Dumb Supper

1st May 2022. Reading Time: 7 minutes General. 3117 page views. 0 comments.

To celebrate Samhain, why not hold a Dumb Supper and honour loved ones who have passed. Here is how you can do it and some yummy 'soul cake' recipes!

While some hold a seance in order to talk to spirit, there is a pagan ritual called a 'dumb supper'.  What is a dumb supper and how do you hold one?  How do you bake a soul cake?  Here is all you need to know to get you started.

A dumb supper is traditionally held during Samhain.  


Image Source: oghamart

Samhain is a tradition that is celebrated by Witches, Wiccans, ancient druids and many others, to celebrate the end of the harvest. In the Northern Hemisphere, it starts on All Hallows Eve (Halloween October 31st) and concludes on All Hallows Day (November 1st). It is considered to be a 'festival of the dead' and marks 'summer's end' (for the Northern hemisphere anyway).  In the Southern Hemisphere, it starts on the 30th of April and ends on the 1st of May.  It also has the nickname of a 'Witches new year' as it is considered to be the beginning of a spiritual new year.  Because of this spiritual new year, many believe that this is the time where the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest.  People would often open their doors and invite the spirits in for a special meal and to pay their respects.  Some would also wear costumes to trick the spirits into thinking they were one of them so that they were protected.  Some would go door to door in their costume to sing.  It was the hope that by offering the spirits 'treats' that they would not mess with the livestock or their harvest for the next few months.  One of the ways people would honour and feed the spirits was by hosting a dumb supper.

What is a dumb supper?

You will of heard of the Day of the dead festival or the hungry ghost festival which I have previously written about which honour those who have passed and offer them gifts and food.  This in some ways is quite similar.  There is no correct way or formal way to hold a dumb supper, but there are a few things people generally do.  In Pagan tradition, a dumb supper is held as a way to honour the dead.  The word dumb refers to silence meaning your dinner is held in silence! 

Image Source: aminoapps

Here are some of the guidelines

  • Create a sacred space where your dinner will be held.  You can create a circle, smudge the area, lay crystals around - anything that makes the area sacred to you and your loved ones.
  • Turn off tv and radios and of course mobile phones.  The dinner is in silence remember?
  • Set the table with place cards for each guest.  Make sure to include a special spirit seat and a place card for those who have passed that you want to honour.  If there are too many deceased you want to honour, light a candle for each spirit.  There should at least be 1 candle to represent spirit.  The chair set aside for spirit should be covered in white or black cloth.
  • Each guest must bring a handwritten note.  This will be kept private at all times and contains a personal message this person has for the spirits.
  • The supper begins as the guests enter the dining room.  They must do so in complete silence.  Each should stop in front of the spirit chair and give some sort of silent prayer as a mark of respect.  
  • Once everyone is seated, everyone joins hands and silently blesses the meal
  • The host of the night should sit directly opposite the spirit chair.  They are then to serve the food in order of age from oldest to youngest.  Don't forget to serve a plate for the spirit.  No one can start eating until everyone (including the spirit) has been served their meal.
  • Once the meal is finished, everyone should get out the note that they have brought with them with their personal message.  Goto the head of the table and find the candle for the loved one who you wrote a note for.  Focus on your note and slowly burn it in their candle.  Once done return to your seat.  Once each person has done this, everyone is to rejoin hands and give a final silent prayer or blessing for the spirits.  
  • The dinner is now finished and everyone can leave the room, in silence of course but not without stopping in front of the spirit chair to say one final silent goodbye

Information from learn religions

Remember these are guidelines.  Some other people believe you have to walk backwards the entire time while others believe it was a form of divination that would reveal who you will marry.  Some say that meals need to be served in reverse.  In my research, I found so many different ways that people perform a dumb supper with many having their own superstitions based on their own traditions.  What is important to note however is that it isn't designed to communicate with a spirit like in a seance.  You are not asking spirit to appear and you are not using a medium to relay messages.  This doesn't mean however that spirit will not make itself known. 

There is so much mixed information out there about how it should be done that the best thing to do is to make the supper your own and make your own traditions.  While the dinner is to take place in silence, if people need guidance, a few whispers or hand gestures won't ruin the night (even though some people suggest you have to start over if someone talks).  It is the intent that matters.  The food that you serve for a dumb supper is up to the host.  Some may choose to serve the spirits favourite meal while one of the more traditional offerings is what is called 'soul cakes.'

Soul Cakes

Soul cakes traditionally come from Samhain.  They were baked and left on the front porch along with a glass of milk or if you prefer a glass of wine.  It is not for a passerby however, it is specifically a gift to appease the spirits.  As we know above, people in the Northern Hemisphere celebrate Samhain from October 31st (All Hallows Eve) to November 1st (All Hallows Day).  Traditionally on November 1st, children and the poor would perform, sing or pray for the dead in order to earn a soul cake.  This is how trick or treating evolved.  Soul Cakes share many recipes as what was used to make a soul cake depending on the type of grain that was available.   

Image Source: All recipes

Here is one recipe to get you started:


Serves: 12 
375g flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoon mixed spice
185g butter (at room temperature = soft)
155g caster sugar
90g currants
90g sultanas
1 egg
1/2 cup (125ml) milk


Preparation:15min  ›  Cook:15min  ›  Ready in:30min 
Preheat oven to 220 degrees C. Sift dry powder ingredients into a medium-sized bowl.
Rub in the butter.
Mix in the sugar, currants and sultanas.
Make a well in the centre and add the egg and milk. Mix in well until you have a firm batter.
Using a dessert spoon and fork, spoon the mixture onto greased trays.
Bake for 10 to 15 minutes in preheated oven.


While traditionally a dumb supper is held at Samhain, there is no reason you can't hold this at any time of the year.  Maybe you want to do it to honour someone on their birthday or the anniversary of their passing.  The traditional reason it is held on Samhain is that it is when the veil between Worlds is considered to be at its thinnest.  Remember these are guidelines and not rules.  You can honour those who have passed in a way that suits you.  It is usually recommended that you don't do it with children as the supper is to take place in silence.  You could find a middle ground and again find a process that works for you that can allow your children to be involved.  I may be breaking with tradition here, but again why not make it your own tradition.  It is the intent that matters, not the process.

So there you have a very loose guide to holding a dumb supper.  Have you done one before?  Tell me about it.

Here are some other ways cultures honour the dead:

Day of the dead

Hungry Ghost Festival

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