Gateway to Evil or Just a Game

ouija-board

The belief and/or desire to communicate with ghosts of loved ones, historical, famous, or infamous, is a common human behavior and has always been a part of human culture.  Examples of communing with the dead can be found in the Bible, mythology, classic literature, and on the shelves of your nearby children’s toy store.  Does the Ouija Board really work or is it just a game for entertainment purposes only?  

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Spiritualism in America

During the year of 1848, the obsession of spiritualism, already popular in Europe, spread like a wildfire in the U.S. when Kate and Margaret Fox; two sisters who lived in Hydesville, NY, became instant celebrities by claiming they contacted the spirit of a dead peddler.  The word “medium” is used as a label that identifies the talented or “gifted” person who has the ability of communicating with the dead by using various methods such as table turning (tilting or taping).  The medium along with the attendees would sit around a table and place their fingers lightly on the edge of the table top.  The medium would ask questions and then call out letters or numbers and if the table taps the floor on the letter or number the answer is presumed to be the spirit communicating back.    Another method was developed by placing a pencil sticking through the center of a small basket and the spirit would write out the answer of the questions  asked by the medium.  Later this tool developed into what is now known as the planchette, French for small plank.

hisc  Interesting historical tidbit…

Mary Todd Lincoln conducted a séance in the White House after their 11 year old son died from illness in 1862.

Other methods and tools were also used and developed to commune with the spirits but failed in the market.  The planchette tool became the most popular method of communing with the other side, due to the cost of manufacturing, this device was cheaper than its competitors such as the various types of dial plate instruments which were sometimes referred to as psychographs.  

In 1886 certain variations of talking boards where becoming the latest craze in the spiritual culture.  Business partners Charles Kennard, Elijah Bond, and a few other investors created their first version of their talking board.  They managed to convince a patent worker that it worked and the first patent talking board gave credit to Kennard and Bond in 1890.  The Ouija board got its name supposedly from a séance that took place with Kennard, Bond, and Helen Peters, Bond’s sister-in-law, who had a reputation of being a strong medium.  When Miss Peters asked the board “what would you like to be named?”  The board responded by spelling out Ouija.  Miss Peters asked, “What is the meaning of the word Ouija?”  The board answered back, “Good Luck”.

william-fuld

William fuld

Starting as a varnisher for the Kennard Novelty Company, Fuld managed to climb the company’s ladder and became a major stockholder and eventually ended up running the company.  Fuld never claimed and is not the creator of the Ouija board, but somehow the New York Times  reported  this mis-information by declaring him the inventor.  In 1927, Fuld died from falling off the roof of his new factory.  Ironically, supposedly the Ouija board told Fuld to build the factory in the first place.

Does the board work?

If you have ever used an Ouija board at a party there are always those who will try to get a scare or a quick laugh, but it is also common when people are using the board to claim that they  are not the ones moving the planchette and accuse the other person and of course the other person denies it and says the same thing.  The ideomotor effect is the culprit behind this phenomenon.  Ideomotor actions are unconscious movements that occur when we focus on not trying to move.  The movement of the planchette on the board can occur naturally for the same reason dowsing is believed to be a good way to find water.

Is the Ouija Board evil?

Spiritualism was a very popular trend during the Civil War era.  During and after wars it is very common for people to try to contact lost loved ones.  In 1967, a year after Parker Brothers bought the rights from Fuld’s company, the Ouija board sold 2 million boards which outsold Monopoly that year.  The year 1967 was also the same year where more American troops were sent into Vietnam and also the year of  “Summer of Love” in San Francisco.  The evil reputation of the Ouija board didn’t really start developing until the movie The Exorcist was released in American theaters in 1973.  Then more horror movies used the Ouija board and helped create the evil reputation of the Ouija board that is now known today.

References

Waxman, O. B. (n.d.). ‘Ouija: Origin of Evil’ and the True History of the Ouija Board. Retrieved November 24, 2016, from http://time.com/4529861/ouija-board-history-origin-of-evil/

Jackson, J. (n.d.). The ideomotor effect. Retrieved November 24, 2016, from http://www.critical-thinking.org.uk/psychology/the-ideomotor-effect.php

Museum of Talking Boards: History of the Talking Board. (n.d.). Retrieved November 24, 2016, from http://www.museumoftalkingboards.com/history.html

Museum of Talking Boards – Board Gallery Page One. (n.d.). Retrieved November 24, 2016, from http://www.museumoftalkingboards.com/gal1.html

McRobbie, L. R. (2013, October 27). The Strange and Mysterious History of the Ouija Board. Retrieved November 24, 2016, from http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-strange-and-mysterious-history-of-the-ouija-board-5860627/

 

 

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Halloween

vintage-halloween-card11

The origins of Halloween can be traced  all the way back to the Celts (800-450 BC).  Samhain (pronounced Sow-in or Sah- win) means “Summer’s end” and to the Celts, November the 1st  was considered to be the New Year.  What’s amazing is that a few of the customs that our pagan ancestors celebrated during Samhain have been maintained and have transcended through time to what is currently now known as Halloween.  There have been a lot of adaptations added from other cultures all throughout the time span that has molded this unique day that pays homage to the dead.

Samhain…

A fire festival, that was used by the Celts to encourage the sun to stay up as long as possible, that would start to take place on what is now known as October 31st and considered to be the last day of the year.  It was believed that on this day the veil between the living and the dead vanishes and the spirits of the dead become visible to the eyes of the living.  It was a common believe of this time period that the spirits would roam the earth looking for a body to posses, so the Celts would dress in costumes, mainly wearing animal heads and skins, and dance around bonfires to entertain the spirits and hopefully dupe them to prevent possessions of their bodies from malevolent spirits.  They would leave their front doors open to their lost loved ones.  The original Jack-ó-lanterns, made out of large turnips, beets, or potatoes, were placed on window ledges to scare off evil spirits.  November 1st, was the day that represented the end of summer, end of harvest, and the beginning of the dark cold winter.  Which is typically the time that is associated with death in many other cultures as well.

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Feralia and Pomona

Around 43 AD, the Romans were able to expand the territory that claim the majority of Celtic land and for 400 years influenced the former Celtic people with two Roman festivals known as Feralia; a day to honor the passing of the dead, and a day to honor Pomona, the goddess of fruits and trees.  The “bobbing for apples” game that is frequently played at Halloween kid parties is suspected to have have originated from the Romans because the apple served as a symbol for Pomona.

pomona

Roman Catholic Church

In 601 AD, Pope Gregory issued an order to his missionaries regarding concerns of converting the Celts.  The Roman Catholic church learned from experience that when dealing with pagans, instead of condemning them for their ideologies you used their beliefs and redirected them to be about Christ and allow them to continue their customs.  Pope Gregory IV had planned on turning Samhain into All Saints day in 835, but All Souls Day was established in 998 in a French monastery and spread quickly throughout Europe.  The celtic pagan rituals and beliefs were converted into worshiping martyrs and saints.

los Días de los Muertos

The Aztecs festival of the dead was originally a two-month celebration that also fell into the Fall season and was tied into celebrating the harvest season.  The festival was to pay homage to Mictecacíhuatl, the Goddess of the Dead and the Underworld also known as Mictlán.  Mictlán was not considered  to be a dark or scary place, it was actually viewed to be a peaceful realm where souls resided and waited for the days of visiting the living.  After the European invasion of the Americas, the Catholic monasteries employed the same tactic used with the Celts.  All Souls day was instituted into the daily lives of the natives and All Souls day and the native Aztec beliefs merged and formed what is now considered los Días de los Muertos (The Days of the Dead) which is celebrated on November 1st and 2nd.

dia-de-los-muertos

Halloween in the United States

Various Halloween traditions that are celebrated in the U.S. were influenced by European immigrants, mainly during the second half of the19th century.  By combining Irish and English traditions, the trick-or-treat tradition began in the U.S.  In the 1950’s, community leaders decided to make the holiday more directed towards the youth to minimize vandalism.  

References

History.com Staff. (2009). History of the Jack O’ Lantern. Retrieved November 03, 2016, from http://www.history.com/topics/halloween/jack-olantern-history

History.com Staff. (2009). History of Halloween. Retrieved November 03, 2016, from http://www.history.com/topics/halloween/history-of-halloween

Pon, D. (n.d.). The Origins of Halloween. Retrieved November 03, 2016, from http://www.albany.edu/~dp1252/isp523/halloween.html

Origins of Halloween and the Day of the Dead | EDSITEment. (n.d.). Retrieved November 03, 2016, from https://edsitement.neh.gov/feature/origins-halloween-and-day-dead

Santino, J. (n.d.). Halloween. Retrieved November 03, 2016, from http://www.loc.gov/folklife/halloween.html

The origin of Halloween is found in Celtic Ireland. (n.d.). Retrieved November 03, 2016, from http://www.irish-genealogy-toolkit.com/origin-of-Halloween.html