16. The Sin-Eater

Image - an eater of sin.SIN EATING, described in studies of folk culture as a form of religious magic, has been practiced in many cultures. In rural Wales the ritual was still in practice up until the last century.

A village would often have its own Sin-Eater who would live as a hermit outside the village. Shunned by the villagers for being the associate of evil spirits the Sin-Eater was only sort out when someone in the village was dying. Then he would be brought into the village and taken to the dying person’s bedside. The family would place a loaf of bread on the dying person’s chest. The Sin-Eater would enter and approach the body. Kneeling down at the bed he would give a short speech;

“I give easement and rest now to thee, dear man. Come not down the lanes or in our meadows. And for thy peace I pawn my own soul. Amen”.[2]

Then the Sin-Eater would eat the bread from the dying person’s chest and a bowl of ale would be handed to him from across the body. By drinking the ale and eating the bread he was eating that person’s sins. The bowl and platter would then be burnt by the villagers.

Meat and Two Veg

Potatoes, hot peppers and chives
Potatoes, hot peppers and chives from my garden

I’ve just eaten a meal consisting mainly of veg grown in my back garden. Now I’m waiting to see if I survive.

Cooking doesn’t interest me all that much. My reason for  growing vegetables is more biological curiosity than allotment keeping, so I’m always amazed if I produce anything edible. Today they do seem to be, the meal was actually very nice.

The veg are grown in the same earth where I found the bones (Bones in the back Garden). I like the idea that the flesh on the bones fed the earth that fed the veg which has just fed me.

As long as I don’t think too hard about who the bones were.

I’ve been experimenting with cooking meat recently. I gave up meat almost 20 years ago, shortly after the knife incident in fact (Stalking part5. The Knife).

The new meat curiosity came about because I’m now a dog owner.

As a once long term vegetarian meat is a somewhat curious phenomenon. That thing I’m eating once had a character, it could see, it could feel pain, it may well have come to the gate to say hello to me if I passed it’s field. It’s body matter now becoming my body matter. The recycling of life.

How fascinating!

Normal. But odd non the less.

Could I kill a creature to eat it? Certainly, if I needed to. Given certain circumstances and a detachment. I imagine I could enjoy it. A switching from empathy to consumption.

A farmer near where my parents live calls all his sheep by the same name (Betty I believe) to help prevent him getting attached to any one of them.

Another farm near there kept a lamb. It’s mother had died when it was born so they had  bottle fed it and it became part of the family. They called it Dot.

Then one day the father decided that it was time to eat Dot. They would have her for Christmas dinner.

He prepared the children for this, telling them that this was the cycle of life, things must die and be eaten by other things, that was how life continued.

The mother carefully prepared and cooked the creature, then presented it at the dinner table. The father announced that they were now going to eat Dot the lamb and the mother took the carving knife and cut them each a slice. The two children started eating the meat without a second thought. The mother did the same. The father paused, got up from the table and without a word left the room. He never took a bite of Dot.