Steps up to the cosmic internet microphone . . .
Hi, my name is Nisaa. I’m here to talk about the Kuan Yin Oracle deck I’ve been working on. (No, it’s not this one, although that’s really lovely and I own a copy.) I’ll show you an example a bit later. (Really, I’m just stalling because I’m nervous.)
Last year, I was talking with my teachers in Circle of Cerridwen. I said I’d like to learn a divination system. They said that the best way to learn one is to make your own version of it. I’d had the The Kuan Yin Oracle book and cup of bamboo sticks for years, just sitting in my altar. And perhaps waiting for me.
I’m a photographer, among other things. I thought about doing a version of the tarot but honestly, I think I’m too lazy to do that. Instead, I decided to make a version of the Kuan Yin Oracle as translated by Stephen Karcher, using my photographs. I mentioned in another post that I use a Canon camera and that brand was named after Kuan Yin.
What is this Kuan Yin Oracle system?
It’s thousands of years old. As Karcher writes, “These 100 Poems and Sticks of Fate are part of a kind of divining that goes back to the great Zhouyi or Yijing, the Classic of Change that dates from at least 1100 BCE.”
Here’s a beautiful description from by Karcher about using the Kuan Yin Sticks of Fate:
There in the corner a black-robed Taoist priest makes an offering for a sick member of the community that surrounds this little shrine. You drop a few coins in a bowl, take joss sticks and spirit money to burn in the Great Urn that holds the ashes of generations of offerings and light them at an everburning lamp. Then you step towards the altar. Above it Kuan Yin looks down on you out of her cloud lotus, while the waves of the Great Ocean of Suffering churn below. Her insightful eyes and compassionate heart wrap you in an aura of calm and joy. Help is at hand.
You step closer and make a formal prostration. Then you pick up the a red and black bamboo cup containing the one hundred Sticks of Fate, long thin bamboo slats, red at the top and marked with a number on the hidden bottom. You whisper your question to the goddess and shake the cup back and forth until one stick pops out.
Kuan Yin has heard you and answered you.
Reading the number from the bottom of the stick, you turn to Kuan Yin’s Book of Divination . . .
I’ll give you an example of my version:
On the card, the number corresponds to the poem, which is the message from Kuan Yin. The green lines represent the season, in this case Spring, and there is a moon phase, which is waxing moon here.
There are two ways you can do a divination with my version. You can shake the cup and then look at the card that corresponds with the number on the bamboo stick (keeping the deck in numerical order makes this faster in this case). Or, you can shuffle the deck and pick one at random, which is what I do most often.
For most of the 100 poems, I picked photographs I had already taken. For some, I went on a treasure hunt out in the world and looked for things that would fit the poems. I photographed some of my friends for certain cards and other friends helped me edit and layout the cards. They have been very kind to donate their time to help me. I’m working on the third draft of the deck now. I’m hoping it will become the final version.
Why did I pick the ‘growth’ topic to write about this? Mostly because it shows a glimpse into the growth of this idea and how it spun wildly out of control. It started as a way for me to learn this divination system. It has become a devotional photography project to Kuan Yin. Over the past year, I’ve learned that a lot of the poems are either serious, or they make you laugh. And I’ve learned that I love this way of receiving a message from my goddess.
Note: This series was inspired by the Month of Written Devotion idea. If you want to participate, go there for the list of daily prompts.