The Changes spread

In this article lets go over a method for creating a hexagram from the Book of Changes with a deck of poker cards. The method was created out of a need to have a more subtle method for creating a hexagram. Sitting in a restaurant or a bus station or waiting for a plane is not the best place to start counting out 50 yarrow sticks on one’s lap. Nor is it the time to grab three coins and start throwing them at the floor.

This article is not going to get in to how to construct a hexagram. The following takes for granted you already know how to build a hexagram with one of the more traditional methods.

There are a number of these methods for drawing a hexagram. At times bones were used that were thrown like dice. The traditional method of using yarrow sticks became the method of choice for centuries. Eventually the use of coins became prominent. Nowadays there are smartphone apps that allow us to just tap on the screen and it tells us what the hexagram is that we should be reading.

Regardless which method we use there are a few rules that they all follow. No matter which method is used the odd numbers represent a Yang line, the even numbers represent a Yin line. If the result is a 6 it is a Yin line that is in a state of change. If the result is a 9 it is a Yang line in a state of change.

I found over the years that the different methods of drawing the hexagram matter. Certain methods lead to results that are noticeably different than other methods.

It was our experience with yarrow sticks that it was appreciably easier to grab a Yang line at the beginning of the hexagram. Also we found that moving lines in a state of change were just a little less frequent overall. It was our feeling that the yarrow method was made that way on purpose. It seemed to us philosophically that a Yang line is more likely to fall. It is an active state, it is always reaching, it is always expanding, it is always moving to fill a void. It would seem proper that a Yang line would be pulled maybe just the slightest more than a Yin line.

So the trick to finding another method of drawing hexagram is two fold. The first of all it needs to retain a way to offer random results that allow intuition to select the value. And secondly the method needs to offer roughly the same probability of getting Yin versus Yang lines and the right amount of moving lines.

After years of trying just about anything, from paper clips to silverware, we worked in restaurants so we were always playing with the things around us to do this. It dawned on us that a deck of poker cards was built just for the task.

How to use a common deck of poker cards to draw your hexagram. 

So here are the rules we’re going to apply to our Deck of poker cards

  • Odd cards Yang line
  • Even cards Yin line
  • Sixes Yin moving line
  • Nines Yang moving line
  • Joker Yang lines
  • Joker Yang moving line

Find a shuffle you’re comfortable with and that you can repeat over and over and over. Shuffle the cards cut them lay down a card. Shuffle the cards cut them lay down another card above that card. Always work from the bottom up. Shuffle the cards cut them and lay down another card keep doing this until you have six cards in a row.


In closing

To be certain am not a mathematician. I searched around a bit and this appears to be pretty advanced statistical math, the likelihood of pulling again or Yang line and the ways those probabilities change as you remove opportunities. So there was no way to even verify empirically if what my intuition leads me to believe is true. After 20 years or so of pulling hexagrams with yarrow sticks and trying other methods, using the cards feels really natural.