On This Night We Remember……. Honouring our Ancestors


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 favourite traditions at Samhain is what we call the Dumb Supper. I don’t know much about its origins or how long it has been practised, as it would seem to have been taken over mostly by the Wiccan and Neo-Pagan traditions in recent times. Regardless,  it has become a tradition in our house

Whilst most will agree that  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. With the sad passing of my Gran last year this tradition has become more focused.  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, (with my recent case of Laryngitis, this was looking to be a likely scenario) 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.
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35 Responses to On This Night We Remember……. Honouring our Ancestors

  1. Dumb Supper… great idea.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nirodaigh says:

    Nice post! I’ve always loved Hallowe’en, and although it’s not celebrated in NL, in our home we just did our own thing and I still have bags of decorations to go up any day now! 🙂 I never heard of the ‘dumb supper’, oddly enough, but it’s a nice gesture – might start with it as well, I think there’s a strong ‘feel-good’ element to it, so thnx!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad you liked it, Great to see its being kept alive abroad. The dumb supper is probably the last pre-christian activity associated with Samhain that has not been obliterated by modern culture. As its related to ancestoral respect it transends all the Pagan v Christian dogma, so its a nice little familly tradition to keep regardless of ones beliefs 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Nirodaigh says:

        Thanks! Yes that’s how I see it too, important to hold onto some of our heritage at least!! (And fun). As for how u retain details, that is what I call real education. Fab. Oh, and welcome aboard as they say! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. beetleypete says:

    I hadn’t heard of a dumb supper either, but it sounds like a nice thing to do. I agree that banter is preferable to silence. Banter is what the family dinner table was invented for!
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a lovely tradition this is……… I learn something new everyday and will present my own dumb supper this month! Thank you for sharing this!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Roy McCarthy says:

    In ‘A West Cork Mystery’ I used Samhain to free a spirit trapped in his earthly townland, and also to reunite a dying man with his dead wife – true to the..erm..spirit I think.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. chirose says:

    That sounds lovely. I like the idea of the veil which separates both worlds being thinnest during Samhain. Thank you for sharing 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. ebbysworld89 says:

    I traveled to New York with my friend for the one year mark of her fathers death and at the ceremony her family sat a plate of food and his (favorite beer) on the table in front of a picture of him. I’m not sure what they called it, seeing as her family are descendants of the African slaves in Honduras, But this explanation of the practice is great. I’d be interested to practice a this in my family….Loved the read, thanks for the read!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah, there where qquite a number of white Irish slaves sent to the Carribean by Cromwell. Thats why you find many Irish names still popular their today. Perhaps they might have brought this custom with them or like many tribal cultures, whom share similar customs and practices?


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  9. Really enjoyed this. Nice photo and good read. Thank you.m

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I think it’s a lovely, thoughtful tradition, and everyone should personalize the practice to whatever suits their own family.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. TanGental says:

    I haven’t heard of this before – my learning day, Saturday – but it makes a lot of sense and it is a splendid idea. Do you hold the dumb supper on a particular day or just around the equinox?


  12. chattykerry says:

    The dumb supper must be uniquely Irish. In Scotland we dook for apples, jump up for treacle scones but definitely do the trick or treat. Great blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. How do you learn all of this stuff Ed? You are quite amazing, you really are!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well the wife tells me Im a great big book of everything LOL. I was not much for academic studies in school. But anything that interests me get soaked up like a sponge, History, Heritage, Occult, and millions of random facts, somehow all get stored away in the gap between my ears 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I like the thought that ancestors would prefer some lively banter! Another interesting post!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Setjataset says:

    Gorgeous! My coven and I did something similar on May Day (as its Samhain on this side of the world that day). Its a beautiful way to honour them 😀


    • Glad to hear it, it most certainly is a nice way. Im really looking forward to this year as it will be the first one since my gran passed away. Gonna set up a small table with her photo and some of her favourite treats, some candles and a white sage stick for good measure 🙂


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