During the waning half of the year, we encounter the energy of sacrifice, of the descent into the Underworld for the winter months. The last of the three harvests, Samhain represents the sacrifice of life that leads to life again. We let go of the old, sacrifice old patterns and habits, and then fill the void with new, positive aspects.
Now, during the final waning of the old year, we seek out our ancestors, to acknowledge their positive influences on our life, as well as to right any wrongs or misunderstandings, so those departed souls may complete their journey to the Otherworld unfettered.
You can host your own Dumb Supper and make it as simple or as elaborate as you like. The one described below can be used for a small or large group, the only restriction being how many people you can seat at your table.
Ask your guests to write a note containing a message to their ancestors.The food you serve is personal choice. I like to ask people to bring a pot luck dish that is an old family recipe, or if their family traditions do not include well-loved dishes, to remember that Samhain is all about the vegetables of the second fall harvest: pumpkins, gingerbread, winter squash, corn, nuts, mulled cider or wine.
Traditionally, the Dumb Supper décor is black—black tablecloth, black plates, cups and so forth. I divide my feast table in two, one half black for the ancestors, the other half white for the living. On the dark side, place a black votive candle on the plate at each empty chair. Have a bunch of extra black votives available, for any guests who wish to honor more than one ancestor. In addition to the Ancestor votives, I try to light the entire dining area with oil lanterns and candles.
The last item you will need is a Spirit chair, situated at the head of the table. Put an orange or white pillar candle on the Spirit chair plate, and place a small cauldron or some other fireproof container on the table next to the candle.
On the big night, prepare everything before your guests arrive. Since the dinner itself will be conducted in complete silence, you will need to have everything on the table buffet-style ahead of time. Shroud your Spirit chair, and place all of the food serving dishes in front of Spirit. Put the cauldron or ashes container on a small table away from the food, along with a lit white pillar candle. Cleanse and consecrate the dining area and cast a sacred circle around it, in any way you are comfortable with. I normally use a white sage bundle, running it above the table while saying, "I consecrate this sacred space. May only good enter herein. Spirits, please be with us, so we may honor you tonight."
If you like, you can also provide a way for your guests to cleanse themselves as they enter the dining area. You can use the sage bundle, or make a bowl of blessed water by combining purified water, three drops of lavender essential oil, then drop in a small crystal or amethyst into the bowl. As each guest enters the dining area, he or she should go to the Spirit chair, touch it and say a silent simple prayer. Then they light their remembrance votives and place them on a black plate of their choosing, and slip their note under the plate.
Your guests should enter the dining area and be seated from oldest to youngest, with the two eldest members sitting on each side of the Spirit chair. The host will begin the feast by serving the living guests from oldest to youngest. Before eating, take a moment and remember the Ancestors who have passed before you, and thank them for the positive effects they have had on your life.
After everyone has finished eating, join hands, silently asking for the blessings of Spirit on the living and the dead. As guests exit, one by one, they retrieve their note, light it with the candle flame, and burn it in the ashes dish.
After the host thanks Spirit, the guests may return to the table to share any impression they received during the feast. The table is cleared except for candles and your scrying tools: Tarot cards, runes, pendulum etc. Use your remaining time for divination by candlelight. When all guests have departed, snuff the candles and throw the candle ends and prayer ashes into a moving body of water, or bury them off the property.