October 15, 2014

Hold a Dumb Supper for Samhain

Posted in Devotionals, Dumb Supper, Samhain tagged , , , , at 5:26 am by Babs

A year ago I was privileged to attend a stunningly visual Samhain ritual written by one of our High Priestesses and performed by all of the initiated High Priestesses.  This made it very special for the 1st and 2nd degree initiates, myself included.  I was asked and happily agreed to host a Dumb Supper following the circle.  Even though most of us understood the symbolism of the supper I decided to write a short “history” to provide some background to the newer members.  I also outlined the “room setup” and “rules” so members would know what to expect and what is expected of them before they entered into the dining room area.  Since the meal is silent… you have to prepare everyone before the meal starts.

History of the Dumb Supper:  While the exact origin of the Dumb Supper is hotly debated the symbolic gesture of honoring those who have passed beyond the veil with a shared offering of a meal transcends most spiritual paths. From early ritual sacrifices, to offerings of the harvest and hunt, to the Eucharist of the Christian faith, the ceremony has been celebrated in one form or another by people around the world.

In Celtic traditions, a Dumb Supper is commonly held on Samhain (Sow-en), October 31st, when the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead is at its thinnest. The Celts believed that it was at this time, during the dark half of the year, that the spirits hear us and may even wish to make contact with us. This is the time of death and resurrection, new beginnings and fond farewells.

As its name suggests, a Dumb Supper is held in silence. From the moment you enter the room to the moment you leave it you must turn inward and be quiet. Often it is suggested that you are symbolically crossing over to meet with your ancestor in the Summerland. During this passage you are not to speak.  Your communication with your loved one is yours and yours alone.  To further the symbolism of the crossing, many hosts/ hostesses conduct the supper in complete opposite of how it would be held in the realm of the living such as serving dessert first and appetizers last to even setting the table in a mirror image of common practice (i.e. forks on right and knives and spoons to the left). For our version, we will simply be silent and walk widdershins (counter-clockwise). Because of the nature of the meal being with spirits of those who have passed on, the space where the supper is held will be sacred space where a circle of protection is cast with sage and the area blessed.

What do you say to the deceased? Often when a loved one passes there are sentiments you didn’t get to express. Whether it’s the poignant “I love you”, “I forgive you,” or “please forgive me” to the ever-present, “I miss you,” there is always something we wanted to say. When speaking to those who have passed on it is important to share with them the important things you would have been excited to share if they were still alive; the birth of a child, a marriage, an achievement.

How will you know they are listening? As with any conversation it is just as important for you to listen as it is to share. Some people may experience a moment of clarity, while others will smell a perfume their grandmother favored, or feel a touch, a sensation, or experience a vivid memory. Some feel a sense of peace. Many may receive a sign from their loved one long after the meal is over.  Whatever your experience is, be open to it and cherish this time with them.

Commonly in larger gatherings there is often a single place setting for “Spirit” since an individual setting for each ancestor becomes unmanageable. For our Supper we will have a Goddess setting in honor of the crone Hecate in addition to a single symbolic Ancestor setting. Behind this setting will be the photos of those we have invited to join us.

So now, close your eyes and find your center, bring an image of your loved one to your mind’s eye and begin your meal together.

Dumb Supper Rules (for our circle):

Room Set Up:

  1. The dining table has been staged with the Goddess setting at the head of the table and one common Ancestor setting at the foot of the table. These symbolic chairs will be draped.
  2. All other settings will have water, utensils, and napkins ready for you.
  3. An Ancestor altar (for photos and candles) will be set up behind the Ancestor place setting. When placing your photo/ memento here, you are inviting your ancestor to the table.
  4. A buffet table with the food, drinks, ice, etc. will be set up to one side.
  5. All lights will be turned off and no cell phones or cameras will be permitted.
  6. From the moment you transition from the circle to the dining room, there will be no speaking.

Ancestor Table – The faces of the photos have been blurred intentionally.

 Dumb Supper Process:

  1. HPS will enter the sacred room first to bless it, sage it, and call upon the Goddess to join the feast. She will then return to the line of waiting guests motioning each to enter the room. She will allow time between each guest to complete the following:
  2. Each guest should collect their ancestor’s photo from the ritual altar in preparation of walking with their ancestor into the dining room.
  3. Each guest will enter the dining room in widdershin fashion.
    • Walk to the altar and place their Ancestor photo.
    • Select a tea light from the basket and light it in honor of their loved one.
    • Approach the Goddess seat and in silence thank her for being with them.
  4. Each guest is then invited to the buffet to take some food, set the plate down at the next available place setting starting at the Goddess’s left, and remain standing.
  5. HPS will be the last through the buffet. Once she has set down her plate, she and helper will serve will serve the Goddess and the Ancestors some of the feast.
  6. When HPS takes a seat, everyone takes a seat, and eats in continued silence.
  7. HPS, determining when everyone is done eating, will rise from her seat. This will signal everyone to rise. Proceeding widdershins starting with the person at the Goddess’s right, each guest moves to the Goddess’s chair, pauses, and in silence thanks Her for attending. They then leave the room.
  8. HPS snuffs the candles and is the last one out after thanking the Goddess.
  9. The supper is now complete.

Dessert, Coffee, Discussion & Divination: Lights may be turned back on and all guests are invited back in for coffee/ tea and dessert. This is a social time where everyone may share any experiences felt, thought, or messages received from their honored ancestors.

This is our discussion and social time after the supper.

Final Notes: I hope this was of some help to you as a solitary or for your group.  I have held private/ solitary Dumb Suppers for a few years and you can get more elaborate in your table settings by reversing the silverware and serving alcohol.  For the group I pulled together aspects outlined in many different rituals to create this for about 25 people.  Due to the large number of participants we felt the buffet was easiest and all dishes were labeled clearly.  My advice – keep things simple.  There were hiccoughs along the way (expect them and roll with them) but most people found it to be successful and a moving event.  If you try a Dumb Supper, please share your results and your modifications.  I love trying new things every year!

Blessed Samhain to you all!

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October 31, 2011

Dumb Supper for Samhain

Posted in Dumb Supper, Samhain, Wiccan Things at 11:25 pm by Babs

Samhain (pronounced Sow-when) is the time of year when the wheel has come full circle.  The veil between the worlds is at its thinnest and it is now that many pagans attempt to connect with their ancestors who now reside in the Summerland.  Commonly known as Halloween, it is the eve of the witch’s new year.

To celebrate this turn of the wheel it is common for many pagans to set up an ancestor table with pictures and mementos of those who have passed on.  Another common theme is to perform a dumb supper.  Dumb stands for the fact that it is totally silent.  It is a time to honor the ancestors by sharing a meal with them.  This ritual has many options but it is my experience to go with what feels right to the participants.  This can be one or many people celebrating for many different ancestors.  In the end, it becomes a very personal experience for each individual.

At sunset, I held a private dumb supper to honor my mother who passed this year.  It seemed like something I should do alone to allow for a quiet, reflective and emotional tribute.  I read a lot about how others use black, table cloths, napkins, plates, etc.  I didn’t feel this was right for me.  Mom liked color.  So I set the table with colors of the season… and cooked a meal I feel she would have loved… but it was a new meal.  One we will share together for the first time.

I placed several candles on the table, with roses from her funeral that were dried.  A crystal ball in case Mom wants to share something with me and of course several pictures of her during happier times.  I wrote a note for her and had a cauldron to burn it in.  Before serving dinner, I smudged the house to raise the vibrations and cast a circle of protection.

After serving dinner and before being seated I approached her place setting and stood a moment to honor her.  Then, we shared a meal together in silence, in candlelight.  Between courses, I read the note (silently) and then brought it to her place setting… and then finally to the cauldron to burn.  This is symbolic so that the message can be received by the spirit world in the smoke from the burning.  Be safe… and use the cauldron for the burning rather than holding in your hand!  Then I served dessert.  Mom did not have a sweet tooth but I hoped she would humor me.

June 1, 2011

The Month of May

Posted in Devotionals, Goddess Things, Nature Things, Samhain, Statues, Summerland, Wiccan Things tagged , , , , at 7:40 am by Babs

As this month draws to a close I am happy to see it go.  This was a bad month for me as I lost my Mother to a long battle (18 years) with ALS.  While this is unusual in the length of time… it is still hard to “let go” of someone you love.  In the pagan path we believe (generally speaking) in a concept called “crossing the veil”.  The veil is metaphorical but apt.  Similar to Judeo/Christian beliefs when one dies one passes over to the other side.  Christians see the other side as the “kingdom of heaven”.  For pagans… mainly Wiccan oriented pagans, it is the Summerland.

The essence of the Summerland is that it is a resting ground where souls can reflect on the life they led, see if they learned the lesson they had intended on learning, and then try again in due course. The Summerland is not seen as a place of judgment, but rather as a spiritual self-evaluation where a soul is able to review its life and gain an understanding of the total impact its actions had on the world. Some may believe each particular lesson (and hence, life) is chosen and planned out by the soul itself while in Summerland, whereas others may believe that lessons are planned by an external party (deities, a spirit guide, etc.).

As you can see, my concept of the afterlife has a contemplation phase and then a reincarnation phase which is similar to many polytheistic (multiple god) religions.  What ever path you follow in life, take comfort in your individual beliefs.  Grief and loss are hard to deal with but faith in your path will help guide you as one who has been left behind.

Often to reconnect with our departed loved ones, we attempt to honor/ remember/ communicate with them at Samhain (pronounced Sow-en) which is a time when the veil is considered to be the thinnest.  This is the beginning of the Wiccan year and is more commonly associated with Halloween.  But that is many months from now.  Now is the time to let go.

October 29, 2008

Trick or Treat!

Posted in Samhain, Wiccan Things tagged , , at 11:06 pm by Babs

It is that time of year again… for all of us Pagans and Wiccans… this is Samhain (pronounced “SAW-win”) which literally means “summer’s end”.  Since ancient times in England, Scotland, and Ireland, October 31st has been celebrated as a feast for the dead, and also the day that marks the new year. Mexico observes a Day of the Dead on this day, as do other world cultures.  This holiday is also known as All Hallows Eve (“hallow” means “sanctify”) ; Hallowtide; Hallowmass; Hallows; The Day of the Dead; All Soul’s Night; All Saints’ Day (both on November 1st) .  It is viewed to be the time of year when the veil between the living and the dead is the thinnest.  Modern pagans may attempt to traverse this veil by various means including meditation and astral projection.

For early Europeans, this time of the year marked the beginning of the cold, lean months to come; the flocks were brought in from the fields to live in sheds until spring.  Some animals were slaughtered, and the meat preserved to provide food for winter.  The last gathering of crops was known as “Harvest Home, ” celebrated with fairs and festivals.  In honor of that I wanted to share a festival favorite of mine…

Ultimate Caramel Apples

1 cup waterhttp://www.pepperspollywogs.com/blog/index.php/quick-tip-caramel-apples/
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
10-inch square piece of styrofoam
6 popsicle sticks or small wooden dowels
6 Red or Golden Delicious apples (I like Granny Smith)
3 ounces white chocolate
3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped nuts

In heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine water and sugar. Over low heat, stir mixture gently until sugar is completely dissolved. Increase heat to medium low and cook, without stirring, until mixture is a dark amber color. Remove from heat and carefully stir in heavy cream (mixture will bubble up and spatter a bit, then subside.) Set aside to cool and thicken. Cover styrofoam with waxed paper to catch caramel drippings (this will be a stand for caramel apples). Insert popsicle sticks into bottom center of apples. Dip top half of each apple into thickened caramel. Insert bottom of popsicle sticks into styrofoam, allowing apples to stand upright so caramel runs down sides of each apple. Refrigerate to harden. Meanwhile, melt white chocolate in top of double boiler above gently simmering water; stir until smooth. Transfer melted chocolate to pastry bag fitted with small writing tip. Drizzle thin, random strips of white chocolate over each caramel apple. Repeat melting and drizzling with semi-sweet chocolate. Sprinkle with chopped nuts.

No tricks here… just treats!

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