to endeavor for communion with Divinity and to do that you must find your own path, the Tao, and how the Tao manifests for you will by nature and necessity be different from how the Tao manifests to me, so it makes perfect sense that our approaches to the same purpose could be different.
That said, there are core universal laws at play in metaphysics, like Qi energy, how Qi energy is characterized, the root binary, the root trinity, and fundamental elements that make up the universe metaphysically. All of these principles need to be complied with in your customization process. That’s why understanding theory and the “why” is more important than step-by-step instructions or stylistic considerations.
Share on Social Media
Take a photograph of your try at the I Ching and tarot divination as instructed (of course feel free to tweak to your personal preferences) and post it to Instagram, Twitter, or a public Facebook post. If you tag me (@Tarotanalysis on Twitter and @bellwen on Instagram), then I’ll be able to see what you’ve shared. Come on. This’ll be fun. We’ll start an I Ching divination trend.
The I Ching is considered one of the oldest divination systems in human history and is still used today, pretty much intact, with minimal changes. So perhaps it’s worth your experimenting with? Give it a try. The full moon in Virgo is coming up in a few days. That would be the perfect time for an I Ching and tarot divination.
I’ll Send You My Translations of Your Hexagram Results…
If you’d like to take a peek into my personal translations, then as instructed above, share a public photo of your divinatory results on social media and include the hashtags #IChing or #IChingdivination. I’m surprised by how few there are of these photos on social media, so let’s change that! Together let’s make some online waves and show folks the wonders and magic of the I Ching.
Do that, post it publicly, and then e-mail me your divinatory results, so I can look it up in the book and send you my personal translations of those resulting hexagram entries.
Free I Ching service offer closes March 31, 2017.
Here’s what you have to do. Email me at the below contact with your hexagram results. If it was a locked hexagram, then you’d only be telling me one hexagram number. If it was fluid, then you’ll tell me the two hexagram numbers, as Primary and as Secondary. For example, I would send myself the following note:
Primary Hexagram: 55
Secondary Hexagram: 16
Then in response, though my response time may be slow, I’ll send back a PDF document attached to my e-mail like the following sample.
Also, please note if I sense malfeasance, I reserve the right to decline providing a translation response. (But just because I don’t respond doesn’t mean I sensed malfeasance. Just so you now, about one third of your e-mails get sent directly to my spam folder for some reason, so be mindful of that.)
benebellwen (at) gmail (dot) com
This is going to be fun.