Working With Tarot And The I Ching

I love combining Tarot with the I Ching in my work but I also realize that, unless the reader has the time (and patience), most clients are not interested in really going that deep into any kind of divination, except when actively engaged in psychoanalysis or in any kind of transformational work, or when they are already familiar with the I Ching and would like to explore its answers within a Tarot reading.

Such is the oddity of the times we live in. Everybody seems to be in crisis mode, in the so-called 24/7 alert state that demands a quick reaction of us as we confront a given challenge. But we need time to "make soul" and to really understand the intricacies of the situation that we are experiencing as a crisis or as something that must be addressed within ourselves. Just like meditation requires time and patience, so does using Tarot with I Ching.

Even when it may appear that everything is happening to us all at once, the unraveling of events around us, the synchronistic unraveling of events that appear chaotic and that try to keep us unbalanced, point at something higher that has nothing to do with the moment we finally perceive it. This is why we need to take the time and go within and consult our Higher Self. A "quick fix" is never quick nor a real fix. I learned a long time ago to always carry a deck of cards with me in my purse. Perhaps consulting the Yi is not as accessible, since you need the book, the marbles or coins, the piece of paper and pen, etc. So, next time you find yourself in a quagmire and away from home, pick a card from your "traveling" deck or portable altar, and when you get home make sure to take time to decipher the meaning of the card(s) drawn; and if you know the I Ching, go ahead and see what it tells you. Often, the card drawn at that urgent moment seems to be wrapped around the answer that the Yi delivers, or it might be quite the opposite, thus giving you a sort of mirror or reflection into the situation and its shadow.

In the old times, centuries ago, the Yijing was consulted by using a very intricate system of yarrow stalks. Even today there are people who believe that the Yi should only be consulted in very dire, desperate or urgent situations and never with "superficial" questions. But what might be superficial to one person could be quite the opposite to another, so I try to stay away from qualifying the questions posed; except that I try to make sure the client understands the significance of the process involved in a divination and the need to approach it with the necessary respect. Still, clarity of intention is essential. The question should be clear and to the point. Otherwise, the words, ideograms and pictures that we are given by the Oracle can be misleading, intentionally ambiguous and even detrimental to the eventual outcome of the situation that you consulted about. If it sounds as if I am trying to portray divination as a ritual that unleashes unforeseen energies in addition to the guides and teachers we are invoking you are absolutely right. Be careful with this tool because you don't know what is on the other side of the portal you open with a divination. This is why it is important to approach it with respect, to call Sacred Space and ask for protection and guidance as you access this unpredictable realm.

Usually the best or most effective way to combine Tarot with the Yijing in a divination is by consulting them separately. It really doesn’t matter which one you choose to consult first, as long as you maintain some kind of rhythm that would allow the energies to flow within a given set of questions, within the atmosphere that is unfolded in the moment of a reading, especially if you take the divination into various levels, or divide it into time frames. The important thing is not to lose our train of thought and our intention to seek guidance for a specific purpose. Ambiguity and contradiction might be part of the answer or answers given by Spirit, but our questions should not be ambiguous. Remember that we are in control of our destiny and that choice is never taken away from us. Still, the subconscious can play tricks on us, so as you begin to understand the energies of the answer given, sometimes it might be wise to consult the Tarot to amplify a Yi answer or use a Hexagram to understand better the affinities and energies surrounding the messages received from the cards. The goal here is to learn to weave a story where you can visualize yourself as the protagonist, the verb, the object of inquiry and where you can understand the complexities of the situation from several levels at once.

Transformational Tarot attempts to engage the querent fully in a process of mapping an interpretation of a given moment in his life that empowers him as well as heals his soul. The I Ching reminds us that nothing is set in stone and that our lives are in constant flux. Learning to use both systems of divination and learning to harmonize the multiple potentialities given to us by their answers is a precious gift from Spirit. It is not easy, but the rewards are boundless.

Because of the changing lines in the Yi and how they affect the overall meaning of the reading, I often try to balance or clarify the resulting message with the cards. No changing lines? What a relief. But I wish that were the case in difficult readings. Have you ever had all six lines changing on you? Or, have you received a warning through the one changing line that completely changes the meaning of the great reading you thought you had received? The complexities of the Yijing can be daunting at times. Yet, the more complex it seems, the more important it is for us to remember to simplify our thoughts and just allow the essentials to penetrate our consciousness. The cards, the coins, the marbles or whatever we use to divine, all of them pick up our convoluted thoughts and our inability to be clear or specific. Although sometimes the answer can be complex in itself, usually I have found that it’s our inability to clear our mind and verbalize our question that creates havoc with the answer.

But let’s assume that we give a clear inquiry and we receive a complex answer by either Tarot or the Yijing that requires further clarification. This is when consulting both systems becomes useful to us, just like using another deck with a completely different symbology helps us amplify the answers given in a particular reading.

Because the Yi in the West is interpreted mainly through text and not through pictures (unless you know Chinese) we have to rely on translations and this can be, indeed, tricky. Consulting the Yi and activating its own energies is an entirely different ritual than consulting Tarot. Spirit, however, will give us access to a level of interpretation that tends to clarify or enhance the message of the cards (or vice versa). For me, paring Tarot with the I Ching becomes a synchronistic amalgamation of ideas, images and energies that greatly enhances any divination.

The more I combine both systems, the more I realize that I am dealing with two different ways of accessing knowledge that work with quite different numinous qualities, but that at the end the dialogue becomes harmonious and that one system enhances the other. To those familiar with such decks as Aleister Crowley’s Book of Thoth or the Handl Tarot, a word of caution: These authors make connections with specific hexagrams and assign them to Tarot cards; sometimes it makes sense, sometimes it doesn't I strongly believe that Tarot and the I Ching can work very well together provided that they are allowed the freedom to flow one into the other with the energies released through the question, the reader, the querent. I rarely agree with how hexagrams end up being associated with a given card, and sometimes these associations could be misleading. It is never that simple. Tarot is Tarot; Yijing is Yijing. It is startlingly beautiful to see how both work in tandem in a reading, but confining one structure (Yijing) within another (Tarot) can be quite limiting and does not provide the flexibility of interpretation that both systems require.

Let me give some examples. Crowley assigns the last of his Court Cards, the Princess of Disks, to Hexagram 52. Ken, Gen: Mountain, the Bound. His designations are mostly based on the elements the trigrams represent so if this Princess is the earthiest of the Earth symbols, then it must represent Mountain over Mountain. The Queen of Disks gets Hexagram 31 XIAN: Conjoining Uniting in Spirit. The Queen of Swords gets stuck with Hexagram 18 GU: Decay, Corruption, Pestilence, Ills to be Cured. Poor Queen of Swords. And Hexagram 58 DUI Open Expression the Joyous Dancer, which happens to be the youngest daughter and considered quite a healing spirit and Intermediary, is assigned to the Queen of Cups, another beautiful entity but a designation that limits both considerably.

It is always best to allow both systems to meet each other halfway. Invoke one system, lay down the divination as given, engage your active imagination. Then, invoke the energies and guides for the other. Sit back and enjoy the magic as it unfolds in front of you like a river of images and concepts and ideas. This is true Alchemy.

Copyright © 2008 Yolanda M. Robinson, PhD