The Ouija Board

The name ouija apparently comes from “oui” and “ja”, the French and German words for “yes”. The Ouija Board is thus a “yes-yes” board – slightly strange given that it is so often asked to reply to “yes-no” questions. Some say that the name actually arose because the inventor wrongly believed “ouija” to be an Egyptian word for “luck”. Another possibility is that the name derived from the Moroccan city of Oujda.

What is a Ouija Board?

A Ouija Board consists of a smooth surface – originally polished wood, often plastic on the ones you can buy today – on which are marked the letters of the alphabet, the numbers 1 to 10 and the words “Yes” and “No”. In addition there is some form of indicator, which can be as simple or elaborate as desired so long as it will move smoothly across the board. An upturned glass is often used however this is not recommended because of the risk of it shattering. A flat wooden indicator (planchette) is safer.

Unlike many forms of scrying, the Ouija Board is designed for use by multiple people at the same time. It is often used at parties and in the 19th century was very popular with spiritualists and at seances.

The board is placed on a table around which all the participants sit. If desired, lights can be dimmed etc in order to heighten the atmosphere. The pointer is placed on the board and everyone rests one finger gently on top of it. The sitters ask questions and, hopefully, the pointer will move around.

Those of a spiritualist or mediumistic persuasion believe that Uioja messages are sent from spirits. Others see the board as simply a tool harnessed by the power of the psychic. Some think that it accesses the gestalt mind of the group. Skeptics tend to believe the whole thing is a result of fraud and/or the ideomotor effect.

Ouija board divinations are visually interesting and can produce some tension as the answer is slowly spelled out. Perhaps for that reason the Ouija Board has appeared in many TV shows and movies, most memorably in The Exorcist and Witchboard.

Possibly as a result of its depiction in popular culture, The Ouija Board has a reputation for being evil and dangerous.