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Ouija boards (pronounced wee-ja), also known as Talking Boards or Isis Boards, are one of the more popular occult practices of the modern day. Ouija boards have been thought of as many things, including harmless fun, the work of the Devil, sub-plots for cheesy horror movies such as the 1985 film Witchboard and one of things most parents don't want to discover in their children's rooms, sometimes even less so than pornography, illegal drugs and live ammunition combined.
Many people have stories or urban legends of what happened when a 'friend of a guy I once knew's cousin' used one. There is currently no real scientific evidence to suggest that ouija boards do actually work in any supernatural capacity, but there are plenty of people out there who believe in them, and lots of stories, urban legends and folklore to suggest that ouija boards do empower the user to communicate with entities from 'the other side'. There are no shortage of people who think ouija boards are purely evil, no shortage of those who believe in using their power and no shortage of those who don't believe in 'silly' things like ghosts or evil spirits.
What they Do
Ouija boards are supposed to put living people in touch with 'spirits from the other side', usually meaning the deceased. However they are more often found scaring bored teenagers with a slightly unhealthy obsession with the occult.
Ouija boards can also do more than just scare people though, they can sometimes cause severe mental trauma too. Imagine if you were using a ouija board. Even if you only half-believed you were talking to the deceased, that would be spooky enough, but now imagine that a dead person is telling you that nobody really likes you and you will shortly die a very slow and painful death, after which you can look forward to being condemned to hell for eternity, unless of course you do the decent thing and slaughter your family followed by yourself. It's the kind of thing which makes it hard for a guy to sleep with the lights off. With that in mind, ouija boards, much like drugs, should only be used with people you can really trust.
Where they Come from
Ouija boards are claimed to have originated from many places and at different times, such as Medieval Europe, Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece. However, the only evidence of their origins is as a game, originally marketed in the USA in the late 19th Century and still being sold by Parker Brothers. The word 'ouija' is taken from the French word Oui meaning 'yes', and the German word Ja also meaning 'yes'. Ouija boards are still used today and are quite popular among some new age and spiritualist circles, although most people are quite wary of them, preferring not to mess with things they don't fully comprehend.
What they Are
Ouija boards come in many shapes, sizes and styles. The more traditional ouija board is a smooth varnished wooden board displaying all the letters of the Roman alphabet along with the words 'Yes' and 'No' and numbers nought to nine, possibly with a 'Hello' and 'Goodbye' marking too. Some variations of the board may have pagan or satanic symbols on them.
Not all ouija boards are like this. Some are nothing more than bits of paper with the markings written on them and some aren't actually purpose built ouija boards at all; they're everyday dining tables with lots of playing card sized bits of paper with letters written on them arranged around the table.
How to Use One
As well as the board, you will also need a glass, something like a small shot-glass turned upside down is usually sufficient, although many people would use a device called a planchette which looks like a rather large guitar plectrum. Place it in the middle of the board. Now get all the people participating to put a finger on the glass or planchette or whatever pointing device you intend to use. Somebody at this point should make a 'call', something like in a seance (a meeting of people wishing to communicate with the dead) where you're either calling for a specific entity or if you're just asking if anything is present. If it's working you should feel the glass move to some point on the board, hopefully indicating a presence. You may be communicating with a dead person, you may simply be observing an ideomotor effect, an unconscious and involuntary motor action in response to a thought as opposed to any external stimulus, or maybe it's just somebody pushing the glass around for a laugh. Unless something very spooky happens, like the board lifts itself up in the air and embeds itself in the wall, you won't know for sure, and even if you think you do, there are plenty of people out there who will disagree with you. Now ask questions vocally, await answers to be spelled out on the board and if at any time you feel uncomfortable, make your excuses and leave.
If you're really only in it as something to do to pass a bit of time or maybe just for the novelty factor, boot up your trusty computer and get surfing.
What Can be Gained From Ouija Boards
Different people gain different things from ouija boards, it really depends on the beliefs of the individual. Here are some of the many reasons why people may want to use Ouija boards.
A Bit of Fun
You might want to use a ouija board just because you and your friends are all hopelessly bored. You can have quite a bit of fun with ouija boards, either talking to strange forces or just playing a practical joke, such as pushing the pointer in such a way that it seems God is apologising to your friend for giving him or her such a hideously ugly face.
A Source of Forbidden Truth
If you really fancy your friend's girlfriend, but know that he's cheating on her, what better way to let everyone know about it than to have the 'dark side' reveal the whole sordid story to a big group of your mutual friends? Made a few criminal friends who'd shoot you if you grassed on them? Just invite a few police officers to your place and let the 'spirits' do the talking! The possibilities are endless! The Guardian suggests that former Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi may have used a ouija board in this manner, as is revealed in the Guardian article 'Seance Points To Problem'.
If you believe in spiritualism, you may want to use a ouija board to talk to different spirits, such as deceased relatives or 'guardian angels' who are there to protect you. They might give you guidance on matters in your life and your future, or maybe they will just want a chat.
If you're a bit low on cash, maybe you could ask your friendly spirit chums if they would mind revealing next week's lottery numbers or tell you when your stock options are likely to reach their peak value for the financial year. Before betting your life savings, house, car and family on a supernatural tip, just remember that if it really was that simple, we'd all be using them.
Severe Psychosis and Free Mental Care
You don't know what you're playing with when it comes to ouija boards, nobody does. Think about that before you go running off to mess with your psyche. You may wonder 'what's the worst that could happen?', but you could end up spending the rest of your life in and out of psychiatric wards, possibly having a new and stubbornly untreatable mental condition named after you.
Many Christian groups believe ouija boards (and pretty much anything along the lines of the occult or spiritualism) is the work of evil. They can often be found quoting passages of the Bible to support their claims that God hates people who use ouija boards.
I will set my face against the person who turns to mediums and spiritists to prostitute himself by following them, and I will cut him off from his people.
- Leviticus, 20:6
If you're hosting a dinner party and conversation dries up, start talking about ouija boards. There's nothing people love to talk about late at night after a few units of alcohol so much as the occult. Do be careful as conversation can soon progress to stories of hauntings, seances, poltergeists and if you're not careful, much deeper conversations about God and the meaning of life. This can then continue until a long time after you wish your guests had gone home. Many of them may now even be too scared to do so.
Those Urban Legends
Here's a short sample of what you're likely to hear when asking for stories about ouija boards:
... and then he just dropped dead!
... so then the glass just flies through the air and smashes the front window...
... and they told him that he was going to die lonely...
... just then, the board catches fire and everybody runs screaming...
... since that day she always sees this body in a field when she tries to sleep.
... yeah, but the medication did calm him down and he is almost out of therapy now...
The people who claim to know what they're doing when it comes to things like ouija boards will usually advise that you don't try to use them in locations where lots of 'earthly entities' are present, such as reputedly haunted houses, graveyards or sites of disasters, mass death or tragedy.
Another commonly repeated piece of advice is that you should wear silver, or use a silver coin instead of a glass or planchette, as silver is thought by some to protect against evil spirits.
Make sure that you can trust the people who are using the ouija board with you. This will help you avoid situations in which you obey the board's instructions to cut your right arm off, only to find that it was some clown having a laugh.
You should also make sure to say a 'Goodbye' to anyone or anything you contact with a ouija board; this is done to let the entity know that you're done talking to them and they should leave you alone, unless of course, you like the idea of an invisible presence following you around for the rest of your natural life.
Be very careful when handling a ouija board. Some of them are quite heavy and you could be in severe danger of dropping it on your foot, causing your toe-nails to go purple and bruised, or worse still, you could lose the toe-nail altogether.