The pencil game, the Charlie Charlie game, the #CharlieCharlieChallenge; it is known by a few different names. While we have seen the Charlie Charlie pencil game around for the last few months, the #CharlieCharlieChallenge has gone viral over 1.6 million tweets as of this week. The #CharlieCharlieChallenge has its roots in the Spanish version called Juego de la lapicera. Supposedly this has “ancient Mexican roots” but I have not seen any legitimate references given to that claim. The backstory on Charlie is pretty diverse and unsubstantiated but some have claimed Charlie is the spirit of an abused Mexican child while others say he is a Mexican deity (I’ve never heard of an ancient deity called Charlie…).
The basics of the “game” are a) draw a cross on a piece of paper with the words “yes” and “no” written at diagonals to each other, b) place two overlapping pencils over the lines of the cross, c) say “Charlie, Charlie are you there?” or “Charlie, Charlie can we play?” followed by some question. The session is supposed to be ended by asking for permission to stop playing. Those who do not ask or are not granted permission are then “haunted.”’ Another version uses six pencils, though this does not seem as popular at the moment.
Many have likened this “game” to a poor man’s Ouija board. The Ouija board is a form of planchette writing, also known as automatic writing or spirit writing, in which the user seeks supernatural answers or dialogue. While the Ouija board wasn’t patented in the United States until the 1890s, the practice of planchette writing has roots in ancient India, China, Greece and Rome. These boards are not uncommon in the US; there is even a pink version for girls ages eight and up sold at Toys“R”Us and Amazon with the tag line “Ask the questions girls want to know.”
So are children summoning demons when they play Charlie Charlie or use a Ouija board? Consider the cautions of C. S. Lewis in his book The Screwtape Letters: “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”
What Does the Bible Tell Us?
The devils can disguise themselves as benevolent, helpful beings (2 Cor. 11:14). They may even simulate a friendly partnership for a time. The end goal however, is the downfall of as many humans as possible. To that end they tempt mankind into sinfulness (Matt. 4:3) and deceive people (2 Cor. 11:3, 1 Tim. 4:1), accusing them before God (Zech. 3:1). Satan is our adversary and there is nothing fun about playing with him or his followers. Father Stephen McCarthy writes in an open letter to the students at Maria Goretti Catholic High School, “I want to remind you all there is no such thing as ‘innocently playing with demons.'”
Even if you do not believe that the pencil game or the Ouija board are contacting devils, Christians should not partake in these pastimes. Both are forms of divination; an unbiblical attempt to obtain information supernaturally (e.g., astrology, necromancy, or cartomancy). Followers of God are warned not to practice any form of divination (Deuteronomy 18:9-12 Leviticus 19:31). Instead, Christians should seek wisdom from God through prayer and the reading of His Word (James 1:5). Isaiah says it best when he writes: “should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living?” (Is. 8:19-20).
In closing, this is a good opportunity to discuss the issue of divination with your children. Ours had not heard about the Charlie Charlie game, but they are in first and second grade with no access to social media. If your children are older, they have likely come across this online or through friends. Have the conversation now in an informing, loving way!