The goddess of compassion, Kuan Yin, has her own divination system. This comprises one hundred sticks, each inscribed with a number and each carrying a meaning. In Kuan Yin temples in Penang and Singapore I saw at first-hand how people consult this oracle, along with leaving gifts of fruit and flowers for the Lady of Mercy, or ‘she who hears the cries of the world’. She is much immortal spirit as deity, and is probably the most universal sacred feminine figure that we have, as she’s found not only in Buddhism and Chinese religions, but in branches of Christianity and Shintoism as well. Her main symbols are the moon, the sea, a dragon and a lotus flower.
The hundred sticks of the Kuan Yin oracle are shaken in a cylinder – mine is of wood, but those in the temples were of brass, and made an incredible noise as oracle-seekers sat on the floor and shook, shook, shook their tub of sticks up and down until at last one jumped out. Clack, clack clack - it really does work, and you might be surprised how clearly one stick does seem to detach itself from the rest and leap out.
In temples of Kuan Yin, seeking counsel through divination is one of the main purposes of a visit. Here in the West, divination is largely frowned on in sacred places, so we must make our own sacred space or simply use a domestic setting for readings, whether from horoscopes, Tarot cards, palms, or indeed Kuan Yin’s oracle.
Interpreting the Oracle
When you’ve got your significant stick, the number is checked against a book of interpretations. The advice comes first in the form of a poem, which is a symbolic utterance or parable, followed by further sections of more specific interpretation. Here’s a couple from the English translation oracle booklet that I was given in the temple at Singapore.
‘You long for words from heaven to fall from the moonlit sky:
Dim it is and darkened by the racing clouds.
Let not your heart be burdened with sorrow and care:
The clouds will pass and you will begin anew.’ (Lot 38)
‘To climb a mountain with a tiger as your companion,
You will shiver with fear every movement you make.
Good deeds in the past may bring you help,
With them you may survive both safe and sound.’ (Lot 75)
If you can’t get to a Kuan Yin Temple, then Stephen Karcher’s English version of the oracle is available, and straightforward to use. Some of the more traditional ‘forecasts’ are lost, such as those concerning your silkworms or ancestral tombs, but I think he does an excellent job of keeping the spirit of the original in an accessible form.
As with all good divination systems, there’s scope both for profound spiritual readings and some nitty gritty advice on how to conduct affairs of love, business and health. And, as I’ve written in Tarot Triumphs, the spirit in which you approach divination, and the care and attention you pay to the reading are paramount to ensure that it’s a meaningful experience. Divination can be playful or serious, but it needs to be sincere, and come from a genuine desire to know.
I value my own set of Kuan Yin divination sticks, and the two books of interpretation that I have. There’s a strong sense of femininity and compassion in this oracle. I find that it provides a helpful counterpart to the sterner, more masculine and Confucian pronouncements of the I-Ching. Perhaps it will not always ‘speak’ to you – but when it does, you may have the strong sense that this source of universal compassion has listened to your question, and is responding to your need.
See my earlier post on Kuan Yin 30/3/12 (use search box for easy location)
See too www.circleofnine.org for a post on Kuan Yin Moon Meditation. This is where you'll find all the info about my book 'The Circle of Nine' and the nine feminine archetypes it describes.
The Kuan Yin Oracle: The Voice of the Goddess of Compassion – Stephen Karcher
Bodhisattva of Compassion: the Mystical Tradition of Kuan Yin – John Blofeld
Kuan Yin: Myths and Revelations of the Chinese Goddess of Compassion – Martin Palmer, Jay Ramsay & Kwok Man-Ho