While the coin oracle is probably the most recognized ancient method of Yi Jing divination, most people would be surprised to find out that it’s conception was at least over a thousands years after that of the yarrow stalks oracle.
A big reason for the popularity of using coins is it’s ease of application and the lesser time requirement.
But even during modern times, when the Yi Jing is consulted for spiritual reasons, the yarrow stalks method is still the preferred method.
Yarrow flowers and plant parts have various uses in the practice of Taoist feng shui, rituals, and spell casting. And it would be odd not to see them in the tool box of any Taoist priest.
In the absence of yarrow sticks, bamboo sticks are often used as substitutes.
Do take note that using yarrow stalks to erect hexagrams for divination can be time consuming. So don’t do it unless you have time on your hands.
Yarrow stalks method
A bunch of 50 yarrow sticks are to be prepared for this ritual.
Use a coffee table or a low level table and get in a kneeling position in front of the furniture.
Compose yourself, find the spot in your mind between the physical and intangible and ask your question after stating your name and residence.
Grab the bundle of yarrow sticks and remove one. Place this single stalk at the side of the table but still within your view.
The reason for doing so is that only 49 stalks would be used for the ritual. However, keeping 1 on the canvas adds to the existing 49 to make up the magical number of 50.
With the remaining 49 stalks on hand, split it into two random groups, then put the 2 bundles on your left and right.
The left pile would be yang, and the right pile would be yin.
Then remove 1 stalk from the right pile and put it between the ring finger and last finger of your left hand. This stick will remain here until the first yao line is determined.
Now grab the pile of yarrow on your right and start removing them from the group 4 at a time until you are left with 4 or less stalks. These remaining stalks should then be placed between your middle and ring finger on your left hand.
Next, do the same with the left pile of stalks and put the remaining stalks between your index and middle finger.
When this task is completed, the total number of yarrow stalks collected on the left hand should be either 5 or 9 which represents the energy of earth.
Put the stalks in your hand aside on a corner of the table.
Then with the remaining stalks from the original 49, repeat the process of splitting into 2 groups and removing 4 sticks at a time.
When this second round of divination is completed, one should be left with 4 or 8 stalks in the left hand which represents the energy of man.
Place this set of stalks beside the first set of stalks without mixing them.*
Then repeat the same process again with the remaining stalks from the original 49.
At the end of this third pass, one should have either 4 or 8 stalks on the left hand which represents the energy of heaven. Place these stalks beside the second set.
You would now have 3 sets of yarrow stalks from the 3 rounds of counting and removing.
Count the number of yarrow stalks in each pile starting from the first to the third.
With the numbers now determined, refer to the below to find the interpretation:
- 5+8+8 = Yang line
- 9+8+4 = Yang line
- 9+4+8 = Yang line
- 5+4+8 = Yin line
- 5+8+4 = Yin line
- 9+4+4 = Yin line
- 5+4+4 = Changing yang line
- 9+8+8 = Changing yang line
The first line of the hexagram is now determined. The first line is the first yao line of the hexagram from the bottom.
This whole process needs to be repeated another 5 times to generate the whole hexagram.
it can take as much as an hour for the whole ritual to complete. And probably more for those attempting it for the first time.
When the original hexagram and final hexagram (with changing lines) is determined. Refer to the Yi Jing for it’s wisdom.
Variation of yarrow stalk oracle
A variation of the original yarrow stalk method is practiced by many to save time.
This involves the same process as the original as explained above up to the step where the first pass is completed.*
The remaining stalks are then put together, then stalks are removed 4 at a time to see how many sets of 4 would be created.
Depending on the number of sets counted, the numbers would represent:
- 6 = Changing yin line
- 7 = Yang line
- 8 = Yin line
- 9 = Changing yang line
This would determine the first yao line from the bottom. The process would be repeated another 5 times in order to erect a full hexagram.