Free Republic
Browse · Search
General/Chat
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Sin eaters and sin eating
logoi.com ^ | Undated | Ernest Silvanus Appleyard

Posted on 01/27/2011 6:18:36 AM PST by Graybeard58

Sin eaters and the custom of sin eating seem to come from Wales. Early descriptions of the ritual all mention the bread eaten over the corpse, as well as the payment of sixpence to the person assuming the sins of the dead. Below are two 19th century accounts of sin eaters.

"In the county of Hereford was an old custom at funerals to hire poor people, who were to take upon them all the sins of the party deceased, and were called sin-eaters. One of them, I remember, lived in a cottage on Ross high-way. The manner was thus: when the corpse was brought out of the house, and laid on the bier, a loaf of bread was delivered to the sin-eater over the corpse, as also a mazar-bowl (a gossip's bowl of maple) full of beer, which he was to drink up, and sixpence in money; in consequence whereof, he took upon him, ipso facto, all the sins of the defunct, and freed him or her from walking after they were dead.

In North Wales, the sin-eaters are frequently made use of; but there, instead of a bowl of beer, they have a bowl of milk. This custom was by some people observed, even in the strictest time of the Presbyterian government. And at Dyndar, volens nolens the parson of the parish, the relations of a woman deceased there had this ceremony punctually performed according to her will.

The like was done in the city of Hereford in those times, where a woman kept many years before her death, a mazar bowl for the sin-eater, and in other places in this county, as also at Brecon, at Llangore, where Mr. Gwin, the minister, about 1640, could not hinder this superstition."

-- Aubrey of Gentilisme, MS. quoted in Kennett's Par. Ant. vol. 2, p. 276.

In some part of Wales a very extraordinary rite was observed. "When a person died, the friends sent for the sin-eater of the district, who on his arrival places a piece of salt on the breast of the defunct, and upon the salt a piece of bread.

He then muttered an incantation over the bread, which he finally ate; thereby eating up all the sins of the deceased. This done, he received the fee of two shillings and sixpence, and vanished as quickly as possible from the general gaze; for as it was believed that he really appropriated to his own use and behoof the sins of all those over whom he performed the above ceremony, he was utterly detested in the neighbourhood -- regarded as a mere Pariah -- as one irremediably lost."

Sin-eating was not a Bardic idea, it seems to have been a perverted and perverse tradition, probably reaching Wales by an oriental channel, in which the Jewish scape-goat and Christian Eucharistic Sacrifice are blended in disguise and distortion. "The popular notion in Pembrokeshire, with reference to the placing of salt on the bodies of the dead, was that it kept away the evil spirit."

-- From Welsh sketches, by Ernest Silvanus Appleyard


TOPICS: Weird Stuff
KEYWORDS: appalachia; funeral; sineater; sineating
I thought this was interesting, the mod may think otherwise however, I did put it under the "Weird" classification.
1 posted on 01/27/2011 6:18:38 AM PST by Graybeard58
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: Graybeard58

There was an old “Night Gallery” episode based on this.


2 posted on 01/27/2011 6:21:09 AM PST by Corin Stormhands
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Graybeard58

I remember a twilight-zone style program back in the 70’s or 80’s that had an episode about sin eaters... a father dies, and he’s the town sin-eater. the son has to be the sin-eater for his father...


3 posted on 01/27/2011 6:23:36 AM PST by theDentist (fybo; qwerty ergo typo : i type, therefore i misspelll)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Graybeard58
Not confined to Wales or the Welsh Marches. Also a custom in Lowland Scotland and Ireland.

I tend to agree that it's based upon a misreading/misunderstanding of the scapegoat and holy communion.

4 posted on 01/27/2011 6:24:56 AM PST by AnAmericanMother (Ministrix of ye Chasse, TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary (recess appointment))
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Graybeard58

There is a movie called “The Last Sin Eater”. It’s an awesome movie about a girl who feels the heavy weight of her sin and tries to get the sin eater to eat it for her, even though she is still alive. Eventually, she comes across a man who tells her about the One who can take away her sin.


5 posted on 01/27/2011 6:25:22 AM PST by MEGoody (Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Graybeard58
"in consequence whereof, he took upon him, ipso facto, all the sins of the defunct, and freed him or her from walking after they were dead."

Pelosi's sin-eater was an epic FAIL, then.

6 posted on 01/27/2011 6:26:00 AM PST by Nervous Tick (Trust in God, but row away from the rocks!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: MEGoody

Movie trailer ...

http://www.imdb.com/video/screenplay/vi3002401049/


7 posted on 01/27/2011 6:28:38 AM PST by shove_it (have a nice day)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

To: muawiyah

You happen to know if this tradition was ever brought over here in the 1600s?


8 posted on 01/27/2011 6:40:08 AM PST by hennie pennie
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: hennie pennie

It was practiced in Appalachia, during the 18th and 19th centuries.


9 posted on 01/27/2011 6:48:43 AM PST by kalee (The offences we give, we write in the dust; Those we take, we engrave in marble. J Huett 1658)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: Graybeard58

Heath Ledger was in “The Sin Eater”, also known as “The Order”.


10 posted on 01/27/2011 6:50:20 AM PST by stuartcr (Everything happens as God wants it to...otherwise, things would be different)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Graybeard58
One of the dear departed Heath's movies was about this very subject:
11 posted on 01/27/2011 6:51:45 AM PST by arderkrag (Georgia is God's Country.----------In the same way Rush is balance, I am consensus.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Corin Stormhands
I believe someone has watched The Order with Heath Ledger....
12 posted on 01/27/2011 6:52:56 AM PST by cranked
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: Graybeard58
Highly in demand, very busy sin-eater...off to his next appointment


13 posted on 01/27/2011 6:52:59 AM PST by libertarian27 (Ingsoc: Department of Life, Department of Liberty, Department of Happiness)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Corin Stormhands

Yes. I believe John Boy Walton,(can’t remember the actors real name) played the Sin Eater in that episode.


14 posted on 01/27/2011 6:57:17 AM PST by 4yearlurker (I can't afford anymore hope and change!!!!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: Graybeard58

Curious.

Others might want to focus on the pointlessness of this for the Christian departed and his or her family, as it is Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.

I would wonder whether the custom has proved a means of salvation, not for those whose sins are thought to be “eaten” but for the sin-eaters. The “sin-eater” himself engages in an imitatio Christi, taking on himself the sins of others, not in God’s eyes, surely, but in the eyes of those who adhere to the custom, and being “despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. . . despised. . .and esteemed not.”


15 posted on 01/27/2011 7:01:35 AM PST by The_Reader_David (And when they behead your own people in the wars which are to come, then you will know. . .)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: MEGoody
I show that film in my Ozark History class (public high school) when we cover folklore and superstition. While The Last Sin Eater is not based in the Ozarks, it is based is upper Appalachia where the majority of Ozark settlers came from and much of the folklore is the same.

As for the strong religious overtones in the film of Jesus being the real sin eater….cool!

16 posted on 01/27/2011 7:01:39 AM PST by fungoking (Tis a blessing to live in the Ozarks.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

To: Corin Stormhands
Yes I remember that too....at the time I saw it I thought it was just the imagination of the scriptwriter.

Very cool to see there is some folkloric basis.

17 posted on 01/27/2011 7:03:14 AM PST by caddie
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: The_Reader_David
I would wonder whether the custom has proved a means of salvation, not for those whose sins are thought to be “eaten” but for the sin-eaters.

No, because a fallen creature cannot take away sins of others as he bears sins of his own.
18 posted on 01/27/2011 7:14:33 AM PST by Yet_Again
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 15 | View Replies]

To: The_Reader_David

Besides being pointless, why would anyone believe it?


19 posted on 01/27/2011 7:15:07 AM PST by stuartcr (Everything happens as God wants it to...otherwise, things would be different)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 15 | View Replies]

To: kalee; muawiyah
>>>> "It was practiced in Appalachia, during the 18th and 19th centuries." <<<<

That is very interesting. ... that's "Scotch-Irish Central," and also a center of Methodism, too, in those centuries ...

I wonder how the ministers & preachers regarded it?

20 posted on 01/27/2011 7:15:58 AM PST by hennie pennie
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

To: hennie pennie

“... if this tradition was ever brought over here...”

I remember stories my parents told me of “sin” eaters when they were kids. They would have been in their mid 70’s if alive today. They grew up in the anthracite coal region of Pennsylvania and the town had their own “sin” eaters. They were usually very poor and paid decently for the viewing. The concept was that they would eat prepared food and they would consume the sins of the deceased. From what I remember, NO ONE became the sin eater when the original one passed away. Just a thought.


21 posted on 01/27/2011 7:41:56 AM PST by momtothree
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: momtothree

Fascinating!!


22 posted on 01/27/2011 7:46:03 AM PST by hennie pennie
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 21 | View Replies]

To: Graybeard58

I read a tale by Anglo-Welsh novelist Alice Thomas Ellis a couple of years back, called “The Sin-Eater.” A malicious and witty story with a back-loaded plot which I can’t say I “enjoyed” yet I haven’t been quite able to stop thinking about.


23 posted on 01/27/2011 7:46:06 AM PST by Mrs. Don-o (They’ve abandoned Christ and taken up with soppy little Jesus Jones, meek and milk and gassing awa)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: AnAmericanMother; hennie pennie
More than likely "sin eating" is FAR OLDER than anyone imagines. The Roman custom of gladiatorial fighting began with the use of two slave warriors fighting at the funeral of a wealthy or powerful man.

It takes little thought to realize that was one heck of a party ~ with the (soon to be) dead gladiator playing the part of the spirit that will distract the evil spirits and allow the dead rich guy to pay his nickel and get on board the boat to be taken to the other side of the Styx, and to the Elysian fields without further risk.

But that wouldn't be the "origin" ~ for that you need to read the Mahabarat wherein Bishma dies.

Bishma was one of those special guys who'd been granted the boon of being able to decide when he would die. Because of that he serves as a perfect vehicle for instructing kings and rulers in their duties (which he does frequently).

So, Bishma is out there on the battlefield full of arrows (as is popularly imagined), just rolling around like a pincushion and what does he do for entertainment in the evening? Well, both sides in the Great War Between The Truth and Lies come out and have a party with him ~ they discuss philosophies of ruling and law with Bishma well into the night ~ in those days they did not yet fight at night as we do so the worst of enemies continued to live normal lives "after hours".

The conferences with Bishma are usually portrayed as involving copious quantities of food and drink ~ so I think it's safe to say that by the time of the days of Hastinapur it was understood that DEATH involved a meal or two, even while a warrior died.

Now that's a tad before Wales was even invaded by Gaelic warrior clans from the Middle East ~ some suggest 400 BC, yet others noting a cave painting showing a god-like or demi-god tossing a chariot wheel (representative of Krishna) suggest maybe 800 BC.

Presuming the slightest contact between the charioteers of the East and the West (and in-between), it's easy to get back to 1000 BC to find folk mixing meat, drink and funeral ceremonies.

And, as far as sin goes, the usual portrayal of Bishma definitely takes on the atmosphere of a sort of open confession ~ but with a twist ~ he frequently serves as the table where they sit their plates.

Inasmuch as Hinduism has not yet reached that age where "they" no longer practice the burnt offering, I'd imagine all of this is just something that normaly springs to the minds of Indian movie producers.

24 posted on 01/27/2011 7:48:38 AM PST by muawiyah
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: Graybeard58

I could see some moody, indie rock band doing a whole concept album about this subject...


25 posted on 01/27/2011 9:09:30 AM PST by StrictTime (I used to be disgusted, now I try to be amused.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Corin Stormhands
There was an old “Night Gallery” episode based on this.

I was going to say the same thing. That episode freaked me out.

26 posted on 01/27/2011 9:11:49 AM PST by retrokitten
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: Yet_Again

While all salvation is ultimately wrought by Christ’s Incarnation, Death, Resurrection, Ascension and Glorious Coming Again, those of us who adhere to traditional Christianity, whether Orthodox, Latin, Coptic, Armenian or Assyrian, expect saving faith to be something more than assent to that fact and to the Lordship of Christ. Putting on Christ, following His commands, growing into His likeness is part of faith, thus the humble acceptance (in the eyes of his community) of the sins of another, being an imitation of the true saving work of Christ might well be part of real saving faith on the part of the “sin eater”.

Of course the only way to find out whether my suggestion is right will be for those of us blessed to be on the Right Hand at the Last Day to make inquiries among any Welshmen among our fellow “sheep”.


27 posted on 01/27/2011 10:52:47 AM PST by The_Reader_David (And when they behead your own people in the wars which are to come, then you will know. . .)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 18 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
General/Chat
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson