A Curious Invitation present London Month of the Dead
THE SIN-EATER - Lives and Afterlives
A talk in Brompton Cemetery Chapel with Historian Helen Frisby
Sunday the 31st October 2021 at 1:30 pm

The sin-eater was a ‘long, leane, ugly, lamentable poor raskal’ in the words of 17th century antiquary John Aubrey. A sin-eater was employed by a recently bereaved family to (literally) consume the dead person’s sins, taking this eternal burden upon his - or sometimes her - own soul by eating a loaf of bread and drinking a bowl of beer (the food and drink represented the sins of the deceased) and receiving sixpence in compensation. The practice was prevalent in Wales and the English countries bordering on the principality. Richard Munslow, who died in Shropshire in 1906, was reported to have been the last sin-eater (presumably he went on to have a particularly tough time in Hell).

In this talk, Dr Helen Frisby surveys the evidence for this fascinating old funerary character and their mysterious rituals in service of the souls of the deceased. As it turns out things aren’t quite what they might first seem - but Helen will suggest that it’s the sin-eater’s very elusiveness which has enabled them to rise again in present-day film, TV and literature.

Tickets £12 including a 20% donation toward a host of restoration projects at Kensal Green Cemetery. Please click here to purchase.

Helen Frisby
Dr Helen Frisby is a Visiting Research Fellow at the Centre for Death & Society, University of Bath, where she researches funeral customs past and present and what these can teach us about relating to the dead and coping with loss. Helen is Secretary of the Association for the Study of Death and Society, a Council Member of the Folklore Society and author of the Shire book Traditions of Death and Burial.

Image Credit - Two Old Ones Eating Soup or Two Witches by Francisco Goya (1823). Public domain courtesy of Wikimedia.
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