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The Odds in I Ching

iching odds 2What is the significance of odds in I Ching coin tosses? I Ching (or Yijing) is an ancient Chinese book of truth and knowledge. It has deep roots in early magic and divination. Tossing coins is believed to be one way of consulting the oracle of that truth and knowledge about a specific question.

You can use a set of three of any kind of two-sided heads-or-tails-type coins for I Ching coin tosses. Consulting the oracle consists of a set of six tosses of the three coins, keeping that question in mind. Each toss of three coins represents one line of a six-line diagram. The six-line diagram created by the six tosses in the set draw on the ancient wisdom of the oracle in a way that is parallel to your intuition.

But the question remains, what are the odds? And how do they break down?

iching odds 1It sounds complicated, but it’s really pretty simple. In any toss of the three coins, each coin lands either “heads” (up, or Yin), or “tails” (down, or Yang). So there are eight different combinations in which the three coins can land.

One of the eight possible combinations is three heads. Another possible combination is three tails. When you get three heads or three tails, it’s considered a “changing” line. Statistically, the odds are against this. Each is probable just once out of eight possible combinations or, expressed fractionally, 1/8 of the time.

There are three possible ways to get two heads and a tail, and three possible ways to get two tails and a head. These combinations are considered “static” lines in the diagram. The two heads, one tail combination and the one head, two tails combination are each probable three out of the eight possible combinations or, expressed fractionally, 3/8 of the time.

So on average, you can expect to get one or two changing lines out of six for every time you toss the I Ching (1/8 plus 1/8 equals 1/4–remember your math?). It’s somewhat unusual to get no changing lines. This can be interpreted to indicate that the situation or relationship you asked the oracle about is fairly stable for the time being.

In summary, using the I Ching three-coin toss method, your odds of getting a changing Yang line are 1/8, a changing Yin line are 1/8, a static Yang line are 3/8, and a static Yin line are 3/8. Why not try your odds right now? All it takes is a question and three coins!

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