Dumb Supper, A Samhain Tradition.


Apart from being a New Year’s celebration or Harvest Festival, which predates the arrival of the Celts in Ireland, Samhain  is a special time,  were  the past, present, and future all become intertwined. The dead and the inhabitants of the Other World are free to walk among the living during this time as the veil which separates our two worlds is at its thinnest. Whilst our ancestors had a healthy respect for the dead, not all other world visitors would be welcome. The Bonfires of old were believed to keep the evil spirits away and people would dress in disguise in belief that spirits of ill intent would not recognize them. So now you can see where a lot of present day Halloween traditions have evolved from. One of my personal favorite traditions is the ‘Dumb Supper’.  Whilst some say its purpose was to appease ancestral spirits whom may decide to return to the family home, my understanding and the way I practice it involves setting an extra space at the dinner table for any ancestors whom wish to return for the night.

dinnerTable (1)

 I see it as a symbolic mark of respect for the deceased family members. Some people will have their meal in silence hence the name Dumb Supper, but I prefer to have discussion and banter at the table. I seriously doubt a returning spirit is going to want come back to a solemn and boring dinner table otherwise? With its origins firmly steeped in Irish Tradition, there are similar practices in other cultures. Though I have noticed that many pagan traditions have absorbed the practice of the Dumb Supper and there are many different variations and ways in which it is carried out. My personal opinion is that there is no right or wrong way to hold a dumb supper, once it is done for the right reason which is to celebrate and remember lost loved ones and family members.

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About edmooneyphotography

Photographer, Blogger, Ruinhunter, with an unhealthy obsession for history, mythology and the arcane.
This entry was posted in Halloween, Historical, People, Samhain and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Dumb Supper, A Samhain Tradition.

  1. rjmackin says:

    I’ve never heard of the Dumb Supper before but what a lovely idea. Does the menu have to include Barm Brack and Colcannon???


    • Not really, they are traditional foods, but like any other dinner I think you should use only serve food that people enjoy. If that happens to be a Big Mac and fries then so be it. The whole purpose is to leave an open seat at the table in honor of ancestors who may wish to stop in for a visit. Thats my view on it anyway and thats how I do it each year.


  2. mengeleblog says:

    as usual very good and very informative post.pictures are wonderful.I take pictures but what you do is art.


  3. dalo2013 says:

    Wow, great use of the lighting… I like this tradition, although never heard of it…my Celtic roots & tradition seemed to have been lost since moving to the New World 🙂


  4. We used to leave an empty seat too, and put a candle in the window to light souls home.


  5. Very touching way to reflect on the departed.


  6. Derek says:

    I am more than certain your ancestors were very happy, respect and honour go a long way. Namaste & Happy Samhain my friend. 🙂


  7. LJ Innes says:

    Happy Samhain! What a lovely idea setting an extra place 🙂


  8. LB says:

    If I’m coming back, I definitely want it to be at a lively, fun table!! I’m fascinated by all the traditions that surround Samhain, and the Dumb Supper is really great!


  9. Rajiv says:

    I like the pictures, and what you have written


  10. viapina says:

    Hi Ed. I can only add the same to the previous comments. I’m definitely gonna leave an open seat at the table. Thanks again for a great post and although I’m not a photographer, you do make great shots indeed! Happy celebrations, Pina


  11. viapina says:

    It should have said, “The more the merrier, happy celebrations,” Pina


  12. To set an extra space for your ancestors is a delightful and respectful idea, Ed. I like it very much.


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  14. Terrific post-and I love the images-I really like the idea of setting the table for those that cannot physically join us-it is a mark of respect-


  15. rachaelblessingphotography says:

    How interesting. In the U.S. military, at their banquet functions a table is always set and served for six. One in honor of those listed as Prisoners of War and Missing In Action for each of the 5 services, (Army, Navy, Marine, Air Force , & Coast Guard), and a sixth that is empty for all of those who have died. I wonder if this tradition was inspired by those of yesteryear such as this. I really enjoyed this post.


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