Some Welsh immigrants to the Eastern United States, that ended up in the Appalachian Mountains, practiced a Celtic funeral ritual for many years. It came from the legend of the Sin Eater. It was practiced for centuries amongst some of the English, Scottish and Irish.
They believed that In order for you to pass safely to the afterlife, you had to be cleansed and have your sins taken away.
The Sin Eater was elected from amongst the clan or village to take on the sins of every one else after death. The body would be laid out and bread and wine placed on of top the body. The Sin Eater would then come, eat the bread and drink the wine, and take in the sins - damning himself, but freeing the person to go purified into the afterlife. The Sin Eater was forced to live by himself because he was full of sins, and he would only come when there was a funeral. No one would touch him because he was considered evil.
There is movie I saw recently called The Last Sin Eater about a little girl’s quest to find forgiveness. She attempts to find redemption by seeking out the Sin Eater, the man who comes when you die to eat your sins, and take them upon himself. The young girl Cadi seeks him out way before she dies, because she is living with a tremendous load of guilt from the death of her little sister, that she feels responsible for. When she finds the Sin Eater, she tells him that she wants him to take her sins now, because she doesn’t want to wait until she is 80 years old. She feels too guilty and sad to go on. She tells him that if he doesn’t do it, she will do something so that she will die, and then he will be forced to come to her funeral. The Sin Eater attempts to take her sins away, and tells her to lie still, and not open her eyes while he eats bread and wine that she had brought. When he leaves, she doesn’t feel any different, and then finds herself even more disconsolate.
A man of God comes to the mountains where Cadi lives in order to rid the people of their pagan practices. He is a missionary and comes to preach from The Bible. Cadi meets him and informs him that there is already a Sin Eater there. The missionary tells Cadi about the original Sin Eater, and that there doesn’t need to be any more. I don’t want to give too much away, but it is a very interesting and inspirational movie, and I hope you can watch it.
There is a string running right through the heart of all of us. We have violin strings that when you pluck them they reverberate in our lives. One is the act of needing to be forgiven. Who can take you away from those things that you feel guilty about? Or, will you take them to the grave with you? If you are imprisoned by sin and guilt, there is a way to be free.
We all have choices, and I believe there is a way to be free and to have a new life. Universal truths of redemption, forgiveness, and love can be found through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
By letting the Original Sin Eater take upon Him your burdens, the sadness and sin that holds you down can be lifted. During this Easter season, we can find hope and joy by looking for God’s help to our suffering.
© 2012 Elayne