Sin-eaters: journalists devour the sins of others but to what end?

In 2010, a fundraiser was held to repair the grave of a man named Richard Munslow. In the century since Munslow had been buried in the town of Ratlinghope, about an hour outside of Birmingham, the stone that marked his life had fallen into disrepair.

After a few months, the £1,000 needed to hire a local stonemason was raised and the work was done. “This grave at Ratlinghope is now in an excellent state of repair,” the Reverend Norman Morris, the town’s vicar, told the BBC at the time. “But I have no desire to reinstate the ritual that went with it.”

The ritual in question was known as sin-eating, the art of which Munslow is believed to have been the last practitioner. In the eighteenth and nineteenth century in the surrounding area and up through Scotland and Wales, sin-eaters would have been a familiar sight if not one exactly sanctioned by the church. Having a monopoly on the redemption of souls, they would have seen such a practice as muscling in on their corner.

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