On Samhain Eve many of my fellow Witches and Pagans will sit down to participate in the tradition of the Dumb Supper. To honor their ancestors they set a place at the dinner table then invite to their ancestors to join them. They then sit in silence and eat, waiting for the tingle that signifies the presence of the ancestors. In total silence. Waiting. Eating. Silently.
I’m not sure about you but I have a hell of a time with the whole silence thing. I’m fine when I am alone, but with a group, at a dinner, not so much. First of all, the chewing sounds seem to reverberate in the silence. Cringe. Gods forbid if someone burps. I’ll break with the pressure to keep silent and revert back to being a twelve year old girl and giggle. Seriously, I try to keep my thoughts on the ancestors, wanting to honor and perhaps commune with them. However listening to one of your coven mates snoring in their fruit salad does not reverence make. For the sake of my ancestors and all those I may dishonor with my feeble attempts at not shooting cider out my nose when the High Priests farts, I would like to offer an alternative, the Not So Dumb Supper.
As the name infers, the Not So Dumb Supper, is not silent. Quite the contrary, noise and merriment are mandatory. As is traditional with the Dumb Supper, a place, or places, are set at the table. The ancestors are then invited to join. That’s where any similarity ends. At the Not So Dumb Supper we toast our ancestors. We call them by name. We tell their stories. We rejoice in those of the blood and of the heart who have gone before.
Let us forgo the silence and share their lives and hard earned knowledge with our friends and coven mates. Enthusiastically, with raised glass, tell the story of your 4′ 11 grandmother who would kill snakes with a simple garden hoe in the middle of the family corn field then, raising the snake into the air, holler “Dinner!” to her five children. Regale us with the tales of your Grandfather who was a gunner in a bomber in World War II and how he cried the first time he shot down a plane. Perhaps you will tell of sibling who left this world too soon or the mother who gave her life that you may have yours. Sing of their victories and their losses. Give them thanks for all they’ve done. Speak up. Do it loudly and with great pride. Honor them.
Each story we share, each toast we give to our departed family and friends brings them closer to us, opens our hearts to them. As we tell of the time Uncle Ed was kicked by the mule and landed 5 feet away in the manure pile or of the pie eating contest Cousin Sue won when she was 9, we feel our ancestors stepping through the veil, jostling for position around the table. We can feel them as they take turns sitting in the chair left open for them in anticipation of their arrival. As we give them our love, so shall we feel theirs in return.
For those of us who have difficulty holding our tongues we can now can share in a new tradition which plays to our strengths. Let us no longer hold our silent feasts, keep our Dumb Suppers. We shall be loud, but mindful. Raucous, yet reverent. We shall feast, sing, shout and make a Klingon proud with our tales of ancestral valor. We shall honor them with our words so they know they remain valued, loved, remembered.
Then, when the night wanes, the feast is done, and the stories have been told, we shall be silent. Alone at last, tongues at rest, bellies full, we may sit in quiet contemplation. In those hushed wee hours of the morning we think of those ancestors we did not have the privilege of knowing, whose tales we have not heard, could not share. We listen to the rustle of the leaves, the rush of the wind, waiting, hopeful. For perhaps in that silence those ancestors are calling to us, trying to tell us their stories so that we may share them come next Samhain Eve.
However you choose to honor your ancestors this Samhain, may they answer your invitation. May they feel honored and loved with your silence or your stories. Heed the call of the ancestors and feel the special richness, warmth and joy that only comes from communing with those that have gone before.