My loved ones and I went through our fair share of loss.
As you may know, we recently lost a valued member of our little family; our beautiful furry baby girl, Didi… She was the absolute center of our world, a mischievous ball of kindness, love, and innocence, and I’m still trying to apprehend the cold reality…
She’s entered a new path of her existence, and I cannot accompany her where she is going. Yet.
The grieving process is painful and, to be honest, seems never-ending.
Plus, every loss rekindles ancient pains and opens wounds I thought were partly healed.
In these trying moments, I like to focus my energy on celebrating Samhain and honoring ancestors and cherished ones who left us too soon.
The Pagan Wheel of the Year, a Seasonal Way of Living Our Spirituality
As a quick reminder, the Wheel of the Year features thirteen moons and eight festivals, called Sabbats. These Sabbats are inspired by pre-Christian Celtic and Germanic festivals.
The Wheel of the Year and its celebrations, inspired by the rhythm of nature, consist of the year’s chief solar events (solstices and equinoxes) and the midpoints between them.
The eight Sabbats are divided into two categories:
1. The four Greater Sabbats are ancient Celtic festivals that celebrated important stages of the year: they are Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane, and Lughnasadh.
2. The four Minor (or Lesser) Sabbats correspond to the solstices and equinoxes: Yule, Ostara, Litha, and Mabon.
Celebrating the major Sabbat of Samhain
In the northern hemisphere, many Pagans and Witches celebrate Samhain from sundown on 31 October through 1 November; in the southern hemisphere, Samhain celebrations are sometimes held from sundown on 30 April through 1 May.
It is said it’s also the exact moment the veil between our world and the Otherworld is at its thinnest, making conversation with spirits and our ancestors easier.
Therefore, it’s the perfect time of the year to hold a Dumb Supper!
The Dumb Supper, A Feast With (and To Honor) the Dead
There are numeral ways of celebrating departed ones during a Dumb Supper. Note that “dumb” here refers to being silent.
Silence being key, it’s by remaining completely silent (including sign language and nodding yes or no…) that you honor the Dead and ensure the ritual’s effectiveness.
During the preparation of the meal
Try and refrain any unnecessary talk; if you really need to talk (in other terms, if you can’t handle silence), then perhaps try and speak of the Dead in positive terms.
You may also invite them to join you during the preparations.
With this aim in mind, remember a distinct moment you shared together and welcome them into your kitchen. Free up a chair for your guest. Talk about the past year and everything that happened.
If you prepare the meal with somebody else (my husband being such a great cook, my friends and family wouldn’t want me to stand in the way of his talent!) make sure the day before that everything is set to be prepared: every recipe in plain view, every ingredient within everyone’s reach, etc.
Set the dining table
Make sure to set enough plates, glasses, napkins, and cutlery for every single one of your guests, including the Dead.
Remember: don’t be fearful of the Dead: if they were nice people or pets during their life, why wouldn’t be after?! They probably miss you as much as you miss them…
Try and enjoy every moment of this entire day.
It’s your one chance during the whole year to enjoy a meal together. Don’t feel stressed, melancholic, or sad: it’s a time of happiness. Rejoice!
A quick note: you may need to write every guest’s name on beautiful cards, to make sure everyone knows where to sit (and where to look at if they want to pay their respect to the Dead without having to ask.)
During the Dumb Supper
Explain in advance the main rule of the ritual to the Living: a complete silence during the entire duration of the Supper must be respected; if they need to reach something, grab a napkin or a dish, they can’t say a word about it.
Thus, it’s your job, as a Dumb Supper Host, to make sure everything is set and ready beforehand.
The Dumb Supper can be held any time during the day, but I would advise to hold it right before Midnight to ensure its success.
Once everyone is seated, join hands, and take a moment to silently bless the meal and thank the Dead for their presence.
To conclude the Dumb Supper
To ensure a sense of closure for all your guests, I’d advise to light a white candle and give everyone a piece of paper.
They can write something nice about the Dead: they might want to recall a memory, bid them farewell in the afterlife, etc.
Then, each guest would burn the paper while picturing one truly good moment they spent with the Dead; when everyone has had their turn, join hands once again and offer a silent prayer to the Dead.
Afterwards, each guest can take their leave.
I hope this Dumb Supper ritual will help you create your own Samhain tradition; don’t hesitate to transform and adapt the ritual to your own practice.
Looking forward to reading you,
Cover picture by Kristina Flour via Unsplash