The Lo Shu Diagram is the oldest known example of a “magical square” in the world, despite parallels to it in other places such as the Key of Saturn from ancient India and others. Briefly defined, a magical square is any squared arrangement of numbers that add to the same sum vertically, horizontally and diagonally. The Lo Shu Diagram dates back as far as 5600 years by some estimates and we apparently don’t really know who actually discovered it. It comes down to us in the form of a myth, following several prominent versions, depicting the mysterious appearance of a tortoise from the river Lo which carried upon its back a curious set of markings, which, upon inspection, revealed a numerical super-symmetry, thus deemed magical for its unexpected qualities. In some versions of this story the credit is given to Fu Hsi (also Fu Xi) for its discovery though we have no actual reason to assign it to him in fact. What we do know is that Fu Hsi was so impressed with this magical arrangement of numbers that China itself was subsequently structured around its underscoring principle, with the heart of the empire seated at center surrounded on eight sides by powerful Lords and Houses, each representative of one of the eight primary trigrams flanking the outermost edges of the Lo Shu Diagram itself.
Aside from making it possible for us to integrate the Lo Shu invocation into our card reading, even inexperienced readers very soon develop intuitive understandings of what the eight principal trigrams mean so that it can be useful to us to have access to this information while attempting to sort out an answer to our various inquiries. The trigrams are very distinct with their own personalities, natures and so on. A card that lands in Chen (heaven) will have a very different meaning than if it had landed on K’an (the abysmal, water) for instance. Skillful readers make use of these kinds of distinctions. Another advantage of working with the Lo Shu is the readers ability to draw cards according to their proper positioning within the magickal square itself. This gives us a kind of insurance that our reading is a technical invocation complete with sigil or anything else that the Lo Shu has to offer us.
Trigrammal attributions taken from the Wilhem Baynes translation of the (King Wen) I Ching. This is a very partial, albeit impartial list of attributions. A more comprehensive list can best be obtained by studying the I Ching cover to cover to get a better working sense of how the trigrams interact with each other under a wide range of conditions.
(1) The Creative (Heaven): Kh’ien, father, cosmological yang, action principle, duration, time orientation, formlessness, energy rooted, conquest, overcoming obstacles, awareness
(2) The Penetrating (Wind): Sun, 1st daughter, atmospheric yin, air, wind, wood, sensitivity, responsiveness, intuition, assimilation, pervasiveness, growth, maturing, ripening, gentleness
(3) The Abysmal (Water): K’an, 2nd son, elemental yang, dark, formlessness, uncertainty, emotion, eros, lunar forces, cold, fluidity, painful exertion, deep, dangerous, hearing
(4) Keeping Still (Mountain): Kén, 3rd son, geological yang, steady, heaviness, stability, quietness, equanimity, concentration, solidity, resistance, inertia, perfection, completion
(5) Yin-Yang (Taichitu): similar in most respects to intelligence itself, the taichitu has no distinguishing characteristics but directs and coordinates all things both mind and matter.
(6) The Joyous (Lake): Tui, 3rd daughter, geological yin, reflecting, buoyant, lightness, gaiety, observation, intuitive vision, volatility, changeability, happiness, serenity, joy
(7) The Clinging (Fire): Li, 2nd daughter, elemental yin, clarity, clearness, discrimination, solar forces, elementary, visuality, cognition, clinging, dependence, visibility, eyes
(8) The Arousing (Thunder): Chen, 1st son, atmospheric yang, exciting, impetus, stimulation, impulse, vitality, mobility, fertilization, volition, exciting first movements, mobility
(9) The Receptive (Earth): K’un, Mother, cosmological yin, recessive principle, spatial orientation, surrender, material formation, devoted, serving, digestion
Other than the eight principal trigrams, there also exist the nine principal bigrams that form the core of the 729 ternary hexagrams. It isn’t necessary to have memorized the 729 ternaries in order to get a good Mutational Alchemy Tarot reading but having a copy of the Willhelm/Baynes I Ching on hand is definitely recommended. So is The Tai Hsuan Ching by Derek Walters (if you can find it!). Any other support materials that aid us in defining our basic layouts are equally recommended since divination is a projection skill at bottom such that the better grasp we have of our guidelines, the more accurate our readings will tend to be. Even a simple thing like deciding whether to emphasize trigrams or elements will impact the readings that we get. Neither choice is ever wrong but will mediate the type of information we get notwithstanding. So the key is to try to be as clear as possible right from the start how we will proceed and what system of symbols and key components we will employ at the level of interpretation. Whether we run with the Lo Shu, the Tetractys, The Sword and Shield or some other system not here discussed (astrological houses for instance) the choices we make right at the beginning will shape the answers we get.
(1) Fire: The Lo Shu defines this element as a Yang of Heaven married to a Yang of Earth. Qabbalistic tradition assigns it to *Atziluth*, the first of the Four Elemental Realms emanating from Ain Soph (boundless nothingness) in the Tree of Life. It is an elder masculine force said to contain all of the four elements within itself. Its power is called *emanation* and typically corresponds to the faculty of *Will*.
(2) Sun: The Lo Shu defines this element as a Yang of Heaven married to a Jen of Earth. It most closely parallels Fire but also contains abundant Air. In Vedic tradition it represents the Shiva principle in the relation of Macrocosm and correlates to the Vijnanamaya Kosha within the Five Koshas. Its power is called *discrimination* associated to the faculty of Intellect.
(3) Air: The Lo Shu defines this element as Yang of Heaven married to a Yin of Earth. It is a youthful masculine force with a strong ascending nature. Qabbalistic tradition assigns it to *Yetzirah*, the third of the Four Elemental Realms emanating from Ain Soph in the Tree of Life. Its power is called *formation* and it typically corresponds to the faculty of *conceptual abstraction*.
(4) Lingam: The Lo Shu defines this element as a Yang of Earth married to a Jen of Heaven. It most closely parallels Air but also contains abundant Fire. In Vedic tradition it represents the Shiva principle in the relation of Microcosm and correlates to the Pranamaya Kosha within the Five Koshas. Its power is closely linked with alchemical *levity* (ascending life-force energy) and is associated with the property of *movement*.
(5) Akasha (Spirit): The Lo Shu defines this element as a Jen of Heaven married to a Jen of Earth. It is unique and sovereign within the 9-elemental system. All other elements emanate from it and collect back into it. It has no outstanding powers or faculties yet all powers and faculties are rooted in it. It binds, directs, coordinates and liberates both Mind and Matter. It is roughly equivalent to the qabbalistic *Mezla* (the influence of Kether) in the Tree of Life and corresponds to the Anandamaya Kosha within the Five Koshas, whose physical composition is defined as purest *Bliss*, or *Ecstasy*.
(6) Yoni: The Lo Shu defines this element as a Yin of Earth married to a Jen of Heaven. It most closely parallels the element of Earth but also contains abundant Water. In Vedic tradition it represents the Shakti principle in the relation of Microcosm and correlates to the Annamaya Kosha within the Five Koshas. Its power is *physical sensation* associated to the 5 senses, linked to *primal mind* including both *instinct* and *intuition*.
(7) Earth: The Lo Shu defines this element as a Yin of Heaven married to a Yang of Earth. It is a youthful feminine force with a strong descending nature. Qabbalistic tradition assigns it to *Assiah*, the fourth of the Four Elemental Realms emanating from Ain Soph in the Tree of Life. It is called the *world of making* where forms become physically *real*. Its properties are *stability* and *predictability*, allowing for reality to be a shared experience across all borders and boundaries.
(8) Moon: The Lo Shu defines this element as a Yin of Heaven married to a Jen of Earth. It most closely parallels the element of Water but also contains abundant Earth. In Vedic tradition it represents the Shakti principle in the relation of Macrocosm and correlates to the Manomaya Kosha within the Five Koshas. Its power is called *separation* linked to the alchemical process of *distillation*. It links to Mind as a dispersive instrument making it possible for us to scrutinize differences.
(9) Water: The Lo Shu defines this element as a Yin of Earth married to a Yin of Heaven. It is an elder feminine force pervasive in all forms of life in this world. Qabbalistic tradition assigns it to *Briah*, the second of the Four Elemental Realms emanating from Ain Soph in the Tree of Life. Its power is called *creation* and it is often identified with Dualistic Mind on a universal scale.
These attributions are but a starting point in the greater defining of the 9-Elemental System of the Lo Shu Square, but should serve to set readers on a path of astonishing discovery that never abates once it has begun. We are witnessing the evolution of a legitimate physics of universal consciousness in all of this far in advance of anything makeshift religions could ever have produced.