October 21, 2009
According to an interesting book called Kentucky Superstitions by Daniel Lindsey Thomas, PhD, published in 1920, there was long a folk a tradition called the “Deaf and Dumb Supper” in which the entire meal was prepared by moving backwards and in complete silence. When it was done, a supernatural sign was sure to appear - anything from men carrying a corpse to a large, frightening white dog.
Today, what I call the “Dumb Supper” is a ritual similar to many traditional rituals around the world. From the Ozark Mountains to the Techno-pagan’s online memorial web pages, it is usually pretty simple. We tend to see two overall incarnations of the ritual – though individual differences are varied. One is either a dinner table set with an empty chair which serves as an invitation for your departed friend to appear. Another option is an altar or table set up with decorations and pictures of your departed friend, along with food and wine – or some other favorite dishes. One might offer tobacco, whiskey, and/or wine at either one of these settings as a gift to the dead. I offer honey sticks and incense, whiskey and wine. What you offer is up to you and what you think your departed loved one might like.
There are group celebrations of the Dumb Supper – or similar rituals – around little ole’ Louisville. However, most of them are private and are different than other rituals honoring the dead often seen during this time of the year. A dumb supper is a personal memorial to someone who has passed over the veil and into the next world. It is often completed in absolute silence as it is a time to listen more than a time to speak. Some may cast circle before hand but even that might be done in silence. Music and drumming are often left out of Dumb Suppers. A few candles may be the only light source. It is an introspective ritual to remember someone who has died and even members of active covens might choose to do their Dumb Suppers alone.
So, you set up a table of your choice and you pour the whiskey. Then, what do you do? You remember the dead. You think about them and you spend some quiet time letting yourself remember details about them – how they looked, what they did, the jokes they told or did not tell. It’s not rushed. There is no time limit. You blow out the candles and open your circle when you feel ready. It can be a very cleansing ritual and I encourage everyone to try it – particularly those who are going through a rough time. Remember, a Dumb Supper is not only for Samhain. It can be done whenever there is a need.