Of all the various methods of divination the one that seems to scare people most is the ouija board. Over the years I’ve met many people who would happily consult the I Ching, attend a seance or even spend the night in a haunted house – but who wouldn’t stay in the same room if a oiuja board was in use.
Part of the reason for the bad reputation of the “talking board” is clearly the influence of the movie industry. The image of a group of teenagers playing with a Ouija board only to unleash some foul demon is a well worn cliche. That’s understandable – the board makes a great visual image for film makers and the gradual spelling of the message can be a source of narrative tension.
But outside of Hollywood, does the board really deserve such a reputation? How dangerous is it? For what it’s worth, here’s my opinion.
The Ouija board is a relatively modern version of an old technique: automatic writing. The Board was invented in the 19th century with the design being patented in 1890. It can be seen as an evolution of the planchette, an automatic writing device using a pencil in a flat piece of wood. The Ouija board did away with the pencil and instead used the movement of the planchette around the board to spell a message.
Opinions vary as to how the Ouija board “works”. Some say that it’s a communication channel to the spirit world, some that it taps into the collective unconscious of the users – others that it’s all the ideomotor effect at work.
Whatever the mechanism, the Ouija board is not fundamentally different to any other method of divination. It’s just a tool and produce both good and bad experiences like any other tool. I’ve seen and used many different spirit boards over the years and have never felt or witnessed anything inherently evil in the board itself.
Some argue that using a Ouija Board somehow opens you up to any spirits or entities out there. Perhaps it does – but, in my experience, no more so than using a crystal ball or a Tarot deck.
Does that mean that using the Ouija is harmless? Not necessarily. One of the board’s greatest strength is also its greatest weakness: it’s easy to use. That means it’s easy for untrained, inexperienced people – such as the youngsters in the films – to pick up a board and start doing whatever it does.
Normally this is harmless – after all, Ouija boards are sold in toyshops! However if the Board is used by someone with (possibly unrealised) power or mental problems and/or in a place of great energy then it could conceivably cause problems. As could any form of divination.
Obviously you need to make your own decisions. If you’re worried by the Board – or any other divination tool – then don’t use it. The last thing you want is for your worries and fears to be picked up and amplified during the session. Err on the side of safety and do what you feel is right for you.
Personally I’m not worried so much by the Board itself as by the people. I have no concerns using a Ouija Board with a group of people I know and trust in a safe atmosphere. But would I use one with a group of drunken teenagers in an isolated cabin in the woods?
Not a chance.