Klaus Holitzka and Marlies Holitzka, 1994
This is one of the decks that I've picked up for the purpose of learning more about this ancient philosophical
system. Strictly speaking, the I Ching has little to do with card decks, as the oracle is traditionally
consulted by throwing yarrow sticks onto the ground to determine one of 64 possible hexagrams. As each hexagram
symbolizes a specific concept, they lend themselves nicely to being illustrated as a deck.
This 64-card deck is particularly beautiful because the calligraphic brushstrokes evoke the spirit of the east.
Many brush styles are used here, from quick dry strokes to slow thick shapes, from splatters to broad washes of
tone. Black is the predominant color, with red used conservatively for accents. Red is also used for the small
rectangular seals which bear the numeral of that card’s hexagram. These numerals are important because without
them it would be very difficult to identify a card by its hexagram alone.
The appropriate hexagram also appears in metallic gold on each card, and is cleverly designed into the composition
itself. One of my favorite examples of this is hexagram 63 (shown third row, last card), symbolizing After Fulfillment,
where the lines of the hexagram are placed into the actual brushstrokes.
A hexagram consists of six horizontal lines which are either broken or unbroken; there are 64 hexagrams because
that is the total number of such combinations possible. These linear patterns do not at first seem visually suggestive.
Yet from them were derived the original poetic texts of the I Ching, written more than three thousand years ago.
Like those original texts, the designs for this deck say much with little.
There are often many similarities found when the Tarot and the I Ching are compared with each other. One example
of this is hexagram 4 (shown above), called Inexperience, which is sometimes linked with The Fool
of the Tarot. In this deck, these two cards bear an even stronger resemblance because of the character shown teetering
at the edge of a high cliff. This hexagram is also sometimes referred to as ignorance and folly.
One translation of the original text for this hexagram reads: “Mountain over Water. The mountain smiles quietly
down at the water rushing round its feet.”
Card 9 (top row) shows the striking image of someone standing before a massive hurricane. The booklet names
this hexagram The power of the meek to tame, and describes it as “Too much resistance and too many difficulties
stand in your way. There is hope of overcoming the limitations but you must tread carefully taking one step at
a time.” Sometimes this hexagram is seen as indicating a calming influence, suggesting that the enormous may be
influenced by the minuscule. The I Ching text reads: “Wind over Dragon. Stroking his back, the wind lulls the mighty
dragon to sleep.”
The little booklet that comes with the deck is bound like a small paperback. Although it is quite thick at 116
pages, it does not include any English translations of the ancient I Ching texts. The authors have instead
written their own English descriptions for each hexagram and for each of its lines. These descriptions are much
longer than the excerpts I have included in this review. The booklet is well-written and makes a good compliment
to an actual I Ching translation. I also like the fact that the booklet does not attempt to explain the
scenes which appear on the cards.
Hexagram 34 (above), The power of the great, shows parallels with the Tarot’s Justice card. This
is not so much because of the balance scales shown but because of what the hexagram represents: “If destiny presents
you with special power and strength then it is also placing a heavy responsibility upon your shoulders. It is up
to you alone whether you create a constructive or destructive effect . . . Preserve your sense of justice and social
equality. Only then can the best of your powers be used to the maximum.” Further descriptions in the text speak
of being decisive, remaining alert, and showing diplomacy.
Hexagram 43 (shown above) is called Breakthrough or Resolution. It shows the image of a dynamic,
commanding figure encircled by a ring. The description reads “Unfavorable forces lose their influence and you can
achieve a breakthrough, but you must act resolutely and perhaps even uncompromisingly. Admit to your intentions
and aims. Fight hard – but keep smiling.” This hexagram also traditionally represents defending what is good
and removing bad influences. This hexagram seems to have parallels with The Chariot.
Another striking image is hexagram 45 (shown above), called Gathering: “Wherever people find themselves
together there is something which motivates them: whether a collective goal or a stronger person to whom they align
themselves. As a leader you become the focal point of all the group’s strength. As an ordinary group member you
add your individual capabilities to the collective power of the group. In both cases you are one of the group and
contribute to the concentration of energy within the group. Either role could have a positive or negative effect
upon your personal development. It all depends on how you go about it. Try to organize your feelings and thoughts
so that they match your actions and goals. By doing so, you gain self-confidence and can achieve your goals.” I
find a connection between this hexagram and the 10 of Cups.
These brushwork designs are beautiful and expressive. They make a wonderful deck for anyone interested in learning
something more about the philosophy of the I Ching.
Images Copyright © 1994 AGM AGMüller, Review Copyright
© 2001 Mark Filipas