Featured, Opinion

the weekly shaman by c. friend

Many years ago I saw an especially disturbing episode of Rod Serling’s Night Gallery which featured Richard Thomas of “The Waltons” as the son of a sin eater”. The bizarre custom of sin eating has it’s likely origins in Wales and other places in the British Isles. it seems to have even reached here in Appalachia as well. It would seem that sin eating is a combination of Christian and old world folk beliefs. The sin eater is hired  to come into the home of a dying person to take their sins into themselves. Food is laid out beside the dying, and sometimes dead person’s body where. The sin eater himself is usually a very devout Christian man who is assigned by the congregation to absolve the dying or deceased person of their past misdeeds. Sometimes the sin is represented by a simple crust of breed and the sin eater is then given a cup of ale to wash down the bitter taste of the sin. Usually the family of the dying person would standby praying  and once the person would pass away the sin eater would consume the crust of bread, And when the sin eater washed it down with the cup of ale the ritual would be completed.Some versions of the custom held that the practice should be done outside the house. Once the ritual was done the sin eater would be paid for his services and sent on his way. But obviously with this superstitions there are a few lumps in the gravy.Some districts held the sin eater in high esteem, others saw them as downright diabolical and being contaminated with evil. spirits. The only time the community would have anything to do with the sin eater was when he was needed for his services.So much so that anything the sin eater might touch was to be burned for it would contaminate the rest of the community. Remember that this is a mix of a variety of old world beliefs and may seem odd to our contemporary understanding. Myself, I see  it as a folklore  and superstition . I just remembered the scary episode of Night Gallery with Richard Thomas as the young man forced to eat all the sins of his father who was the village sin eater. And so it goes