A Ouija board is a common tool used in divination. It consists of a board, on which are marked letters, numbers, and symbols. A movable pointer, called a planchette, points towards these letters and numbers, in order to answer questions put forth at a séance.
According to some sources, the first mention of something like a Ouija board used for divination came from China around 1200 B.C. However, the Ouija board did not gain in popularity until the American Spiritualist movement of the 19th century. Several methods of divination were used. In one, a small wooden tablet called a planchette was supported on small casters. A pencil was attached, allowing the users to perform a version of automatic writing.
In 1890, Elijah Bond and Charles Kennard invented the modern Ouija board. This consisted of a planchette which would move around the board, printed with the alphabet. For the next several decades, this version became synonymous with the Ouija board as we know it.
Ouija is a registered trademark, though the origin of the term is unknown. One story suggests that the name derives from a combination of the French word for yes (“oui”) and the German word for yes (“ja”); another story indicates that this ancient Egyptian word for “good luck” was revealed to inventor Charles Kennard during a séance.
Scientists think that the movement of the planchette is caused subconsciously by each person of the group. Under this explanation, the planchette’s movement is an illusion. Each person shares the illusion that the planchette is moving on its own.
Spiritualists believe Ouija boards can help us contact the spirit world. While some spiritualists have been unable to read the board while their eyes are covered, they claim that the spirits use the body of the medium to see and use the board. For many people, a Ouija board is a tool, something to help a medium communicate with spirits. While most experiences are positive, some horror stories exist.
These talking boards have also been used to channel writing from authors who have passed on. Pulitzer prize-winning poet James Merrill based the poems in his book The Changing Light at Sandover (1982) on messages received through his Ouija board. Sylvia Plath likewise experimented with a Ouija board, and incorporated the text into her written work Dialogue over a Ouija Board (1957).
While some see Ouija boards as a toy, others believe they can be dangerous. The spiritualist Edgar Cayce, among others, warned that evil spirits would use their Ouija board to trick humans.
Some paranormal researchers accuse the Ouija board of being the cause of demand harassment and possession. Evil spirits, disguised as friends and family members, attempt to take over the lives of those who summon them.
In Christian belief, using a Ouija board to communicate with demons is forbidden by the Bible, as is all divination. Some people who have claimed to be possessed by devils from the Ouija board claim that Christian deliverance is the only solution.
Numerous psychics, parapsychologists, and even medical doctors have suggested that people avoid using a Ouija board. There is a danger that the entities called forward will not be benign, and will actively try to hurt those who summon them.
For those who still yearn to use a Ouija board, there is a way of protecting yourself. Alastair Crowley, a leading spiritualist, suggested that a consecrated circle was the answer. By casting a consecrated circle, and inviting only one particular spirit, the risk can be substantially reduced.