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More on hexagram 44

Hexagram 44 is – famously – a tricky one.

‘Coupling, the woman is powerful.
Do not take this woman.’

That’s all it says – which is more than enough to give rise to all kinds of ideas. The traditional one is that the woman represents something malevolent, the seductress, power-grabbing – a distraction, a disruption, to be resisted (like temptation) and excluded.

Margaret Pearson initiated a challenge to this (at least, as far as I know this idea started with her): the woman is powerful because she is a queen and gives birth to the heir. That she should not be ‘taken’ she should not be seized; she is not for ordinary men to control. Stephen Karcher picked this idea up and ran with it: she is royal, she goes to the king, let her through.

The oracle, of course, says neither: neither that you should shut her out because she is evil, nor that you should let her pass out of respect, but only that there’s a powerful woman and you shouldn’t marry her. (What I’ve translated ‘take the woman’, to leave both options open, is actually a quite ordinary expression for ‘marry the woman’, though the character also means ‘seize’.) The commentary (Tuanzhuan) is helpful here, adding that marriage with her could not last. That’s often the case: you can encounter, make contact, but it can’t last.

I try to steer between these two points of view and respect the essential neutrality of the oracle. There is something powerful. That something cannot be ‘married’ – that is, it cannot be brought into relationship or into your way of life or under your control  in the way you might think/want.

(A lot of the power and energy in the situation actually seems to come from a persistent desire to achieve the impossible and make a ‘marriage’ work. Perhaps that’s 44’s ‘seductive’ power – the little voice that says, ‘If I just try this one more thing, if I just extend myself and give of myself a bit more… and a little more, and a little more… then surely it has to work out.’)

Where to look for the powerful woman? Sometimes it’s part of your own character – maybe something irrepressible and unmanageable about you. Sometimes it’s another person – maybe one who can’t be reasoned with or befriended, no matter how hard you try. Or simply an idea, one that doesn’t fit with your regular way of thinking and tends to undermine it.

What will contact with this power do? Only one thing is sure: it will not ‘fit in’: it will not support your plans or intentions. They will be undermined, disrupted, transformed or wrecked. Is that a bad thing? It depends on the value of your plans!  The ‘powerful woman’ can be a storm that wrecks your boat, but she can also be an oracle that disturbs your rational idea of how things work. Muse or Lorelei. The aftermath of the encounter with her might be pure wreckage, or a remade world – which may not feel like much compensation.

wrecked ship

(What a wonderful new home for the fish!)

This doesn’t mean the storm is malevolent (or the idea is wrong, or the part of your character is evil, or the person is actively seeking to harm you) – only that it has its own power and its own reasons, which are not compatible with yours.

‘The woman is powerful. Don’t take the woman.’ You don’t need to know why not, or what her agenda is; you just need to stop trying to marry her. (Perhaps this is not such a tricky hexagram after all.)

In readings, you would look to the moving lines to find what this storm-woman brings and how – or whether – it might be good to engage with her. I’m also getting the impression – so far this is just a provisional idea to try out in future readings – that the relating hexagram might embody those plans and intentions of yours.




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Hexagram 44, Coupling

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6 responses to More on hexagram 44

  1. Genesis put it like this…

    “He knew he was walking
    Into a waiting trap,
    Neatly set up for him
    With a bait so richly wrapped.

    So he went inside there to take on what he found
    But he never escaped them, for who can escape what he desires?”

    (from “The Lady Lies” on their “Then There Were Three” album)

    Where the problem of the two-thirds world is poverty (not enough), this is ours. Not having too much — that’s just the symptom. The disease is our inability to escape what we desire. And sometimes we need to, as Yi reminds us so pithily.

    Thank you for this excellent post.

  2. Very apt! A modern Lorelei.

    (Though I persist in believing that the challenge of 44 is not just to escape, but to find ways to live with the desire. The sequence into hexagram 45 has something to say about that.)

  3. I agree, Hilary. I see “escape” as so much more than simply the antithesis of imprisonment. Freedom for me is wide and expansive, with so much space there is even room for apparently irreconcilable contradictions.

    As you yourself said in your #45 comments, “Somehow the communal vision must expand to encompass this encounter, ‘gathering it together’ in the service of a greater purpose than the mere survival of the status quo.”

    The Genesis song is, for me, not simply mourning the loss of the man. It is more a lament for the human condition itself — that we are so often our own worst enemy, without realising. Do we transcent that or cure it? No. We learn the art of gently, warmly, having a quiet chuckle about our sillinesses. (Sorry that doesn’t relate to Yi, though.)

  4. Thank you this was very insightful & my personal experience has me in agreement,would love to hear your exegesis on the lines!

  5. Several simple things come to mind. Maybe leave well enough alone. You can’t melt an iceberg with a hair dryer. It is a brick wall for God’s sake!. Do you want to tackle this mountain? The challenge is greater than you thought. Perhaps another direction might be better chosen. Your fate may be to face the tiger. Life’s objectives are not easily achieved or surely this isn’t a walk in the park. I believe it is about your draw of straws; this one is short. Not necessarily to turn back from but be aware of what you’re up against.

  6. I agree with Anonymous, I would love to hear your exegesis on the lines. Especially as I have just drawn this hexagram. Is there hope of drawing you out?

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