The Ouija board, also known as the talking board or spirit/fire keyboard, is usually used during séances to communicate with the spirit world. The board is flat and imprinted with the letters of the alphabet and the numbers 0 – 9 in the center, the words ‘yes’ and ‘no’ in the upper corners and ‘goodbye’ on the bottom. Other symbols may appear, depending on the board. A small heart-shaped piece of wood called a planchette is used to navigate the board when spelling out spirit messages during the séance. The participants place their fingertips lightly on the planchette and the energies of the spirit direct it to areas of the board to spell out a name, give a combination of numbers, or just say goodbye. Though the board is thought of as just a parlor game, there are those who believe it has the power to foretell future events, discover hidden knowledge or contact the spirit world.
To understand the impact that the Ouija board has had on our culture, it is important to note the popularity of the Spiritualist movement during the mid-1800s. This was an era in which it was commonplace for individuals to want to make contact with loved ones who had passed. Spiritualists believe that spirits of the dead can communicate and have the desire to communicate with the living.
In 1848, the Fox sisters of Hydesville, NY, achieved notoriety by claiming that spirits communicated with them by rapping and tapping on walls. Also, seances were widely held during this time, and a technique called table tipping, or table turning, was commonly practiced to communicate with and ask questions of deceased loved ones. A small group of people sat at a table and posed questions to the spirits. The spirits responded by tapping out answers on the table, for example, one tap for “yes,” or two for “no,” which served as evidence that the spirit was present. Sometimes when spirits were believed to be in the room, the table would mysteriously move and shake through no effort of those physically present around the table.
Also during the mid-1800s, Spiritualist groups were using what they called talking boards to contact the spirit world, in addition to the table tipping technique. An early talking board consisted of two wheels and a pencil attached to a small heart-shaped piece of wood (a planchette). This method took too long and the messages from the spirits were difficult to decipher. Other talking boards had letters, numbers and a message indicator or pointer. A group of people would lightly touch the message indicator while asking the spirit a question. The message indicator would glide over the letters to spell out answers guided by the spirit. These were basically the first Ouija boards, although not yet named as such.
The Ouija board was commercially introduced and given its name in the year 1891. Charles Kennard of Baltimore, MD, and several other businessmen founded the Kennard Novelty Company to capitalize on the idea of the talking board and mass market it to the general public. It proved to be a lucrative and successful venture, even to this day. The Ouija board initially sold for $1.50. According to some sources, the name Ouija is a combination of the French “oui’ and the German ‘ja.” A prominent researcher of the Ouija board, Robert Murch, found that the name came from a relative of one of the founders, and she was herself a medium. The story goes that the name “Ouija” appeared to her during a talking board session or that she was wearing a locket with a picture of a woman whose name was very close to the spelling of Ouija. In 1892, Kennard departed from the company and William Fuld took over. It is Fuld who is often credited as the father of the Ouija Board, even though he never claimed to have invented it. But his marketing efforts never dispelled that rumor.
Another interesting story about the Ouija board is how it came to be patented. In order to obtain a patent, a demonstration was required to prove that it actually worked. The patent officer went into shock when the Ouija board spelled out his name, which was supposedly unbeknownst to anyone present in the room.
The Ouija board is still sold in record numbers today and continues to be mysterious in its origins, uses and powers (either good or evil). Is it really a connection to the spirit world, an entertaining parlor game or an example of a steadfast urban legend?
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Automatic writing or drawing is the act of putting pen to paper and automatically and spontaneously producing writings or drawings without forethought or prior knowledge of what to write or draw. Automatic writing is used as a tool for therapists, writers and psychics.
As a therapeutic modality, psychologists and psychotherapists use it to help patients tap into their subconscious mind and thoughts. This gives the patient and therapist a better understanding of what may be repressed and what is going on in the subconscious mind. To accomplish this, some therapists have used hypnosis to relax their patients into a trance-like state so that the conscious mind chatter does not get in the way of the writing or drawing.
Automatic writing is also an excellent tool to help writer’s suffering from “writer’s block.” It helps hone in writing skills and sparks creative ideas in the conscious mind. Practicing this technique opens up and unblocks the writer’s abilities and talents.
During the time of the Spiritualist movement in the mid-1800s, automatic writing was accepted as a way for psychics and even ordinary people to connect with the spirit world. It is also known as “spirit” or “trance” writing and it continues to be a widely used divination today. Many people practicing this divination claim that as the spirit or entity sends messages through them, it feels as though the spirit is moving the arm and hand over the paper.
HOW TO GET STARTED
Although you are probably more used to a computer for writing these days, it is best to use pen and paper due to the fact that they give you the ability to draw images or symbols.
Find a quiet place and a comfortable chair and table. Clear your mind of the unwanted chatter, as it can be distracting and block the flow. It is a good idea to meditate as a calming exercise. (If you are using it as a divination tool, keep in mind that when connecting with the spirit world, there are some people who have channeled negative energies or spirits. Ask for protection from a higher power before you begin. Call on any spirits that might be near you or around you. Give the spirit permission to channel through your writing or drawing.) Do not allow your mind to filter out anything that is coming through. Just allow messages to flow, even if you don’t know quite where they fit in. When you have completed the writing or drawing, contemplate on what messages you received. Put away your pen or computer until your next session.
No matter for what purpose your use of automatic writing or drawing is intended, don’t get discouraged if it seems not to make sense right away. Over time and with patience and practice, it will start to flow and you will begin to reap its benefits.
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