Don’t Fear The Ouija

Reading a Witches & Pagans article about the Ouija board, I was surprised to encounter a barrage of comments warning people away from using it to communicate with energies existing beyond the physical realm. Given that the audience replying to that article is presumably made up of Witches and Pagans, I anticipated a more open-minded response on the subject, rather than the long list of fearful and intolerant comments that ensued. Little did I know that the Ouija board is actually a divided topic amongst those in the occult community! To better understand this, I believe it is important to take a look at where the Ouija board as we know it came from, and how it evolved into what it is now.

 

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One of the original “talking board” parlour games from 1890, a precursor of the Ouija board.

 

The Ouija Board – originally known as a “spirit board” or a “talking board – rose into use with the Spiritualist movement of the mid-1880’s.

The Spiritualist movement originated on American soil, as part of The Second Great Awakening, a religious revival movement that was highly concentrated in western New York State. Spiritualists held the belief that communication with the deceased is possible, and held séances in order to communicate with their spirit guides.  Spirit and/or talking boards were one of the tools they employed to accomplish this, and these talking boards became the precursors to the modern-day Ouija board.

In this day and age, pretty much everyone has heard of the Ouija board. Popularized as a parlour game in 1890 by Elijah Bond, the first commercial versions of the boards were produced by the Kennard Novelty Company. William Fuld, who was acting as Bond’s production manager, began producing a talking board of his own shortly thereafter, marketing it under the name “Ouija.” This new name rapidly became the generic moniker for the various talking boards that appeared on the market.  The Ouija board brand was sold to Parker Brothers Games upon Fuld’s death in the mid-60’s, with Hasbro taking over the Ouija trademark and associated patents in 1991. With the Ouija Board’s original leap into the mainstream being under the guise of entertainment, it wasn’t until around 1916 that it became associated with practices of the occult, owing to its use as a divinatory tool by American Spiritualist Pearl Curran.

Since its exit from the world of novelty games and entrance into the realm of occult practices, the Ouija Board has generated some serious dividing lines. Several Christian denominations warn against using the boards, suggesting that they are “portals to hell” and have the ability to facilitate “demonic possession.” Surprisingly, the occult community is equally divided on the issue, with some acknowledging that the Ouija Board can be a useful tool, while others echo statements closely aligned to the warnings issued by those of the Christian faith.

Love it or fear it, the Ouija Board is now well-established in popular culture.

 

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This 2014 spoof on a Ouija themed Hallowe’en Happy Meal generated death threats for it’s creator

 

Consider ghost hunter Amy Bruni’s 2014 Happy Meal spoof of a Ouija board themed Happy Meal that resulted in her and her family receiving death threats. Clearly, the Ouija Board elicits a strong and visceral response from many people, and unfortunately, that response is often steeped in prejudice and fear.

So why the argument against using the Ouija board in occult practices?

One point that I have seen come up numerous times is that the Ouija Board itself exists as an open doorway that does not have a means to being properly closed. The name Ouija – “oui” and “ja”  being the French and German words for yes, is often cited in this argument, with the double affirmative essentially giving the spirit world carte blanche to do whatever it pleases once it has made contact via the board. I’ve also encountered advice that the Ouija Board be employed by only the most highly trained priests and priestesses, or that the Ouija attracts “lower level spirits.” My difficulty with accepting these arguments against using the Ouija board is that to me, they are steeped in fear.

Fear can be a healthy response that ensures our well being, but I do not feel it has a place within a grounded spiritual practice.

I began using the Ouija board quite young, as it was given to me and my siblings by our parent.s The fact it, nearly everyone I know had one. While I wasn’t specially trained in how to use it, my family, friends, and I always approached it with reverence and respect, and never had any issues whatsoever with the entries we contacted. On the contrary, one in-particular led my cousin and I on an exploration of native petroglyphs that were in our region!

I do wonder if the fact that the Ouija board has been successfully marketed as a parlour game has hurt its reputation amongst those in the occult community by fostering an assumption that anyone who dares to work with it approaches it in a frivolous manner. My view on the Ouija board is that it is a tool, as inert or as dangerous as we choose to employ it – it’s effectiveness or lack thereof hinges on whose hands are sitting on the planchette. Fear has no place in it’s use, and most will certainly amplify any negative aspects, just as it will in any other area of our lives. If you feel the need to have special training in order the handle the board, or that it is best left to the experts, that is totally fine, and within your right to do so, but exhibiting tolerance and abstaining from making assumptions regarding who that find value in it’s use will likely serve us all better in the long run… Like anything, intent is key,  knowledge is gained by practice, and judgement has no place unless applied to oneself.