On Not Opening Doors

“Mom, mom, can we please get the Ouija board set, please?” I could hear the child’s voice from two rows of books away.

“I’ll think about it.” The tone suggested that the answer would be no. I hope it was no. Not to begrudge the store the income, but I do not like Ouija boards, tarot card sets, rune tile sets, and other things as gifts, especially not for children. Although perhaps they might be safer there, because the kids are not looking for answers or trying to open doors.

I believe in a lot of what people call “supernatural,” just not the way most people probably do. I devoured a lot of books about things strange and unexplained when I was a kid, watched Eric van Dannekan’s TV programs and Arthur C. Clark’s program (more science, less woo), plus Battlestar Galactica and other shows that caught the ideas. There were times as a teen that I poked things that looking back, really ought not have been poked. And I saw someone in college go a step too far and hurt herself and others.

The Second Sight runs in my mother’s family, probably because we are the sort to go poking our noses into places and things that really ought to be left alone, if not walled up in that cave and left to fade away. Having a little something that flashes a Master Caution Light at us probably explains why we’re here today. That and knowing when to leave town, county, state, or country before the neighbors/law-enforcers/king’s men caught up with us.

Things exist that really should be left alone. Call them spirits, call then doors into other parts of the multiverse, call them energy fragments that are attracted to certain emotional outbursts, whatever they are, they are not good for people to play with. I also believe that intense emotions can imprint themselves on places and possibly things, as I have described at the Kalkreise Battlefield and a few other spots. When my gut starts screaming “Get away from that and move into the open,” it probably is a good idea to do just that, preferably at flank speed. There’s a reason I am not going to Auschwitz this summer, but to something else. I’ve been to one camp, and it still gives me chills. That much concentrated terror and sadism and evil… No.

Ouija boards and tarot cards and rune tiles… It’s not the predicting the future that bothers me, although in some faiths that is a sin because you are trying to challenge the will of the Most High. Me, I’d probably see the Powerball numbers but in reverse order or something, and the Lord would point and giggle. No, what bothers me is the idea of seeking out things the seeker has no way to understand or to judge if they are good or, ah, less than good. My faith teaches that the forces of Good do not need cards or a planchette to contact us, although on occasion a talking donkey has been required to get someone’s attention.  Opening a door into the unknown and yelling, “Hey, anybody home? I got some questions!” has never been smart. Og the caveman at least took a torch or two into the cave so he could look for eye-shine and holes, not necessarily in that order.

This time of year, as we are between All Hallows Eve and the Winter Solstice, Halloween and Christmas… No. Not a good time to open doors. There are a lot of reasons my ancestors did not like this time of year and why they looked forward to spring and the return of the sun.

Welcome, Instapunderati! Thank you for stopping by. 🙂


52 thoughts on “On Not Opening Doors

  1. Oh, my yes. I’ve had so many “odd” things happen in my life. There is no need to go looking for them.

    As a teen, I once got lost in the woods of a campground at dusk. After about 20 minutes of wandering around trails in the increasing darkness, I came out three miles away. On the other side of a lake. The next morning, I went back to my start point to try to figure out what I’d done. That first trail, clearly marked the night before, wasn’t there any more.

    I once had a “Magic 8 Ball”. It never lied. Not once, with scores and scores of questions. I took it to Iraq with me, and consulted it before every mission. Its answers were 100% accurate. Once I got back home, I put it on a shelf and never touched it again. It sprung a leak, so my wife threw the horrible thing away before my kids could ever use it. There is nothing quite so terrifying as an accurate oracle.

    • Quoting RAH, “A fake fortuneteller can be tolerated. But an authentic soothsayer should be shot on sight. Cassandra did not get half the kicking around she deserved.”

      My wife has occasional premonitions, enough to get a clue, but not enough to say “yep, X will happen at Y time”. It’s more like “should do W before Z happens. Late MIL lived in Paradise until a few years ago. We did a fair amount of cleanup (based on “should do W”) that saved the house before a big fire some years ago. That house is now a memory and a pile of ashes. The next door neighbor’s place is one of two on the entire block that wasn’t destroyed.

        • My wife “saw” flames around her mother’s house. (This was about 10 years ago.) We did major cleanup, and I trimmed several trees that had branches gong down to ground level. Some time afterward, a large fire hit Paradise, and my mother-in-law’s place got some spot fires, but nothing went beyond that. (Paradise is IMHO notorious for people who like to keep their yards “natural”, ie, overgrown. That growth can be pretty flammable.) As best as we can tell, if we hadn’t cleaned where we did, the house would have been lost.

          Mother in law moved from that house a few years back, but there was extended family in town, so we’ve been following the news.

          Bear in mind, Paradise gets fires almost every year, usually small. This has been a bad drought year for California, and the vegetation was really prone to go up in flames if started. There’s a lot of growth; I got really nervous when we visited; Skyway Boulevard had a lot of trees and brush on either side for long stretches. No second sight needed there; that’s asking for trouble. (I’ve seen similar overgrowth in county forest preserves outside Chicago. Bad idea.)

          In the Camp fire, as best as I’ve can tell, all the brush got burned, without trees getting crown fires. Sparks and embers were flying everywhere. I don’t know if MIL’s old house was kept brush-clean after it was sold. I assume that the wooden deck caught, and the rest of the house got it too. The two surviving houses had concrete foundation walls 2-3 feet high. The next door neighbor’s place lost a back-door staircase and the newel post, but the landscaping around the house was de-brushed. If it had been a crown fire, that place would have been lost, due to a serious amount of trees in that yard. In a way, they got lucky; the trees kept the brush from growing.

  2. On Auschwitz . . . if you stand in the place where the gas chambers used to be (the long-demolished originals, not the modern replica), and if you listen with your “inner ear” . . . you can still hear the screams. I kid you not. Horror that does not end.

    • I’m reasonably “deaf” to the supernatural, but a visit to Dachau got through to me. The Nazi sense of humor is downright sadistic. Arbeit Macht Frei, my arse!

      • I didn’t feel the fear or horror at Buchenwald – just an immense sorrow. And a small voice saying “It will happen again, if you don’t fight.”

    • I visited Auschwitz about six weeks ago, for the first and last time in my life. What you say is the absolute truth.

      At the ruined gas chambers, there is something about the quiet, bucolic rural setting on the edge of the woods that magnifies the horror and amplifies the “inner ear”, as you put it. With every step of the long path from the gate to the gas chambers and back, the knowledge that you are treading on the mingled ashes of a vast multitude weighs heavily on your soul. I can’t imagine what it must be like for those few survivors who were actually imprisoned there to revisit the place.

      After we left, I experienced a sense of gratitude and pride for my late father, who spent four years of his life in the struggle to overcome the forces of Nazism. He risked death daily, that others might live and places like Auschwitz would be emptied. But that warm feeling came later. While I was on the grounds of the camp, there was only cold, piercing horror.

  3. Agree.

    The same IMO for attempting magic as the origins of magic is the art of compelling spirits to do something. How do we know that the spirits are friendly and are truly “bound to do only what we want them to do”? By attempting to compel powerful spirits, we are making ourselves vulnerable to their influence.

    Back when the controversy of requiring school children to read Harry Potter was big, I remembered one Mercedes Lackey urban fantasy where the main character (a secular sorceress) was working in a shop that among other things sold Ouija boards. When some teenaged girls wanted to purchase a Ouija board. While she sold them it, she “warded” the Ouija board so spirits wouldn’t respond.

    • That sounds like a scene from one of the Diana Tregarde books. I was sorry to see that series end. You could wish for people with that kind of honor working in those shops. (I use to frequent those shops.)

    • Mercedas Lackey is always disturbingly enthusiastic about the occult. I often think she’d better hope she never gets the kind of answers she writes so much about

  4. Sounds like response to Dachau, with a thickening cloud of doom and despair, pain and screams. It was dark and black in places on an otherwise sunny day. Took me a day to warm up inside. There have been places I visited that I won’t go back to, or at least not alone. Definitely not when it’s getting dark.

    The people who pooh-pooh discussion of the supernatural are very welcoming of some other semi-magical things: AC power and electronics; complex number based. You can perceive the real (DC) part, but not the imaginary part. The imaginary part is what lets wonder like long distance power transmission, radio, and other thing work. The imaginary part becomes a real effect when the signal drop into real space through complex conjugation. Energy appears or vanishes, or does strange things.

    Who’s to say that it only works for physics and engineering? Odd effects, strange heat and cold, changed perceptions might be possible through entities that we can’t perceive but can approximate or align to. But like electromagentics, better not to fool with something you don’t understand, and use your safety precautions.

    • I arbitrarily label the positive imaginary axis as “Celestial” and the negative axis as “Infernal”.

  5. I am pretty much psy-blind. Anyone or anything would have to beat me with a 2×4 to get through, but I have a healthy respect for the supernatural as well as a life long fascination.

    My mother was gifted. She could see things. She passed some of her knowledge on to me. Things like don’t mess with spirit boards. Don’t call to things you don’t understand. She didn’t believe in tarot cards or rune stones. I picked up a set of rune stones and so called shaman cards back in my 20’s. Lacking any “gift”, they were just toys to me. I could do the same layout three times and get three different results. We would go to “new age” shops to buy things like sage and incense and books. We went to so called psychic conventions. Most of which I treated with more than a bit of cynicism. Hardly ever did any of them “get it right”. Most of the “readers” were there for the money.

    Today, Mom is long gone and I could not tell you where the cards and runes are. The books are shelved in my library for research on stories. I’ve never touched a spirit board, and won’t. Mom told me many times about the one time she got a response. It spooked her. At times I envy those who do have the gifts, like someone who is tone deaf might envy those who can hear and appreciate music, but other times I am glad that I can walk past old houses and battlefields and not see what is still there.

    There are things that Mundanes, Normals, like me can not see or hear – things that are better off left alone. Don’t open doors you can not close.

    • Be happy you have the gift of mundaneness. (Totally a word.)

      You don’t have to worry about small items disappearing for weeks or years at a time, then reappearing in odd places when most inconvenient. And always after you’ve bought a replacement.

      • Oddly, I am familiar with the behavior of “benign” mischievous spirits. Mom seems to attract them. I never saw or heard them, but stuff did move around on us. 🙂 I remember looking for some stamps in a drawer, knowing that they were there, only to not find them. I told the resident spirit that if he didn’t return them, I’d have one of my friends who was gifted come and have a chat with him. The stamps showed up the next time I opened the drawer.

      • That is perhaps the ONLY ‘strange’ thing I experience… and having purchased a replacement for $GADGET, I still await its reappearance. Socks don’t even decouple for me – which doesn’t mean much, I know, but there it is.

  6. Then there are the Tibetan Buddhists, who leave praying machines running nonstop and have special flags flapping in the breeze to attract the attention of passing deities.
    This, somehow, seems to me like a Really Bad Idea. If there are supernatural things out there, I’d prefer to leave them unbothered, thankyouverymuch.

    (Hmph. Just tried to find a half-remembered joke from the punchline: “because he’s not always pestering Me”. Google doesn’t find the phrase, but suggests many interpretations of the collection of words, all of them misandrous. Nothing at all about why that atheist Finkelstein is so prosperous.)

  7. I have a Magic 8-Ball. I don’t have a “For amusement purposes only” sign on it, but that’s what it is for me. Currently, it’s in isolation storage with a LOT of our family stuff.

  8. The Second Sight runs in my mother’s family, probably because we are the sort to go poking our noses into places and things that really ought to be left alone, if not walled up in that cave and left to fade away.

    My grandmother use to read tea leaves, for her teen age rebellion.

    Until she noticed that her just looking at them and being “oh, what story can I make that makes sense from this smudge”….turned out right.

    A lot.

    That’s the grandma who didn’t allow Grimm’s, or most fiction, in her house.

  9. There’s a lot of magical practices that I very much do not believe really work, that I also avoid religiously. I’ll read a fiction book that mines real world magical thinking as part of worldbuilding the magic of the setting, but I try not to read or really research the stuff directly. (Which is probably magical thinking and superstitious of me. Perhaps there would be no difference in a worldview well founded in correct theology. On the other hand, when I go on a research kick, I do have some history of fixated or compulsive thinking. Some subjects should not be matched with such tendencies. On the gripping hand, there are severely mentally ill people whose thinking I find deeply uncomfortable, and reading about a magician’s experiences working magic might hit some of the same buttons.)

    When I studied Latin, one of my reasons for doing so was an attempt to exploit the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis in order to recreate the insanities of culture that made Republican Rome a viable and effective proposition. Many times I have concluded that this was a mistake, that I may have been calling on things I ought not call upon.

    • I went on a mild Celtic mysticism path of interest for a while, until I found a book about looking for the Holy Grail (very trendy at the time). At the end of each chapter was an exercise. I started reading the first one and got an overwhelmingly horrible sense of “Don’t Read This!!!” I read the chapters, skipped the exercises, and got rid of the book.

      I don’t want to know what that exercise might have opened me up to, or what it could have triggered. Nopity nope nope nope.

      • While I abhor superstition… I also subscribe to the “don’t make the universe use the bat on the back of your head” theory.

        I think the book is called “the power of fear,” but the guy who pointed out that most of the folks who’d lived through horrible situations they shouldn’t’ have lived through had a ton of “DUDE, NO, TURN THE F AROUND” and they ignored it– but yeah, that little voice exists FOR A REASON.

        • “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin de Becker. Highly recommended.

          I like to think of my self as highly rational….I have to remind myself that those of our ancestors who ignored their gut, wound up as sabertooth tiger scat.

    • That sounds like a very reasonable approach.

      In fact, reading through these responses, I see a lot of people saying (in essence), “A lot of this very-indulgent fiddling with the supernatural is balderdash. But that doesn’t mean all of it is; and there is even a certain kind of balderdash in which it is harmful to indulge. And I know that I am neither impervious to harm, nor wise enough to see which kinds of balderdash are harmless, and which kind might lead to evil or madness. Therefore, I steer clear.”

      I applaud that approach, because it has a sensible HUMILITY to it.

      But I’ll go further than that, cautiously….

      I have, thank God, no direct experience with exorcisms.

      But through indirect experience — and I pray God it remains that way — I have sufficient testimony, from sufficiently level-headed, unimaginative, all-business kinds of people, to be confident that SOME of those things are the real deal.

      One can, I suppose, refuse to trust in the traditions which identify the demoniac as “fallen angels,” and still sensibly hold the view that humans are NOT the only intelligent beings in the multiverse, and that some of the OTHER intelligent beings are hypersomatic/trans-dimensional; and that some of THOSE are malevolent.

      That would suffice to account for the observed phenomena.

      I myself have settled in a tradition of the “they’re beings of the angelic type, but having corrupted wills” variety. But even if I hadn’t, I think I’d have the sense to steer clear of Ouija-boards and similar foolishness.

      Evil, non-bodily things are real. And, they’re bad for humans: It is, you might say, TOXIC for humans to encounter them. And for whatever reason, they seem to have a kind of predictable legalism about them. Therefore, it is foolish to go inviting trouble through experiments with the occult: It seems to give them “permission” to get nasty.

      For the same reason, I think it is wise to stick close to an “umbrella” of protection, in the form of Divinely-Sanctioned Authority. For itt seems (again with that same predictable legalism) that these things can be cleansed, constrained, hindered, dispelled, defeated, or whatever, only through the activity of Good working with both INTEGRITY and AUTHORITY.

      My sense is that if a rule-breaking hypocrite were to try to confront one of these critters, he would only be sneered at with a kind of, “You don’t obey the rules, so why should I?” And if a self-appointed, self-promoting kind of “apostle” were to try to appropriate authority that wasn’t his, he might get pretty-well thrashed, like the sons of Sceva. (“Jesus I know, and Paul I have heard of, but who are you?”)

      Sorry if it’s not your style, dear reader. And sorry if it isn’t your particular tradition. And in fact I’m about to give advice which — given certain news stories over the last quarter-century — may seem absurd, or at least difficult to implement. But here it is: Try to get to know a good and holy and orthodox Catholic priest. Have him on speed-dial, and give him a call if you find yourself in contact with any of this dark unknowable supernatural weirdness.

      Finding one that is holy and orthodox might seem quite a challenge, these days, I admit. But there are a few; and I think it is essential. It has to be someone whose authority is NOT undermined by any kind of rebelliousness. (Trying to confront rebels through the exercise-of-authority of someone who is HIMSELF a rebel against authority, would be useless or worse.)

      So it shouldn’t be someone whose views on the supernatural, or on morality — yes, I am including sexual mores — are hinkey in any way. And it will not be someone who is overly-excitable, or a self-promoter. The right guy will be someone who doesn’t see a demon behind every bush; but who knows that these things do happen, however uncommon they may be. It will be someone who doesn’t look forward to dealing with this kind of thing, but who knows it is his business to do so, and who will get it done.

      I’m blessed to have two such persons whom I can contact if needed. I advise everyone who can, to keep someone like that in their contact-list.

      And steer clear of occult weirdness. It can do a person no good at all, and much harm.

      • Playing jazz with your point–
        I think a part of the legalism is that there is someone who has the power to smack them down, without a thought…but He also wants us to have a choice.

        So that functions as a limit.

        As for finding a holy priest– we know that Judas cast out demons, I’d guess that the biggest problem would be finding one that calls on his own power.
        Which will line up with good, orthodox, holy– without hitting unicorn territory.

      • *memory tweeks*

        For those who aren’t Catholic and don’t associate much– you can still ask for an exoticism or house-blessing, and folks who will do such whoo-woo are going to be much more likely to really believe that the Bad Stuff is real, and that doing it properly will work, and that they have to not be a giant flashing target themselves. (ie, try to be holy)

  10. I’m an odd combination of skeptical and superstitious.

    On the one hand, there is nothing intrinsically magical about brightly colored cardstock, a graveyard at midnight is a very calming place to be, if something coherent comes out of a ouija board it’s because someone was manipulating the planchette, I was more than happy to look in the mirror and say “Candyman” three times when challenged for saying that the movie was STUPID, and I’ve had a great deal of fun playing stupid perception tricks to reinforce someone’s belief that a place was haunted.
    I’ve done the fortune teller bit (not defrauding people–I was always clear that it was just a show, never accepted money, etc.) and 9 out of 10 people will tell you exactly what they’re scared of hearing if you listen; generally for good reason, but they don’t want to believe. All you really have to do is look serious, and repeat it back to them. For the others, just tap into universal fears. They’ll play along soon enough. The cards, dice, board, etc. are just window dressing. There are all sorts of fun ways to manipulate them (or creatively interpret them) to get the “answer” you want, but it’s a distraction.
    (List continues.)

    On the other…
    There are malevolent spirits inimical to human life. I’ve felt one watch me. Once. It was aweful.
    I would have been dead at least three times over if it hadn’t been for divine intervention. (OK, one of them might have been just being Powerball level lucky. But the other two involved gravity momentarily turning a blind eye. )
    I’ve heard the voices of dead relatives, and felt their hands upon my shoulder at critical moments.
    I’m reflexively wary with respect to the principles of symmetry and contagion.
    I keep crosses and iron at my entryways.
    I leave out gifts of bread, milk, and honey, along with a lit Jack O’Lantern on Samhain (which does NOT fall on Halloween! Fricking ignorant neopagans…), and try to make it to the cemetery to wash some headstones the day before. (I’ve become much more lax since I left my ancestral home.)

    But yeah. Don’t ask for supernatural intercession. You don’t know what will answer.

  11. — No, what bothers me is the idea of seeking out things the seeker has no way to understand or to judge if they are good or, ah, less than good. —
    Seeking out? Perhaps. But when they come knocking — and they do; it’s the function of both the imagination and the conscience — it’s imperative that one be able to discriminate between the “good” and the “less than good.”

  12. The Armor of God
    …11Put on the full armor of God, so that you can make your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this world’s darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13Therefore take up the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you will be able to stand your ground, and having done everything, to stand.…Ephesians 6:12

  13. If magic is real, it is part of the Universe that God created, and is therefore not intrinsically evil….. but like everything else in the Creation, it is subject to misuse….. and it will be.

    • read the book of enoch of the apocrypha and you’ll find out where sorcery comes from…it goes a long way to explaining the origins and the deception of the fallen angels

    • The serpent’s promise was “ye shall be as gods”.
      It was false when offered, and remains false when sought.

  14. In the logical world I inhabit, the bills seem to show up early, the lawn needs mowing, the house needs all kinds of work and oniy once every 6 months, I might win $5.00 on the stinkin’ Lotto. Karma, good bad, or Insta, never really seems to land where it’s deserved. Those that court bad endings usually have bad beginnings.

  15. There is much not (yet?) understood. And such things are apt to be like ocean or space. Even if not intrinsically evil, utterly unforgiving of ‘error’… and the definition of ‘error’ is yet to be learned beyond, “don’t mess with that.”

  16. I am officially a skeptic who is very careful not poke things. I quit Tarot cards after a reading where I got the exact same card lay out three times even after shuffling in between each. I get flashes of atmosphere at certain places whereas my daughter actually sees ghosts (?, impressed memories?); both of us only at places where it’s possible we had ancestors. There’s a standing stone on Skye I will not ever go near again even if offered an all expenses paid trip to Skye and she’s not interested in visiting the Wilderness battlefield again, for instance. Those experiences are enough to kill the interest in investigating (or playing with) anything further.

  17. About 25 years ago a local outer bookstore had a gallery showing of paintings from John Wayne Gary (the serial killer painted while in prison, and any money he made went to settle several lawsuits from his victims’ families).. Gacy tended toward portraits of clowns and Freddie Krueger, I kid you not. When I went into the small gallery space, I was overwhelmed by a sense of evil and the temperature was colder by about 20 degrees. I asked my friend to go into the gallery without telling him what I felt. He reported the same feeling and temperature drop.

  18. A number of years ago the Mormon prophet Joseph Fielding Smith had a monthly column in which he answered questions about religious topics. One writer asked if it was OK to use a Ouija board. He gave the perfect answer: “There are a lot of spirits out there. The good ones have better things to do than play games with children.”

  19. Don’t open doors is a good policy regarding first contact. I believe we should, indeed must, make our way to the stars. The fate of humanity depends on it. The idea that we should signal the far reaches of space to attract the notice of others is naïve at best and more likely criminally negligent.

  20. So – a question for all the thoughtful commenters here:

    Let’s suppose someone reads tarot (or casts runes, or whatever) solely with the intent of using it as a psychological tool, a prompt to consider facets of an issue the questioner might not have considered – no intent of “fortune telling” in the traditional sense.

    Do you think that approach is harmful/dangerous?

    • It might be safe but might not be.

      Consciously the person may be not seeing the use as “fortune telling”, but if the person knows about the “fortune telling” aspect, the intent to “fortune tell” can be in the back of their mind thus opening themselves up to the spirit world.

    • I would not do it, because there are other ways to “jar things loose” so to speak that don’t run the risk of inadvertently attracting attention, and that don’t resonate so strongly with my sensitive areas.

      That said, it really depends on the individual, the situation, and the divination tool involved. I’d use something more mundane, like a Whack Pack or other question cards, or going for a walk to jog my subconscious loose.

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