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Drumming the I Ching

For some years, I’ve been ‘drumming’ the I Ching from time to time. Not properly or skillfully, generally just on the nearest tabletop. I take a yang line as a single beat, and a yin line as two half beats, and set out through the Sequence in compound duple (six eight) time.

It turns out I’m not the only one. Here’s a blog post on rhythmic changes: a woman encountering the I Ching (maybe for the first time?) through drumming. And following the links she provided, I came across a whole site dedicated to drumming I Ching patterns. It seems that the drumming becomes a kind of divination in itself – where do you stumble as you drum through the sequence? – and a kind of healing.

I drum my way through the Sequence from memory. It creates a particular quality of concentration, way beyond an intellectual ‘memory exercise’: if I try consciously to remember each hexagram pair while I stay in rhythm, rather than simply allowing the next one to come to mind, it all comes apart. And travelling right through the Sequence is… well, something you need to experience for yourself. If you don’t want to do this from memory, there’s a chart of the hexagrams in order, with the trigrams helpfully colour-coded, at the drumming site above.

Drumming is also another way to engage with a reading. You can remember your hexagram as rhythm as well as words, and carry it in your awareness through the day. It’s a completely different way of remembering and being aware: words and images are always flowing into our minds; rhythm’s always being created within our bodies. So an I Ching reading doesn’t only give particular words and images from that constant inundation an added glow of meaning; it’s something we can walk and breathe.

11 responses to Drumming the I Ching

  1. Hilary-thanks for your comment on my drumming the I Ching post. I’ve consulted the I Ching on and off since 1982, but had never drummed it before two days ago :). It’s fun (and deep). I drummed the whole 64 again yesterday. I’m going to take a look at your sites. |||:::

  2. That sounds so very cool, really resonated with me (no pun!). I do know that drumming has many benefits on its own. There’s much research online that speaks mainly of health benefits. In Shamanic cultures drumming has always been used to alter brainwaves, essentially to engender nonordinary states of consciousness (NOSC). Decreasing beta brainwaves, to slip into alpha & theta. This is where our intuition, creativity & spirituality exist neurologically. So it’s a great match for divination.

    Not only will readings come home more solidly, but interpretation may make more sense and there’s the benefit of entrainment from drumming.

  3. Following those links, you can try it without knowing the I Ching at all – that could be interesting in itself, getting to know hexagrams for the first time this way, so you know them from the outset as more than just an odd indexing system for a book.

    Anything that adds new levels of awareness to the reading has to be good… there’s so much more to wrap round a hexagram than just your head 😉

    Entrainment? Not sure I know what you mean by that – can you say more?

  4. Entrainment is defined as the tendency for two oscillating bodies to lock into phase so that they vibrate in harmony. It is also defined as a synchronization of two or more rhythmic cycles.

    It is possible to have rhythmic entrainment, melodic entrainment and dynamic entrainment. Entrainment music has the potential to (1) resonate with the listener’s feelings, (2) transform negativity into positivity, and (3) promote a state of liveliness or serenity. Certain sounds, in specific sequence can help bring the listener from one place to another.

    (Shameless copy & paste from a website–when there’s time, I can write more. 🙂 )

  5. I haven’t read it myself. I didn’t realise before, but there is a paperback available as well as the ebook:


    The I Ching consultation page on his website has his version of the I Ching fed into it, which is Part Two of his book:


    More or less an I Ching based on Wilhelm with a small section ‘The Rhythmic Pattern’, that doesn’t seem to be saying much. I don’t know whether he has made anything of the few references to drumming in the Yi. I think it’s the actual drumming that is interesting, rather than an I Ching text with a nod towards drumming. Maybe Part One contains more about that. And he has a CD:


    Also Melinda Maxfield’s book and CD, ‘Drumming the I Ching’:


  6. This drumming idea is very cool. I was, at one time, interested in trying to play the hexagrams on a six-hole wooden flute, open hole for yang, closed hole for yin.

    It was interesting, but like some people have “two left feet,” I have “two left ears” and couldn’t really decide if I liked it or not.

    I may try the drumming, though. 🙂

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