Using the Tarot and the I Ching

image of chinese coins used in i ching

This article will introduce you to the major oracles of the East and the West (the I Ching and the Tarot) and how using Tarot and I Ching in psychic readings can be used together. To put it simply, the Tarot contains symbolic pictures that relate to common human experiences and also provide visual clues about interpretation. Whereas the I Ching gives solutions in text form to universal challenging situations we all face.

My own edition is called The Holistic I Ching. There are sixty-four sections of The I Ching, called Hexagrams. One could say that I Ching texts advise how to create a pattern of order, even out of a chaotic situation, while Tarot cards are images that prompt intuition and convey messages about hidden potential. The overall aim of any reading is to reveal the real causes; to convey unique solutions and to promote self-empowerment by bringing subconscious factors into the light of day.

Consulting The I Ching and the Tarot works by synchronicity or meaningful coincidence as the psychologist Carl Jung called it. He regarded using The I Ching as a valid way of tapping the subconscious, similar to dream interpretation. We choose a card or an I Ching text via a random method, e.g. by selecting cards that are face down, or choosing a section of The I Ching by using coins or beads. This allows the subconscious to reveal a pattern of order, like a Seven Card Tarot Layout or an I Ching Hexagram, that relates to an issue at hand. It is all about intention, i.e. holding a strong request in your mind for information and help about a particular problem. This is an example of the powerful connection between mind and matter.

The Tarot emerged in medieval Europe, with inspiration from ancient Egypt as can be seen in the symbols on the Chariot. Whereas, The I Ching came from Ancient China then spread all over the world. There is also another difference between the two. For The I Ching was designed to deal with current situations and questions need to be asked within that context. Whereas Tarot cards are used mostly to gain indications of future potential even if some cards in a layout refer to the present. Both type of readings brings up strong probabilities, based on current trends and present life-patterns. Thus readings can be most illuminating if the two systems are combined.

Gaining clues about future developments is a two-edged sword. For one nearly always tries to hurry up predicted favourable events, thereby affecting what is meant to be learned or experienced in the now. This is why the author has found that The I Ching is of greater immediate assistance. For how can a future goal be reached, if you do not take the essential intermediate steps for reaching that aim? In this regard, The I Ching is of significant value as regards to character building. This is not to say that the Tarot cannot be used in a similar way. Yet most people approach the Tarot only for fortune telling rather than delving into the deeper layers of understanding. However, think of the Tarot as signposts on a journey through life experiences to gain conscious awareness and you will have an important key.

Guideposts on the Path to Wholeness

The Tarot system is based on universal archetypes that are guide posts on the path to wholeness. To attest to this fact, there is the work of Sallie Nichols, who wrote Jung and the Tarot, an Archetypal Journey. (Available at Her book explores the symbolism of just twenty-two of the cards called The Major Arcana. Sallie Nichols outlines the meaning of these cards from an historical, sociological, spiritual and psychological viewpoint. Another recommended book is Tarot, by Jane Lyle. (You can also buy this book on It is a comprehensive work on both the Major and Minor Arcana cards. It contains many illustrations, various card layouts, as well as insights from alchemy, ancient religions and astrology.

In regard to symbolism in general, there is a book called The Secret Language of Symbols by David Fontana. It contains clear descriptions, based on well-founded research. Many years ago, it was the author Professor Stephan Hoeller who first alerted me to the fact that Tarot and I Ching images are archetypes, common to all humanity. In an instant, it became clear that the common themes at the heart of both oracles, had been outlined fully by the psychologist Dr. Carl Jung and also by Joseph Campbell in this work on mythology and comparative religion. For one can see universal symbols from the Tarot in classical artworks, stained-glass windows, film themes, mythology, fairy tales, heraldic emblems, sculpture, tapestry, as well as personal dream images and religious icons.

It is relatively easy for the keen student to see the correlations between the I Ching and Tarot cards. Some archetypes are so similar; anyone could see the link that Stephan Hoeller was emphasising. If you would like to explore his work further, you can go to to download some of his many inspiring talks. For instance, one talk is on the amazing symbolism contained in The Lord of the Rings.

Gandalf the Wise Wizard from The Lord of the Rings – He is a modern version of Odin, a magical god-like Elder from Norse Religions, who travelled the land setting things to right via his powerful staff (which is a symbol of spiritual will).  In the Tarot, we find the same image in the card of The Magician, the one who links Heaven and Earth though his mind centred in the Eternal (the eternity symbol is shown above his head). The Magician represents that part of ourselves that manifests goals through alignment with spiritual willpower or soul destiny and is also master of many talents. When the inner or outer work is done, everything will flower all around us, as on this card. In the I Ching, the Magician card can be linked to Hexagram No. 1 The Creative, which represents courage and dynamic power used for the good of the whole.

Now look closely at the imagery on the Hermit tarot card, where he stands more distant from the world, but holding a light for others among the mountain tops.  This can be linked to I Ching Hexagram No. 52 that is made up of two trigrams or symbols for a Mountain. Both the Hermit card and No. 52 stand for wisdom gained through stillness, meditation, detachment, temperance, or simply taking time out for rest and seeking good counsel. This image represents a time of quiet introversion and a staff of support from an Elder, which is quite different to the Magician with his staff of power.

Likewise, the Tarot card of the Fool has an obvious link to Hexagram No. 4 – Inexperience or Youthful Folly. They both advise seeking knowledge from  a teacher or an expert and to look before leaping into an area, where it would be so easy to lose footing. Not every facet of the Tarot and The I Ching can be slotted together so neatly. Nor could one system supplant the other. Yet there are many close and obvious correlations, despite their cultural differences.

It is very important to choose a set of Tarot cards that you relate to well. Choose carefully, as many of the packs depart from the traditional images. In some instances the images are macabre; whereas with most packs, the keynote is beauty. One needs to be able to sense the meaning of a card just by looking at the image and to feel inspired by the artwork. It is recommended that the reader start by buying the beautifully coloured  and decorated, Universal Waite Tarot Deck (shown here), from US Games Systems Inc at the website

Probabilities not Certainties

Working with the Tarot can be most revealing, e.g. using it to think creatively about career choices, or business options, or difficult relationships. One can explore many useful images that lead to new ideas. Yet readings from the Tarot do not indicate certainties, nor events that will definitely occur. This is similar to what Galadriel said in The Lord of the Rings when looking into her magic pool.  For she said that it was a mirror reflecting some things that will come to pass and others that are possibilities, depending on the action taken, in this case by the bearers of the Ring. Galadriel is an archetype of female intuitive great wisdom.

Readings are a way of tapping the subconscious to reveal very likely probabilities. It is similar to saying that if a train has set out from the terminus, it is highly probable that it will reach Central Station, for the energy is already set powerfully in motion. This is how predictions work. Energies are set in train and they will have their inevitable results, which show up as strong potential in readings.  Hence oracles also illustrate karma or cause and effect.

Psychic Readings and Timing

Timing is often a vexed question with psychic readings. Some psychic predictions turn out to be relevant far in the future, yet the reader may see them quite clearly. This is because one is tuning into a timeless state of mind beyond clocks and calendars. (It is then that Numerology can provide more information about harmony with right timing.) This type of psychic awareness of timeless realities has run in the female line of my family for many generations, resulting in intuitive insight and prophetic dreams.

Timing in a reading is often a matter of psychological timing.  For example, when you have dealt with most of the unfinished business, worked on forgiving past wrong,  and feel optimistic about the future then you are ready and open to receiving happiness in a new way. However, one may try to act on predictions immediately, or be waiting for them to happen next week! Life always surprises us when fresh potential emerges and the way it will manifest is not entirely predictable. Doing so would have the power to take away the magic and the mystery of dynamic inner change. Hence it needs to be stated that readings give guidelines, options or choices. This places readings in a workable and empowering context.

Clairvoyants can tune into a timeless archetype, but often cannot change events.  For example, a friend of mine had a detailed dream about the New York World Trade Twin Towers building catastrophe five years before it happened. Yet being in Australia, she did not know which building it was and could not have given any valid security warnings, which probably would have been ignored anyway.  (The archetypal image in the Tarot is the Tower Card Reversed.) Perhaps her dream occurred when the attacks were first planned and she tuned into this, via the Collective Unconscious as Carl Jung would describe it.

Thus prophetic predictions can be helpful, if they are seen as a lead to follow, or a wake-up call to possibilities, or an early warning system that requires vigilance and maintenance to be taken seriously. Yet often nothing can stop a major crisis occurring, even when a warning is received. Carl Jung emphasised that prophetic insight (experienced by people the world over) comes from an aspect of consciousness that is not bound by common notions of timing or logic. He also said that neglect or lack of insight into the less rational aspects of ourselves is the cause of most of the world’s ills. Indigenous people and animals are often better equipped to take note of an intuitive prompting and thereby avoid danger.

When doing readings, if a major change is indicated in a Tarot layout, I then check via The I Ching whether it is likely to apply soon, or not! The current state can then be aligned with the future potential seen in the Tarot Cards in a practical way and thus, more accurate assumptions made about timing. This is because The I Ching system always directs one to the present moment, or to unresolved issues, sometimes no matter what question is asked! When no action has been taken in regard to a specific question, an I Ching text may provide a general indication only. For one has to be already involved in the dynamics of the process to gain total clarity. Ideally, take some action first, before doing a reading.

Furthermore, the more one opens up a psychic channel to the reader and communicates with that person openly and honestly, the more information you will  receive. Playing games with a reader, or maintaining a stony silence, just blocks insight coming through, as readings are a two-way process that requires permission on an inner level. Yet many people do not understand this fact. Also, one has to try to avoid doing readings when very tired or late at night. It is vital to be fully awake in order to interpret correctly. However, if feeling very anxious at any time of the day, it is better to communicate with someone, than not. If the information gleaned is unclear, come back to the reader the next day or next week. Often time is need to assimilate a reading and serious issues can take months to deal with.

Summary of Differences between the Two Systems

I Ching readings always refer to the current situation. Hence one needs to take some action about the matter in question first, then consult The I Ching. Yet predictions can be found in I Ching readings, when there are several texts or lines received, i.e. a progression of events is involved. For example Hexagrams No. 1 and No. 46 can refer to a ten-year process! I Ching readings can be used for questions about world problems, changes in society or political movements.

The Tarot system provides pointers to events that may, or may not come to pass. This is because the cards portray choices, as in a lateral thinking exercise. Intimations of future potential can be very useful when feeling stuck, in a bind, or devoid of new solutions. The symbols on the cards can be of extraordinary benefit in activating images and ideas. For example, they can provide a visual stimulus regarding career, housing or health options. They are also brilliant for tuning into the many key symbols on each card.

Yet revealed images do not indicate events that will definitely happen. It depends upon how you relate to those archetypal patterns and what you do with that potential. To give one example, in a Seven Card Layout the Sixth card represents the best course of action, while the Seventh card signifies a likely outcome based on whether or not the best course is taken.

I really enjoy using both of these oracles and have gained much insight from doing so. Thus I hope that you are inspired to study at least the Tarot. To do so, you need to one Tarot card at a time, perhaps carrying it around with you and thinking about it deeply, for at least one day. The best way to relate to its meaning is from your own personal experience. For instance: What was happening to me when I came upon this archetypal situation or pattern in my life? How did I handle it? What was the result? How can I not repeat errors? It is easy to see why both systems can be used as a guide on the Path to Self Realisation and can bring so much peace and self-awareness.

As one wit said “I have suffered many things in my life, most of which never happened!” I would add “Or might have been avoided.” Conversely, how much happiness have we rejected or not appreciated. It is all a matter of self-worth.

Life is meant to be as joyous as humanly possible.

Happy exploration.


The Tao of Psychology – Synchronicity and the Self

Dr. J. Shinoda-Bolen, Harper and Row 1982.

The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious

Dr. Carl G. Jung, Princeton University Press 1980.

Jung and the Tarot – an Archetypal Journey

Sallie Nichols, Samuel Weiser New York 1980.


Jane Lyle, Hamlyn, London 1990.

The Secret Language of Symbols

David Fontana, Piatkus Publications, London 1997.

The Wholistic I Ching

Judith Jeffrey, Australia 1990.

Author: Judith