The Silent Supper

The Silent Supper

During this time of year our focus shifts to honouring those we have lost over the years, and to honour our ancestors, and one of my favourite rituals and celebrations is a meal/feast called a Silent Supper, also known as a Dumb Supper.

What is a Silent Supper?

A Silent Supper – I prefer this to the name “Dumb Supper” – is an amazing tradition where a meal is held in honour of one’s ancestors and beloved dead. The thing that makes this feast different from any of the others held through the year is that it is held in complete silence. The Silent Supper is a solemn time, but it is a ritual where you can show reverence to the dead. The origins of the Silent Supper are… obscure to say the least and for whatever it is, whether it is ancient or modern it is a special ritual that I do every year; and for me it is extremely profound.

Creating a Silent Supper

If you would like to hold or host a Silent Supper here are a few things that I do to prepare for my own celebration.

The first thing I always think about who is going to be part of the ritual, this will determine many different factors from where I will  host the meal, and what I am going to even make.

Next you need to plan out turning your chosen room (aka your dining room) into a sacred space by cleansing it of all negativity or stagnant energy. You can do this by smoke cleansing, using incense, a besom and lastly, raise a protective circle around the room with a “door” in which to enter and leave – for people and spirits.

While the meal is a focal part of the ritual, it doesn’t have to be anything grand. Cook a meal that everyone attending will enjoy. It could even be a favorite of someone you have lost.

One of the things that make the Silent Supper different from other rituals is that you are focusing on contemplation and honoring the dead, so you will want to remove electronic equipment or devices (if you can’t remove them, turn them off) as this removes distractions, disruptions, and disturbances to the energy of the space.

Set the table for each person attending the ritual, leaving the head of the table set for the Spirit of the deceased. If you have a round table then the space at the northern most spot should be set for the spirits. If you have lost beloved pets, like I have then you may also want to set a plate for them – I always set a plate for my felines next to the setting for the deceased. I would love to set a spot for each of the people I have lost in my life, but at over 9 place settings that isn’t feasible.

In the past I have debated when the silence should begin, and for me I now do the whole process from cleansing to feasting and cleaning up in silence. You may want to do some forward planning on who is going to sit where and to let your guests know what is going to happen and when. As this is a time of somber reflection, you may want to leave younger children out of it. You can include them in other rituals and celebrations though.

Lighting is a fantastic way to set the mood for the space. I like to light a tea light for each member of my beloved dead, which alone provides fantastic light. I have always found that softer light, like candles, is better than the harsh white light from some bulbs, but you will need to work with what you have and there is always room for changes – it is your ritual. If you can’t have a plethora of candles, you can use a single candle with the names of your loved ones inscribed in the wax – this works for real and battery candles.

Preparing for the meal is more than just cooking, you will need to inform your guests of what is going to happen and ask them to write a note to their beloved dead and not show anyone. You may want to have a cauldron or platter ready for later in the ritual. They will also need to know that no speaking or electronics are allowed.

When you and your guests enter the dining area, it’s time for silence, and before everyone takes their seat, have them stand by the Spirit’s Chair and say a little prayer for those they have loved and lost. Once everyone has their meal, including the Spirit’s Chair, hold hands and say a silent prayer (this may be prepared and rehearsed beforehand). Some people serve the meals starting with the spirit chair, and then serving the food in descending age order, but that is a personal preference. There is no requirement to serve food on the Spirit’s plate, by Simply having it there shows that you have not forgotten them.

Once the meal is finished, and the plates cleared away, each guest should take out their note for their loved ones, then go up, one at a time, to the Spirit’s Chair and find the candle they lit for their loved one(s) and burn the note saying a little prayer. This is where the platter or cauldron comes in very handy, they then return to their seat, letting the note burn. Once everyone has burned their notes, hold hands once more and say another little prayer, you can do a group prayer that you prepared before, or you can use personal ones.

Once everyone is ready to leave, each guest should stand by the Spirit Chair and say goodbye before leaving the room in silence. Once you have left the dining room, you can choose to talk to the group, or you can remain in silence for the remainder of the evening, it is your choice.

If you have served a plate of actual food for the ritual you should wait for Samhain to end then dispose of the food – Spirit will “feed” from the energy of the offering which is why actual food is not needed.

This is a prayer that can be used for Silent Suppers if prepared beforehand. I wrote it a few years ago for the very first Silent Supper I hosted.

Tonight, is the night that we call to you,

Tonight, is the night we honor you

Tonight, is the night when our worlds meet

Tonight, is the night the veil thins.

To the spirits of my fathers and mothers passed,

I ask you to join me, in this my feast, on this night.

You who have always walked with me,

watching me, protecting me, guiding me.

Tonight, I thank you, I honor you

All who have come before me.

Your blood runs strong through my veins,

Your spirit rules forever over my heart,

Your memories are always with me, in my soul.

To the spirits of my fathers and mothers passed,

I ask you to join me, in this my feast, on this night.

I give you this gift, the gift of remembrance

As this night our worlds are destined to meet.

You may have passed beyond my waking sight,

You are never forgotten, never set aside.

For you live within me,

Within all your children the world over,

Within each generation that is to come.

To the spirits of my fathers and mothers passed,

I ask you to join me, in this my feast, on this night. 

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