The basic concept of the Ouija Board dates back to Pythagoras in 540 BCE. According to the Apocrypha, he would interpret messages from the spirit world along with his student Phlolaus. In 1853, a French spiritualist, M. Planchette, refined the process by using a large piece of paper accompanied by a heart-shaped wedge of wood with two wheels on each end. The third end had a pencil attached. One or more people would place their fingers on the wedge, which would then move and draw pictures or form words. (Note that there is some question about whether M. Planchette ever really existed since the word planchette (little plank) would be a logical name for the little automatic writing tool, with or without the inventor's name.) The modern board was probably invented around 1892 by Elija J. Bond (his name graces the original patent documents under the heading "inventor"), another history is that it was invented by two friends, E.C. Reiche and Charles Kennard. In any case the idea was to use the planchette as a pointing device, instead of a writing implement, it would rest on a wooden lap tray with the numbers 1-10, the letters of the alphabet, and the words yes and no imprinted on it. The planchette moved about the board when a medium (or two) rested fingertips against it. While using this new invention, Reiche received a message to call the board Ouija after the Egyptian word for luck (it isn't but that doesn't matter - the name stuck).

Charles Kennard and his Kennard Novelty Company patented the board on February 10, 1891 after producing the boards (as Egyptian Luck boards) in 1890. His advertisements claimed the Ouija board would "give an intelligent answer to any question." Unfortunately for Kennard, his shop foreman orchestrated a hostile takeover by his financial backers and by 1892, the Ouija board was in the hands of William Fuld. Fuld changed the company's name to Ouija Novelty Company, and later to the William Fuld Company.

Apparently, William Fuld then decided to reinvent the board's history by claiming that he invented the board himself. He also said that Ouija was a mixture of the French and German words for "yes" (oui + ja = Ouija). His children then took over the business until 1927, when he died in a fall from the roof of his Baltimore factory.

After Fuld's death, his children ran the company until 1966, when they sold the business to Parker Brothers. Parker Brothers moved the manufacturing of Ouija boards to Salem, Massachusetts. In the first year of production in Salem, Ouija boards outsold Monopoly - more than two million boards were shipped. Today, Parker Brothers owns all the trademarks and patents to the Ouija board, though they stopped manufacturing the traditional version and sell a smaller glow-in-the-dark version instead.

Parker Brothers does not manufacture the only talking board, however, and many styles exist to match prevailing trends in mysticism and New Age beliefs. Some of the prettiest boards claim to put the user in touch with angels and carry the angle motif on both the board and the planchette.

Ouiji Boards - How Does They Work?

There are two conflicting theories of how Ouija Boards work, depending on whether you believe they are a technique for accessing the spirit world or not.

1. The Automatism Theory - With this viewpoint the participants may not know that they are moving the planchette, but they are through "ideomotor response." Similar to automatic writing where one holds a pencil in one hand and pays no attention while writing. Most proponents of the Automatism Theory generally accept that it is very possible to move the planchette unconsciously. They claim that the Ouija board opens a kind of shortcut from the conscious to the subconscious mind. Collective automatism occurs when more than one person is operating the board.

There are four ways this might manifest itself:
A. Autosuggestion - participants unconsciously control the movement of the planchette. Something, possibly the combination of the random and minor spasming of the muscles of the participants, drives the pointer in a random direction. The gibberish likely to arise from this random movement is edited by the participants as they subconsciously guess ahead and the letters end up coming out in a generally orderly fashion.
B. Self-delusion - participants subconsciously control the movement of the glass or pointer in a kind of not quite intended fraud. Unlike autosuggestion as one or more of the participants subconsciously controls the movement of the planchette. They hear the question, they know what needs to be spelled out and their fingers subconsciously push or pull the glass in the direction of the required letter.
C. Telekinesis - There is a possibility that the participant who knows the answer controls the movement of the planchette through telekinesis; more like self-delusion than to fraud.
D. Telepathy - If telepathy exists, it is again a possibility that in a séance, the questions are answered by those who ask them. In this case, the answers are broadcast to the whole group, who then subconsciously know the answer and make sure it is spelled out.

2. The Spiritualist Theory - These proponents say that the messages obviously come from forces beyond our control. One contacts or "channels" discarnate spirits, ghosts, or other ethereal beings who have a purpose for contacting the living. Most advocates of this theory think that there is no harm in this practice, assuming that most spirits are basically benign and have important information to share. A few of these same advocates will recommend cleansing rituals before using the board, just in case they are wrong. Other believers argue that no one should ever use the Ouija board because malevolent forces can easily masquerade as good and cause emotional damage, even death to the user of the board. They offer as proof the many accounts of spirit possession reported by "experts" on the occult and demonology.

Ouiji Boards - Controversial

Using an Ouija Board (or magic board) is a fairly controversial subject. Some people regard them as wholly evil, yet the boards continue to be sold in game stores alongside perennial favorites like Scrabble and Monopoly. There are many anecdotal tales of very weird events and paranormal phenomena taking place during and sometime immediately following Ouija sessions, leading to warnings that the Ouija is not a game at all, but a dangerous tool. Ghost researcher Dale Kaczmarek, of the Ghost Research Society, in his article, Ouija: Not a Game, says: "The board itself is not dangerous, but the form of communication that you are attempting often is. Most often the spirits whom are contacted through the Ouija are those whom reside on 'the lower astral plane.' These spirits are often very confused and may have died a violent or sudden death; murder, suicide, etc. Therefore, many violent, negative and potentially dangerous conditions are present to those using the board." A poll of readers conducted at About.com showed that 65 percent believed the Ouija to be a dangerous tool. Although a majority of respondents (41 percent) believed that the board was controlled by the users' subconscious, 37 percent believed it was controlled by spirits, and 14 percent feared that it was under the influence of demonic spirits. That is an enormous amount of fear to be directed at an item marketed as a game.

Calling it a game is where many of the problems begin. Games are fun, games can do no harm, games are not serious, and have no consequences. It seems to me that any contact with the spirit world should not be treated as a game. Although I don't think that it should always be a solemn occasion a la Greek Orthodox weddings, there is a balance between mirth and reverence that is easily walked. If you treat it as a game, the spirits attracted will play games with you.

Some people suggest certain rituals be performed before a session to "cleanse" the board. Or they warn that the board should not be used on bad weather days or in places where earthbound entities are gathered: graveyards, haunted houses, or sites of violence and tragedy. This attitude invites trouble as well. After all, like attracts like, and if you send fearful vibrations out into the Universe, you'll attract beings who enjoy fear.

It is absolutely true that just because a person dies they are not suddenly an angelic being. Most spirits are the same they were in life, each growing spiritually at different rates.

Ouiji boards are a form of channeling and the development and intent of the participants will have a great deal to do with the results achieved. It's like dialing a random telephone number and hoping for the best. With practice, learning and spiritual growth the chances of getting through to the right person are greatly increased.

In general, all forms of channeling should only be attempted by people who are spiritually developed, and not just psychically. The higher teachers seem to prefer people who have their own lives in order: people who are well balanced, meditate regularly, have learned to forgive and love, have cleared out old karma, are physically healthy, open to new ideas, and have balanced their male and female sides, physical, emotional, and mental bodies.

Ouiji Boards - Basic Guidelines for Use

The Ouija board is generally used by two people, but three will also work. More than that results in a very crowded feeling. It is placed on a table or directly on the laps of the users, who place their fingertips lightly on the planchette. The questioner speaks aloud (although silently asking the question works as well), and everyone waits. If you are serious about using the board as a means of regularly contacting the spirit world, I recommend you have a person nearby to write down the messages as they come, and tracking the results.

If the board does not work, try swapping participants around and maybe having only some people participate while others watch. When the session is finished, place the planchette on "Good Bye" and say that you are now leaving. Everyone then removes their hands from the board and the table.

I recommend that you cast a circle around the working area, inviting only those spirits with positive intent to communicate with you. There are malevolent spirits around, although mischievous ones are far more common. Take a few basic precautions and you'll be fine - a good rule of thumb for any magickal/energetic working.

In general, it is a good idea to choose a place that feels good to the participants, one that has the right vibrations, a home where loving people live, or a room usually devoted to learning and meditation. Choosing a 'haunted' location is fine; just be prepared for a troubled spirit to reach out to you, rather than a useful companion.

I recommend doing this work at night, when the electrical activity and atmospheric interference is greatly reduced. As with most things, some days are better than others for various workings, so pay attention to the moon's cycle, the day of the week, and maybe even the stars' alignment in the sky.

I hope this isn't even necessary, but just in case: do not use alcohol or drugs prior to the session.

My Book of Shadows notes that cleansing the board, treating it like any ritual tool, can be a respectful and smart idea. Upon opening the board, wipe the back with water to which salt has been added (1 quart (water) to 1/2 teaspoon (salt) is a nice mixture). As you lightly wipe the board and pointer down, visualize all the negative energies leaving and only positive energies being able to communicate with you. Then store box, pointer and board, in white cloth (a white pillow case works well for this). Remember that sage or sandalwood incense are wonderful ways to "smudge" the board, and can provide a clear atmosphere in which to work.

Ouiji Boards - Communication

Treat astral entities the way you would like to be treated. Don't command, communicate. Be polite. You invited them, treat them as honored guests. It's generally a good idea to refrain from calling specific people unless you have a good reason. Remember, a long deceased relative may no longer be near the earth plane or may have reincarnated.

Its fine to try to verify the information given, but you may not want to waste session time on the process. Ultimately you have to be the judge of the information you receive, but to believe everything that comes through on the board just because it's from the other side is extremely gullible. If your intuition tells you there's something wrong, there probably is. If the information you're getting seems new to you, compare it with other channeled material and see if you're comfortable with it.

If you do not understand what the spirit is trying to communicate to you ask it to either repeat it or ask questions that will clearly define what you would like to know. As well, if a spirit appears to be having trouble communicating ask what you can do to improve the communication and if the spirit points to "good bye" let it go.
Always thank the entities for coming to talk with you. When you've finished your session, thank all the gathered entities and ask them to go in peace back to where they have come from.

Last Thoughts:
1. Ouija boards are not evil, they are cardboard and plastic.
2. If you go looking for evil or demons, you can create what you are looking for.
3. The boards are inanimate objects, they can not become portals of power or openings into the astral without your conscious will and energy making them so. You do not need to burn it or throw it away if you have a bad experience - it cannot work without people making it work
4. It is a good idea to create a positive atmosphere when working with a circle of people. In doing so, you will produce results of a superior quality.
5. Don't work with anyone under the influence of drugs or alcohol
6. Tiredness will stop the board from working properly.
7. Non-believers and overly skeptical people can sometimes muddy the messages received, try to have all members approach a board with an open mind.
8. Don't start arguing about who's moving the planchette. Our bodies are the physical conduit for the message. (The planchette does not move without someone touching it.)

~from Maat's Book of Shadows

Relevant sites:
http://www.museumoftalkingboards.com/history.html

An intriguing use of the Ouija board for couples therapy is described here:
http://www.museumoftalkingboards.com/therapy.html

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