Crowley’s Yi King Sticks

“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law”

The Yi King was Crowley’s preferred method of divination and he consulted it regularly if not daily.  He also cast an omen with every Word of the Equinox which were sent to members of the A∴A∴ as a sort of oracular “password” – (See The Words of the Equinox in “The Vault” for details).  Crowley’s personal edition of the Yi King was from “The Sacred Books of the East” series, Vol XVI. (Oxford 1899); translated by Legge and edited by F. Max Muller.  Many practitioners might prefer a modern translation of this work.  However, this is the version Crowley used for over forty years and is therefore especially well suited to the Thelemic scholar researching Crowley’s Yi King readings.

It should be noted that Crowley often disagreed with Legge interpretations.  At times drawing lines through entire sections while simply adding the note “Ass” or “Shit to Legge” etc… but he still utilized this translation as a spring board for his own analysis.  Crowley may have had little choice being that it was the only English edition available at the time.  None the less, most of Crowley’s criticisms were based upon the old aeonic perspectives which colored Legge’s interpretations.

In studying Crowley’s journals it’s clear that he actively engaged the Yi king in his own internal quest for Knowledge.  In a note before the Introduction in his personal copy Crowley wrote, “Very normally: the good hexagrams end ill, and vice-versa. View held in ancient China and a doctrine discovered independently by myself – long experience, experiment, and statistical inquiry – it is not enough to receive a good omen; one must assure it to oneself by some further ritual”.  Crowley’s interpretations were developed through years of labor, trial and analysis in an ongoing process.  Further he recognized that only by his actions would the Omens manifest, bad or good.

Crowley would develop his own unique system which quickly derives a hexagram and utilizes just 6 sticks.  A description of this method was first published in the OTO newsletter Vol. III no. 9 (Summer/August) – 1979 e.v.

Written by Grady McMurtry and part of a series entitled ‘On Knowing Aleister Crowley Personally’.  Grady describes watching Crowley doing a reading while visiting with him at Aston Clinton during the war.  If not for this article we would have no idea how Crowley read his Yi King sticks.  Thank you Hymenaeus Alpha.

“Here is Grady’s description of Crowley’s sticks…

“The blank side is the male (Yang, energy) side.  The divided side (looks like red nail polish to me) is ·the female (Yin, receptive) side.  By my ruler, they are less than an 8th of an inch in thickness, but slightly more than a 16th thick.  They either were mahogany or teak or stained dark to look so.  Each stick has a Yang side and a Yin side. The way Crowley used them was to shuffle them (with his eyes closed) then take them one at a time and, holding each one upright with his right fore­finger (eyes, still closed), get a signal and lay it down either right or left.  First stick down is the bottom line.  You can also get moving lines this way.  If one of the sticks wants to move when you lay it down, just shove it right or left as indicated.  Personally, I like this method of taking The Oracle It gives you a chance for your Angel to communicate directly through your fingertips.”

The image below is a modern replica of Crowley’s sticks made to spec by a dear Brother.  If you wish to get closer to Crowley’s in appearance then the wood should be a dark cherry color and the squares a darker red. (measuring 4 ½” X ½” & just over a 16th of an inch thick)

“Love is the law, love under will”


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The Words of the Equinox

“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law”

In 1907 Crowley began the tradition of issuing a new “Word” at each equinox.  These were sent to each member of the A∴A∴ (Neophyte and above) in good standing.  Commonly issued on Crowley’s personal stationary featuring his “Mark of the Beast” or a lamen of the O.T.O. imprinted in red.  Sometimes sent on unmarked paper or in a hand-written letter but most often typed on small pieces of stationary.  

The manner in which Crowley received each of these oracular Words varied from equinox to equinox.  While many were derived utilizing a sex-magick rite of one sort or another, there was no consistency in the method.  Sometimes the Word was chosen days before the actual Equinox and at other times after – working alone or with others.  At times, he would “hear” the Word, in other instances the Word was given through an assistant or received in a vision.  There is also a versified Ritual of the Ceremony of the Equinox incorporating aspects of the Neophyte ritual which remains unpublished and was utilized by Crowley on certain occasions.  Many Lineages carry on with this tradition, in one form or another, today.

To the Word of the equinox Crowley would append an Oracle and an Omen, a practice he began in the early 20’s.  The Oracle was chosen via bibliomancy.  That is, he would open a Holy book to a random page (most often Liber AL) and using either his thumb or ring, (at times just dropping his signet ring of Ankh-af-na-khonsu on the open page), and where ever his thumb or ring came to rest was the Oracle given for that Equinox.  The Omen was a Yi King reading utilizing a unique method developed by Crowley.  (for details see Crowley’s Yi King Sticks in our “Vault”)  

I have compiled a near complete list of all three aspects – being the Words, Oracles and Omens of the Equinox for each year from 1907 until Crowley’s death in 1947.  This is the most complete list published to date.  Thus far all 82 of the Words have been identified, 49 of the 54 Holy Book Oracles and 42 of the 51 Yi Omens.


1907: Spring – Catena
1907: Autumn – Amphora
1908: Spring – Opleis(?)
1908: Autumn – Belluim(?)
1909: Spring – Perdurabo
1909: Autumn – Audio
1910: Spring – ayata(?)
1910: Autumn – Credo
1911: Spring – Inero
1911: Autumn – Keacota
1912: Spring – Sanctum
1912: Autumn – Snake
1913: Spring – JAHBVLON
1913: Autumn – Peotos
1914: Spring – Poliax
1914: Autumn – N.O.X.
1915: Spring – DUPLEX (given in Enochian DUPLXX)
1915: Autumn – Nebulae
1916: Spring – Sol-Om-On
1916: Autumn – Saggitae
1917: Spring – ADNI
1917: Autumn – Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law
1918: Spring – Akamrach
1918: Autumn – Eleven
1919: Spring – SA-CL =333 two words
1919: Autumn – (Teh & Alko)
1920: Spring – OCELLI
1920: Autumn – Oh, so much! (Word means Plenty)
1921: Spring – MENTULA – Liber VII.vii.42
1921: Autumn – FIFTY (Teh Al-Ko)
1922: Spring – HERU-RA-HA – AL III.70-71
1922: Autumn – 93-Teth-Ayin-Ayin-Shin = 542 (Thyhs) – 49 Ko
1923: Spring – GAMA-APPA-OPI – AL III.2 “Conquer – 2 Khwan
1923: Autumn – IHI AVD (Aud) – AL II.51 “Purple beyond purple…”
1924: Spring – NOVEM or VYHY AUR (Aud)
1924: Autumn – OM  (Aum) – AL III.46 “THELEMA” – 45 Tzhui
1925: Spring – OYVS oh! Yes! – Liber VII.vi.27 – 55 Fang
1925: Autumn – YMHN – Liber LXV.v.23 – 46 Shang
1926: Spring – Zero – AL II.24 “Fire” – 47 Kwan
1926: Autumn – ISh HIR  Yes Here – Liber VII.vi.50 “my” – 22 Pi
1927: Spring – FU – Liber VII.iii.46 – 54 Kwei Mei
1927: Autumn – Cara (???) – Liber VII.iii.60 – 56 Liu
1928: Spring – MAN – AL III.10 – 9 Hsiao Khu
1928: Autumn – To Day – AL II.58 – 5 Hsu
1929: Spring – Attention (French) – Liber VII.vi.27
1929: Autumn – Viens – AL III.8 – The Tiger, no X
1930: Spring – YLALU – AL II.43 “A feast every night…” – 37 air of air
1930: Autumn – ANU – AL I.46 “Nothing” – 29 Luna
1931: Spring – BRAShITh – AL II.72 “Strive ever to more” – 28 Ta Kwo
1931: Autumn – TATARA (Fhatara) – Liber VII.vi.17 “Thou…” – 63 Ki Zi
1932: Spring – PHILUSTRICESS – AL III.25 s of word “cakes” – 58 Tui
1932: Autumn – AIND VACIMA– AL II.58 ”yea!” – 7 Sze
1933: Spring – Silence breaking into soft music of laughter (no oracle) 13 Thung Zen
1933: Autumn – KAVANI (KAANI) – AL II.9 – 31 Hsien
1934: Spring – KRMVTh (Karmuth) – AL II.79 – 41 Sun Earth of Water
1934: Autumn – QUAMAH QABLAS [Crowley note: H or B?]
1935: Spring – Armageddon – (The Oracle and the Omen are silent)
1935: Autumn – Lal
1936: Spring – Beast – Liber VII – IV.34
1936: Autumn – BAB – AL III.38 “door”
1937: Spring – ADIL – AL 1.62 “meetings”
1937: Autumn – OLVK – AL III.38 “Secret” – 63 KiZi
1938: Spring – OIDV – AL II.15 “Not” – 41 Sun
1938: Autumn – RASh ChL or SAShK AL  – AL III.38 “rays & secret” – 50 Ting
1939: Spring – LBA LI – AL III.46 “before” – 5 Hsu
1939: Autumn – W.A.R.M. (= 718) – AL III.38 – 21 Sol/fire      
1940: Spring – AH – AL I.62 “with” – 15 Khien
1940: Autumn – ROTA – AL I.56 (T-between “but” & “thou”) – 25 Wu Wang
1941: Spring – PNChAL (Pirochael) – AL I.13 “joy” – 43 Kwai
1941: Autumn – Koleso – AL I.5 “warrior lord” – 19 Lin
1942: Spring – KUSIS – AL I.4 “infinite” – 44 Kau
1942: Autumn – Thido – AL III.43 – 6 Sung
1943: Spring – Dorafakol – AL II.54 “thou” – 45 Zhui
1943: Autumn – KILIK – AL II.40 “for” (second one) – 16 Yu
1944: Spring – KUKRI – AL 1.61 “pleasure” – 58 Tui
1944: Autumn – BIKELON – AL II.53 – 55 Fang
1945: Spring – Astarte – AL III.74 “There is” – 62 Hsaio Kwo
1945: Autumn – ROTARA – AL II.22  “stir” – 55 Fang
1946: Spring – SUHAL – AL I.37  “The Wand” – 42 YI
1946: Autumn – ODAK – AL I.32  “y” – 32 Hang
1947: Spring – Lift – AL II.12 “Thee” – 22 PI
1947: Autumn – Brilliance – AL II.36 “times” – 8 PI

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This sample is typed on Crowley’s personal stationary, measuring 5 1/2″ x 7″ and Headed with ‘Ex castro Nemoris Inferioris’ – An Ixx Sol in 0 degrees Aries, which is the Spring of 1946 (however this is a typo and should be dated the Spring of 1947).  It is addressed ‘Care Frater’ and begins and ends with the full Thelemic greetings. It includes the ‘Word of the Equinox’ (lift), the ‘Oracle’ (Thee) – both derived from Liber AL (presumably by bibliomancy) and the ‘Omen’ (Pi 22).  It is singed by Crowley – To Mega Therion 666 9º = 2º A∴A∴ – It was not uncommon to see Crowley make corrections or add comments to these forms which were often prepared by others and at times contained typos.  Here we see Crowley following to the letter what is written in Liber AL and correcting the words originally typed completely in capitals.

“Love is the law, love under will”