How Sin Eaters Saved The Dead & The Dying

In 18th and 19th century England and Scotland, sin eating was a profession. Beggars, destitute and those in want of a measly morsel of nutrition took to the career path of relieving the deceased of their sins, by eating them. When a loved one lay dying on the bed, families would call one of these sin eaters home. They would lay a piece of bread on their chest and hover a glass of ale or wine in a customary manner. The sin eater, sitting at the tip of the bed, would then eat the bread off the chest of the deceased or dying; he would drink the glass full of liquid too. In doing so, the family believed that sins of their kin were absorbed into the foodstuff and taken in by the sin eater. This, rather dubiously, provided the departing a way into heaven.

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