I’m going to preface this by saying that I’m a pretty practical witch, and the superstition regarding spirit boards, (commonly referred to by the term “Ouija,” which is the name of the Hasbro version), within the pagan community kind of rubs me the wrong way. I know plenty of Christians who are scared of tarot, and believe that people who dabble in it can become possessed, and I see the superstitions that revolve around the board to be an extension of that.
Before we get into safe practices, let’s take a quick look at how the Ouija board came to be.
The mid 1800’s saw the creation and rise of Spiritualism, which is a belief system that revolves around communicating with the dead. This is where the modern form of mediumship came from, and there were several systems that were developed/used after the initial spirit “rapping,” which was series of knocking that a spirit would perform in response to questions asked. The founders of this movement were Margaret and Kate Fox, who were children at the time. I am not going to get too much into this, as I am just writing a blog post and not a 10 page report, but it is worth noting that in 1888, the sisters confessed that it was all a hoax, publicly displaying their method. The next year, Margaret tried to recant, but their names were badly damaged.
This time period in between the founding of Spiritualism and what would actually be just a blip on the radar, instead of its demise, different systems of spirit communication were developed, including séances, and table tipping. Separately, the first recorded use of the planchette was on June 10, 1853, and was used for automatic writing. The popularity of this tool spread quickly through Paris, and by the end of that year, there was a small industry dedicated to creating them in both England and France, though it would not take root in the United States until significantly later. The US had its own slew of devices.
In 1886, there was a report by the Associated Press detailing the use of a Ouija board like device being used in Spiritualist camps in Ohio. In 1890, a man named Charles Kennard got together with a group of investors to start the Kennard Novelty Company to produce and market these boards. Keep in mind that these were businessmen, who were seizing on an opportunity, not occultists.
The name for the board came about when they consulted it (needing a name for the patent office). It spelled out the word “Ouija,” and when asked what they meant, the board spelled out “good luck.” The rest is pretty much history 😉
Since Spiritualism was so popular, the Catholic Church viewed it as a threat and as fortunetelling, stating that any spirit communication cannot come from God, so therefore, you’re consorting with demons. Really, it was something that was a) fun to do, b) offered a way for those of the opposite sex to sit in close proximity with one another without being considered indecent, and c) offered comfort in a time where the average life expectancy was only around 50 years old due to bad maternal outcomes, childhood disease, and war.
So, back to safe practices…
Like I said, I’m a practical witch. I have not personally had any problems from using the board. Since I make them, I have multiple boards in my house at all times, and have not experienced any strange happenings, I assure you. A close friend of mine is a collector, and regularly throws Ouija parties, and while interesting things happen, he’s none the worse for wear 😛
I do believe that if you are going to be working with spirits, that it’s a good idea to put out your intent to work with only benevolent beings-something along the lines of “I invite all spirits of love and light,” (yes, that was totally lazy, but it works). Burn some protective herbs or incense-common ones include sage, frankincense and myrrh, or dragon’s blood. At the end of the session, say goodbye to the spirits, smudge participants and the board/planchette. If you are still nervous about anything being attached to the board, you can use vetivert. This herb has such a high cleansing property, that it will strip everything from your altar if you keep it on there, meaning if consecration is important to you, you will have to reconsecrate all of your tools, because this herb basically turns everything into a blank slate.
If circles are your thing, cast a circle, starting at the West. When releasing the circle, you bid the spirits farewell at the West, at the same time as the elemental. The reason that you use the West, is that it is the quarter of death and regeneration.
If you’re still nervous, find an exorcism incense recipe that you like (and can get the ingredients for), and burn that.
Honestly, there’s really not that much to it-these are all very simple precautions, but simplicity can be extremely effective, especially because you’re more able to put your energy into what you’re doing, instead of trying to remember what to do/how to do it properly. I will say that I strongly believe that your expectations are going to strongly influence your experience, because that is the energy you are putting out. People have been communicating with spirits for millennia, so just relax, do what YOU need to do to make yourself feel safe, and enjoy the process!