left biblioblography: Allegories Gone Wild - The Corpse Buffet

Monday, May 28, 2007

Allegories Gone Wild - The Corpse Buffet

Today I woke up uncertain,
and you know that gives me the fits,
so I left this land of fungible convictions
because it seemed like the pits.

- The Ballad of The Sin Eater, Ted Leo And the Pharmacists.

Once humanity accepted external blame for the processes that seemed to work against it (I refer to that hoary old chestnut, original sin), it was inevitable that a large variety of sins would be developed, ranging from imagined slights (casting a lustful look on another's spouse, the occasional 'white lie') to actual physical infringements (rape, murder, theft). The Seven Deadly Sins (that list was developed by Pope Gregory I) is the commonest meme that springs to mind.

And of course, once these slights and/or infringements were codified (or reified), human beings sought some form of dodging 'paying the piper', or avoiding the tune, from indulgences to absolution, penance to contrition.

Perhaps the most grotesque of these was that old tradition, that of the sin-eater, of which the link says this:

The term sin-eater refers to a person who, through ritual means, would take on by means of food and drink the sins of a deceased person, thus absolving his or her soul and allowing that person to rest in peace. Sin-eating is a form of religious magic, part of the study of folklore. This is similar to the religious ceremony of the scape-goat which was once a part of the ceremonies of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, in Judaism.

The life of the sin-eater was a lonely one, it appears:

"Professor Evans of the Presbyterian College, Carmarthen, actually saw a sin-eater about the year 1825, who was then living near Llanwenog, Cardiganshire. Abhorred by the superstitious villagers as a thing unclean, the sin-eater cut himself off from all social intercourse with his fellow creatures by reason of the life he had chosen; he lived as a rule in a remote place by himself, and those who chanced to meet him avoided him as they would a leper. This unfortunate was held to be the associate of evil spirits, and given to witchcraft, incantations and unholy practices; only when a death took place did they seek him out, and when his purpose was accomplished they burned the wooden bowl and platter from which he had eaten the food handed across, or placed on the corpse for his consumption". - Funeral Customs by Bertram S. Puckle, 1926.

Talk about taking a hit for the team, no?

I've said it before, I'll say it again: Religion. Bringing out the best in people since the dawn of recorded history.

Fair weather faith, of that I have no doubt.

Unsurprisingly, there's a quite a few references in literature, music, and film to this grotesque belief, ranging from fantasy novels (the Outlanders, The Iron Dragon's Daughter) to ballads, as the following video illustrates,

And even in the cinema (the latest being the film titled The Order) - yes, there's an upcoming movie this year (2007), titled The Last Sin Eater, of which the About tab states,

"In 1850's Applachia, 10-year-old Cadi feels responsible for her little sister's death, so she searches out the one man she feels can take away her sin ~ The Sin Eater. But in her quest for redemption, Cadi uncovers a dark secret that threatens to divide her family and community. Ultimately, Cadi shows them the truth in Jesus, reminding us that the human condition is beyond human remedy: only Christ provides for the absolution of sin."

There was once upon a time where I would've loved to have seen this flick: I was always into the concept of redemption, and enjoyed superstitious thrillers with a gusto. Hell, I could perhaps even write something using this content, rich as it is.

But religious content is simply fiction, folks. Regardless of the feel-good warm-tummy crapola you may indulge yourself in.

I doubt there's a restaurant chain for this in the foreseeable future.

And that, dear readers, is my nickel's worth: careful where you spend it.

Till the next post, then.

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beepbeepitsme said...

I had never heard of the occupation of the sin-eater. Very interesting.

It stands to reason that if people believe that "grace" or goodness can be transferred to them via wine, the laying on of hands, or by the immersion in water - that some would believe that "sin" or badness could be taken away via some other form of sympathetic magical ritual.

To me it all reeks of sympathetic magic.


remy said...

I too was unaware of sin munchers. Even more woo for me to absorb.

Krystalline Apostate said...

BBIM - I'm an old occultist, so sympathetic magic is a familiar concept. Kinda sorta like homeopathy.

Even more woo for me to absorb.
Or digest. Make sure you have Tums handy. ;)

karen said...

I've known of sin eaters for, oh, quite a long time now. Can't recall if it was some Irish catholic acquaintance in my youth who brought it up or what.
Very woo-woo-ish.

If that video was about sin-eating, I couldn't tell. The only words I could make out were "somethin' somethin' will burn". I think. Kinda sucky band. They just stood there on stage like dolts while the music was playing and there were no lyrics to sing. No movement, no energy. Bleah.

Krystalline Apostate said...

karen - it was the only band that sang a song about sin-eating. Yeah, I was unimpressed too.
I recall seeing a vignette on Night Gallery about it - w/John Boy Walton in the star role, no less.
Pretty creepy it was, too.

remy said...

Holey Shit, I just realized my penury could be alleviated by the adoption of just a wee-bit-deceit.

I Could Become A Sin Eater!!!!!!There has to be a lucrative market. It so beautifully plays on the fears of the "spiritually" minded.

Too bad I'm so friken ethical; what money I could make.