My family and I have been involved in yearly Dumb Suppers for about a decade, and I individually have attended a variation of one for since my adultancy (it’s a word now!). Dumb Suppers are an old tradition that very quickly engrained itself into the customs of Witchcraft and the lore of honoring, remembering, and working with the ancestors.
It is particularly common around Hallow’s for two very obvious reasons. The first is that a large portion, albeit nowhere near all, of Witchcraft lore for working with the ancestors is tied to that time of the year; and the second is directly related to why most of our lore is tied to that time of the year: the veil between the realms is thinnest, thus reaching across in either direction becomes easier for either Witch or the Mighty Dead.
So what exactly is a Dumb Supper? In short, it is eating a meal with those that have departed; whose essence that does not perpetuate from life to life dwells in the Isles of Annwyn. Even shorter, ya’ are eating with ya’ dead loved ones and they with you.
Now there are a lot of ways to go about a Dumb Supper. I know that I have seen several variations with different folk, Traditions, and Covens. As a result, here is a basic format of a Dumb Supper liturgy:
-Set up a dinner table with places for all attending and one extra seat for the Ancestors.
-The place for the Ancestors should have pictures and other things that remind us of them, a small glass of water, a white place mat (if they are used), and a black candle.
-Serve everyone their food, to include the Ancestors. Make note to add no salt to the food given to the Ancestors. You want them to attend, right? Good! Then don’t give them salt.
-Everyone takes their seats.
-Invocations are given for our Lady and our Lord to bless and witness the meal.
-The Keeper of the Veil is asked to open a gateway between the worlds. As a note of practice, the glass of water is the focal point of where this occurs.
-Once the Veil has been opened, light the black candle and have everyone call the names of their departed to come and eat with them.
-The host tolls a small bell three times. From this point until the end of the rite, no one speaks.
-Everyone eats in silence and reflects upon their Ancestors. If people choose to place offerings, silently, on the Ancestor plate they may. Tobacco, whiskey, and anything that a particular Ancestor being honored was fond of in life all make appropriate offerings. Also if they would like to open communication, they can silently ask a question of their Ancestors and draw a tarot card from a deck, or other divinatory method.
-When everyone appears to be done eating/crying, the host for the evening will ring the bell three times. They will then thank the Ancestors for attending, put out the black candle, and ask the Keeper to close the veil.
-Our Lady and our Lord are thanked.
-Everyone retires to another room and chats and otherwise engages in things more merry.
The Seat of the Mighty Dead is honored in silent merriment at the feast of the heart.
"Lost in a thicket bare-footed upon a thorned path."