A New Chapter: I Ching and Tarot

Over the years, as I’ve worked my way several times through Aleister Crowley’s Book of Thoth, I’ve pondered his references to I Ching hexagrams in his commentary on the cards of the Minor Arcana but I’ve never done anything practical with that information. I also own the Thoth-based Haindl tarot deck, which has the hexagrams printed on the cards, but I also haven’t used them for anything in the way of divination. I have Anthony Clark’s beautiful I Ching pack but don’t work with it. Finally, years ago before I lost them, I possessed three old Chinese coins that I used to cast hexagrams, which I interpreted with the Wilhelm/Baynes translation of the Book of Changes.

Lately, as I work more frequently with dice and tarot cards, I’ve been inspired to think of ways to use the I Ching in collaboration with the tarot without simply treating Crowley’s hexagram assignments as supplemental information. Conversely, I would rather cast the hexagrams first and bring the card meanings in as additional insights to the I Ching text. My few cursory attempts to do this with the Thoth cards in the past lead me to believe that a truly seamless integration of the two will be a challenge to achieve. I’ve read opinions that Crowley’s personal take on the I Ching is non-traditional and therefore suspect. My thought is that I would use his correspondences only as a point-of-entry and form my own conclusions from there.

My first act will be to get my hands on a new set of coins; yarrow stalks – while more traditional – are a little too fussy for me. I realize that any coins with distinct heads and tails will work, but as a true Cancerian I will always give a nod to the “old ways” when I can and the antique Chinese coins serve that purpose well (even though I’m aware most of those you can buy today are cheap reproductions). Six tosses of three coins to produce odd and even lines will establish each hexagram, and I will refer to the I Ching text first and then augment it with interpretation of the associated tarot card. I’m thinking that, because of the philosophical profundity of the I Ching parables, it would be best to limit this collaborative approach to no more than three-card spreads to avoid receiving overly confusing or conflicting “mixed messages” from the combinations. From a visual perspective, I’m considering displaying the Thoth, Haindl and I Ching cards together in a small tableau to offer a deeper impression of the correlation, but that remains to be seen.

When I’m set up to do this in the way I want, I will post example readings here.

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