Well It Isn’t Hogwarts

Meet Oberon Zell-Ravenheart, a 68 year old self proclaimed Wizard who has dedicated his life to understanding the nature of the Dark Arts…Sort of like Professor Snape in the Harry Potter series, except nowhere near as cool.  Of course a Harry Potter joke seems appropriate; however Oberon is actually banking on this very concept.  You see Oberon isn’t your ordinary self diluted crazy old Wizard who always seems to be wearing his Gandalf getup.  No, Oberon has started the world’s first registered school of wizardry.

Grey School of Wizardy teaches 16 departments, and I must say that the curriculum is a bigger joke than seeing this wizard shopping at the grocery store.

Students will have to take serious studies in the following (some of this information is taken verbatim from the school’s website):

Wizardry – This Department provides an introduction to Magick and Wizardry. It is the mission of this Department to help students acquire an essential understanding of what it means to be a Wizard, including the requisite basic skills.

Nature Studies – Students will study the aspects of metaphysics and mysticism that relate to Nature and Her Mysteries. This Department also covers practical works and adventures in Nature—such as Camping and Woodcraft.

Magical Practices – This Department includes the practical foundational basics and magickal hardware: theory, tools, regalia, your sanctum sanctorum, principles of correspondences, signs, symbols, spells and charms.

Psychic Arts – This department is designed to help students develop their ability in “mind magicks.” Meditation is crucial for the Western Wizard who wishes to learn to master and focus the power of the Will. The power of the Will is the force behind effective magick.

Healing – Healing refers to all forms of magickal arts and practices devoted to curing diseases, relieving aches and pains, promoting tissue regeneration, restoring vitality and fertility, etc. Throughout history, healers have been the folk doctors, nurses and midwives—especially in rural and “primitive” communities without access to officially licensed physicians and pharmacists.

Wortcunning – This is the old word used for the knowledge of the secret properties of herbs, and this has always been a particular study of the Wise. Wortcunning includes all aspects of herbal lore and plant magicks. This Department also covers practical work—such as Gardening and Kitchen Witchery.

Divination – This is the art of foretelling or predicting the future; or discovering things that are lost, hidden or secret. Although not all seers were Wizards, all Wizards are expected to be seers. Many ancient peoples were completely obsessed with divination, and would hardly make a move without consulting diviners, seers, oracles or prophets. Unusual occurrences, such as disturbing dreams and omens, were also given divinatory meanings—this is where we get our word ominous. Over the ages, seers have devised many techniques of divination—called the Mantic Arts (from mantis, meaning “diviner”).

Performance Magick – Also called conjury or stage magic, performance magic deals with “miraculous” illusions and special effects, which have been used in enhancing the theater of ritual since the first campfire was lit. Various types of performance, such as magic acts, acrobatics, juggling, puppetry, and fire-eating all came from such rituals. This Department also includes the Bardic Arts of music, chants, poetry, singing, and storytelling.

Alchemy & Magickal Sciences – This Department concerns the science of magic and the magic of science, especially transmutation and transformation. The forerunner of modern chemistry, Alchemy has roots in Egypt, Greek, and the Middle East. Historically, alchemists sought to turn base metals into gold, to formulate an Elixer of Life which would grant immortality, and to create an artificial man called a homunculus. The inner Mysteries of Alchemy concerned the transformation and perfection of the soul. Contemporary aspects of these studies include metallurgy and philosophy, life extension studies, robotics and artificial intelligence. Other topics include soapmaking, home brewing, technomagicks, nonmedicinal aspects of aromatherapy, chemistry, and additional areas where magic and science overlap through the manipulation of substances or objects.

Lifeways – this Department to orchestrate the highest degree of personal growth and self-directed learning toward becoming a productive member of humanity. Such learned skills and knowledge are essential to any level of wizardry, measured in the positive results the apprentice has on others, and in the development of personal awareness and presence. Special knowledge and skills include goal setting, research, organization, record keeping, scheduling, commitment, communications and critical analysis (I find that hard to believe).

Beast Mastery – This Department concerns everything to do with animals of all kinds—especially animal communication. Beast Masters include “horse whisperers,” animal trainers, pet psychics, and all people who seem to have an uncanny ability to communicate and work with animals. Beast Mastery includes knowledge of zoology and the lore of Totems. Beast Masters seek to know the names of all animals, as well as how they evolved, what they eat, their behaviors, lifestyles, mating rituals, and languages. The Lore of Magickal animals—such as Unicorns and Dragons—is also included in this Department.

Cosmology – In this Department we will explore no less than the wonders of the Universe.
The great bowl of the night sky—the celestial sphere—that surrounds our tiny globe has always been a subject of magickal and Wizardly studies. The movements of the Sun, Moon and planets through the signs of the Zodiac gave us our calendar, our first way of keeping time, and our earliest form of effective divination. Cosmology is also concerned with the larger questions: How did everything begin? Where are we going? Is there anyone else out there?

Mathemagicks – In this Department to help students acquire the essential skills, both practical and theoretical, to understand and use number and form in their magickal work, and to comprehend the esoteric mathematical foundations of the universe. Our class topics will include Pythagoreanism, the archetypal numbers, numerology, gematria, sacred geometry, esoteric mathematics (elementary and advanced), the I Ching, chaos magick, and the esoteric Quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, music, astronomy).

Ceremonial Magick – In this Department to help the student acquire the essential skills, both practical and theoretical, to conduct effective Ceremonial Magick and to achieve the personal spiritual development afforded by these magickal systems. Classes in this department depend on many of the concepts and techniques taught in other Grey School Departments, and the Ceremonial Magick Department, in return, teaches the lore and art of the great magickal orders. Our class topics will include the Hermetica, Qabalah, Neo-Platonism, theurgy, medieval grimoires, Renaissance magick, angelic operations, ceremonial technique, magickal tools, the Golden Dawn and other magickal orders, and invocation, evocation & banishing.

Lore – In this Department to help the student develop the ability to access, synthesize, and critically evaluate arcane knowledge from a variety of magickal cultures. Such knowledge is crucial to the Wizard in practice as well as development and includes, but is not limited to: world mythology, world history, hidden realms, wizardly fiction, and cultural pantheons.

Dark Arts – The Department of Dark Arts in the Grey School of Wizardry is a community of teaching Wizards dedicated to providing the apprentice with the highest quality education in occult knowledge appropriate to their level of development. We accomplish this task through the most effective online pedagogic methods available. It is the mission of this Department to inform and equip the student in three main areas: understanding the basics of low magick, or sorcery, and its applications; learning the history and traits of creatures and beings traditionally considered “dark,” in cooperation with the Departments of Beast Mastery and Lore; and warding the wizardly safety of hirself and others through Defense Against the Dark Arts as well as the understanding of other potential hazards of our practices and community. All of these are presented at levels deemed safe and appropriate for minors by our Faculty and Administration.

Now it is certainly not a surprise to know that this school in not accredited in any state in the USA, however I find it quite disturbing that they do equate the knowledge they teach with that of a public school education, hiding it behind fancy wording such as “Many merit-worthy activities can include things done in mainstream school,” or “all learning begets more learning and makes more learning easier more fun and more inevitable so yes, studying at GSW adds to a student’s mainstream education.”  Funny, I didn’t need an education in witchcraft in order to enjoy science class; actually I would love to see what a REAL science teacher would think about a course in “Alchemy & Magickal Sciences”.

Also the Grey School of Wizardy isn’t just a school for children (though it is highly promoted for kids ages between the ages of 11-17) they do offer classes for adults who haven’t given up their love for role playing and Dungeons and Dragons.

Most of this school is taught online, however you can go to the direct headquarters in Sonoma County, California.  Here children from 11-17 are split into four ancient houses – Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin Winds, Undines, Gnomes and Salamanders. 

The Grey School claims to have 735 students and Oberon claims that 100 are under-18.  For now, it is an online college with regular physical wizard camps and workshops, where muggles students can study seven years to graduate with a journeyman degree in Wizardry aka a piece of paper printed off at Oberon’s house.

“Other so-called wizard schools are rip-offs and they don’t allow children,” says Oberon. “I want to help the next breed of Harry Potters learn wizardry.” Membership is around 30 dollars and Oberon promises he can teach anyone the basics of Wizardry.

When Good Games Go Bad

One of the most controversial tools ever used in spirit communication, a tool that is still used today, is a simple wooden board. It comes in many different sizes, with a variety of beautifully painted scenes and symbols. Yet they all share certain characteristics: located somewhere on the surface of these boards are the words “Yes”, “No” and “Goodbye“, the letters A through Z and the numbers 0 through 9. With this board comes a pointer called a planchette. The planchette is a triangular or heart-shaped device that will point to the letters, numbers or words, spelling out phrases, names and dates. The planchette actually predates these boards. Planchettes were originally used with a pencil attached for automatic writing (a method used a lot during the spiritualist movement). But now the planchette and this board go hand in hand. This board goes by many names such as a talking board, a witch board, or a spirit board. But most of us know it as the Ouija board.

The Ouija board is quite possibly the most infamous tool used in paranormal research. I would venture to bet that most people reading this have heard a terrifying story that has either happened to a friend or a friend of a friend that involves the Ouija board. But when was the Ouija board created? What’s the history of this fascinating tool of devilish mischief? Was it constructed under candlelight in a dark dungeon sometime in the Dark Ages? Or maybe it was created by a witch who practiced black magic and satanic rituals. Many will be surprised to learn that the Ouija board is fairly young and it was made as a novelty item.

On May 28th 1890, a patent was filed by three individuals: Elijah Bond, Charles W. Kennard and William H. A. Maupin. The patent was for a novelty item developed by The Kennard Novelty Company, and the first boards were stamped February 10, 1891. Kennard was the one who named the board Ouija. People say the name Ouija means yes-yes because oui is French for yes and ja is German for yes, but Kennard claims to have named Ouija after an Egyptian word for good luck. In all actuality the word scarab means good luck in Egyptian (or Arabic) and not the word Ouija. The story goes the board itself repeatedly told Kennard that Ouija meant good luck in Egyptian and the name just stuck. The company only produced the Ouija board for fourteen months but kept corporate control until 1898.

In 1898 the Ouija board was appointed to a man that would revolutionize the board’s history, William Fuld. It was this man who said that he invented the board and that the name meant yes-yes. In 1919 Fuld bought the remaining rights and sold millions of these boards along with other toys. Sadly Fuld would die from a horrible accident falling from his company rooftop while supervising a flag pole replacement. This didn’t stop Fuld’s children from taking over the business or the production of Ouija boards. In 1966 the business was sold to Parker Brothers who still own the rights today.

So what happened? When did the Ouija Board get associated with evil? The history seems harmless, so why is it so closely related to Satan and demons? Although I cannot be 100% sure, while researching the subject I found that almost all negative reports relating to the board came about in the 70’s, after a novel was published and then turned into a movie two years later. The movie is a classic horror story about a teenage girl who tells her mother she has been talking to a person named Captain Howdy through the Ouija Board. Later this girl becomes possessed by the devil, which causes her body to contort, she spits up the classic green pea vomit and her head spins 360 degrees. Yes, you guessed it, I’m talking about “The Exorcist.” Now The Exorcist is “based” on a true story of a 14-year-old boy who was possessed and actually required three separate Rites of Exorcism from three different Christian denominations: Episcopalian, Lutheran, and Roman Catholic. The case happened in 1949 and the boy did admit to playing with a Ouija board. One thing to remember here is that religious groups had already become involved when this claim came out, so the Church automatically would assume this was the reason behind the possession. Just because the Church assumes this doesn’t make it fact. After 1973 (the year The Exorcist came out) there was a skyrocket of claims dealing with Ouija boards and demons; that’s the fact but the movie isn’t all at fault. After this another group that heavily promoted the Ouija Board as the work of the devil would be Christians.

I personally have received many claims from people telling me their stories, and as I suspected most are second- or third-hand. One thing people kept assuring me was that evil has been associated with this board since at least the 50′s, possibly earlier. There are two things I noticed in these stories, though: A. Hardly any of them had demons or possession associated with them. B. All were told that the board was evil by clergy or family members with strong religious views. This still holds me to my theory that the Church has a large role in why this toy is evil. From experience growing up in Christian house hold, I know the Church views any type of spirit communication as a product of the devil. The church has two views on where a spirit goes when it departs from the body, ones that go to Heaven and ones that go to Hell. I have even been taught that ghosts are actually demons portraying loved ones to win over trust so we will “let them in.” With that being said, the very fact that the Ouija board claims to be able to contact spirits would automatically be looked down on by the church, whether it be a toy or not. But still I will say I believe the reason why people have associated this board game with the devil is largely due to the movie The Exorcist.

So one has to wonder whether the Ouija board really is a tool that contacts demons or even Satan himself? Maybe it isn’t demons but entities that exist on a lower plane. Maybe it isn’t anything except one’s imagination. When dealing with controversial subjects, I feel it is important that we have to look at both sides: the side of belief and the side of doubt. With that being said, let’s look at something called the Ideomotor effect, a term that was coined by William B. Carpenter in 1852. With the power of suggestion or expectation and the subtle unconscious movements made by the hand, one may trick oneself into thinking that something supernatural is occurring. William also states that the muscle movements can be made by the brain independently of emotions. This simply means we do not know we are the ones influencing the planchette to move. This same effect also could explain pendulums and dowsing rods (actually that’s why this explanation was created).

Another common factor in the Ouija stories I received (and have heard in the past) is most of them end with someone burning the board to get rid of the evil, but to their surprise it isn’t affected by the flames. I have heard many other stories that consist of the smell of flesh when the board is thrown in the fire pit, even a board screaming in the flames. But the biggest commonality is that the fire has no effect on the board. Could this stem from the belief that the Ouija board is closely connected with demons and the Devil, and the belief that fire is associated with Hell? It is difficult for me to believe something made out of wood could survive the fireplace.

Still this common factor is interesting, so I contacted a man by the name of James “The Amazing” Randi, to talk about this. For those who don’t know who James Randi is, he is an investigator of paranormal claims. His foundation “The James Randi Educational Foundation” currently offers a $1,000,000 check to anyone who can prove paranormal abilities and/or claims. You may have even heard of this as the “Million Dollar Challenge”. This challenge has been going on since the 70′s and has never been won. So Mr. Randi told me to present everyone here with an experiment, in his words: “Have everyone go out and buy a Ouija board and set it on fire. If it doesn’t burn, they’ll win a million dollars.”

  

Burning the Ouija Board

Burning the Ouija Board

James Randi has also done tests on the Ouija board. To prove it is nothing more than the ideomotor effect, he blindfolded the operators, and the results produced were nothing but nonsense. No words, names, or phrases, no yes, no or dates–it was only gibberish. Surely demons or evil spirits would be able to spell the same whether the operator is blindfolded or not, so what happened? The logical explanation according to Randi is that it’s all done subconsciously by the operator. When the operator can’t see the board, the operator can’t produce positive results. It is also important to note that in controlled tests, the board has never produced any information that isn’t already known to the operators.

One major problem with the modern day paranormal investigator is lack of common sense.  People jump to conclusions way to quickly and let myths become fact.  Based on all the information I gathered while studying the Ouija board, I have to conclude the following.  The Ouija board is and has always been a board game, a children’s toy.  It has never been and is not a portal to hell, it does not let entities of any sort in through some invisible doorway, it does not conjure demons or Satan himself.  It matters not of your intent or belief, it is a piece of wood or cardboard with fancy paintings and designs, nothing more.  I have personally tested the burning of the Ouija board and it may surprise most readers, but it does in fact burn.  I heard no screaming, I smelled no burning flesh, it wasn’t waiting for me on the mantle magically rejuvenated, however it was a waste of 15 dollars.