After a month of ghost stories, harvest foods, spooky movies and other topics building the mood for Halloween I am ready for my own celebration. Some day I’ll have the time and materials to build and ofrenda, but not this year. Even my regular decorations may not be up, the are back in the storage behind all the other things I had to add. I may not even get to use the fireplace this year, it needs re-pointing and of course it’s not something the landlord wants to fix. But I will play my long set of mood music, with A Night on Bald Mountain, Danse Macabre, Carmina Burana, Bach’s Cantata and Fugue in D minor and some really nice work by composers putting up their pieces on YouTube.
I will also have my silent supper. These meals used to be called “dumb supper” in the days when dumb meant unable to speak, not stupid. I like the alliteration of silent supper and want no misunderstanding so that’s what I use. I have hordes of Celtic ancestors and this is my way to honor and remember them. They believed that he veil was thin on the eve of Samhain and the dead could return to visit the living.
Traditionally, doors and windows are left unlocked to let the spirits in and places are set for the expected ghostly guests. Electric lights should be out and the meal should be by candle or lamplight which is how I have it. In the Ozarks and rural Appalachia you may often find a variation says that the meal must be eaten backward, with dessert first and place settings switched but I was not taught that version and serve the meal in the normal order. These areas also held a tradition of girls having a dumb supper to see future husbands and there are many variants in how the rituals are performed. The age and origin of the silent supper is uncertain, although in the United States it is most often a custom where Scots and Irish immigrants settled, so that is certainly a clue.
People have all kinds of meals for the supper by I follow the menu items my grandmother taught me, with slight modifications. Colcannon is the Irish version of the mashed potato and cabbage dish that’s traditional but my grandmother, in spite of being 100% Irish, made the English version, bubble and squeak, which is pan fried. I too, make this version, remembering her telling me the vaporous squeakings marked the escape of ghosts drawn to the food the could no longer enjoy.
My menu is about the same every year. I start with Leek and Mussel Soup, then the Bubble and Squeak and Boxty, an Irish potato pancake, soda bread and butter, assorted cheeses and apples and pomegranates. I have beer and cider with the meal and afterward. On occasion I’ve had a fish course as well, when good fish were available. It’s pretty basic but it is both physically filling and emotionally satisfying, bring me close to those who have gone on.
The food and the place settings stay out in the darkened room until past midnight. I listen to music and sit with the cats and meditate and remember. Then I extinguish all but one candle in a holder while burns safely all night in the fireplace after the fire is banked for the night. I may not have the fire this year, but at least I’ll have the candle. It’s never been a big party type holiday for me, it’s quiet and solemn but far from sad. he next day I always sleep a long and deep sleep and wake up renewed and ready for all the work needed to get ready for winter. And this years I’ll really need that renewal.
I have enjoyed sharing my October favorites and would like to share more. I wish I had known I could do this sooner but here it is. I am doing a random giveaway of a ghost story book. If any of my recommendations appealed to you check it out. I wanted it to go a little longer but for some reason it limited me. Still, I think this will be a recurring thing in various forms (perhaps Blu Rays or DVDs) if it appeals to people. Enjoy.