Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Dumb Supper

As a child, I celebrated Halloween like most American children. I dressed up, went out, and gathered candy and other treats.  I still love Halloween...the costumes, the decorations, the candy.  But, today, Halloween has become a severely commercialized holiday.  Ask anyone  about the holiday and most will tell you it involves involves costumes, gathering and scarfing candy, and parties.  Yes,  everyone is familiar with the celebration of Halloween but Samhain is generally not known to the masses. 

Samhain is a more spiritual day. It is a day for ancestors and to bring attentions and worship to those people. It is a time where the world is caught up in an in between. It is when those who had passed on and impart wisdom and blessings on their family and can bring good fortune to those of their bloodline. 
Many believe that with the worlds so close, our ancestors can come and dance with us on this night. It is a day to honor those who came before us, and one way of honoring the dead is to have a 'dumb' supper on Samhain.

'Dumb' has nothing to do with one's intelligence; it means that these meals, and any communication therein, are conducted in silence. Essentially, it is a supper by the living, for the dead which is performed on  the night that the veil between the world of the living and the dead is at its thinnest, Samhain/Halloween. This tradition dates back hundreds, if not thousands, of years. The 'dumb supper' is a solemn meal, aimed at inviting those who have passed away back to the world of the living for the night. It is a sign of respect to those who have come before.

It's easy to have a dumb  supper.  First,  prepare the meal with the intent 
  of honoring those family members who have died.  It's always nice to include some of their favorite foods.  The dinner table is set for a dumb supper, often held at midnight. An extra place is set and left for those ancestors that may visit. The head of the table should certainly be left open for the spirit of an important ancestor or family member. Here, the tradition varies.. When it is time for the meal, turn off all unnatural lighting and light candles. 

In the places of the dead, specific candles can be lit--either black or white. After a silent prayer of thanks, everyone should begin eating in silence. When the meal is done, the live guests should all silently thank the ancestors who appeared. While the plates of the living are removed from the table, those of the dead should remain until morning, so that they may eat their fill through out the night.

Afterward, divination can be done and the spirits who have come to be with their family may be willing to help. Bring out a scrying mirror, tarot cards, or runestones, and do some divination about the year to come.


  1. I make a point of carrying on this tradition every year. I often can't do it on Samhain eve because of the disruptions, but I just do it a night or two after. This is more of a season than a day. I read recently (sorry forget where) that the dumb part of the supper is not just out of respect, but it's to sit in silence in case one of the ancestors would like to speak!

  2. I've never done this ritual -- will try it some day!

  3. But exactly when is this celebration-of-Samhain done? The Eve of...? Oct. 31st...? Like ordinary Halloween "celebrations"? Probably yes, since this dinner can be begun at midnight.

    I thought that all Pagan Celebrations were on the Eve Of. As it were. And I get confused, a lot. -chuckle- Welllllllll, I get confused a lot, with all of life, so that's not so unusual.

    Anyway, both you and all-the-masses-of-Halloween-revelers, do your form of celebrating, on Oct. 31st, the Eve of.... Do I have that straight?

    And oh good grief!!! I just thought! I will have-no-truck-with ugly depictions of witches! But I got myself a weird red/black hair wig, to wear, giving out candy. Now I feel like I am caving in, on my principals. -sighhhhhhhh- Everything is sooooooooo complicated.

    Gentle hugs,
    "Bring forth the raisins and the nuts-
    Tonight All-Hallows' Specter struts
    Along the moonlit way."

    ~~John Kendrick Bangs

  4. November 1st is known as All Saints Day.
    Is that the same?
    Quiet...what's that??? ;0)

  5. Good morning Mary....what an interesting post. I had no idea Halloween has a sacred meaning.....I just though it was about witches and sorcery.

    Thanks for the enlightenment.



  6. I like the way the Mexican's do it with their "Day Of The Dead". We have a ritual where we toast to our ancestors who have passed. It's a Celtic custom I believe. We put out our family pictures and toast to our beloved who are passed but who (I believe for myself) that they are all around us all the time. You can choose any day, but Samhain is a good day. Being quiet is not our way, we have a merry good time along with our ancestors (I hope they are there enjoying themselves), but each person has to follow their own path. Peace and Light,\

  7. I love the Samhain traditions. I always do a ritual, walk outside in the fresh evening air and kick up leaves as I go. Candles and a glass of red wine go along with the ritual and I think of my ancestors. I haven' t done a supper as yet.

    My birthday is Nov. 1 - the Day of the Dead in some countries, so Halloween has always been special and exciting for me.

  8. Samhain blessings to you Mary. It is good
    to share the history of this important Pagan
    ritual with others.

    Many of us come from Celtic backgrounds, as do I.
    It s good to remember that most Christian holidays are actually Pagan ones.

    blessings and light

  9. I recently found out that my family in the mountains of Tennessee practiced the "Dumb Supper" for the purpose of romantic divination. So wonderful to read more about it. Thank you. :)

  10. I just found out that my family in the mountains of TN used to practice the Dumb Supper for the purpose of romantic divination. It's wonderful to read more about it. Thank you. :)