Dumb Supper: How to Host a Sacred Ancestral Dinner for Samhain
Samhain is coming on the eve of October 31st. This night marks the “end of Summer” in the Celtic calendar, as well as the Witches’ New Year. Traditionally, our ancestors have the ability to visit and dine with us at a silent meal called the Dumb Supper. Learn the importance of and how to host a sacred Samhain Dumb Supper to honor your ancestors.
What is a Samhain Dumb Supper?
Samhain is celebrated on October 31st through November 1st. And it is the night when the ancestors are walk among us freely. On this night, we celebrate the ancestors and those who have gone before us. Many pagans enjoy setting a special place at the dinner table for their ancestors. OR you can take it to the next level and host a Samhain dumb supper.
A dumb supper is when the entire family eats dinner in silence, out of humble respect for the ancestors. It is a gesture of gratitude and sacredness. In addition, and most importantly, remaining silent through the dinner allows time and space for the ancestors to speak to us. I know I’ve heard their voices louder in the silence than in a crowded, noisy room.
A Samhain Dumb Supper Menu
What foods to include at your Samhain Dumb Supper is entirely up to you. However, we suggest making something seasonal (for Fall) PLUS incorporating your ancestors’ favorite types of foods. For example, if your ancestors are Irish, consider making colcannon (a traditional Samhain food) along with your chicken. If your ancestors are Nigerian, choose traditional Nigerian foods. Etc. Check out our 10 Samhain Meal Recommendations.
Another idea for Samhain Dumb Supper is to make a meal that your immediate ancestors enjoyed. For example, your great grandmother loved making chicken and dumplings. So you will make chicken and dumplings. Maybe your grandfather loved eating apple crumble for dessert. Then you can have apple crumble in your dumb supper.
Don’t forget the beverages! If you drink alcohol, consider making a traditional mulled wine. Beer, wine, mead, and hard cider are acceptable to the ancestors and are appropriate for Samhain. If you’re a non-alcoholic household, regular apple cider is perfect!
How to Set Up the Dumb Supper Table
Depending on how many ancestors you’d like to honor with your Samhain dumb supper, consider setting that many places at your dinner table. For me, I have dozens and dozens of ancestors I work with in my practice. Which also means I do not have enough space at my dinner table. So I typically set one space only and make it known the ancestors must share! Do what feels right to you. But make sure no one else sits in that place or touches the setting after you’ve set it up.
You’ll want the setting of the supper to be lit with as much natural light as possible. Candlelight, oil lamps, etc are best in welcoming the ancestors’ presence on Samhain eve. In addition, clean the room and cleanse it spiritually beforehand. I like to leave a window open if the weather allows it, to allow the ancestors to easily come in and out. Jack-o-lanterns outside help light the way for the good spirits and keep out the bad. You may cast a circle, if you feel so inclined. I simply ask for my elevated ancestors ONLY to join us for dinner and to keep any malevolent spirits or ghosts out.
As for color and decor, go with what you feel. I prefer dark colors like black and purple or black and red. OR Autumn colors like orange, red, brown, yellow. Place a few photos of your ancestors on the table.
How to Perform the Dumb Supper
Traditionally, everyone enters the room silent and stops for a moment at the ancestors’ chair(s) to silently pray for the departed. Sometimes we leave notes at the side of the place-setting for the ancestors.
Remember – the whole point is that no one talks for the entirety of the meal. It’s respectful to serve the ancestors their meal first, then serve from oldest to youngest. No one should begin eating until everyone is served (this is just normal manners and should go without saying). When you pour the drinks, pour the ancestors’ first and be sure to make a silent toast while gently clinking glasses (this act scares any spirits out of the SPIRITS you’re drinking!)
Anticipate Problems Before They Happen
What if someone needs something else for their dinner? It’s your job as host to keep an eye on your guests and be able to anticipate what they need. A good idea is to add an extra fork/knife/napkin to each setting. Make sure there’s plenty of salt and pepper on the table (both ends/throughout).
What if a phone rings or there’s an outside distraction of some kind? Before beginning the dinner, ask your guests to leave their phones and devices out of the room and turn them off. Same goes with TVs in the room itself. This limits or completely cuts off distractions from happening and breaking the silent ritual.
What if someone needs to use the restroom? Before entering the room for dumb supper, make sure everyone knows where the bathroom is located. Then tell them if they need to use it during the meal, they may quietly get up and walk away. Then return without a word Up the Samhain Dumb Supper
Wrapping Up The Samhain Dumb Supper
To finish the dinner ritual, everyone should quietly exit the room, stopping once more at the ancestors’ place to silently give thanks and say goodbye. Leave the food and drink at the ancestors’ place to allow them time to finish and maybe linger a bit longer. Leave a few of the candles burning, only if you can check on them or have a safe view of them in the house (safety first!) Before anyone leaves your home, thank them for coming and say, “may the ancestors protect and guide your way. On the Eve of Samhain and Forever Again.” So be it.
More Info on Samhain:
- 11 Samhain Recipes: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Drinks and Dessert
- Samhain Traditions for the Pagan Family: 13+ From Dinners to Bonfires