I'm assuming my readers are either witches themselves or seriously interested in the practise of witchcraft and/or the occult. Should you be neither, there are a great many articles on the internet talking about the dangers of ouija boards and the safest way to use them. I believe I've even written a post along those lines myself (previous ouija board post)
I'm not so bothered about rehashing all the safety advice, I'll just reiterate the point I usually make which is if you approach the ouija board as a tool, it will work for you, if you cannot approach it without bringing myth and superstitious conjecture into your workings with it, leave it well alone. What I'm more interested in today is how a witch can use a board to enhance her relationship with spirits and why, if at all, she would choose to do so.
So first of all, what is a ouija board. Well, it largely depends on your beliefs. A scientist psychologist type of person will tell you it is a load of hogwash where the beliefs of the stronger in a group are imposed on the weaker, the Parker brothers who marketed it to sell in toy shops would tell you it is a game and many new age practitioners would tell you it is a portal to the spirit world.
At its simplest level, a ouija board is a board/piece of paper/intricate carved and hand painted surface (take your pick) with the alphabet, the numbers 0-9 and usually the words yes and no written on it. The board is used by either a single individual or a group by means of a small pointer (known as a planchette) moved around the board to indicate specific letters and spell out meanings. The idea is that the spirits will either move the planchette themselves or inspire the individuals to move it to spell out the message they want to send.
The ouija board is an enabler for access to the other world, the domain of the spirits. This is different to saying it is a portal as such a description invests the board with a good deal more power than it actually has. The key element of spirit work is not the tool you choose to use for it, it is the person doing the contacting or the summoning. I sleep next to my ouija board, trust me that thing isn't open to the other world at all times. However when I choose to use it as a means of contacting spirits, it enables me to do so. The point I make is that I, not the board have the power.
A witch may choose to use a ouija board to communicate with her ancestors. It is usually accepted among most users of a board that you should have a specific purpose or individual who has passed over that you wish to contact. For a witch who works with the spirits of her ancestors, a board can be another way of learning from them and of keeping the tradition of a family line alive. As with non witches there can also be a certain comfort in speaking to those who have passed over although such a connection is usually fleeting as rested spirits will move beyond an association with the living.
A witch may use a ouija board for guidance in her craft, she may seek to contact those who have influenced her beliefs and/or to seek guidance from those with more experience. Again, she would have a good idea upon whom she is calling and a valid reason for doing so Few credible witches will bother the spirit world for no reason, it is seen as disrespectful and a waste of time for all concerned. Its also important to take with a big pinch of salt any information you are given. Just because you are told something by a spirit doesn't make it any more or less true than if you are told something by anybody else. This is one of the key differences between a witch who uses a board and a casual player. A witch will consider the advice given, think about it, use what is relevant and discard what is not. The danger for the casual user is the tendancy to take everything the board says as “truth.” Such a naievity is practically begging for a little spiritual manipulation...
Less commonly a witch may use a board as a summoning tool and encourage spirits to use the board as a portal to transition across from the spirit world. This is where the idea of demonic infliltration comes from. Its important to remember that spirits are entirely different entities to demons (and some witches don't even believe in demons). Belief will differ as to whether the use of a board can actually invite possession. Certainly there can be no doubt that people believe they have been possessed by spirits that have crossed over using a ouija board. This is one area where the red alarms start flashing, one thing to communicate, another to...invite. Its a rarer use of the board and for obvious reasons.
What a witch is very unlikely to do is open up a board and fish around for any old spirit who wants to make contact. There is little value in such a connection. As I have said before, the spirits most attracted to making contact are usually the lower level entities from whom you can gain little knowledge or understanding. Such spirits will also pick up on the inexperience of a user and may even enjoy taunting them. Its no accident that many ouija boards love to predict doom, catastrophe and death. Its highly unlikely they predict with any foresight of course but the mischievious spirits seem to have worked out its a good way of upsetting people.
There seems to be an assumption in popular culture that all spirits are negative. This is at odds with the new age way of thinking that all spirits are fluffy and lovely. The truth is of course that spirits can be either. If we think of a spirit as the essence of a person who has departed this earth, we have no reason to suppose that the essence has changed much. If they were a horrible person in life, chance are they still are in death and vice versa. The key thing for a ouija board user is to have no prior assumptions but to have an ability to recognise evil should he/she encounter it. But the idea that boards should be avoided because any connection with the spirit world is negative is laughable at best.
Image http://www.sxc.hu/photo/75269 (zaido)