Sin Eater

If you follow current affairs, you must have come across the news about the French. They just got a court order saying that when not in office, they don’t need to check their emails. And this after a 35 hour work week.

But still the French complain.

Its not only the French however. Apart from the North Koreans – who have 100% happiness – every other working (non boss) person around the world whines and bitches about their jobs.

But here’s the thing – it could always be worse.

Never mind being a royal arse wiper in the French court, that was supposed to be a prestigious position.

Quite possibly, the worst job in the world – actual paying job, nothing to do with slavery – was the job of a sin eater.

Yep, eating the sin of another person was actually a job. A sort of outsourcing of work, if you will.

You may laugh about it today – what’s the effing big deal you might say – but this was not a modern job; in today’s nefarious and degenerate world full of greed, selfishness, heinosity, exploitation, sparkly vampires and Arsenal, nobody cares about their soul anymore;  but during the 18th and 19th centuries ordinary folk still deeply cared about heaven, hell, sin, judgment, repentance etc.

So what exactly did a sin eater do?

When a loved one died in Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries, the family would grieve, place bread on the chest of the deceased, and call the sin eater to sit in front of the body. The sin eater would sit there and absorb the sins of the departed’s soul. As per the superstition, the bread literally soaked up the deceased one’s sins; once it was eaten, all the misdeeds were passed on to the eater.

The god-fearing villagers who hired sin eaters wanted to skirt the consequences of their sins by giving them to someone else. Because of the religious cultural climate of the time, people took the idea of sin seriously, and were eager to reach heaven free from their misdeeds.

They needed a sin eater to come around every once and awhile, but most of the time being a sin eater meant you were homeless and a social pariah. Usually, the only people who would dare risk their immortal being during such a religious era were the very poor, who just went for the bread and ale.

And for a payment of four English pence, the equivalent of a few U.S. dollars today (say selling your liver for 10 dollars or your kidney for INR 500)

As early as the 1680s this morbid local feast was written of as an “old Custom at funerals,” and it continued till the early 20th century. According to Brand’s Popular Antiquities of Great Britain, first published in 1813, the sin eater “sat down facing the door; they then gave him a groat, which he put in his pocket; a crust of bread, which he ate; and a full bowl of ale, which he drank oft’ at a draught; after this, getting up from his stool, he pronounced, with a composed gesture, ‘the ease and rest of the soul departed, for which he would pawn his own soul.”

The origin of sin eating is elusive, but the custom may have grown from older religious traditions. Historically, scholars believed it came from pagan traditions, but in Death, Dissection and the Destitute, Ruth Richardson writes of a medieval custom that she thinks may have developed into sin eating; before a funeral, nobles gave food to the poor in exchange for prayers on behalf of their recently deceased.

The last recorded sin eater, Richard Munslow, briefly brought the custom back in the late 19th century. Munslow was a successful farmer who suffered the loss of four children, three of whom passed away within one week. It’s speculated that this tragedy drove him to practice the sin eating trade, at first as a form of grieving, to help his children on into the afterlife.

Poor man.

Well, since Cheapo is already living in hell, hell has no fears for Cheapo. And since Cheapo’s body and organs are failing at an alarming rate, it will be sooner rather than later that Cheapo won’t be able to work anymore.

New career option for Cheapo.


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