Do you cast a reading for the year? For many years now, I’ve cast mine on my birthday – I’m lucky to have a birthday in early December, so there’s plenty of time for the reading to start to sink in during the depths of winter. Winter is an utterly natural time for introspection: the authors of the Daxiang for Hexagram 24 knew it –
‘Thunder dwelling in the centre of the earth. Returning.
The ancient kings closed the borders at winter solstice.
Itinerant merchants did not travel,
The prince did not tour the regions.’
– and so do the many people who contact me for readings at this time of year, almost always for the far-ranging, eagle’s-eye-view, ‘where now?’ kind of readings.
The question for an annual reading is a very simple one. James Wells asks what he ‘most needs to know or learn’; I asked for guidance; Sally Anne at ‘Change your life for good’ writes about using the I Ching to put her reflections on resolutions and intentions into perspective, asking for ‘a focal point for the coming year’. You’re not asking exclusively for either advice or prediction, but for a touchstone to carry with you: what to expect, how to be, what to be aware of.
The question is simple; responding to the answer is less so, as you don’t know what it applies to. Sometimes absolutely no applications for it come to mind at all; occasionally one will be clear, but you can be sure that others will arise during the year that are impossible to anticipate now. I can see a few ways in which I’m like Hexagram 54’s Marrying Maiden (my primary hexagram for the year) – being a diviner, for instance, a mediator whose role is not to direct anything but only to make the relationship with the Oracle easier – but I anticipate a full year of ‘marrying maiden bootcamp’, learning how not to be in the driving seat.
So an annual reading typically comes with no ‘hooks’ to hang it on. You can’t close the loop and complete the process of interpretation, tying it up neatly by saying that this is what it was about. (True, it’s rare to be able to do that with any reading – but the annual reading just makes this a little more obvious.) The process of interpretation is drawn out over the full year, and it stays (and you stay) open for all that time.
Interpreting a reading always calls for a quality of patience – a willingness not to rush into ‘making sense of’ the answer, and allowing it to make sense in its own time. But while some readings require about two seconds of patient contemplation before the message takes shape for you, this one requires about twelve months.
So you explore and live your way into the reading. You have ‘aha!’ moments of connection, and (at least in my experience…) you also have the ‘argh!’ moments of realisation with hindsight. (The practice of keeping a reading in mind with honesty and openness is not easy, or at least I don’t find it so.) There are things that leap out at you just because you’ve become attuned to the reading’s pattern, so you are constantly learning about that way to be.
I suppose this is the basic purpose of an annual reading: to become more awake and aware, not to miss the clear and specific beauty of this time – like taking in the shape of a single snowflake before it melts.