Using a spirit board is, in some ways, quite a personal thing as best practices are often as influenced by personal beliefs as the perception of the boards themselves. It’s hoped that this crowd-sourced guide to using a Ouija board will be accessible to all, although not all of these instructions will appeal to you personally or match your own beliefs, but they are included so that you can be informed about why people use a board in certain ways and to allow you to form your own best practices.
Perhaps the only instructions on how to use a Ouija board that should be trusted are those that were on the original boxes.
Marketed as the “mystifying oracle,” Ouija boards promised “entertainment you have never experienced.” Of course, an “oracle” is usually a person, but sometimes an object, that is considered to be wise and insightful counsel. They act as a medium through which advice, prophecies, or information can be sought.
This is exactly what the original use of the Ouija board was. It was less about communicating with the dead and more about gaining insight or answers. These answers could be coming from the spirits of the dead, but they could equally be coming from deities, demons, angels, and countless other spiritual sources. It was essentially a form of divination.
The box explains, “It draws the two people using it into close companionship and weaves about them a feeling of mysterious isolation. Unquestionably the most fascinating entertainment for modern people and modern life.”
So, according to the original instructions, the board was intended to be used by two people. Today, it’s common to use it with more participants than this, often three or four. You can even use a Ouija board on your own, but you may find it hard to get any responses unless joined by at least one other person.
The official directions for use reads:
Place OUIJA talking board upon the laps of two persons facing each other, lady and gentleman preferred.
Place OUIJA mysterious message indicator in centre of OUIJA talking board resting fingers with the least possible pressure upon the mysterious message indicator, allowing it to move freely over OUIJA talking board in all directions.
Questions may be asked and in from one to five minutes the mysterious message indicator will commence to move, at first slowly, then faster. As it passes over OUIJA talking board each letter of a message is received as it appears through the transparent window covered by the message indicator.
The instructions add, “Care should be taken that one person only ask questions at a time so as to avoid confusion.”
The box also recommends, “To obtain the best results it is important that the person present should concentrate upon the matter in question and avoid other topics. If you use it in a frivolous spirit, asking ridiculous questions, laughing over it, you naturally get undeveloped influences around you.”
The instructions also offer some practical advice on caring for the product: “OUIJA talking board set should be kept smooth and free from dust and moisture, as all depends upon the ease with which the feet glide over the surface. Rubbing with a soft dry cloth just before using is advised. Do not store in damp place.”
In the earlier days of spirit board use, especially in the Victorian era of séances, it was most common to use a board wherever you happened to be holding your session. This was because the board was considered a mediumistic tool that could bring you spiritual contact.
While spirit boards are still used in this way, they are now also extensively used as part of paranormal investigations, which involves taking a Ouija board to an allegedly haunted location in order to contact any ghosts that might reside there.
Whether at home or a haunted location, setting the mood is important. It’s best to use the board in low light or by candlelight, but not in complete darkness, as you’ll need to be able to read the responses on the board.
You can also set the mood by burning some incense, but avoid burning sage, as this is believed to drive spirits away. Make sure you’re comfortable. Getting a response through the board can take time and patience, so where possible, take a seat around the board.
As the original instructions state, “the person present should concentrate upon the matter in question.” This is important; you’ll need to make sure you’re not distracted during the sitting. So, turn off the television and any music, put your phone on silent or flight mode, and shut pets and other distractions out of the room.
Next, you’ll need to each place one finger on the planchette; this is the pointer that will slide around the board. In the original instructions, this pointer is called the “mysterious message indicator,” but the advice here is the same. Each person participating should very gently rest one finger on the planchette—so gently, in fact, that it is barely touching the planchette. As stated on the box, this will ensure the planchette is able to move freely over the board in all directions. In modern settings, some people choose to use a glass instead of the message indicator. This is often because it slides more freely and allows for better visibility of the letters. Using a glass, or any other object, doesn’t seem to affect the performance of the board in any way.
Some people recommend moving the planchette around the board to “warm it up,” and while I don’t think that this is strictly necessary as any spirits present should be capable of getting the planchette moving themselves, I do think it is good practise to familiarise the spirits as well as the participants with the board and how the planchette moves across it.
First, move the planchette around the board in clockwise circles for 20 to 30 seconds, or however long feels right to you. You can do this by sliding the planchette yourself with your finger; this is allowed at this stage. Then call out to any potential spirits, saying something like, “If there’s anyone here who wishes to make contact, you can talk to us through this board. You can answer our questions with ‘yes’ or ‘no’.” Move the planchette over the “yes” and “no” to demonstrate as you say this.
Then continue by saying, “You can also spell out words,” while moving the planchette across the alphabet, “using the letters A to Z. There’s also number zero to nine.” Again, move the planchette over the numbers to demonstrate. After this, move the planchette to the centre of the board. From this point on, you should not intentionally move the planchette.
Now it’s time to start a conversation with any spirits that might be present or want to come through. Don’t be scared to start with a cliche, ask allowed “is there any body there?” If the planchette doesn’t move straight away, don’t give up; sometimes it can take a while to gain a response. Simply ask again, “If there’s someone here who wants to communicate with us, can you move the planchette to ‘yes?'”
Keep asking the spirit to show itself in this manner. Approach this with an open mind, believe, and have faith. After a while, you should see the planchette move across the board, hopefully towards “yes.” Encourage the spirit to use the combined energy of all of the participants to move the planchette.
If you’re still not experiencing any movement, then try experimenting with different combinations of participants. Ask some sitters to temporarily sit aside for a few minutes, bring new people on to the board too, and swap around until you find a combination that works. You could also try running through the energy- building “warm up” step again to try to kickstart the board.
When the planchette does move, be sure to follow the movement with your finger. Once the planchette begins moving, you can start to ask questions. It’s best to open with simple questions to establish who you are talking to. We’ll cover this step of the session in more detail in the next chapter.
Some people will tell you that at the end of the session, it is essential to close the board. The belief is that if the board is left open, something unwanted or malevolent might come through it, or the entities you’ve called forward might remain or even follow you.
Others dispute this belief with the claim that using a spirit board is no different than any other method of communicating with spirits, methods in which it is not required to close a session down. They argue that a Ouija board is just a piece of wood, and essentially any flat surface with an object placed upon it can be used as a makeshift spirit board. To borrow a principle from the world of witchcraft, it’s more about the intention behind the act than the tools used to perform it.
If you are not comfortable ending the session without closing the board, then it is important that you do so for your own peace of mind. Luckily, closing the board is simple. All you need to do is physically slide the planchette across the board to the word “goodbye,” which is found at the bottom of the board. While doing this, thank any spirits that you believe may have come through for doing so.