‘THINK on THESE THINGS’
By Joyce Sequichie Hifler
When winter presses a cold, gray hand against every living thing and temporarily puts to sleep all outward growth and activity of other seasons, there is within a quiet, invisible, but very active preparation for a lighter, warmer time.
There are times when the winters of life press hard upon us, seeming to keep from us any hope for good. But as the coldest winter does not prevent a tulip from developing a blaze of color within the bulb, there is nothing to prevent our own inner growth.
We quite naturally want the things that will make us happy and we want them now. But there is still a time of preparation, the development of our abilities to recognize the good and the beautiful when we see it. Otherwise, we are apt to look past them, still searching.
The tulip has a plan drawn by God’s hand, and more beautiful than anything we can make. We have a way of moving from one time to another, waiting for life to come to us instead of having a plan. But during those waiting periods we need to make a little effort to determine the course and to be ready when the right time comes.
Available online! ‘Cherokee Feast of Days’
By Joyce Sequichie Hifler.
Visit her web site to purchase the wonderful books by Joyce as gifts for yourself or for loved ones……and also for those who don’t have access to the Internet: http://www.hifler.com
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Elder’s Meditation of the Day
By White Bison, Inc., an American Indian-owned nonprofit organization. Order their many products from their web site: http://www.whitebison.org
Elder’s Meditation of the Day – October 15
“All of us begin to rethink what is good about ourselves – put the past where it belongs – and get on with the possibilities of the present!”
–Howard Rainer, TAOS PUEBLO-CREEK
There is a saying, you move toward and become that which you think about. So the question for today is, what are you thinking about? Are you thinking bad things about yourself or are you thinking good things about yourself? Are you thinking about a worldly life? Are you thinking good things about people or are you gossiping about people? Are you focusing on past things or are you living in the future? We need to bring our thoughts into the NOW, right here.
Great Spirit, let me experience living in the present moment.
October 15 – Daily Feast
Some of us go to great lengths to keep from doing detail work – anything from flipping through a directory for one name in ten thousand to guessing at amounts in a recipe. No time, no time. Time isn’t saved by guessing. Even when we hit it right once in a while – most of the time we are just a little off. How many of us take our basic instructions from hearsay – how many don’t really want to know anyhow? Life itself has an instruction book. There’s no reason to guess at what is right or wrong. We have a script for every part we play in life. When we have a need of any kind, the script has the wisdom to handle it. The Scriptures leave out nothing – and the biggest mistake we can make is to say we don’t believe it – and go off to figure it out by guessing.
~ We were put here by the Creator and these were our rights. ~
CHIEF WENINOCK – YAKIMA, 1855
‘A Cherokee Feast of Days, Volume II’ by Joyce Sequichie Hifler
Good things you deserve
Living richly isn’t just for someone else. You deserve a life that’s filled with richness and joy, and you deserve to be the person who makes it happen.
Good fortune isn’t just for someone else. You deserve to have good fortune, and you deserve the experience of creating that good fortune with your attitude and your efforts.
You deserve to have a lucky break. So get busy and do what it takes to give yourself one.
Let today be the day you stop waiting for something good to come along. Get up, get going, and make something good, valuable and meaningful out of what you already have.
Go ahead and give yourself all the good things you deserve. Feel how great it feels to be positive, focused, helpful, compassionate, caring, productive and joyful.
You deserve the best in life precisely because you’re fully capable of making it happen. Your opportunity to live richly is here and now, so put it to outstanding use without another moment’s delay.
— Ralph Marston
A Place for Worries and Fears
A surrender box is a tool to let go of our burdens so the universe can take care of them for us.
There are times when our minds become too full. Our to-do lists, worries, plans, and dreams may be so crowded together in our heads that we don’t have room to think. We may believe that we are somehow taking care of our desires and concerns by keeping them at the forefront of our minds. In maintaining our mental hold on every detail, however, we may actually delay the realization of our dreams and the resolution of our worries because we won’t let them go. At times such as these, we may want to use a surrender box.
A surrender box allows us to let go of our worries and desires so the universe can take care of them for us. We write down what we want or need to happen and then place the note into a box. By writing and placing our thoughts in the box, we are taking action and letting the universe know we need help and are willing to surrender our feelings. We give ourselves permission to not concern ourselves with that problem any longer and trust that the universe is taking care of it. You may even want to decorate your box and place it in a special place. Your surrender box is a sacred container for your worries. Not only do you free up space in your mind by letting go of our worries and desires and dropping them into your surrender box, but you are giving your burden over to a higher power. Once we drop our worries and desires into the surrender box, we free our minds so we can be fully present in each moment.
Surrendering our worries and concerns and placing them in the hands of the universe doesn’t mean that we’ve given up or have been defeated. Instead, we are releasing the realization of our desires and the resolution of our worries and no longer concerning ourselves with their outcomes. It’s always fun to go back and pull the slips of paper out of the box once your requests have been granted. And it’s amazing how quickly problems go away and dreams come true when we finally let go and allow a higher power to help us.
Finding The Craft
The question is innocent enough: “How did you find your Pagan Path?” Sort of like the Christian equivalent, “How did you find Christ?” Both are simple questions, but for me, at least- the explainable answer is not easy. Heck, it would be easier for me to try to convince the Smithsonian that the chewed-up Barbie doll head I found in my back yard is a prime example of “Australopithecus Spiff-Arino”. (Some eccentric fellow actually tried that- and other equally eccentric stunts, and succeeded in amusing the staff, and unwary Web-nauts like me.)
The simple answer was that I was born a mage. That is right—being a magus is something that is so much a part of me that in looking back, my journey was more one of rediscovery than actual discovery. My life, from about age 7 onward, has been like a fascinating jigsaw puzzle with the pieces hidden in time instead of space, and my life has been a series of “Ah, Ha!” moments when a piece clicked into place. As the tapestry of who I was/am has unfolded, it has left a wonderful trail of discovery, experience (both good and bad) and insightful enlightenment in its wake. And it has also left a growing trail of writings—essays such as this one—as breadcrumbs for those Kindred Mages who are also rediscovering themselves and the Way.
Don’t get me wrong—Harry/ette Potter I ain’t. (I haven’t read the books yet—I am waiting for the whole series to be complete so I can (a) get them all at once and (b) read them all at once. I’m odd that way.) When I realized at age 12 or so that I was not destined to take the path of Catholicism and motherhood that my mother trod, I had no name for who I was or what path I was on. In my marrow there was a call that no church could answer. All I knew was that I was responsible for my development and that there was not going to be any popular culture help coming my way. Mine was the unblazed trail, and all I had was the primitive compass of my untried BS detector to guide me.
I spent the first seven years of my realization as a minor at home, and in a state whose libraries had no occult or metaphysical texts whatsoever. Any information relevant to my path was scarce, and when gleaned, was pored over with an intensity that I envy today. Perhaps the lack of information, and the deep attention to detail I paid to what little wisdom I gleaned helped to set my feet more firmly on the path. I wonder if I would have fared as well and as long had I had access to the materials available today. A curious youngster can read in one evening, and by one or two writers, stuff that took me years to acquire. But time runs differently now, and I acknowledge that, and hold no ill will towards today’s young seekers. Envy, perhaps, but not too much- I know what lies ahead for most youngsters on this path. (A hint—it gets much better after about age 29 or so… Honest! Go look up Saturn’s Return in an astrological text to get a hint of what you’re in for. Trust me- you’ll live, and be that much the wiser.)
The simplest name for who I am and what I do is “Way”. This is a life pattern of intense hunger for knowledge, a burning, almost. It is a method of testing and questioning everything—whether orthodox or liberal, and in doing so, developing a ‘gut’ instinct about people and life that is trusted above all else. It is a long process of creating and aligning a moral compass, yet permitting the world outside to be inhabited. There are no isolated ivory towers or monasteries on this Path except for short rests for digesting information—it requires full engagement in all life has to be offered. It is being in the world, but not of it, as Ralph Blum wrote in “The Book of Runes”. Fine-tuning this ‘gut’—or more precisely, Axis—requires that errors be made—even costly ones. Only through trial, error, and success can this central axis be finely balanced, and only time and real life experience can prove it. The goal and end result is courage and wisdom and the thorough internal alignment that only a series of hard knocks can achieve. The burning for knowledge also burns away the blinders and dross that hinders ones progress along the Way. The weight of knowledge is balanced by the Lightness of Wisdom, and once tempered, no spiritual assault can destroy it.
My Way is not an easy one, and not for the timid or easily discouraged. There have been long periods in my life where it seems that nothing has happened—no interesting insights, people or events surfacing for me to focus on and hone my Axis. But in retrospect, those seemingly lean times permitted me to internally process things to prepare me to find that next piece. Doing so would start the process again.
George Leonard wrote in “Path of Mastery” that most people get into something, and experience diminishing returns. This can be due to boredom, difficulty, loss of interest, or lack of challenge by the activity. They start out gangbusters, but gradually taper off into indifference. Many people, including myself, have left a trail of such endeavors in our lives. I can think of a health club membership… but I would rather not.
Leonard continues that in order to master something and keep it interesting and challenging, one must ramp up the difficulty and complexity in a series of steps. Each step involves an effort to obtain it, and the mastery of the step proceeds in a steady manner- and with diligent practice—towards the next challenge and burst of physical and/or mental energy required to surmount it. Thus, the rate of progress is a steady climb and growth of interest and mastery, instead of the initial burst and tapering off of failed efforts.
I call these steps The Spiral Path, because eventually I find myself back at a familiar place or activity, but at a higher level of ability. I tend to have phases where I am more social than other times, and each time I enter a social phase, where I am working with other Pagans and fellow Wayfarers, or participating in the community at large, I find myself at a more and more mature place and level. This is to be expected, and is the mark of life’s progress. If you find yourself being treated like a newbie after years of practice, consider that a hint that perhaps you need to refine your practice and insight. Sadly, there are people who are ‘stuck’ at a certain level, and unaware of it. To walk the steps of the Spiral Path means to challenge your deepest rooted images of yourself. Are you still dressing and acting like you did in the late eighties? That’s a hint right there. Are you willing and ready to examine and discard those presumptions? Doing so often energizes the next step upward.
As I have traveled up my own Spiral Path, I have taken and discarded both magickal and practical names for both myself and my Way. My earliest Pagan name has been long retired, but meant “Strength of the Goddess” in Norse/Latin. I was a ‘baby Pagan’ then, having just read and discovered Wicca through Starhawk’s book The Spiral Dance. That was in 1980, after I had left my parents’ home and was on my own. My name when I was training in Wicca in Germany was Sunfell, (Clothed In Sunlight) and has become my pen name and Internet handle. It reflects the hardest and most rewarding time of my ‘journeyman’ years as a priestess-in-training in Wicca. My current magickal name was bestowed upon me nearly five years ago in a Native American Naming Ceremony, after a ritual purification and Inipi sweat. In the course of this intense training, which lasted several months, I learned about the American roots of Wicca, and that much of what is Wicca today is more American in origin than British. That puzzle piece did not dim my appreciation of Wicca, but made me understand that the more discoveries I make, the more things I find are in common.
My teachers through this 28-year journey were many and varied. Some teachers were strangers with whom I had a casual conversation. Others were old friends who are still part of my life. And still others were actual teachers and initiators, people that I trusted enough to permit them to see me at my most vulnerable. I still am very much a student, but have reached the place in my travels and understanding that I can also teach. This I do informally, through my writing and my living. If my writing lights up an “ah-HA!” in someone somewhere on this Internet, I may never know it unless they email me, but that does not matter. I cannot email Mark Twain and tell him how much he has made me both laugh and think, but I know that those behind me will appreciate his works too. In person, I do not teach formally. Instead, I simply live my life fully and with complete confidence that the Axis I worked so hard in honing will serve me fully and continue to refine itself. And in living with this confidence, perhaps my attitude can be a tiny meme that ignites that same confidence and curiosity and Inner Light in those around me. It is a subtle evangelism that encourages confidence and competence instead of undermining it.
In finding my Way through my life, I have donned and shed many labels. I have been Roaming Catholic, nameless, Pagan, Wiccan, Spiritualist, Gnostic, and currently Eclectic TechMage studying Franz Bardon’s system of Hermetic Pathworking. This has been my longest held and most accurate label for myself, but if something more precise comes along, I shall upgrade to that. I am also a computer tech- and ongoing learning and upgrading are par for the course. Why should my spiritual and metaphysical Way be any different?
The bottom line is that my Path to and with Paganism and metaphysics in its many forms has been a series of refinements, discoveries and upgrades. An idea or concept will reveal itself and snap into place, and I thoroughly explore it until the next challenge/piece reveals itself and I climb to another level. It is always rewarding and engaging, and I am daily grateful that the magickal seed within me lived to grow and flourish. As part of my gratitude for this life, I am doing what I can to share the Light I was privileged to bear.
Author: Belladonna Laveau HPs
I have watched Wicca face many challenges over the years. We have accomplished much. We have received recognition as a valid religion. The IRS has granted church status to some Wiccan groups. We have festivals all over the US, so that we can worship together. We have many networking resources that allow us to find each other. We have tons of books on the subject. We even have books about books on Witchcraft. We have grown tremendously in numbers and in ideologies.
Today we witness a variety of concerns. We want manicured temples in which to hold handfastings, wiccanings, and requiems. We want rites of passages, and to honor our seasonal celebrations as a community. We want to frequent pagan businesses, drink at pagan pubs, and send our children to pagan schools. We want to celebrate our religion locally, without having to make a major investment in camping gear, or driving to a remote location and battling the weather, so that we can worship in privacy and peace.
Today’s biggest challenge to Wicca is not it’s lack of volunteers, or lack of ideas, lack of heart, courage, or ambition. Our biggest challenge is lack of organization and resources. We are an amazingly, interesting, multi-talented, powerful and charismatic people. Yet we are so driven in our individualism, that we have difficulty working together as a whole.
Churches provide the many social programs that we are begging for, such as schools, food banks, community centers, and public temples. Churches provide legal protection, validate our clergy, accredit our schools, network our businesses, minister to our sick and needy, and host our seasonal celebrations. They provide religious support and social services to the community that makes our world a better place. They give us the opportunity to connect as a society and allow us to do more working together than we could do as individuals acting alone. They foster culture, such as music, art, poetry, and theater.
Churches are a vital part of a healthy community. It is through churches that each of us can find our place to serve the greater community at large.
But, we don’t have many churches, and the ones that we do very closely resemble covens. They are mostly small, and have no formal meeting place. Why, with a throng of people begging for ministering, can we not provide services for our seekers? Is it because we don’t believe in proselytizing? Is it because we are afraid and wanting to hide from public view? No. It’s because we don’t monetarily support a clerical body to freely provide religious services.
Let’s be honest with ourselves, when was the last time that you went to a pagan event, and offered ANY money to the facilitator that wasn’t a required fee? When was the last ritual you attended where a plate was passed to collect money? When was the last time that you got your paycheck and thought, ‘I should give 10%, or 5% or even $10 to my local priestess?
Statistics prove that 99% of us would have to answer: NEVER. My question to you is, “Why not?”.
For any of us to ever have the community we dream of, YOU and I have to tithe to our local groups. You can’t wait until you have “extra” money, or until you see others doing it. YOU have to set the example. YOU have to make it a priority. You have to decide to budget it in. You choose to spend your money on what’s important to you. You can choose to set aside some for the Goddess, or you can choose not to.
We wonder why other churches don’t take us seriously, but we have been sending a very clear message to our government, our community and our clergy that while our books, candles, herbs and crystals are very important to us, our religious institutions are not.
I run a church. It used to be a coven, now it’s a legal entity under the umbrella of the Aquarian Tabernacle Church. I am asked to tithe 10% of our receivables to the mother church monthly. There are many affiliates, who utilize the resources that the ATC has to offer. It costs the ATC about $75, 000 a year to provide the services that we enjoy. Less than $1, 000 of that money comes from Tithes.
The church must charge a fee for their celebrations in order to raise this money, or they would not have the funds needed to continue operations. Last year, I invested over $20, 000 on my personal resources into our church. I received less than $500.00 in tithes from our members, which is a marked improvement from the year before.
Say what you will about charging for spells, that’s not what I’m talking about. It’s true that making money off the craft can lead one down a dark road. But, I ask you, when is the last time you suspected a High Priestess of purchasing a new car on embezzled church funds? We are not in jeopardy of making anyone rich off the pagan community, yet.
I strongly encourage you to be watchful of your leaders. Immediately quit giving your money to anyone, whom you feel is misappropriating it. Don’t support ANY leaders, whom you do not feel deserves an energy exchange for their services. But, if you participate in a community, find some way to give back, even if it’s just the spare change you collect in a bowl on your altar.
Many of you volunteer your time and services. This is important. The community runs on volunteerism. But, services don’t pay the light bill. It won’t buy land or a building. Time, talent, and treasure together make up an appropriate offering to the Goddess. It doesn’t take a lot of money. If every one of the people, who considers me their spiritual leader, were to give me $1 a month, I could open a public temple and sit in it all day planning free public events, teaching free classes, and giving readings, healings, and free spiritual counseling to the community. Each of us could have an on call spiritual leader, if we’d work together to support the ones who are already doing the work. Isn’t that the world we would rather live in?
We have become jaded against the idea of giving money, but it’s only through pooling our mutual resources that we will ever have the common services that other religions enjoy. Churches provide the services that we are asking for. We don’t have these services, because we aren’t supporting our local pagan ministries, so that they have the resources to grow these services for us. Lack of tithing, donating, offering, or sponsoring is the single biggest obstacle Wicca faces today.
Our spiritual institutions have already overcome many obstacles as a religion, such as getting the government to put Pentacles on military headstones. But, the one obstacle that stands looming over every pagan leader is lack of funding.
It’s time we changed that.
A lot of us have been here somewhere: the first time we picked up a book on it, the first time we had a Pagan/Wiccan friend tell us it wasn’t all about casting curses or eating babies, our first Google search on the subject. Maybe some of us even started out on the Witches’ Voice. Some of us maybe even found our way here after a lot of searching and an eventual suggestion from a friend or a family member out there somewhere. Some of the lucky ones were raised pagan and came here solely to post their own knowledge. Many of us are always still searching for more information as and when it comes up and always love having the opportunity to learn as much as we can. Some get really comfortable in one tradition and others, like myself, like to remain eclectic with their practice.
It’s due to this fluidity that a lot of my friends have become interested in my practice. One of my friends and I now has a partnership and she really wants it to turn into a coven. As of this writing (December 2010) , my friend has only been in her practice for a few months. As she lives a few hundred miles away in another city, we share our book of shadows through my Google docs (thanks to my much loved Gmail account) . It’s something that she really enjoys since it gives her an opportunity to learn about something that she wouldn’t have easy access to in any other way. More so, when she lives too far from a library to check out any of the books I suggest.
We’ve known each other for about three years; I’ve been a practicing Pagan since before I met her. Before that I was a practicing Christian and, for the most part, was miserable to the core. I learned through tedious numbers of Google searches and books checked out from the library on the subject. It took me a long time to read these books (and sometimes money in fines just so I could keep them longer due to a hold on the same title) and to find out whatever I could. I looked into everything that held my interest and anything that I could possibly get my hands on.
Having someone new under my belt like this, I could steer her mostly clear of the things I discovered were fake and turn her to places that I knew were more secure, places that I was sure would give her accurate information. Some of the books I’ve mentioned I was reading about it when I met her even made the point that Pagans and Wiccans didn’t eat babies within the first few pages of the book. Some of them even go after a lot of the other common myths that a lot of Americans have learned from their movies.
I know I’ve had friends asking me questions on my religion based on everything from the Disney movies a lot of us watched as children (and will probably show a lot of our own children one day if grandma doesn’t show these movies to them) to the horror movies that we see coming out every day. Even newer movies like The Princess and the Frog show images that are negative or incorrect images of what some of us believe.
It’s finding these kinds of things out that can make or shatter many peoples’ views of Pagans and Wiccans. Many of these people may even fear us because of what the media has to say about us. I’ve been one of the lucky ones; most of my friends have had no problems with my religion. Many of them aren’t afraid of any of the magick I do or anything that I currently practice.
There were a few who freaked out about it but others who didn’t. It’s the ones who stay that have learned the most from me, the ones who have seen through a lot of the myths that they’ve had the chance to ask me about. One friend has even embraced a new religion because I have been able to help her learn and this despite the fact that she lives so far away from me for most of the year.
These opportunities to learn are something that I always hope to be able to offer. I know I got lost on my own way to where I am now and would like to be a hand reaching out to guide others who ask it of me. I’ve chosen my own path and help others who have asked me for it without trying to convert anyone like so many of my friends have or that some of my peers have tried to do. Being a bisexual person, it’s one of the few places that I could consider a church and not have a priest tell me I wasn’t allowed or welcomed there. This Pagan religion is something that draws me and so many others and that will continue to attract more people as information on it continues to rise (both legitimate and illegitimate) .
Though the idea of a coven is new to me and isn’t something I thought I’d ever plan on doing anywhere other than online, the idea is also a bit exciting. The idea of being a High Priestess in a coven that I myself created and started is absolutely intimidating. It’s another way to get started in my practice that I never dreamed that I would be doing, no matter how long I had been practicing and how much I believed I knew.
Even now, with my entire book of shadows available to a friend, the idea that I could have more people working under me and looking for guidance has both its pros and cons. I am excited about having more people to share things with and to share what they were learning from various areas of the craft with me and yet I also am anxious about having people learning a lot from me that they may have never learned before. Even with one person, it’s been an experience and I love having the opportunity. It’s a version of ‘getting started’ that I’m excited to begin anew.
The Dumb Supper – A Feast With the Dead
Speaking to the Dead:
Although traditionally a seance1 is a good way to communicate with those who have crossed into the spirit world, it’s also perfectly fine to talk to them at other times. You may find yourself walking into a room and suddenly reminded of someone you’ve lost, or catching a whiff of a familiar scent. For me personally, every February I find myself picking over birthday cards and thinking to myself how funny my grandfather would find this one or that one. I make a point of telling him about them, even though he died in 2002. You don’t need a fancy or formal ritual to speak to the dead. They hear you.
How Do We Know They’re Listening?:
In some spiritual paths, one may be viewed as crazy — or at the very least, a little bit daffy — if they speak to the dead. But think of the people you know who have lost a spouse, particularly one they were married to for a long time. Many of them will tell you they talk to their deceased loved one. We can ask them for assistance, for companionship, or just for them to hear our words. Chances are good that if you ask, your life will change significantly.
What Can We Say to Them?:
Ask anyone who’s lost a loved one, and there’s a good chance they have something they didn’t get to say. Whether it’s “I love you”, “I forgive you,” or just plain old, “I really miss you,” there’s nearly always something we wanted to say but never got around to. When you talk to the dead, share with them the things in your life that are important. Maybe you need to let Grandma know that you’re finally going to have that baby girl she’d been hoping for. Or perhaps you need to tell Cousin Joe you’re sorry you broke his iPod. Whatever it is, if it’s on your mind say it. Only then will you be able to move on.
An Altar to the Ancestors:
In many cultures, ancestor worship is an ancient practice. Although traditionally found more in African and Asian societies, more and more Pagans of European heritage are beginning to embrace this idea. After all, we all want to know where we came from. You can build an altar to honor your ancestors, featuring photos, heirlooms, and even a family tree sheet. Leave it up all year long, or set it out at Samhain. This is a good time to perform a ritual for Honoring the Ancestors.
Why on Samhain?:
Why hold a Dumb Supper on Samhain? Well, it’s traditionally known as the night when the veil between our world and the spirit world is at its most fragile. It’s the night when we know for sure the dead will hear us speak, and maybe even speak back. It’s a time of death and resurrection, of new beginnings and fond farewells.
Menus and Table Settings:
Your menu choices are up to you, but because it’s Samhain, you may wish to make the traditional Soul Cakes, as well as serving dishes with apples, late fall vegetables, and game if available. Set the table with a black cloth, black plates and cutlery, black napkins. Use candles as your only source of light — black if you can get them.
Realistically, not everyone has black dishware sitting around. In many traditions, it’s perfectly acceptable to use a combination of black and white, although black should be the predominant color.
When you’re hosting a Dumb Supper, clearly the point is that no one can speak — and that makes a host’s job very tricky. It means you have the responsibility of anticipating each guest’s needs without them communicating verbally. Depending on the size of your table, you may want to make sure each end has its own salt, pepper, butter, etc. Also, watch your guests to see if anyone needs a drink refill, an extra fork to replace the one they just dropped, or more napkins.
Other Samhain Rituals:
If the idea of a Dumb Supper doesn’t quite appeal to you — or if you know darn well that your family can’t be quiet for that long — you may want to try some of these other Samhain rituals:
- Celebrate the End of the Harvest
- Honor the Ancestors7 at Samhain
- Samhain Ritual for Animals
- Hold a Seance9 at Samhain
The Dumb Supper:
In some Pagan and Wiccan traditions, it has become popular to hold a Dumb Supper in honor of the dead. In this case, the word “dumb” refers to being silent. The origins of this tradition have been fairly well debated — some claim it goes back to ancient cultures, others believe it’s a relatively new idea. Regardless, it’s one that’s observed by many people around the world.
When holding a Dumb Supper, there are a few simple guidelines to follow. First of all, make your dining area sacred, either by casting a circle, smudging, or some other method. Turn off phones and televisions, eliminating outside distractions.
Secondly, remember that this is a solemn and silent occasion, not a carnival. It’s a time of silence, as the name reminds us. You may wish to leave younger children out of this ceremony. Ask each adult guest to bring a note to the dinner. The note’s contents will be kept private, and should contain what they wish to say to their deceased friends or relatives.
Set a place at the table for each guest, and reserve the head of the table for the place of the Spirits. Although it’s nice to have a place setting for each individual you wish to honor, sometimes it’s just not feasible. Instead, use a tealight candle at the Spirit setting to represent each of the deceased. Shroud the Spirit chair in black or white cloth.
No one may speak from the time they enter the dining room. As each guest enters the room, they should take a moment to stop at the Spirit chair and offer a silent prayer to the dead. Once everyone is seated, join hands and take a moment to silently bless the meal. The host or hostess, who should be seated directly across from the Spirit chair, serves the meal to guests in order of age, from the oldest to youngest. No one should eat until all guests — including Spirit — are served.
When everyone has finished eating, each guest should get out the note to the dead that they brought. Go to the head of the table where Spirit sits, and find the candle for your deceased loved one. Focus on the note, and then burn it in the candle’s flame (you may wish to have a plate or small cauldron on hand to catch burning bits of paper) and then return to their seat. When everyone has had their turn, join hands once again and offer a silent prayer to the dead.
Everyone leaves the room in silence. Stop at the Spirit chair on your way out the door, and say goodbye one more time.