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Yarrow vs Coin method

turtlfur

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So here's the dilemma-

There is a disparity between the stalk and coin methods of accessing the Yijing: The probability of getting a certain ratio of fixed and changing yin and yang lines is different in the two methods.

To quote my teacher Jim Cleaver in his manual for his Yijing course:

The coin method homogenizes a mathematical uniqueness inherent in the stalk method. Coins sacrifice precision for ease of use.


This has become an issue for me in my use of Yijing. Whereas in the past I have never hesitated to throw the coins and cast a hexagram, these days I use the stalks and must set aside 30-45 minutes just to obtain the hexagram, and additional time to interpret it. (of course if i did it all the time i would probably get faster......)

The upside is that it feels more ritualistic and because the stalk method is more ancient I feel that I am connecting with the spirit of the Yi in a deep way through the stalks.

The downside is that because it is so time consuming, i have not consulted the Yijing as much as I have in the past.

I guess I am throwing this out there to see how this community feels about this issue. Now that I know that there is an actual statistical difference in the probability of obtaining certain lines with the coin method, I somehow feel that it isn't right to use it.

But then again maybe in the end it does not matter how you connect with the Yi. There are so many ways to use it: some people just flip open the book to a "random" page every day, others use numerological divination to obtain a hexagram, others sit in meditation and wait for a vision to come into their minds. What do you think?? :confused:

PS I searched the past forums for it, but if I overlooked something from a past thread please let me know.
 

hilary

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Gist...
- if you prefer the probabilities with the stalk method but would prefer something faster, try 16 tokens or two coins.
- but bear in mind that although using yarrow is older than using coins, the yarrow method we have - and its probabilities - is a reconstruction, no older than the 3 coin method.

Luis' list is great. Now if we just tag those threads, they'll be more findable in future.
 

fkegan

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Hi turtlfur,
You raise a number of questions. First, what has probability to do with casting the Yi? The fundamental probability equations have a factor in them that becomes undefined (div by zero error) for unique events, and any proper divination is an unique event.

In general, you get more moving lines using coins than yarrow stalks. How long the stalks take is a matter of your ritual. The line value is determined by breaking the bundle even or odd (by fours not just two). If you break the bundle into a big group and a small group, and only count out the small group, it is possible to get an oracle quickly through the stalks.

Getting in touch with the Yi spirit isn't determined by technique used. Whatever it is that has you wanting to use the longer ritual is your thing not the Yi's.

Your teacher says, "Coins sacrifice precision for ease of use." Precision is a strange term, technically one generally is seeking accuracy, the ability of an answer to be correct. Precision is the degree to which an answer can be duplicated exactly the same. Oracles have no business being duplicated, though I have seen folks be quite impressed when they try to evade their oracle but casting again and getting exactly the same oracle a second time. Generally, you can get a totally different oracle and realize its interpretation is the same, which is impressive too.

I would suggest, when in doubt--ask the Yi. At this point you believe the yarrow stalks are better, so invest an hour--take 15 minutes quieting your mind, then ask the Yi to advise you how to consult it, the fewer oracles with the major ritual or the coins for simplicity. And go from there.

Traditionally, folks made the choice the other way around. If you were wanting to make a major production of your Oracle, use the stalks. If you need to ask a series of questions and you feel you need the answer quick with more moving lines, use coins.

Frank
 

hilary

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In general, you get more moving lines using coins than yarrow stalks.
Not true. You get the same number of moving lines, but in different proportions - see the chart on this page.

First, what has probability to do with casting the Yi?
Not a lot - as Dobro observed here, and in other places. But something, as some mediums of communication make it easier than others to transmit a clear message. I remember once trying to divine with software that gave a 50:50 chance of changing/ unchanging lines - a pretty clear case of probabilities interfering with communication. The same could be said of methods designed always to give just one line changing, thus reducing Yi's expressive range. It's not so clear that more or fewer changing yin lines could get in the way.
 

lindsay

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There is a philosophical problem inherent in using the yarrow-stalk method. I first understood this a few years ago when Steve Marshall explained why he preferred coins.

Let’s assume all random operations performed in large numbers are subject to the “laws” of probability, and that casting coins or counting stalks is a random operation.

The odds for these procedures are (from Hacker’s “I Ching Handbook”):

Yarrow stalks:
Moving Yin Line 1/16
Moving Yang Line 3/16
Static Yang Line 5/16
Static Yin Line 7/16

Three coins:
Moving Yin Line 2/16
Moving Yang Line 2/16
Static Yang Line 6/16
Static Yin Line 6/16

You can see the yarrow stalk method, used many times, favors static yin lines and moving yang lines. You can also see the coin method offers the same odds for yin and yang static lines and yin and yang moving lines.

Here’s the problem: should yin be favored over yang, or vice versa? Aren’t yin and yang equally matched in the universe? The yarrow method does not reflect the vision of yin and yang as fully comparable in power and influence. I think this is wrong.

Added to this is the fact (as Hilary explained) that the current yarrow stalk method has no claim to special authority – in fact, the coin method may be older.

It’s up to you, but if you believe yin and yang are co-equal forces in the dynamics of change, then the coin method is preferable.

Lindsay
 

heylise

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Great explanation Lindsay!

I never used the yarrowstalks a lot, the beads with the same odds a bit more often. But with coins the answers were more often 'right' in my memory. Nowadays I seldom get an answer which I cannot figure out at all, but in past times that happened very often. With yarrow there were more puzzling answers than with coins.

Funny thing is though that digital casting very seldom gives an answer I cannot understand, and there it makes no difference if it is according to yarrow probablities or to coins.

LiSe
 

heylise

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On the junzi thread turtlfur gave a link to a video about quantum mechanics. I clicked on another similar one after seeing it, this one:
Quantum Entanglement

Halfway is a very interesting part about casting more yin or more yang. Your intention can influence it. That explains to me why the 'easiest' method (for me digital casting) and the equal probablities like coins give the best results. Both make it possible to have that intention without being distracted from it by manual actions or by unequal probablities.

The question (and your emotions in it) make that intention.

LiSe
 
M

meng

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I don't agree that more yes's or yangs are objectives to be preferred, as the woman (edit: it was a man who said it, was listening to his voice, which sounds like a woman) in the video seemed to say. She asked if it mattered if we chose yang or yin. I thought a sec and said no, not really. Then she said, yes, and I listened to her reason, but it didn't makes sense to me. It was a yes bias, and therefore not objective. If the world becomes a victim, and implodes, or if the world becomes the cause, and explodes, what's the difference?

I've heard this point of view before, that it matters to choose yes/yang, even from Joseph Campbell, whom I have a huge respect for, but I still can not clearly agree.
 
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M

meng

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Perhaps he was not suggesting it matters in an altruistic sense, only that yes does influence more yeses.
 

fkegan

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Not true. You get the same number of moving lines, but in different proportions - see the chart on this page.


Not a lot - as Dobro observed here, and in other places. But something, as some mediums of communication make it easier than others to transmit a clear message. I remember once trying to divine with software that gave a 50:50 chance of changing/ unchanging lines - a pretty clear case of probabilities interfering with communication. The same could be said of methods designed always to give just one line changing, thus reducing Yi's expressive range. It's not so clear that more or fewer changing yin lines could get in the way.

Hi Hilary,
Generally, if I use a yarrow technique it is more often to yield an oracle without moving lines than coins. Again, odds or probability require an assumption of a large population of equal opportunities or tries or N. For the unique event the equations go undefined.

And Most important of all: To get a moving line Yin line the bundle must be divided 3 times in a row into subsets that are evenly divisible by 4, a moving Yang requires the same three times subsets that are not. That is the source of your 1in 18 and 3 in 18 odds, since there are 3 times as many ways for the bundle to be split that aren't even by 4 as are.

With coins, it is only required that the 3 coins fall with the same head/tail at the same time and moving Yin and Yang are truly equal. However, by the time one has done all the machinations in abstract probabilities and oddsmanship the fundamental process of allowing one's own actions to develop one of four possible number values without personal control of which one has been reduced to an academic exercise.

Software is always a binary exercise with some algorithm at its best they run on a fast counter tied to a keystroke to determine when to stop the counter and then calculate the resultant answer into natural numbers 1-64.

The most intriguing way to cast the Yi is to not know the hexagram numbers and simply think of 2 numbers, 1-64. In one's own mind you see the numbers develop and then you find out moving lines only by the difference in line structure of those two hexagrams without any pesky odds or probabilities. However it requires a fresh naivety not available to us old hands.

Frank
 

turtlfur

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Another interesting way to use numbers to obtain hexagrams comes from the Chinese Yi Jing Master Shao Yung (1011-1077). Probably this has already been discussed on a thread in the past :p

Plum Blossom Divination (Mei hua xin yi or Mei hua yi shu) involves obtaining a three or four digit number (through meditation or through an interpretation of external events) and then using division to reduce that number to a trigram or hexagram. So event though you may know (at least some of) the hexagram numbers, you can still obtain one in a more "random chance" manner using this method.


Actually I don't know much about it, and I have the Chinese version of this book but I can't translate it (yet!!) I don't think it has been translated into English, and the only book that I know that discusses it in any detail is in a brief section of W.A. Sherril and W.K. Chu's An Anthology of the I Ching entitled Advanced Divination. So I would love it if anyone has any info on books or internet sites that have more info on this method.

Thanks everyone for the food for thought. I think I need to lighten up and go back to using the coins when I want to have a brief conversation with the Yi!! :bows:
 

fkegan

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Thanks everyone for the food for thought. I think I need to lighten up and go back to using the coins when I want to have a brief conversation with the Yi!! :bows:

Hi Turtlfur,
That is pretty much what just about everyone does, try the yarrow but eventually settle into the coins since they work so nicely without requiring an entire 45 min. ritual.

Frank
 

Sparhawk

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Just to throw a monkey-wrench on this entertaining discussion, I just started a new thread with a new article I published in my Google-Docs. Actually, this thread served as the final push to actually get that thing out of my head and put it in writing.

New thread here
 

lienshan

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these days I use the stalks and must set aside 30-45 minutes just to obtain the hexagram
hi turtlfur ... try use this yarrowstalk divination method ;)

You need 36 yarrowstalks: paint six rings on each stalk; white rings = yang lines and black rings = yin lines.
You find the pattern here: http://www.appositive.net/oysterbay/iching/kingwen.pdf some examples:

white-white-white-white-white-white = hexagram 1
black-black-black-black-black-black = hexagram 2
black-white-black-black-black-white = hexagram 3 (and hexagram 4 upside down)
black-white-black-white-white-white = hexagram 5 (and hexagram 6 upside down)

You get the hexagram by picking randomly one of the 36 painted yarrowstalks and casting it up into the air.
You read the painted rings from the bottom and the degree of the stalk tells wich one is the changing line:

0 to 29 degree = the 1th line is the changing line
30 to 59 degree = the 2th line is the changing line
60 to 89 degree = the 3th line is the changing line
90 to 119 degree = the 4th line is the changing line
120 to 149 degree = the 5th line is the changing line
150 to 179 degree = the 6th line is the changing line

The hexagrams produced are like the old ones described in Zuozhuan. The measuring of degrees is known
from the reading of T-cracks used in the tortoise divination method.

lienshan :bows:
 

sergio

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Hi Lienshan;
Interesting method;just a few questions1.what do you mean by "a degree"?-2.how do you determine the ratio of those degrees?
Sergio
 

lienshan

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hi Sergio

1. Face south. East is 0 degrees. South is 90 degrees. West is 180 degrees.
2. I use a compass.

It's maybe more "historical correct" to paint: yang lines = three (white) rings and yin lines = two (black) rings
according to Shuo Kua (8th wing) chapter one:

"They invented the yarrow-stalk oracle in order to lend aid in a mysterious way to the light of the gods. To heaven they assigned the number three and to earth the number two; from these they computed the other numbers."

lienshan
 
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sergio

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Thanks J.!It just dawn on me what you meant by"casting it up on the air"....Now it makes sense(to me...)I'll try it.
Sergio
 

lienshan

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the dog that didn't bark

I was inspired by this Sherlock Holmes dialog from the Silver Blaze mystery:

Gregory (Scotland Yard detective): "Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"
Sherlock Holmes: "To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."
Gregory: "The dog did nothing in the night-time."
Sherlock Holmes: "That was the curious incident."

It's exactly the same story with the yarrowstalk counting method; why isn't a method mentioned with one single word in any of the ancient texts and commentarys? The simple answer is, that the yarrowstalks were actually never counted, when the diviners created their hexagrams back in the early days of the Zhouyi!

lienshan :D
 

applegirl

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Just adding my very small experience of the iChing to this. I started off using the 3-coin method until I heard about the probabilities of the 2-coin method matching more accurately with the yarrow stalk method. For me the 2-coin method feels more intuitively correct. I have tried the yarrow stalks, but generally time constraints are offputting for making it a regular way of consulting.

I can't really describe the feeling of using the 2-coin method, but my relationship with the iChing shifted somewhat when I started using it. It's like it resonated with me more.

Applegirl ;)
 

montanhes

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Hi everybody.

I am interested in this subject, although I know very little about the history of Yijing.

I'll tell you an insight that I had about how to obtain the same probability of the 3 coins method using the yarrow stalks method.

Retiring two stalks in the second step of the query, instead of just one - and only in the first division (which aims to get the first number of each line) -, allows the simetric probability.

In the other two divisions continues to take only one stalk.

---------------------------------

"Take one (two in this case) stalk from the right hand heap and place it between the little finger and ring finger of your left hand":

49

21 28 - 2 2 1 - 5
22 27 - 2 1 2 - 5
23 26 - 2 4 3 - 9
24 25 - 2 3 4 - 9
25 24 - 2 2 1 - 5
26 23 - 2 1 2 - 5
27 22 - 2 4 3 - 9
28 21 - 2 3 4 - 9


5+4+4 - 50% 50% 50% - 1/8 - Old Yang
9+8+8 - 50% 50% 50% - 1/8 - Old Yin

5+8+8 - 50% 50% 50% - 1/8
9+8+4 - 50% 50% 50% - 1/8 - Young Yang
9+4+8 - 50% 50% 50% - 1/8 3/8

5+4+8 - 50% 50% 50% - 1/8
5+8+4 - 50% 50% 50% - 1/8 - Young Yin
9+4+4 - 50% 50% 50% - 1/8 3/8

2/16 - 1/8
2/16 - 1/8
6/16 - 3/8
6/16 - 3/8

------------------------------

Considering that the selected first stalk symbolizes the unity of the "three powers" (earth, heaven and man), I see no problem in picking up two instead of one - which would represent the duality that constitutes the three powers.

The representation of the unit would continue to exist in the following two steps of the method.

I'm Sorry about my poor English. I hope I have been understood.

Regards,
Marcos Vaz.
 

yamabushi

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Is it possible to overdue using of I ching?
For example, is it too much for yarrow method to ask 3 question in same day?
 

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