Runes and the I Ching
In previous Blogs, I have written about correspondences between the Tarot and other divinatory systems like astrology.
I thought it would be interesting to continue along this vein and look at some of the not-so-well-known correspondences between the Tarot and Runes and the Chinese I Ching or Book of Changes as it is sometimes known as.
Historically, Tarot cards, the Runes and the I Ching have all developed along different time lines of course. Runes can be traced back centuries in Northern Europe and in England in 1215, the signing of the Magna Carta which guaranteed citizens of England certain civil rights, was held at a location traditionally used for royal meetings, called Runnymede or the ‘Meadow of Runes’, which is very close to present day Heathrow Airport in West London.
The I Ching can be traced back at least three thousand years and much of Chinese cultural history has taken inspiration from this book. Both branches of Chinese philosophy, Confucianism and Taoism, have their common roots here.
The most commonly recognised set of Runes, called the Elder Futark has, like the Greek alphabet, 24 characters in a specific order. However, the Runes are more than just phonetic signs, each character portrays a storehouse of knowledge and meaning. For example Mannaz, meaning Man and has the sound of ‘M’. It represents the basic human qualities we all have, whether male or female, our shared experiences and our social order. The Tarot card it is connected with is The Emperor.
Another example is the Rune Gebo, meaning gift or links between people and has the sound of ‘G’. Gifts between two or more people, brings connections, unity and exchanges. The symbol for Gebo is like the ‘X’ mark we make to symbolise kisses. Not surprisingly, the Tarot card connected with Gebo is The Lovers.
The I Ching however, has 64 hexagrams (combinations of 6 lines or broken lines in a square shape).
The Hexgram numbered 20 is called Kuan/Contemplation. Not only is this connected with contemplation it is also about being seen or viewed. The Queen of Swords is connected with this Hexagram.
Another example would be Hexagram no 17, called Sui/Following or Adapting and the Tarot card in this case is the 8 of Cups. Reading through part of the meaning of Sui, the I Ching states:
‘In order to obtain a following one must first know how to adapt oneself. If a man would rule, he must first learn to serve for only in this way does he secure from those below him the joyous assent this is necessary to follow him. If he has to obtain a following by force, cunning or conspiracy, he invariably arouses resistance which obstructs willing adherence.’
Compare this to the 8 of Cups meaning which often shows the need to walk into the unknown or an emotional risk is being taken, which the result is not known. Sometimes we can put too much emotional energy into a relationship or project, only to be disappointed. The best thing then is often to walk always.
When consulting the I Ching, the Hexagrams are not used as a spread like cards. Using a set of 3 coins (or several yarrow sticks but this is very complicated!), the coins are thrown down and those showing heads up are given the numerical value of 2 (Yin) and tails a value of 3 (Yang), the total from each three coins being added up. An even total is Yin and represents a broken line and an uneven number (Yang) represents a solid line. The coins are thrown six times and the lines, depending whether even or uneven/odd, are written down, starting with the first at the bottom.
Runes, like the Tarot, can be drawn at random (usually from a bag containing them) and placed in a spread. A very common one used is the Grid of Nine, with three rows of three Runes, representing the past at the bottom, the present in the middle and the future at the top. As a square, it is a very protective symbol of course. The well known Celtic Cross, using ten cards, also works well with Runes.
When reading up for the article, I found that some of the corresponding meanings between Tarot and Runes or Tarot and I Ching were very similar and some not so. I feel it is an interesting subject to delve into to see how you feel about the correspondences and whether you can relate to them.
Both Runes and the I Ching are now available as cards and both warrant further study as subjects in their own right of course.