The concept of spirit boards for communicating with the dead are older than Jesus. Today, we’re most familiar with the Ouija board iteration of this occult tool, popularized by junior high and high school slumber parties.
The Tabula Mortem, a modern spirit board produced by U.S. Games, is both that traditional Ouija layout, plus inspirations from the 22 Majors of the tarot converted into rune-like symbols, and pendulum divination.
Designed by Judas Knight, Jerome VanDyke, Jacob VanDyke, and Jordan VanDyke, the Tabula Mortem set is perfectly sized. The box is about 8.5″ x 8.5″, sleek, and handsomely designed. The fold-out spirit board itself is 16″ x 16″.
Everything is a matte finish (yay!) and you know what– even back in the days of junior high I did not love the high-gloss finish on those Ouija boards. So this is amazing.
Ooh!– I’ll get to what’s shown from the pages of the guidebook above. Very cool feature to the Tabula Mortem. First, let’s talk about the guidebook in general.
The Introduction in the companion booklet opens with personal narratives of the creators growing up with the Ouija board. “I feel that part of the reason people get into trouble with spirit boards is the fact that there is little to no instruction given on how to use it. Most spirit boards come with no book and many of the books written on the subject have done more to demonize the board than explain how to use it. You would not perform a magical ritual without knowing what you are doing, yet people all over the wolrd have gotten spirit boards and attempted to make contact with the spirit world without so much as a guidebook.”
Oh how fun! This guidebook will be an interesting read indeed!
The set comes with a metal alloy bronze-esque planchette that’s absolutely exquisite. It’s got a beautiful weight to it. The one thing is– there are no felt tips on the feet underneath the planchette and the board itself is given a matte finish, which is produced using a fine microscopic layer of clay (kaolinite, bentonite, talc, calcite, aragonite) and starch (the starch is what binds the finish to the otherwise uncoated cardstock).
That means there is a lot of friction. This can be exactly what you’re looking for, where there is no room for “human manipulation” and if and when that planchette moves across this board– you know it’s supernaturally inspired. Or… you’re just going to have the experience of a planchette not budging off the spirit board. Personal experiences here will certainly vary.
This spirit board includes 22 cave runes, an invention of the authors channeled during a vision when the Lwa Papa Legba told them these cave runes were the predecessors of the 22 tarot Majors, originating from ancient cave paintings.
Papa Legba is the spiritual teacher and driving spirit force behind this board. A Vodou Lwa contacted the authors of Tabula Mortem by dream, who revealed himself as The Fool in the tarot. It was and has always been the Lwa that opened up the spirit world.
I love that the guidebook never leaves you hanging– you get a lot of useful info on how to work with the 22 cave runes.
There’s also a section in the booklet on the history of spirit boards, though that history is United States focused only. The spirit boards are from the 1800s, likely from Haitian immigrants who came to New Orleans around 1809, though the authors are also mindful to point out that there is no historical evidence that proves a direct connection between Vodou and spirit boards.
Then in 1886, we see advertisements for a spirit communication board, The New Planchette, now beginning to spread across the U.S. from New York and Massachusetts to Ohio. Then in 1890, Elijah Bond and Charles W. Kennard filed the first patent for a talking board and called it the Ouija.
Ooh! You can also use the planchette and board as a pendulum! In terms of how it works under my hand, the planchette is better as a pendulum, but this is going to be personal, and dependent entirely on how you connect with the tool.
The guidebook goes on to offer many insights about the Lwa, a Vodou term that applies to a particular kind of spirit. “Lwa are guardian spirits that mediate between humans and spiritual forces from higher planes of existence. Some Lwa are helpful but otheres can be dangerous, these are called cool and hot Lwa. Most hot Lwa will not make contact with you and need to be called up.”
The Tabula Mortem spirit board was designed specifically to contact the Lwa. The center veve (spiritual symbol) is that of Papa Legba. In Vodou, Legba opens the gate to the spirit world and it is through him that spirits make contact. The ancient runes you see on here are the preferred mode of communication of the Lwa.
You can also contact elemental spirits with the Tabula Mortem. These spirits are the building blocks of reality. Today, we often talk about these spirits as fairies, notes the guidebook. “Elementals can change form and even put on the discarded shells of human spirits in order to make better contact with someone they think is magical. If you make contact with an elemental then you must have magical abilities since they themselves are the source of magic and like attracts like.”
My favorite way to use this spirit board is with cowrie shells. This I found to be the most highly effective use for the Tabula Mortem. I collected 18 cowrie shells, cleansed them in holy water, anointed them, and passed them through incense smoke, and then would cast the 19 cowrie shells onto the board as a form of divination. I also consecrated my new spirit board under the full blue sturgeon moon. (You may prefer to use 13 shells instead; my own very personalized preference just happens to be 19.)
Here’s how I like to work with a spirit board: I don’t ever use it with an open invite. I only invite by name and a very, very specialized invocation. That’s it. While I do that, I’m focusing my gaze on the flame of a candle. After the invocation, I watch what happens to that flame and respond accordingly.
I’ll then proceed with the casting. I toss the cowrie shells onto the board. When it has that convex side up, it’s a more solemn emotional energy from the spirit; when it’s got that cavernous concave side up, it’s a happier, lighter, more humor-filled emotional energy from the spirit. I tally each up to see which way the emotions lean.
Then, of course, you look at where the cowrie shells have landed and decode the message. When shells fall outside the boundaries of the communication board (where the letters and symbols are), I will count the total number of shells within the board and consider the significance of that numerology.
I notice that every occultist will discover his or her own unique and deeply personalized way of approaching talking spirit boards. What I love about the Tabula Mortem is how well it will adapt to your particular approach. It’s really well-designed by occultists who have a much better sense than just an entrepreneur of what the needs of occultists would be for a spirit board, and has thus designed one accordingly. And to that– thank you! =)
If you’re having me choose between the Ouija board that used to be sold at Toys ‘R Us vs. the Tabula Mortem, I will go with the Tabula Mortem every time. Everything about this spirit board is well thought-out. I love the guidebook. I love the ethos. And U.S. Games has produced an outstanding mystical tool.
FTC Disclosure: In accordance with Title 16 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations Part 255, “Guides Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising,” I received the Tabula Mortem from the publisher for prospective review. Everything I’ve said here is sincere and accurately reflects my opinion of the product.