Saturday 2 July 2016

Eight Sticks

Improved Yarrow Stalk Divination

by Joel Benson
    The traditional forty-nine-stalk method of divination has long been known and has been supplanted by the quicker three-coin method and other relatively rapid modern methods, for example involving special dice or sixteen ritual objects such as colored marbles.
    I found it odd that in all the literature I examined, the assumption seems to be that yarrow divination is necessarily limited to the ancient method of sorting, counting and adding random bundles of thin sticks. I decided there has to be an easier way to perform a Yi Jing divination with yarrow, while enhancing the wonderful tactile feel and spiritual presence of yarrow stalks.
    After some thought I realized there is a simpler, quicker way to manipulate a limited number of sturdy, relatively thick yarrow stalks to randomly define primary hexagrams using the established Yi Jing yarrow probabilities.
    In my improved divination method only eight yarrow stalks are required. I prefer stalks about 10 inches long and about .25 inches in diameter. Each of the stalks has yin and yang ends that are marked in any way that may be preferred to designate old or young yin/yang in the accepted yarrow divination proportions.
    My preferred way of marking the eight yang ends of the stalks is to insert a magnetized pin in each yang end. So the yang ends generate magnetic energy in accordance with their yang nature. The yin ends have no such pins and are therefore identified by their receptive, non-energy nature. A black end color is used to designate a single old yin end and three old yang ends, as required for yarrow divination. The remaining ends that are not blackened define seven young yin and five young yang ends.
    In the divination ritual, the eight stalks are shuffled and then an end of one stalk is selected at random to designate the first level of the primary hexagram. The selected stalk is then returned to the group of eight, the stalks are shuffled again and a random end of a stalk is selected to define the second level of the primary hexagram. This is continued until the six-line hexagram is defined.
    This method is similar to Rule of 16 divinations, except colors need not be memorized and only eight sturdy yarrow stalks are used. Also, the magnetic yang ends may be detected by a compass to add a mystical touch to the divination.
    So a few substantial yarrow stalks may be used in an easy, quick and modern style of divination. Following is an image of eight yarrow stalks of the type described and an image of a magnetic pin inserted at the yang end of a stalk to illustrate how the yang ends of the stalks are marked.

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