It seems the season of the witch has returned. Witchcraft, occult and esoteric symbols, objects and aesthetics are appearing on the runway and in the hottest fashion retailers. We're seeing more and more occult and esoteric products being listed here on RebelsMarket.
To celebrate the surge in popularity and foster greater understanding of various occult practices, we've created a new blog column called Spirit Life. We'll study different aspects of the occult, esoteric and spiritual beliefs, in an attempt to better understand the rituals and beliefs behind these symbols.
This week we are talking about the iconic Ouija board or spirit board.
The Ouija Board
Most of us have seen Ouija boards used in movies or read about them in books. You may have even used one yourself, and seen the pointer (called the planchette) move seemingly of its own accord.
When I started looking into the history of the Ouija board, I was surprised to discover that it became popular primarily as a toy, not as a tool for occult practice.
The tradition of planchette writing (communicating with the spirit world via writing) is ancient, originating in China around 1100AD,\ during the Song Dynasty. There have also been similar traditions in ancient India, Classical Greece and Rome, and in Medieval Europe, and several religious texts are claimed to have been written by spirits communicating through a planchette.
But it wasn't until the 19th century when businessmen Elijah Bond and Charles Kennard decided to patent a planchette and printed board as a novelty, that the Ouija board really took off. They received their patent in February 1891, and started selling the first ever Ouija boards. They were a favorite parlour game of the era, and remained popular right up until the 1960s.
William Fuld started producing boards for the company and eventually took over. He claimed that he himself invented the boards, and he began systematically suing other companies infringing on his rights until his death in 1927.
In 1966, Fuld's estate sold the rights to Parker Brothers, who eventually sold to Hasbro in 1991, and they now hold the rights to the Ouija name and concept. There are also numerous other planchette boards on the market under various names.
Why is it called "Ouija"?
There are two theories as to the origin of the word "Ouija". Kennard, one of the original creators of the board, claimed he'd learned the name from using the board himself – the board told him "Ouija" was an Ancient Egyptian word meaning "Good Luck."
An employee of Kennard, William Fuld, took over the company in 1901, and he claimed that the name comes from combining the French and German words for "yes".
Shop popular Ouija styles on RebelsMarket here
Do Ouija Boards really communicate with spirits?
Well, this all depends on what you believe. It is true that thousands of stories of Ouija board users have reported seemingly impossible experiences. The author Emily Grant Hutchings claimed her 1917 novel, Jap Herron, was dictated through the Ouija board from the spirit of Mark Twain. Pearl Lenore Curran transcribed poems and novels from a deceased spirit named Patience Worth through an Ouija board. The album Bedlam in Goliah by The Mars Volta was based on their Ouija board experiences. After a series of unfortunate incidents during the recording of the album, the band buried their Ouija board.
Scientists (as always) remain sceptical, and ascertain that the messages spelled out on Ouija boards are actually produced by the subjects themselves. The ideometer effect is a psychological phenomenon where suggestions and beliefs can cause unconscious movements from individuals.
For example, tears are an involuntary and unconscious reaction to powerful emotions, and demonstrate the ideometer effect in action.
Studies on Ouija board users have shown what appears to be the ideometer effect in action. In laboratory conditions, the subjects move the planchette themselves, even if they don't realise it. This is further substantiated by the fact that many Ouija board messages directly relate to thoughts or issues on the minds of the users.
Whether you believe in a connection with the supernatural or not, Ouija boards are a fascinating and enduring symbol of the spirit world.
Photo courtesy of Anomalian
Have you ever tried a Ouija board? What was your experience?