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Friday, January 29th 2010

10:51 AM

Ouija & Chinese Spirit Writing--Comparisons & Warnings

  • Mood: curious, thoughtful
  • Music: Enya

Recently, my friend Bao Huai in Beijing sent me a letter asking if I’d heard of fairy writing or sand writing, which he thought was similar to Ouija. Bao Huai is writing a movie script about a haunted garden in the Forbidden City so he wanted to have his sources straight. I’ve often wondered where the Ouija board came from and how old it actually is. Given that most ancient societies had some way of communicating with spirits, I thought it unlikely that the Ouija board was a “new” invention. Upon doing my research I found that the Chinese have something similar, begun sometime around 1000 years ago. It is called 扶乩 (fú).

I’m sure most people know about the “game” Ouija, which is not actually a game, but is a board with letters and numbers, the sun and moon, Yes & No, printed on it. It uses a device called a planchette--a triangular plastic piece on 3 very short legs (tipped in felt to make it move smoothly) & a clear window through which you can see the letters/numbers. Two people use the planchette, placing their fingertips lightly on one side or the other, and then ask questions of the spirit world.

Fuji is the Chinese version, probably the ancestor of Ouija, which requires two people who hold either a peach/willow twig, or in some areas, a basket shaped rather like a turtle shell with a pointer—they are called ‘jishou乩手 "planchette hands". The Chinese call upon a ‘shen’ "spirit; god" or ‘xian’ "immortal; transcendent", usually a specific entity, rather than simply addressing whatever spirit happens to be around at the moment (like many Westerners do). Since Chinese writing uses characters, not the ABCs, a table or special flat box, covered or filled with a shallow layer of sand is used instead of a flat board—the planchette will then write the characters in the sand. There are three essential helpers who are thus needed to operate this medium:  1) a ‘dujizhe讀乩者 "planchette reader" who actually reads off the characters as they are written; 2) a ‘chaojizhe抄乩者 "planchette copyist" whose job is to write down and record what is written; and a ‘pingsha平沙 "level sand" who smoothes out the ‘shapan沙盤 "sand table" when the next character needs to be written.

The Chinese, when using fuji, are very careful and respectful of the spirits they are addressing, and before this ritual is performed, incense it lit, spells are recited, and a charm written on a special yellow paper, called a ‘piao’, that calls up the specific spirit, god/dess or immortal. They understand that performing fuji is a ritual fraught with great importance and deserving a somber attitude, unlike most Westerners, who take the Ouija board as a kind of party game. I think it is interesting, as well, that the Chinese consider that the planchette is not moved by only the gods OR by the ones holding the planchette, but is moved by the mutual cooperation of both. During the Song dynasty, fuji was also used to summon the spirits of dead poets, who would compose poetry for the participants, so it was not always used to ask questions.

Now as to the Ouija board: it is the descendant of various means of divination that arose during the mid to late 19th century during the Spiritualist movement. The board that most people are familiar with today, with it’s natural wood color and black graphics of the sun, moon, etc. was made popular by the game company Parker Brothers. Ouija was very popular in the 1920’s and 30s, and even the great illustrator Norman Rockwell painted its use on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post.

To anyone thinking of using the Ouija board, let me issue this warning: IT IS NOT A GAME AND IS NOT TO BE USED LIGHTLY FOR ENTERTAINMENT!! I say this from the depth of my own experiences with it, and those of my family. Keep in mind that there are many, many worlds beyond the one which we perceive moment to moment, with entities who are fully functional, active and eager to communicate with us. Would you go out into the dark night, blindfolded, and grab anyone who came your way and drag them into your home to answer questions? I think not. However, this is what most people who use the Ouija board do when they just sit down and start calling out to the spirit world.

If you feel you must use the Ouija board, take a hint from those people who have been using something similar for the past thousand years, the Chinese. To convert this into Western terms: draw a circle of white chalk or salt around the table and chairs where the board is to be read. You would draw the circle, leave a small space for you and your partner to walk into it, then enter and close the circle. Light incense and use a WHITE candle for purity. Say a prayer of protection and call on the power of the WHITE LIGHT to watch over and surround you. Announce that ONLY spirits aligned with the White Light may enter the circle. Compose your requests respectfully, then put your hands to the planchette. If at any time during the session you contact a spirit who is cursing, hypersexual, blasphemous, vengeful or angry, TAKE YOUR HANDS OFF THE PLANCHETTE, dismiss the spirit, and immediately ask God/dess to protect you—I also visualize angels surrounded me and my partner.

After the session is over—whether the spirits were negative or positive--, and this is VERY important, call on the power of the White Light once more and thank, then DISMISS the spirits who have answered you. ONLY when you feel the air around you is positively charged and clear, should you break the circle and walk out. I cannot stress this enough—to use the Ouija you must take these precautions, which are actually the bare minimum. I may write later on an incident or two that happened in my own family, but for the moment, do yourself a favor and play it SAFE.

95 Comment(s).

Posted by Helen:

Have never been brave enough to try it myself. though I'm truly fascinated by the process! this kind of spirit writing is used in many films and music videos (my favorite is Apocalyptica's Bittersweet I found by mp3 search ) who knows, maybe sometimes I'll find strength to try it?
Thursday, April 8th 2010 @ 6:51 AM

Posted by marco:

Have never been brave enough to try it myself. though I'm truly fascinated by the process! this kind of spirit writing is used in many films and music videos (my favorite is Apocalyptica's Bittersweet I found by mp3 search ) who knows, maybe sometimes I'll find strength to try it?
Wednesday, October 27th 2010 @ 9:10 PM

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