Sin Eaters

Sin eating is a custom that dates to the Middle Ages. It was practiced parts of England and Scotland and survived into the late 1800′s or early 1900′s in Wales…and also in Appalachia, USA.

Sin eaters were poor people who were paid to take on the sins of the of the dead. It was believed this freed the deceased from walking the earth after death.  The sin eater would be served a meal on top the corpse at a wake. Often they were hungry. This is why they took the job.

The job came with a high cost. Sin eaters were considers disgusting. They lived in isolation, shunned like lepers.

Now I don’t believe for one minute that you can offload your sins, or your bad karma of whatever you might call this, on to another person. But I don’t doubt people believed this, because they still do.

I’d know. I’m a modern day sin eater.  There are legions of people who have off-loaded responsibility for their bad behavior by simply stating that they are innocent and I am to blame.

I’ve got a lot of company with this. Anyone with a heavily tenanted 8th house knows what I am talking about.  My feelings about this are complex to try to go into in this short format, but I can say this: It doesn’t work.

I simplified this for my friend, Ben:

“I can’t steal for twenty years and then my time’s up and I say,  oh!  All that stuff I did is on, Ben. My friend over there is taking this on, he’s going to pay the price for me.”

Put like that it seems obvious its a delusional idea. Still, it’s one that many not only hold, but hold dear.

Who knows what I am talking about? Have you ever put the shadow on someone and thought you walked away clean?

 

 


Comments

Sin Eaters — 38 Comments

  1. I didn’t know about the notion of sin eaters, but I guess I’m not surprised it exists.

    I think it’s a crazy idea that someone could be blamed for someone else’s misdeeds. I think the 8th house shadow in 8th house individuals can make others feel uncomfortable, but paradoxically, they are great at helping others in times of need because they have literally seen it all. It’s important to keep a sense of perspective towards 8th house people in order to avoid generating ingratitude.

    In Japan, there is a ceremony (hadaka matsuri) where throngs of people gather to put all of their bad luck into one person (the chosen individual is honored for taking on other people’s bad luck, but the chosen individual gets quite a bruising in the mayhem). I saw it on National Geographic the other day.

  2. That’s really, really fascinating. I’d never heard of sin eating before. I remember learning about, I think they were called “indulgences” in school (did a google search). People would pay a bunch of money to the church in hopes it would help them get into heaven. Just struck me as bizarre and insincere.

    I can think of a certain time when I “put my shadow” on someone in the past, and all it led to was delusion and ugliness until I owned up to it.

  3. I’ve never heard of sin eaters before. How funny that they thought/think that they can outsmart God.

    I know I’ve judged people for things I’m guilty of. I’m usually shown pretty quickly that I’m guilty of what I judged them for.

  4. K, this may get things thrown at me, but honest question: Isn’t this the whole concept of Christianity, of Jesus taking the punishment for the people’s sins? How does that work?

  5. I can totally relate, I live in the shadows that others constantly cast on me. Being a 12th houser, it’s taken me a long time to understand this and even longer to get a handle on it.

    I’m ok now, if you want to cast your shadow on me, fine. But you need to understand, when you walk away, that shadow you cast on me, your shadow, it’ll be following you, not me,
    Angie

  6. Korellyn, I think that’s a great question :). I’m christian, and I think Jesus was here to be an example, to show us and be a light and love. I don’t however think he was here to attone for my sins. I could never, in my own right consciousness/mind ask somone else to carry or attone for my karmic debt load.
    Really great question though, very thought provoking :) :) :)
    Angie

  7. Korellyn, I thought of Jesus too! He took on all the sins of the world….and His own Father rejected Him for a moment as a result. He died of heartache.

    I wonder if 8th housers can relate to that scenario (to some extent, I would think so).

  8. I guess I did, many times. But as I’ve also stated many times I think this – as many patterns – was somehow forced upon human nature by the de-responsabilization we’ve been socialized to, in order to fit a society in which higher interests play out in our daily lives everyday. None of us can really live off of their homegrown food anymore, we need to buy food and to spend our earned cash for it. We choose to have intermediaries to manage our relationship with the Sacred. We rarely have the possibility to sew and tailor our own garments. We rely on empirical evidence provided by other people to believe stuff works in a certain way. From there to also trying to cast your “shadow” on someone else is not a big stretch.

  9. Ahhh, more 8th house food-for-thought! Perhaps because I do have a lot of 8th house influence, I’ve never really understood these people because it seems like when you don’t take responsibility, you automatically become the victim. Any power you think you’re gaining by piling your baggage onto someone else is really empty.

    Of course I do have flashes of self-righteousness where I want to win! at a situation and so I look for a sin-eater, but those feelings always pass for me. Life just isn’t win/lose or black/white.

    I’ve also recently understood how I’ve taken on this role with some of my family members, and how I subconsciously accepted and owned it. And I’ve had more than a few people going through dark times assume I could somehow “save” them, but in retrospect, most of them have also been very gentle and respectful of my well-being, for which I am grateful because I was too young to outwardly understand the situations at the time.

    The concept of the sin eater reminds me of vultures, too. They’re often considered dirty birds because they’re scavengers, but they also help to prevent the spread of disease and infection by clearing away the old. I think they’re even used for this purpose in sky burials, which seems much healthier than asking another human to shoulder the sins before death.

    This is such a complex topic! You simplified it so well. I fear I could never stop talking about it.

  10. I’m guilty of casting my shadow onto others. Since my earliest memory! I distinctly remember being younger than 5 and having a nightmare about my mother and thinking she was a witch. I thought she was an evil person for helping me when I was weak. I hated feeling weak (even at 4 I instinctively there was something terribly ‘wrong’ about being weak) and she swooped in every time. To this day my mom still has shadowy things about her. She’s got Sun conjunct Pluto in Leo. But I bear the torch in some ways. I am drawn to people who are having moments of weakness and being strong for them.

  11. Thank you. This is a perfect description of what happens in my life consistently. Because I listen/ observe/ know/ have been confided in, the person with the issue/ burden thinks that by getting rid of me from their life, they get to bury the issue. My mother is doing it right now because I have become the embodiment of the truth behind why she developed cancer. And she is SO afraid of facing her emotions. Another ‘friend’ of mine is doing the same thing. My best friend in high school threw me out of his life because he had told me he was gay and he wasn’t ready to come out to our other friends. I wasn’t going to force him to or anything! I get it, though, I don’t harp on their issues, but my mere presence has become a representation of things they don’t want to face. When this happens, I have to face my loneliness, but I savor most emotional processes (except disgust- still baffled by that one).

  12. Elsa! you are a legend for posting this..!!!!! I had no idea this was a real practise back in the 1800s :-0 !
    I feel this is something i struggle with on a daily basis..i watch people do this to each other all the time, personally being bought up a Christian as a child..i could just go on forever about this topic..because i was raised to ‘treat others as i would like to be treated’ (although my parents were very terrible dictators & influence of those kind of christian ideals :-/

    I have been learning in psychology that the child or family member that makes the most noise about any family greviences or issues is generally ‘the target’ or even ‘the scapegoat’. usually ‘the one’ who wears all the family history of disfunction & shame..

    The term ‘sin eater’ totally sums it up perfectly..a practise that still seems to sadly run in our veins.

  13. I think if you don’t have consciousness you cannot understand when you sin…in this case you don’t even need a sin eater cause you don’t belive you didn something wrong…those people who used to do that and gave poor people to eat dead people sins where doing a sin too…anyways i think it’s about lack of consciousness and responsability.

  14. I have an 8th house stellium and have definitely had my share of being unfairly scapegoated, even when it’s been obvious to me and others that I’m not to blame. I know it’s not only 8th housers who find themselves on the receiving end of such projections, but perhaps because our shadow is so visible, we’re a magnet for it?

    Interesting post, and it makes me curious about the 8th house from a different angle. Elsa, you wrote:

    “Sin eaters were poor people who were paid to take on the sins of the dead. It was believed this freed the deceased from walking the earth after death.”

    I’ve recently been reading about the 8th house and the ancestral legacy, and one post on Moonkissd Astrology blog was about 8th housers carrying issues and baggage that may not even be exclusively their own, but that of the ancestors – their unfinished karma now carried through us. It’s an idea I’ve come across many times when reading about the 8th, and it’s an interesting one (though I would say it shouldn’t absolve us from facing issues and taking responsibility for our lives).

    But it’s a similar idea to that of the 8th house and “sin-eating”… :)

  15. You know Elsa it’s a funny thing. I am an 8th house type too, but the killer is I have tried to dump my sins onto others not because I am a dumper but because I thought this is what you are suppose to do. I was at first the dumpee and thought this was the natural process of the dark side, I’ve been dumped on and so now it’s my turn to dump. Kind of like the game *Hot Potato* kids plays.

    The good news is cycles CAN be broken

  16. Daisy – I totally relate to that. After I posted, I remembered my riding instructor growing up. She was always very hard on us and very insistent that the horse was never at fault, it was always the rider. I didn’t realize the out-of-the-saddle significance of her teachings at the time, but now I find that her words are always coming back to haunt me even though I haven’t ridden horses in years.

    Thank goodness for teachers who help us to break unhealthy patterns!

  17. Going through an 8th house Saturn return right now….. and with Saturn (my ruling planet) conjunct Pluto as the leading planets on the rim of the bowl in my natal chart, you could say that this is something I’ve had some experience with. You would then be given the “Understatement of the Century’ award. What I don’t understand is how this ever works for anyone. If I tried it, I know it would blow up right in my face and then I would have an even bigger mess to clean up. People who do this, though, seek me out with some sort of laser guided precision, and their worst reactions are when I (attempt to) point out the how ineffective this tactic will be in the long run. People don’t like it when you call them out for sweeping their own dirt under someone else’s rug.

  18. I wonder if you could explain a bit more how this relates to the 8th house. I also have a stellium there – 5 planets including the sun – but I’m not sure I relate. Really curious about this though. thanks!

  19. This is really an interesting thread, Elsa. Having sun, mercury, north node and neptune in the 8th house in Scorpio and Saturn in Sagitarius in the 8th house, I know exactly what you are talking about. All my life has been about trying to live in the world and not be victimized by these powerful 8th house placements. One does pay a heavy social price for these and very rarely does one ever get sympathy for this specific challenge. But we were meant to have our place on earth, too. Being a hermit and working at a psych hospital are good. So is clairvoyance disguised as fortune telling. I’e included below a book that is really good, writen by another 8th house therapist:

    The Mysteries of the 8th House: House of Death & Transformation by Carmen Turner-Schott

  20. :). That’s a pretty brilliant connection to the shadow and shadow consciousness.

    The thing is though that the problem of projection isn’t just unconscious, it’s hardwired. And delusions can be utterly complete; people who blame others for their problems without addressing their own participation * do not see their participation*. It’s just blank there, and you hear HE DID and SHE SAID. Not only do you never hear I SAID; neither do they. They aren’t even aware of themselves.

    Now one thing about this is…we don’t see ourselves. We don’t see our behavior, we have no idea half the time that we’re even there. What we do see and experience is the behavior of *others*. Concurrently, we *feel* all kinds of stuff that others have no clue about. So there you are, feeling nothing but pain and being aware of no one else but the other — possibly everything about them *except their pain*. You know? We’ve got a collective pain-body going here.

    So even though this sin eater thing seems ludicrous to us, back then I am sure that whoever created these scenarios *absolutely believed every bit* of the whole mythology. You can’t take lack of awareness out of the equation because that’s what creates the syndrome of projection to begin with.

    They didn’t know any better. They know not what they do.

  21. Fascinating practice. I have been the projector and the projected, and have a tangible sense of the collective shadow. I think it’s lived out in our institutions, so many of us are manifestations of it, without necessariy personally ‘choosing’ it. Certain groups or types represent that collective shadow and are made to pay for what the mainstream doesn’t want to own, or isn’t collectively at a point of consciousness to integrate yet.

  22. What is considered a sin is kinduv confusing to me. Because I don’t do belong to a church I am sometimes considered a sinner. Strangers come to my house to save me, to get me to join up. It’s their mission as salesmen.

    The Jesus to me is not really about dying for sins but resurrecting. [an early Happy Easter]. It reminds me of eternity. The strange thing about the touting of Christianity (supposedly followers of the Christ) is that often there is exhibition and preaching of old testamant (before Christ) values and actions. You know the old booga booga punishing guy with a beard in the sky. And vie-ing for position in that godlike hierarchy to be the big booga booga on earth. The forgiveness belief ensures that whatever is done is forgiven.

    MJ82, the sins of the father is visited on the son is an old saying. It is indeed true. But as long as they have money it’ll all be okay, right? LOL.

    Oh well such is life in these crazy times. Enjoy the creation and follow the golden rule. That way I don’t have to eat any sins. Eat your own damn sins!

  23. Thanks Elsa! I’ve been around a while but somehow the system resets me to a new person every now and then. But then I get the lovely side-effect of being re-welcomed by you. :)

  24. :)

    “J” is familiar but you never know if you might be a new “J” so I take no chances!

    Hell no! I have Libra and I just won’t risk being rude. :)

  25. Oh, yeah! Uranus and Pluto in 8th house. There was a time in my life (much of it, in fact) that I believed I was truly responsible for other peoples’ issue because they were constantly blaming me for their crap. I am not that powerful. I am actually going through something like that now and almost slipped back into that old nonsense until I read this. Once again, thank you so much Elsa, you are a cosmic fairy godmother!

  26. This is deep stuff. I just have Pluto in the 8th house. Having Neptune in Scorpio conjunct the midheaven is good for creativity, but also confusion. Am I projecting onto others or is someone else projecting onto me?
    I get a quick kick in the butt when I project onto others.

  27. YES, I AM THE VICTOM OF THIS 8 TH HOUSE 100% ACCURATELY.BUT I THINK,I AM NOT CLEANED 100%.BUT IT WILL BECOME AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE.
    THANKING YOU.
    JV RAMIREDDY.INDIA.

  28. Yes, the projection has to be owned at some point, no matter how hard you try to offload it. You can share your stuff with others energetically, and as an empath I sure do pick up others’ feelings, but not the core of it. By the way, the Bible is just the story of the zodiac and planets and their cycles. Jesus as the Son of God….is really just a symbol of the God of Sun. You can read about it here
    http://comfychairastrology.blogspot.ca/2013/02/the-bible-is-story-of-sun-and-cycles-of.html

  29. Was talking with a friend about non-profit work, and I thought of this thread.

    This happens to caregivers, now. The doctor is honored, but the people who sponge-bathe and spoon-feed the patient are unsung and unpaid. “You’re just a butt-wiper.”

    :/

  30. Ha ha Earth Dog. ‘I get a quick kick in the butt when I project onto others.’ I was not born licensed to do that either. :D

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