A Silent Supper

It’s funny what things will make you miss someone close to you who has died. For me it’s usually something happy, something I want to share with that special person, but now I can’t. In The Austen Tea Room I wrote about someone close who had just passed away. What I didn’t say was that it was my mother. Her death was still too raw. The words couldn’t be said. Burying her on the morning of New Year’s Eve meant I was starting the new year without her. It’s shaping up as one hell of a great year. And it’s the first year I can’t share with my mum.

The wheel has spun its way back to Halloween in the Southern Hemisphere. With all the fun of trick-or-treaters and dressing up, sometimes we forget the true meaning of Halloween which is honouring the dead. This April 30th I will visit my mother’s grave and take some of her favourite foods to share with her. I’ll then be going to The Austen Tea Room for an afternoon High Tea. For the evening I thought I would do something very different – a Silent Supper – which is a meal that is eaten in silence to honour the dead.

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There are many ways to hold a Silent Supper. You can have a solitary meal or invite friends and family. It can be as simple as eating something in silent contemplation or you can go all out and do a formal ritual with a formal dinner included. Some even suggest cooking the food in silence too.

While there are no real rules or directions, there are a few things to think about when hosting a Silent Supper. A place should be set at the head of the table for the departed loved ones you are honouring. You can drape the seat in a white or black cloth. Before you bring out the food, light a candle and place it on the table near the setting for the departed. The meal should include some of their favourite foods. Starting the supper around midnight is a nice touch. While you eat your silent meal, think about those that have passed.

When I think about my mother I always think of Demeter and Persephone. The bond between mother and daughter is beautifully expressed by these two Goddesses. My mother and I saw ourselves in their myth. She was Demeter as mother – good, bad and smothering. I was the daughter Persephone who left Demeter’s realm as a young girl to find a place for myself in the Underworld with Hades. Over the years I returned often to visit my mum. We shared both good times and bad times.

As the years went by I knew that my mother’s time here was drawing to a close. Finally, with very little warning, my mum passed into the realm of Persephone and Hades. I hope she likes the Underworld as much as I do.

In remembrance of my mother I will be making coliva for Halloween. Coliva is a boiled wheat dish that is traditionally prepared for services that honour the dead. There are many things you can add to the coliva but I prefer a simple fruit and nut mix. I particularly like adding pomegranate seeds so that the symbols for Demeter (wheat) and Persephone (pomegranate) can be united again in this sacred dish.

Coliva

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Ingredients
1/2 cup wheat berries
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup vanilla sugar
1/2 a pomegranate, seeded
icing sugar for dusting
cream for serving (optional)

Instructions
Rinse the wheat berries and place in a large saucepan.
Add the salt and enough water to cover the berries by about 5 centimetres.
Bring to the boil over medium heat.
Stir occasionally to ensure the berries do not stick to the bottom.
During the cooking process, check to make sure the water has not dropped to a level where the berries cannot float.
Cook for 1 – 2 hours or until the berries are tender but not mushy.
Drain and spread out onto baking paper to dry for a few hours.
When the berries are dry, place in a bowl and mix through the walnuts, sesame seeds, ground cinnamon, vanilla sugar and pomegranate seeds, keeping a few pomegranate seeds in reserve.
Transfer to a serving platter and form into a mound.
Sift icing sugar over the top and decorate with reserved pomegranate seeds.
Serve with a dollop of cream if desired.

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6 comments

  1. Oh, Vicky, I am so sorry to hear about your loss. It is a big one, I can certainly see why you needed to keep it to yourself for a while. We all grieve in our own ways. I lost my mother about 6 years ago — still miss her every day.

    You have some lovely traditions! I have not made Coliva before, but ironically, judging from the picture, it is the sort of thing my own mother would have LOVED! She ate pomegranate seeds and loved all things oats and wheat. So now I must make this!

    Love your comparison of Demeter and Persephone, I often felt like that too. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sorry to hear your mother has passed too. The mother daughter bond is a deep and complicated one. I think many of us who are called to the Pagan Path are Persephones. It sure does hurt when Demeter leaves.
      I love that your mother liked grains too. My mum’s favourite was cornmeal. She loved American style cornbread and her personal favourite was mamaliga – a cornmeal porridge very popular in the Balkan states. It’s even mentioned in the novel Dracula 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You are so knowledgeable about food! Next time I re-read Dracula I will have to keep an eye out for that. (Does not surprise me that Bram Stoker was so meticulous in detail.)

        Very true about Persephone and the Pagan Path. Oddly, the Demeter-Persephone myth is the first one I remember reading, at about age ten, that really impacted me and stayed with me throughout my life. Although I also felt like I was the Demeter to my mom’s Persephone (she married bad boy, my Dad! haha!) Life is like that, interesting and fascinating.

        You have given me many good ritual ideas. Thanks so much, Vicky! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. It is so lovely that you and your mum had such a strong bond unfortunately for me I never had one with my mum and never will as she has also left. You are very lucky to have had that and I’m sure your mum is enjoying the underworld as much as you are and definitely would love your Coliva it looks beautiful. I hope you enjoyed yourself at the Austen Tea Room and your Silent Supper take care.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sorry that your mother has passed and that you didn’t have a good relationship with her. My relationship with my mother was complicated to say the least. I think the mother daughter bond is the most complicated of them all.
      The Austen Tea Room was wonderful. Delicious sweets and savouries, stunning old world decor and beautiful crockery!

      Like

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