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When ‘Dumb Suppers’ Were a Halloween Love Ritual

Halloween has long been considered the time when the veil between the known world and the supernatural is the thinnest, and spirits can communicate with us. Once upon a time, young women celebrated Halloween by indulging in magical rituals that would reveal who they were to marry. One of these was the "dumb supper." The word "dumb" was used to convey that no words were spoken during the meal -or afterward, when the magic was to happen.  

Young women typically held dumb suppers, but men sometimes attended as well. The setting was usually an isolated place free of disturbances, such as an abandoned or otherwise empty house. In Frazier’s account of a dumb supper, two teenage girls in turn-of-the-century Kentucky “prepared a supper backwards in every respect. The tables were set as wrongly as possible; the chairs were turned backwards; the meal was to be served dessert first.” If anyone spoke a word, the spell was broken. When everything was prepared exactly right, then, at midnight, the spirits of the husbands-to-be would walk through the door, or even arrive in person.

Ah, but there was the danger of a coffin showing up instead of a man, which was a portent of death. And sometimes real people -maybe suitors, or often pranksters- would appear at midnight. Read about dumb suppers and other supernatural love rituals at Atlas Obscura.

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