Home Features I Ching Divination – How to label a Hexagram with the 6 Animals

I Ching Divination – How to label a Hexagram with the 6 Animals

by Master Georgia Kiafi
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In I Ching, labeling a Hexagram with the 6 animals can give us a lot of interesting and accurate information about our question.

You just look which one of the 6 animals is sitting on the hexagram line that you want to know more about.

There are in total 6 animals; dragon, raven, earthworm, snake, tiger and tortoise.

Four of them (dragon, raven, tiger and tortoise) belong to one of the cardinal direction elements (wood, fire, metal, water) and 2 of them (earthworm and snake) belong to earth element.

Namely, here is the connection between the 6 animals and their elements:

  • Dragon belongs to wood element.
  • Raven or bird belongs to fire element.
  • Earthworm belongs to earth element.
  • Snake belongs to earth element.
  • Tiger belongs to metal element.
  • Tortoise belongs to water element.

To do the I Ching labeling with the 6 animals, you need to know the heavenly stem of the specific day that you perform the I Ching. For example, if the date that you do the I Ching is 17th August 2021, you look up in the Chinese Calendar and to see that its a day of yin fire rooster. So, yin fire is the heavenly stem of the day and this is all you need to do the 6 animal labeling.

Then you look at the table below.

  甲 乙  丙丁  戊  己  庚辛壬癸
TortoiseDragonRavenEarthwormSnakeTiger
TigerTortoiseDragonRavenEarthwormSnake
SnakeTigerTortoiseDragonRavenEarthworm
EarthwormSnakeTigerTortoiseDragonRaven
RavenEarthwormSnakeTigerTortoiseDragon
DragonRavenEarthwormSnakeTigerTortoise

Find the column that is relevant to your heavenly stem of the day, in our case of 17th August this is yin fire. Under the yin fire column, you see the following, reading from bottom to top:

Raven, earthworm, snake, tiger, tortoise, dragon.

Then you start labeling from bottom going up.

You label the bottom line of your hexagram (we call it also first line of the hexagram) as raven, the second line is earthworm, the third line is snake, the 4th line is tiger, the 5th line is tortoise and the 6th line (top line) is dragon.

So, your hexagram with the complete 5 animal labeling will look like this:

/ Raven
/ Dragon
// Tortoise
O Tiger
/ Snake
// Earthworm

Next step is to know what animal means what.

Here is the meaning of the 6 animals:

  • Dragon: pleasant, favorable, honest, high status.
  • Raven: quarrel, conflict, scandal, argue, talkative.
  • Earthworm: legal matters, obstacles, hindrance.
  • Snake: strange, hidden matters, ghost, dead.
  • Tiger: fierce, unfavorable, injury, bad luck, beaten.
  • Tortoise: theft, privacy, secret, dishonest.

Now that we know what line of our hexagram is occupied by what animal, and we already know the meaning of the 6 animals, we need to know where you look first to find what information.

I usually look into the Subject line, the Object line, the Key element, or any line that draws my interest to know more about. Then its very easy to make the synthesis of the story of your I Ching question.

Labeling with the 6 animals can tell you more about the situation/luck of the person. If the line of the hexagram you look into is labeled as tortoise, it means that this person is hiding something doing something secretive or he is even a thief. If you get the dragon, it means that the person is in good luck or has high status and is telling the truth. If you ask about what happened to someone that disappeared and you don’t know if he is still alive and you get the snake as labeling, this might be an indication that the person is already a soul/ghost and not alive any more. 

If you observe the sequence of the 6 animals, looking from bottom going up, you will notice that if you perform the I Ching on a day with any type of wood as the heavenly stem, then the bottom line of the labeling starts with the wood animal, which is dragon.

If you perform the I Ching on a day of yang or yin fire, then the bottom line of the hexagram will also be a fire animal which is raven or bird. And so on.

You will also notice that in this formula, all animals, starting from the bottom to the top, are using the productive cycle of elements. For example, if you start with dragon, which is wood, the second line is raven, which is bird and belongs to fire element. Then the 3rd and 4th line will be labelled with the 2 earth animals, which are earthworm first and the snake second. After the earth animal follows the metal animal, which is the tiger. Then follows the water element, which is represented by the tortoise.

In addition, you will also observe that 4 of these animals are exactly the same animals that we use in Form School Feng Shui. Its about the 4 cardinal directions and the 4 cardinal animals: Green Dragon, White Tiger, Red Phoenix, Black Turtle.

You all know that in Feng Shui the dragon side is the left side of the house and that dragon is wood element and its related to the East.

You all know that the tiger side is the right side of the house (while looking out) and that tiger belongs to metal element and has to do with the west.

The raven or bird is the front part of the house and its related to fire element, and also to the South.

The back of the house is where you have the black turtle. The turtle belongs to water element and is related to the North.

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