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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