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The Dumb Supper by Vanessa Armstrong

I originally wanted to talk about the origins of the dumb supper but despite several searches, nothing about who originally held them, the era, or which culture did it first etc came up. I did read one blog where a dumb supper was held by a person that practises Hoodoo and there were several elements of it that fitted in nicely with that and I could imagine that was something that would have been part of the Hoodoo celebrations to honour the dead and their ancestors. 

However, there doesn't seem to be a great deal written on the origins of the subject, but there was quite a bit on the dumb supper itself, so I thought I'd look into the different things that you can do if you would like to have a go at it yourself. Amunhart and I did one ourselves a couple of years ago and although nothing happened on the night in question, a couple of things happened in my home afterwards that could have only been spirit still present.

There isn't a right or a wrong way to hold a dumb supper, do whatever feels right with you, but I'll touch on the traditions that I found and did.

Honouring and getting in touch with loved ones and your ancestors can be done any time of year, but particularly at Samhain when the veil is thin between this world and the spirit world, we feel that we perhaps feel that little bit closer to them, to connect with them and maybe get a response back.

So how do you hold a dumb supper? it can be done with as many or as few people as you like. I look on it as a silent ritual which involves sitting and eating at a table and sharing a meal. That's what our ancestors did and something that I did as a child, my parents and parents before that. Meal times were sat together, OK - not in silence, but a family sharing food and their thoughts on the day.

I think the reason for the silent 'dumb' bit, is so that there are no interruptions or outside influences like the television or radio. Obviously at that time of year it is dark, so candlelight is permitted as opposed to glaring electric bulbs. Candlelight is magical and I love the energy that surrounds them. The people at the dumb supper will have their own private thoughts regarding who they wish to contact and have at the table with them. I think unless it's done regularly anyway, your room should be smudged and cleared of any negative energies. You may wish to cast a circle too.

Your table will be set with a place for each person and a place for spirit. It should still have a knife, fork and plate and a chair. I've read that the place settings should be black, but I used my regular cutlery and plates. A napkin was also in place as I felt that it would have been something that perhaps was used at mealtimes. Place one candle at the seat reserved for spirit close to the plate. This can be black or white, but any colour will be OK.

The candles will be lit and all lights, television, phones and radios off and the door pulled to.

As your guest or guests arrive, you may greet them vocally but quietly and keep things to a minimum. Ask each guest beforehand to write on a piece of paper anything that they would like to say to their departed loved ones and bring it with them into the dining room.

As you all enter the dining room, you must be quiet. Each person before taking their seats, stop at the chair reserved for spirit and offer a silent prayer. The host will serve up the supper in silence making sure that the spirit place has some of the meal too.

As each guest eats, you can have your thoughts about who you would like to share this meal with you, silently having a conversation with them. It can be one person or many.

When everyone has finished eating, each person takes their written note to the spirit table and placing a hand on the back of the chair, offer the paper to the candle flame set by the plate. You may wish to put the candle in a fireproof container beforehand - having to call the fire brigade is really not what you want to be doing!

Focus on the note and its words as you watch the flames burn the paper before returning to your seat.

Once each person has burned their note, join hands and take a few minutes to think about those that have gone before you. To think about life, death and rebirth, for when the veil thickens again, it is a time for new beginnings.

Each person as they leave the room touch the spirit chair and thank them silently for their presence.

I followed these guidelines which I found online for my dumb supper. There are many other ways that you can honour your dead and you can always tailor the dumb supper to suit you, adding other things that you may wish to do - as long as it's in silence of course!

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