Before I go on, I should explain that the “Dumb” stands for “silent” not “stupid”. It is a meal during which no one is allowed to speak and outside noises and distractions are kept to a minimum so that the spirits of the departed who come to share the event can be heard if they chose to speak.
Just what is a “Dumb Supper”?
A dumb supper is an evening meal held in silence with extra places laid for the spirits. Ideally the meal should take place as near to midnight as possible.
How to celebrate a Dumb Supper
In order to encourage the spirits' presence they should be thought about frequently whilst the meal is being prepared. Some people say that the preparation itself and everything leading up to the meal should take place in total silence.
There are other regional custom variations such as laying the place settings back to front. Sometimes even the courses themselves are eaten backwards, starting with the sweet. Presumably these reversals are meant to appeal to spirits who have passed over from the normal world to the "other side".
Other ritual preparations sometimes include using black napkins (not easy to buy!), setting candles and the guests joining hands before the meal. The dumb supper can be as simple or elaborate, as you like depending on your desire for theatre. The only absolute necessities are intent and silence.
So who are these ghosts being invited to dinner? Normally they would be those of the recently deceased. It's important to have a clear image of the person in mind throughout the preparation and eating of the meal - you wouldn't want just any old spirit sharing your table.
A variation of the custom says that it can be used for divinatory purposes, for example to see an image of one's future partner.
Whether or not you believe in ghosts, there is no doubt that a silent meal at midnight on Halloween is a remarkable atmospheric and spooky event!
I think the Mars Rover is really scouting future Walmart locations...
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