March for Life 2018

Between the Metro & the March and a museum visit, we walked 7.5 miles today.

Turnout was enormous.  The column of marchers extended as far as you could see, filling the streets.

One of the things people do is come in groups with matching hats, or scarves, or t-shirts, or sweatshirts — and in one case, yellow ponchos. Many of them are very memorable.  The March is so big that you’ll see thousands upon thousands of people, and then when you are walking to a Metro station afterwards, you’ll see groups gathered waiting for their tour bus that you never saw the entire day until you passed each other post-March.

 

There were a couple marching bands along the route.  (Sound quality is my phone, not the band – they were super.)

The atmosphere varies as you go, but it’s always friendly and peaceful.  We prayed along with part or all of various Rosaries and Chaplets of Divine Mercy being led by participants:

As the roads widen and narrow, and people walk at different paces, you end up here and there, walking alongside all kinds of different people.

We ended up stopped for a bit next to this group in blue sweatshirts:

The baby on the back of the sweatshirt was actually on last year’s March, in-utero, then born prematurely, and now doing great.  The adult hand in the picture is the father’s hand:

The caption at the bottom is: No hand is too small that it cannot leave an imprint on this world.

 

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And something amusing . . .

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All dogs go to Heaven.  All youth groups go to Air & Space.  US History gets its share, too.

Somehow the first time I went to DC for the March I imagined we wouldn’t be allowed into the museums during the March.  I guess I figured we were the rabble that had to be kept away from the innocent visitors.

Actually: As long as you comply with the rules & regulations for the museum of your choice, you are welcome to come inside.

And hence this year I confirmed that if you want tranquility, and a surprising number of Dominicans, go to the National Gallery.   You’ll spend $40,000 on lunch in the cafeteria (but it’s decent food).  But maybe also you will be able to personally identify the person in art who looks most like yourself.

This is me & my kids a few years ago:


It’s not so much the precise physical resemblance as the Oh my gosh, someone has painted a picture of my life.  And yes, we’re as tired as we look.  Here’s a version not from my phone:

The kids are little taller now.

 

 

All photos & video by Jen Fitz except that one you can find on Wikimedia, Public Domain.

Snowpersons for Life

What do you when the interstate becomes impassable on your route to the March for Life?  Pull over and make Phyllis, the snowperson.  Why yes, the pro-life movement is young — and happy to be alive.

FYI if you didn’t see it over at the Register, this is what happened at our state March for Life, when a non-denominational Christian tried to talk my son and his friends out of being Catholic.

Best Deals on Raw Water! – UPDATED

UPDATE: H/T to Erin Arlinghaus who observed that in some states there are legal restrictions on collecting rainwater.  You can read a relatively recent summary of the state of the raw-water union here.

Now friends, you who don’t live in a “Raw Water State” might be glancing enviously towards those of us who do.  You might be thinking, “Perhaps I should move to some ‘better’ state where people are allowed to just set out their water cooler under the eaves and gather all the hurricane water they need for flushing that toilet even if the floods break the mains.  You, the earnest raw-water enthusiast, envision the other states as some kind of survivalist paradise.  If only you lived in a Raw Water State, everything would be so much better, you say!

No, no, no.

Do not be fooled.

States where residents are allowed to collect their own water are terrible places. 

Put that thought out of your mind right now!  Surely if you traveled to such a state, you would be immediately molested by the lawless beasts who inhabit such wild lands.

No, my dear Raw Water Aficionado.  We must not allow that to happen to you.  Stay right where you are.

After all, can you put a price on human rights?  When we think about how precious “raw water” is, surely $15/gallon, or even double that, is not too high a price to pay!

Stay right where you are.  Do not, repeat: do not, even think of moving to a state where the rain falls from the sky for free.  Many dangers that way lie, and you must do the right thing and stay someplace civilized where all your viral, bacterial, and amoebic needs can be met in the safety of the whole-foods grocery store.

****

Original Post:

I hadn’t been planning on blogging today, but then my friends showed me this article from the Washington Post on the hot new trend of drinking “raw water.”

Well trendsetters, I’m gonna let you in on a little secret: It is not necessary to pay $15/gallon for untreated drinking water.   It literally — get this — falls from the sky.

Right now, if you live on the East Coast it’s probably falling from the sky into your yard, in an easily collectible crystalline structure that automatically converts into a liquid when stored at room temperature.  In warmer weather, you’ll need to put out an open-topped, “watertight” vessel when it “rains.”  You may have heard of rain.  That’s God’s way of sending you free raw water.

Now not everyone owns a vessel for collecting water from the sky (though you should), or perhaps you forgot to put yours out when the free water was falling from the sky in your area.  In that case, you can collect raw water from naturally-forming raw water collection points called ponds, lakes, streams, creeks, and rivers.  These fascinating geologic formations can be found across the entire United States and most foreign countries.

(Tip: If there are humans living in a particular country, that country has a supply of “water.”  That’s a way for you to know whether it’s a country where you can acquire your water or not.  In some countries, of course, it’s very tricky, because the natives might dig deep holes into the earth called “wells” for harvesting their raw water.  Foreign travel can be so adventurous!)

Once you’ve collected your raw water absolutely free, here are some great tips from the EPA on how to make that water potable.  Do it right! Don’t let the protozoa win!

And for doing science experiments with your water, you’ll want A Drop of Water by Walter Wick, available at any self-respecting public library.

A Drop of Water by Walter Wick

Cover art courtesy of Amazon.com.

 

When You Need Christmas Carols

This afternoon we’re going caroling with our friends (and you can too)!  The way I buy out of the obligation to bring something good for the potluck is to bring the music instead.

The booklets I put together back in 1998 for our first caroling party are starting to get a bit ragged.  This is our year to refresh, and I suspected CCWatershed could help, since they were my source for Advent music a few weeks ago for the dread homeschool music-minutes.*  For those who were in on the Advent Music brainstorming session on Facebook, the answer is that I went with “Creator of the Stars of Night.”  Some people I live with were skeptical that young children could be counted on to quickly learn such a thing, but my class of monkeys had the hang of it by the third verse.  So I maintain that one is a great choice for kids who can read words — simple tune, easy range, repeat repeat repeat.

But for the neighbors, we need Christmas Carols.  CCWatershed did not disappoint.  I searched around and found their link to ACollectionofChristmasCarols.com.  If you go to that site you can choose the format that works best for you.  If you’re going out caroling on short notice, what you want to do is download the free PDF and print out just the pages you plan to sing from to make your booklets.  If you want the whole shebang, you are way better off to purchase the book version from whichever of the several options best meets your needs.

So You Want to Go Caroling, You Said?

Let me give you a couple tips on how to organize your music.

When you ring on someone’s doorbell, you don’t want to make them stand there forever.  You also want them to have a vague idea of what it is you are singing, so your ragtag bunch needs to choose wisely.  Here’s the formula:

(1) Pick out six or seven carols that everyone and their brother is likely to know, and which are easy to sing. If your neighborhood has many people who do not celebrate Christmas, include some generic winter-season festive music in your line-up.  You do not win hearts to the Gospel by irritating and offending people.

(2) Choose two or three verses to sing for each song or carol.  For slow songs like “Silent Night,” make it two verses. For quick, peppy songs you can do three.  Decide ahead of time and make a note.

DO NOT TRY TO SING MORE THAN ONE VERSE OF “THE FIRST NOEL.”  Why yes, I am shouting at you.  Trust me: Nobody in your group knows how to match the words to the melody in the subsequent verses.  It will be a disaster.  Don’t do this.  “The First Noel” is a great song to not ever ever ever sing with your friendly neighborhood carolers.  Just never.  Leave that one at home.

For “We Three Kings,” sing the first and last verse.  You may sing all five verses at home with your friends.  The police will be right to issue you a citation if you pressure your neighbors into standing there listening to the entire saga king by king.  First and last and no one’s gonna hunt you down and egg your house.

(3) Make yourself sets of three-song combinations.  #3 is always “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”  #1 will be something lively, and #2 is where you can put “Silent Night” or any song that drags out a little.  As you go from house to house, rotate through the combinations.    If someone asks you for more than three songs, you can always throw in another one.

(4) Use common sense when assessing whether to ring the doorbell and what to sing.  If lights are off, don’t ring.  If there are Christmas decorations up, it’s reasonable to assume the residents celebrate Christmas.  FYI,  the full lyrics of “Let it Snow” plus one verse and refrain of “Jingle Bells” is about the right amount for your non-Christmas houses.  And my apologies gentle reader, I live in the Bible Belt, I don’t have a second secular-set to propose, because we don’t usually need even the first set.  I’m sure your kid’s school Winter Concert playlist includes some suggestions.

(5) If you are clever you’ll order your music packets so that the carols are in order and you can just keep cycling through the packet and inserting “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” from memory.   (Stick it on the last page in case the Chinese exchange student shows up and needs the words. You can separate out your “Christmas” rotation from your “Secular” rotation as well.  A post-it note in the packet could help.)

(6) The We-Wish-You finale (or “Jingle Bells” for non-Christmasers) is important not just because it works well for signaling to the neighbors that their time of redemption is at hand, but also it means that your toddlers will always have something they can sing at each house.  Little kids do pretty well just dragging along and humming about Harold Angel, as long as they can belt out We-Wish-You with gusto for each song.   “Away in a Manger” is good for little ones who’ve been made to learn it at Sunday School, and “Angels We Have Heard on High” works well because the pre-literate crowd can join in on the In Excelsis Deo.

(7) Pack flashlights.

 

Enjoy!

 

Artwork Courtesy of acollectionofchristmascarols.com.

 

*Dreaded no longer.  That class is going great ever since we switched formats.  It turns out some of the wild monkeys are shockingly happy studying Tantum Ergo.  And speaking of CCWatershed: I noticed the Cathedral in Charleston is using the Saint Isaac Jogue Pew Lectionary and the Pope Francis Hymn Book.  Both of them look great.  Recommended.

 

Which Saint Should You Put Your Shoes Out For?

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I received nothing from St. Nicholas and find his obvious indifference to me to be much more unsettling than finding a rock in my shoe.

-Fr. Steve Gunrow

The difficulty here is that Fr. Gunrow put his shoes out for the wrong saint.  You can avoid this problem by carefully matching the needs of your soul to the saint who can best help you.   Here’s a quick guide to which vigils you should set out your shoes in order to receive what you need in the morning:

St. Zita . . . Your lost keys.

St. Therese . . . Roses.

St. Juan Diego . . . Roses; painted tilma.  Both if you’re extra good.

St. Michael . . . Swords.

St. Vincent de Paul . . . Canned goods to donate to the local food pantry.

St. Catherine Labouré . . . Miraculous medals.

St. Catherine of Alexandria . . . Wheels.

St. Catherine of Siena . . . Fraternal correction; extreme penitence.

St. Dominic . . . Rosaries; improved homilies.  Both if you’re extra bad.

St. Stephen . . . Rocks.

St. Lawrence . . . Steaks for your feast day BBQ.

St. Philip Neri . . . Joke books; small dogs; counter-reform.

St. Genevieve . . . List of all the conquering armies who are not in your living room this morning.

St. Paul . . . Thorns; shipwrecks; writing instruments.

St. Peter . . . Keys; fish; perpetual documentation of your chief failures in life.

St. Augustine . . . Book-length explanation of what your roommate did with those “borrowed” items.

St. Jerome . . . New Bible; scathing critique of your sorry attempts at theology.

St. Anthony . . . Maps; organizational tips; parking spaces.

 

Obviously this is the abbreviated version.  To add your suggestions to the list . . . the combox is here.

 

Artwork: Paul Seignac via Wikimedia, Public Domain.

Solemnity on a Friday!

December 8th is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. In addition to being a holy day of obligation (translation: Go to Mass!), its status as a solemnity means that on years when the day falls on a Friday, the usual obligation to do penance on Fridays is lifted:

Can.  1249 The divine law binds all the Christian faithful to do penance each in his or her own way. In order for all to be united among themselves by some common observance of penance, however, penitential days are prescribed on which the Christian faithful devote themselves in a special way to prayer, perform works of piety and charity, and deny themselves by fulfilling their own obligations more faithfully and especially by observing fast and abstinence, according to the norm of the following canons.

Can.  1250 The penitential days and times in the universal Church are every Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent.

Can.  1251 Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

Let the bacon be served.

If you live in the US, your bishops already gave you the bacon-option, but it’s penitential bacon:

Can.  1253 The conference of bishops can determine more precisely the observance of fast and abstinence as well as substitute other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety, in whole or in part, for abstinence and fast.

Way back in 1966, the US bishops determined that if abstaining from meat isn’t penitential enough for you, outside of Lent you are free to substitute some other penance:

28. In summary, let it not be said that by this action, implementing the spirit of renewal coming out of the Council, we have abolished Friday, repudiated the holy traditions of our fathers, or diminished the insistence of the Church on the fact of sin and the need for penance. Rather, let it be proved by the spirit in which we enter upon prayer and penance, not excluding fast and abstinence freely chosen, that these present decisions and recommendations of this conference of bishops will herald a new birth of loving faith and more profound penitential conversion, by both of which we become one with Christ, mature sons of God, and servants of God’s people.

The whole document is worth reading.  But not tomorrow!  On solemnities, we feast.

Other Immaculate Conception Links

In 2015 I wrote What My Dog Knows About the Immaculate Conception.  Get the whole story at the original post, including the bit about why my dog, when she wants to go outside, comes to the one person who is not going to get up and let her outside.  But here’s the thing:

My dog and I, therefore, are no typological figures of Marian intercession, get that idea out of your head right now.  Yes, Jesus would let the dog out if Mary told Him to.  But no, Jesus isn’t too busy showing St. Joseph the Russian Priests with Cats Calendar that he fails to notice the dog needs to pee, that’s not what it’s about.  There are other reasons asking Mary to intercede for you is a good, noble, worthwhile part of a healthy Christian lifestyle, and we’ll leave it at that for now.

The Immaculate Conception, which we commemorate today, is about this:

“We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.”

Ineffabilis Deus, Apostolic Constitution issued by Pope Pius IX on December 8, 1854

The Immaculate Conceptions is about the order of things.  It is about the re-ordering of broken humanity.  For the new Adam we have a new Eve.  Curiously, the new Eve isn’t the wife of the man about to fall, but the mother of God-made-man who’s going to save you from your fall.

Humans, fallen as we are, tend to overlook the order of things.  We have a picture in our heads of how things stand, and when reality doesn’t match that picture, we tend to elbow aside reality and stick with our imaginary world, the one we made, not the one God made.  The one we prefer, because we’re at the center of it, little gods with our little fake worlds.

The dog, in contrast, lives in no such imaginary world.  She needs to be let out at night, so she has a pressing interest in understanding the real order of things.

I’ve written about the Immaculate Conception at least one other place: The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion.  At this writing, Google Books is including what I have to say in the preview-pages for that book.

When I was searching for “Jennifer Fitz Immaculate Conception” two other links came up that caught my attention:

If you know a catechist who’s about to quit in despair, you might consider investing a few dollars in my purple book of how not to die in agonies teaching religious ed to a room full of hooligans.  The publisher gave it a more formal title, but you can call it that.

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Our Lady of Visible Forebearance is my preferred image for this week’s feast. Via Wikimedia, Public Domain. Her whole life she never ate bacon, and now she rejoices in heaven with many crowns, and presumably also all the bacon she wants.

Which of Your Friends are Going to Hell?

Someone both lovable and known-to-be-sinful died recently, and a friend posed this question: What does the Church teach about so-and-so?  Is this person now in hell?

This was my answer:

The Church will very occasionally confirm that someone is in heaven, but never makes a judgement on who is in hell.

We can know that certain sins will mortally wound the life of the soul if they are freely chosen by someone who understands their gravity. We cannot know the inner life of another person, and therefore cannot know how culpable they are for a given sin, nor whether they repented (if necessary).

Heck, we barely scratch the surface on our *own* inner lives.

We can, in contrast, appreciate all that is true, good & beautiful in the people around us.

***

On that note . . . I wrote a long rambly post back in August on the complicated lives of us sinners.  There was a relevant section to my friend’s question, so I’ll share that again:

Mercy is the thing that makes us see the part of our friends that must at all costs be saved.

Yes, yes, we know about the immense weaknesses and deplorable lapses and insufferable habits — but we know the other side! We have seen selflessness to make your mouth gape, and virtues so indelibly marked on our friends’ souls that they track in purity and joy on their shoes even when they try their hardest to wipe their goodness off at the door.

Some people get so despicable that it’s hard to see the parts worth saving. God can see those parts though. The question of salvation isn’t how much nastiness needs to be removed to get down to the person you were created to be. The question of salvation is: Are you willing to be saved?

Happy Advent, everyone!

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Detail of a Cross of St. Longinus.  If there’s hope for him, there’s hope for you.  Photo: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Longinuskreuz_1.JPG CC 3.0

One Weird Trick for Understanding Homeless People

Over Thanksgiving the topic of services for the homeless came up at dinner, and last night the subject again resurfaced.  In my experience, there is no such thing as a “typical” homeless person, because people are complex and their stories are unique.  You can speak of common factors among this or that sub-group (mental illness, lack of a personal social net, etc.) but the intricacies don’t satisfy.  People want to “understand homelessness” as if it were a tricky lock in need of the right key and combination.

Finally I told my husband that if he wanted to understand why someone would be persistently homeless, despite the many social services available in our area (which help!), here’s what you do:

Think about something that you, personally, absolutely stink at.  The part of your life where you just can’t seem to get your act together.  Other people manage to do this thing just fine, but you don’t.

[In my husband’s case: Keeping the garage clean.  We could say the same about my desk and my inbox and let’s not even talk about the state of my refrigerator.  Other people might struggle with family relationships, or road rage, or over-eating, anorexia, compulsive shopping . . . whatever.]

You persistently, year after year, struggle with this thing that ought to be simple.  Sometimes you make progress, and other times you fall back into the pit.

Other people who have this problem are sympathetic; those who don’t have this problem wonder why you can’t get your act together in this area.  You’ve got so much else going for you — what’s the big deal?

Think about that problem.  Think about all the things that contribute to that problem.

Some of things might be outside your control: Your health, your work schedule, your family dynamics.  Some of the things that contribute to your problem are just your own personal collection of weaknesses and foibles.  Many things are a combination — your circumstances work against you, and you work against you, too.

Be really honest about acknowledging your problem and all the many things that make it so persistent.

***

And that’s it.   Now you know.

 

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Artwork via Wikimedia, public domain.

The Advent Wars Escalate

We’ve reached a new low on the Battle for Advent: My house now sports an Ordinary Time Tree.

Christmas Lights on a fir tree, up close
Maternal Penance in Mixed Media, Detail

I told the children they ought to crown it for the feast of Christ the King, but they were too busy ignoring admonitions about liturgically-correct decorating schemes while they quick tied up all the cut limbs with red plaid bows.  In memory of the souls in purgatory, I’m sure.

***

Early last week my trusty Surface Pro (reliability rating: 7th Circle of IT Hell) spontaneously quit working, forever and ever amen, while I was using it.  I assume it was pre-punishment for my caving on the tree.  So I spent the week sharing one PC with a man who was home “on vacation” working all day at the one PC.

And that’s the story about how I became a Black Friday shopper.

Surreal part: No lines, no crowds, no traffic.  I gather that the “we’re closed on Thanksgiving (until 5pm)!” thing is causing all the crazy people to get their manic shopping needs taken care of on the vigil, leaving the daylight hours to those of us who don’t love the contact-sport side of holiday shopping.

Disturbing part: I purchased a laptop named after a deadly sin.

It was on sale, so it’s okay, right?

More disturbing part: It was not the right deadly sin.

If you told me I was blogging from a machine called wrath I’d consider it truth in advertising.  Sloth and gluttony come to mind as obvious runners-up. Were it a school chrome book, now the go-to way to avoid the hassle and expense of textbooks even though students don’t learn as well online, we could call it avarice.

But envy?  Nah.  It’s shiny, but not that shiny.  Envy is why we have the ordinary time tree.

 

Talk to Your Kids About What Ouija Boards Do

I was in Target looking for a birthday present.  “Does your friend like games?” I asked my daughter.   I wasn’t seeing much in the way of horse things, which the friend definitely likes.

“I think so,” she said.

The trouble with games is that you don’t know which ones the birthday girl already has at home.  I scanned the shelves looking for something new enough that it was unlikely the friend already had one.  What I saw was this:

Ouija Board for sale at Target - "Stranger Things" edition

Well. There’s a game I don’t care to discuss.  “Go find your sisters and tell them we’re heading to the craft store.”

I snapped a photo (so yes, the Ouija board pictured above was on sale at your local Bible Belt Target store on Saturday 11/18/2017), and then we left and went to the craft store and found a book about how to draw horses, done.

The Trouble with Ouija Boards

Here’s the thing your children need to know: If you ask for supernatural assistance, you may well get it.

Supernatural can be good.  You can ask your guardian angel to watch over you in particular way (“Keep me from spending too much time on Facebook, please!”).  You can ask saints to pray for you.  You can of course ask God for everything you need — something you’ve been specifically instructed to do.

But the idea that there are only good supernatural beings is foolish.

Let’s look at this from a not-specifically Christian viewpoint.  Many people who don’t belong to any particular faith still recognize that there exists some kind of spiritual world, some kind of spiritual power.  You might not be someone who can say with confidence “God is like this _____” or “When you die, this _______ is what happens.”  And yet you have been around enough that you’ve come to recognize there is more to this life than what meets the eye.

The other thing you know is that, here in the realm of what-does-meet-the-eye, both good and evil exist.  Yes, people are complicated.  Maybe you don’t have a clear idea of how to draw lines between “good” and “bad” in some of the mixed-up situations you encounter in daily life.  And yet you can definitely recognize that there are things people do that are totally, beautifully, heroically good; you also can name a few things people have done that are unmistakeably evil.

In the spiritual world there are good and evil as well.

When you pray, presumably you are asking for good spiritual assistance.  Even if you aren’t sure exactly who you are praying to, or what kind of help you can hope to receive, you are probably not wishing to have evil visited upon you.  That connection you feel with something bigger than yourself is presumably leading you to look for peace, joy, and goodness in your spiritual life.

(If you go around openly asking for evil — for assistance doing bad things, or for bad things to happen to you or to others, well . . . #1 knock it off and #2 you are proving my point.)

A Ouija board is not a tool for seeking only good.  You may have good intentions, but the reality is that when you play around with the board, what you are doing is laying out an open invitation to whatever supernatural agent wants to come your way.

If you want only good in your life, skip the board.  Ask for what you really want, don’t send out the “Hey, whatever you want to do to me is just fine, you unknown mixed bag of good and evil supernatural persons!”  Would you make that offer to total strangers on the subway?  No you wouldn’t.  Don’t make that offer to the supernatural world either.

Avoid the board.  Be choosy about the kind of spiritual connections you ask for.  Seek out the good that you (rightly) long for.  It’s okay to pray even when you aren’t good at praying or don’t have a church or don’t have all the answers.

It’s okay to pray to God that your departed loved ones be in a good and happy place.  It’s okay to tell God that you are consumed by sorrow and grief, and you are so lonely without the company of the person you loved so much.  It’s okay to beg for help in dealing with the horrible situation that has you so overwhelmed you don’t even know how to get up in the morning — but always, always, always ask explicitly for good help.

You don’t need more evil in your life.

Ditch the board.

***

Related Links

For my Christian friends, here are a few quick links that may be helpful:

FYI I’ve asked around among my reliably Catholic friends who watch Stranger Things.  The consensus is that the show does not contain nor promote occult practices.  It may or may not be something you want to be watching, but the connection between the show and the promoting of the Ouija board is spurious.  (Someone compared it to existence of Lord of the Rings Tarot cards. There is absolutely nothing in Tolkien favorable to the occult . . . but people will sell you whatever the heck you’re willing to buy.)