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54, Marrying Maiden

‘The maiden marries: setting forth to bring order – pitfall.
No harvest in having a direction to go.’

The Judgement of Hexagram 54 seems pervaded by a sense of helplessness. There is nothing to be gained by knowing the goals you seek – and actually setting out to create the life you envisage is a trap. So how is this connected with marriage?

When a woman married in ancient China, she would be accompanied to her husband’s house by her young sisters and female cousins. They became ‘second wives’ – with the duties of a wife, but without the status. The marrying maiden here is one of these second wives. Her life is suddenly, utterly changed, and the change is altogether beyond her control. The marriage wasn’t arranged with her in mind; she will have to find a way to fit into the new household, as she surely won’t have any direct influence on the way it works.

In practice, men and women alike who receive this hexagram find themselves drawn through changes that are quite beyond their control. Perhaps they feel dwarfed by the powers surrounding them, or ‘out of the loop’. When a woman receives this hexagram in response to a relationship question, I’ve learned to ask her whether the man isn’t already involved with someone else. Very often, he is – and the poor ‘second woman’ explains that she never wanted to fall in love with him…

I received this hexagram myself when I asked for help and guidance in coping with Dad’s death in October 2002. After a while, I started to understand how I felt through the marrying maiden’s sense of insecurity. I was being catapulted one stage further into adulthood by a change I certainly hadn’t asked for. Like the second wife, I was finding that the ground couldn’t be guaranteed to stay firm and solid under my feet.

However, this hexagram is not just the story of any second wife. The fifth line reads:

‘The Emperor Yi marries off the maiden
The first wife’s sleeves were not so beautiful as the junior wife’s sleeves.
The moon almost full.
Good fortune.’

Emperor Yi married his sisters to King Wen, sage and ancestor of the Zhou people whose oracle this is. The beauty of the second wife’s sleeves, and the moon almost full, are omens of what was to come: Taisi, the second wife, was raised to the status of first wife. She bore King Wen’s son, Wu, who would overthrow the Shang and establish the Zhou dynasty.

Receiving Hexagram 54 often reflects a very insecure, frustrating situation. But although this is change you didn’t ask for and can’t control, it could still be bringing you something of value. ‘Marriage’ can also mean finding your own place and fulfilling your destiny. The moving lines will show where you find yourself in this new situation: if line 5 is among them, then great things can grow from here.


Further reading:

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