Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Word of the day: Planchette

planchette ( /plɑːnˈʃɛt/ or /plænˈʃɛt/), from the French for "little plank", is a small, usually heart-shaped flat piece of wood equipped with two wheeled castors and a pencil-holding aperture, used to facilitate automatic writing. The use of planchettes to produce mysterious written messages gave rise to the belief that the devices foster communication with spirits as a form of mediumship. The devices were popular in séances during the Victorian era, before their eventual evolution into the simpler, non-writing pointing devices for talking boards that eclipsed the popularity of their original form in later eras. Paranormal advocates believe that the planchette is moved by the presence of spirits or some form of subtle energy,[1] while skeptics allege the motion is due to the ideomotor effect.[2]

Planchettes took on a variety of forms during the height of their popularity. American planchettes were traditionally heart or shield-shaped, but manufacturers produced a wide range of shapes and sizes hoping to distinguish themselves in the highly competitive and profitable market of the devices' late-1860s heyday. Manufacturers espoused the wonders and benefits of different materials (including various hardwoods, India rubber, and even glass), insulated castors, and various attachments meant to “charge” the devices or insulate the user from malevolent spirits.[3] In Great Britain, planchette shapes took on the classical shapes popularized in early illustrations and newspaper depictions, with round, blunt noses and flat backs. Regardless of their shape or country of origin, almost all planchettes were equipped with brass castors and small wheels of bone or plastic, and their sometimes lavishly illustrated boxes were often packed with blank parchment, pencils, ouija-like folding letter sheets, and esoteric instructions espousing the mysterious communicative powers of the items.[4]

Though planchettes experienced incredible surges of popularity in Victorian times, in modern usage the term is most commonly associated with the heart-shaped pointers for Ouija or “talking boards.” Rather than writing, these pointers dictates messages spelled out by the board's indicated letters and numbers. As writing planchettes were popularized during the beginning of the Spiritualism movement of the mid-nineteenth century, planchettes predate the popularization of talking boards by nearly four decades.

No comments: