There are a number of ways one can approach pip cards: through using a key-word mnemonic; geometrical, musical and numerological reflection; connections to their equivalent number in the trump sequence; and correlations to other systems of thought. Herein I want to show one way in which an aspect of the 64 hexagrammes of the I-Ching may be correlated with the 36 pip cards, excluding the four Aces.
Whenever working with various systems — whatever they may be — what I strive to do is to go back to their basis and seek to understand how the overall structure emerges. It is on this basis that, some twenty years back, I strove to understand the I-Ching on its own basis, as a reflection of the natural world. To make this brief, I shall here simply mention that early Chinese thought also had a somewhat similar fourfold elemental division to that of the West. For our purposes, I’ll use Air to the East, Fire to the South (if in the northern hemisphere, North if in the Southern), Water in the West, and Earth in the North (if northern, South if southern). It should be noted that, in the West these arise out of Ancient Greek thought, these four elements have themselves been considered to emerge out of two principles: that of moisture; and that of heat. These, in isolation, produce (respectively) Water and Fire; when mixed Air; and in their absence, Earth.
In the four cardinal directions, we have the rising of the Sun, its zenith in the South (in the northern hemisphere), its setting in the West, and its ‘midnight’ position projected to the North in completing a cycle and for its eventual return to the East. Here we already have two ‘active’, and two ‘recessive’ or ‘receptive’ positions: dawn and noon as active, and dusk and midnight as receptive.
It we take the dual form of an unbroken Yang line as active, and a ‘hollowed’ Yin line as receptive, we generate a relation between the four elements and the Yin-Yang lines, by a first step, as follows:
Southern Hemisphere view
Northern Hemisphere view
Of both the Yin and Yang lines, allocation to two positions makes for lack of clarity, and we can easily observe that the ‘force’ of the mid-day Sun is greater than that of daybreak and that, similarly, the receptivity of midnight greater than dusk. A second line can be added above each foundation line to show this thus:
Southern Hemisphere view
Northern Hemisphere view
A new problem arises, however, though both Fire and Earth are clearly distinguished, both Air and Water appear to now have an equality of active and receptive force which, having started with reflections that dawn (Air) is more Yang, and dusk (Water) more Yin, requires us to add a third line to show this. Adding a third line also adds yet other possibilities, resulting in not four primary points, but also their cross-points. The cross point are generated by the ‘secondary’ trigrammes.
Southern Hemisphere view
Northern Hemisphere view
The reasoning for the placement of the inter-primary trigrammes is straight-forward if the positions are taken, as we began, as reflecting diurnal motion: there is growth and hence a greater Yang energy from morning until afternoon, with Yin beginning to form a foundation in mid-afternoon, yet under a still dominant Yang, and so on around the circle of the day.
The figure that results, incidentally, is precisely the earliest form of the eight trigrammes, attributed to Fu Hsi.
It should be noted here that, as seen in diurnal motion, each element is not fixed to a cardinal location, but rather includes its quarter from (for example for Air) sunrise until the next period is reached. Hence two trigrammes are included as part of the element. Considerations as to the trigrammes’ titles — from dawn deosil: Light; Lake; Heaven; Wind; Water; Mountain; Earth; and Thunder — makes for important reflections to more deeply understanding each of these. From my perspective, the 64 hexagrammes can only be understood by understanding each trigram individually. The two keys that one may use to gain a deeper understanding of the trigrammes is to notice their respective positions in relation to the elements, and therefore also the seasons and diurnal motion, and, secondly, to ‘read’ them as individual sequences of activity (Yang) and receptivity (Yin) lines, working from the bottom up.
Formation of 64 hexagrammes
The hexagrammes are themselves composite, working on the basis of duality, whereby each trigramme is combined with every trigramme (8 x 8 = 64).
As for the trigrammes, each hexagramme can be understood as described above, ie, as series of actions and ‘receptions’, or what one does, and what one is subjected to; Secondly, one may read the hexagramme as the juxtaposition of two trigrammes; Thirdly, taking the second and fifth lines as representing individuals, the higher in the position of authority in relation to the lower; and fourthly, as patterns from which one may read the first line as the opening of the situation (or the desire one has of the situation), the final as the outcome (or the environmental limitations/support), and the middle four lines as two interpenetrating trigrammes, the lower leading to the higher. This last form, as the most dynamic, is also probably the most fruitful (and forms the basis, incidentally, of a spread I developed some time back I call the Dynamic Hexagramme Spread).
Hexagrammes on cards
The apparent disadvantage of using the hexagrammes on cards, instead of using one of the methods outlined above, is that any hexagramme is presented in static form: there are no moving lines. What we need to remember is that we read the spread. In a spread that contains more than one pip card, a number of hexagrammes will appear with each pip card assigned such. We should take these to be the transformations resulting from, poetically speaking, invisible moving lines.
Reduction of the 64 hexagrammes
Having sixty-four (64) hexagrammes and only forty (40) pip cards at first appears to pose a problem for any possible correlation, until we look more closely at the hexagrammes.
Most hexagrammes are the reversal of other hexagrammes. For example, the following two hexagrammes are reversals of each other:
If we take the reversals as representing two possible manifestations of a similar type of energy, we are left with 36 ‘archetypal’ hexagrammes, most of which have two possible manifestations – some do not have a ‘reversal’ in that the same image manifests (for example, six Yin lines reversed generate the same image).
Correlation: Hexagrammes & Suits
The Aces of the pip cards can represent the four elements in their purest forms. In some way similar to the way in which the four primary trigrammes do. If we therefore subtract these four Aces from the forty pips, we are left with thirty-six pips.
We now have a quantitative basis by which the correlations can be made. The qualitative basis begins from considering the four elements, and the primary trigrammes already correlated earlier.
We can, in fact, begin to enumerate certain qualitative rules for correlations:
1] Any hexagramme composed of a primary trigramme combined with itself (or, in other words, doubled) will be assigned to the element of the foundation trigramme.
2] Any non-reversible hexagramme composed solely of secondary trigrammes will be assigned to the element of the foundation (lower) trigram.
3] Any hexagramme composed of a primary trigramme combined with a secondary will be assigned to the element of the primary trigramme.
By these three steps, we can already assign twenty-four of the thirty-six archetpal hexagrammes. This leaves us only twenty-four of the sixty-four hexagrammes to assign, or only twelve archetypal hexagrammes to assign to the four elements.
4] Any hexagramme composed of two ‘adjacent’ primary trigrammes will be assigned to the element of the antecedent primary trigramme.
5] When the foundation trigrammes of the two forms of any archetypal hexagramme are those positioned adjacent either side a mid-point primary trigramme (on the eight-fold wheel), they will be assigned to the element of that primary trigramme.
We now come to the final eight hexagrammes (from the sixty-four), or, talking of their archetypal forms, the final four hexagrammes. These consist of the lower trigrammes of the two expressive forms of the archetype being found opposite one another on the wheel, whether they be primary or secondary trigrammes. Given that, both Kabalistically and Alchemically Fire and Water are more primal than, respectively, Air and Earth, the primary opposites will be assigned to Fire or Water as appropriate, and the secondary opposites to Air and Earth as appropriate:
6] When the foundation trigrammes of the two forms of any archetypal hexagramme are those positioned opposite one another (on the eight-fold wheel), they will be assigned to the primal element if the trigrammes are primary, or the composite element if the trigrammes are secondary.
The above six steps have allowed us to assign each of the sixty-four hexagrams to the four elements, and therefore to four suits to which four elements can be more or less correlated. Our next step is to determine which of two expressive forms of an archetypal hexagramme shall be deemed the upright, and which the reversed.
In each case, the upright form shall be the one whose foundation (lower) trigramme elemental position correlates with the element of the card with which it is associated.
Pip card key terms
The final task is to assign each of the thirty-six upright forms with the pip cards, remembering that the Aces have no hexagrammatic correlation. In order to make it easier to do this, I use a key-term system for each of the pip cards irrespective of the suit, and then see how the construction of the upright forms of the hexagrammes fits.
2] Balance, relation
3] Communication, co-operation, expression, analysis
4] Stability, order, limitation
5] Creative tension, constructive freedom
6] Harmony, love, care
7] (Spiritual) goal, understanding, synthesis
9] Wishes, aspirations, altruism
10] Fullness, completion, satisfaction
Some of the more distinctive hexagrams can be easily linked thus:
2] Opposites (from step 6 of the Correlations section)
5] Secondary adjacents (moving widdershins) (from step 5)
6] Non-reversible secondaries (from step 2)
7] Adjacent primaries (from step 4)
10] Double primaries (from step 1)
The final four of each suit are assigned according to the position of the secondary trigramme of each hexagramme, and a numerological elemental correlation (remember that step 3 of the Correlations section has given us the element to which the hexagrammes are assigned, and thus, the upright form has also been determined).
3] Air quarter, Lake;
4] Earth quarter, Thunder;
8] Water quarter, Mountain;
9] Fire quarter, Wind.
Correlation: Hexagrammes & Pip Cards
The list that follows gives, for each card — and here I leave the elemental attribution to whichever is the preferred option from various assignations made by various authors — the number of the hexagramme(s) associated with it and the latter’s name(s). The numbers refer to the ordering of the discussion of each hexagramme in any standard I Ching book. Note that the bracketed column indicates the inverted form of the hexagramme.
I cannot recommend enough that each hexagramme be carefully studied. The table makes associations with any particular pip card simple, yet not simplistic. The only way to determine whether I Ching correlations are fruitful is to use them. For myself, I have on various occasions found them to be highly valuable