Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Ouija boards

By way of something completely different....

Someone on one of the neopagan bulletin boards I visit from time to time, said of the Ouija boards, "Those things scare me silly, as I have known several people with some pretty horrific stories regarding their experiences with them."

I don't like them either. These are some of the reasons I have:

1. Abrogation of responsibility

Recently, there was an Ohio jury that couldn't decide between one charge or another and so you know what they did? They flipped a coin. There have also been reports of Ouija boards being used to come to a decision involving someone's liberty. (cf "The Great Debate V: A Debate on Judicial Reform, England V. United States." by Eugene R. Sullivan, American Criminal Law Review. Volume: 38. Issue: 2., 2001.). This led to a retrial when this decision making process emerged!

This illustrates the danger of a culture of dependency on such methods; it is an extreme example, but ceding responsibility in small matters, but by bit, and someone might find themselves in a similar situation, making a major decision with ethic implications by means of Ouija boards.

2. The Lure of the Forbidden

"Katie and Annae employed Wiccan rituals at the beginning of the Ouija board play, ostensibly to make the séance a more pleasant, perhaps "safer, " or maybe even a more "authentic" experience. Despite this ritual, however, most of the girls were "freaked out" by the end. And this, after all, is the point of Ouija boards. As has been discussed in earlier chapters, it is also the point of many of the teen experiences with the supernatural, from watching horror films, to visiting cemeteries, to telling scary stories late at night."(From Angels to Aliens: Teenagers, the Media, and the Supernatural." by Lynn Schofield Clark, 2003)

As with the Victorians, there is something deliciously creepy about a darkened room, curtains drawn, and a glass marking out answers to questions. Here it functions as a kind of parlour game, where part of the thrill is being frightened by the mysterious way it answers.

Again, from the psychological point of view, there is a culture of dependency, abrogating control: "All the Ouija boards and séances in the world won't conjure up the shades of the dead undead on demand. Do not be fooled: it is they who choose us. We become the helpless ones, the objects of their haunting. " (Cynthia Sugars writing in "Literature and psychology.", Volume: 45. Issue: 3., 1999)

Like "facilitated communication" (which I have come across in my studies on autism), people who use Ouija boards have a vested interest in believing the results. Observing powerful messages and the powerful effect of messages on impressionable people can be impressive.

Yet, as experiences with facilitated communication have shown, decent people often harbor indecent thoughts of which they are unaware. And the fact that a person takes a "communication" seriously enough to have it significantly interfere with the living responsibly is, I think, a sufficient reason for avoiding the Ouija board as being more than a "harmless bit of ntertainment" .'More' magazine in August 1996 reported on the findings of a Glasgow University survey. They estimated that as many as "1 in 10 people - 65% of them women - have been psychologically damaged by their (occult) experiences."

3. Do they work?

I don't think they can give us any truth that is not available from other means, but by placing store on the truth of their utterances, they can work considerable mischief.

G. K. Chesterton recalled how he played with the board as a youth. While he could not explain everything that took place he was sure of one thing: 'In the words that were written for us, there was nothing ostensibly degrading, but any amount that was deceiving...The only thing I will say with complete confidence, about that mystic and invisible power, is that it tells lies.'

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