Saturday, October 6, 2012


A perfect, if very odd, name for someone with a strong connection to the Samhain season.

Ouija (pronounced as both "WEE-jah" and "WEE-jee") is most famous as the name of a board game that some believe can be used to communicate with the dead. If you've never used one, the idea behind it is simple. The board has the letters of the alphabet, numbers 0-9, "yes," "no," "goodbye," and usually some sort of pretty design. It should come with a planchette, which is a heart shaped piece of wood. One or more people place their fingertips on the planchette, they ask questions to the spirit, the planchette moves seemingly on it's own and points at the symbols on the board to form their answers.

Also known as a spirit board or talking board, Ouija had a very mundane origin story. They were patented by businessmen and sold as a harmless parlour game in the late 1800s. However, the technique that Ouija employs has been used for a very long time. The first time it was used was in the 1100s by the Chinese as a way for them to contact the spirit world.

For what is technically a toy, Ouija has managed to accumulate a great amount of controversy. Many Christians believe that it is a tool of the devil, of course. Scientists believe that the whole things a hoax, a psychological trick based off of unconscious muscular action controlled by subconscious ideas. In the Neo-Pagan world, it is generally accepted as a method of divination although it's nowhere near as popular as tarot cards. Many people (both Pagan and non-Pagan) believe that Ouija can be dangerous because it invites unknown spirits into the house. Ouija boards are often a device used in horror stories.

Where the name comes from is unclear. One of the creators of the board claimed that it was an Ancient Egyptian word meaning "good luck." Somehow I highly doubt that. It could be a combination of the French and German words for "yes": oui and ja. That seems more likely. I have seen Ouija listed on baby name websites and it always intrigued me because it's not an option that I would consider on my own. I can't prove this, but I imagine that it was introduced as a given name during the Victorian Era, the time when the game was first sold and when people were very interested in the Occult.

I'm not certain what kind of a reaction one would get for using the name Ouija. While the game is controversial, I'm not certain if that makes the name controversial as well. However, Ouija will always have a spooky vibe and if that's what you're going for then rock on. It's a name that will definitely stand out.


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