Sin Eaters, the outcasts of Druid Folklore

A topic that comes up from time to time in my counseling sessions is the Sin Eater of the Druids. I will do my best to explain this concept as I understand it. Although it is a very difficult topic to discuss because there really is not that much information available.

A sin eater was a type of shaman in Europe during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. They were often the outcasts and undesirables of their respective villages but served a vital role in their society. When someone had died or was dying the family would employ a sin eater to eat a meal and recite a prayer off of and over the body of the deceased or dying. Effectively this person would take the burden of sins upon themselves of the dying person so that they could go into the next life cleansed. Much like the idea behind Jesus in Christianity. Jesus takes on the burden of your sins so that you can be clean and pure again. The main difference is that in Christianity Jesus is the son of god and for the druids the sin eaters were regular people. People that would effectively eat the sins and carry the burdens themselves pawning their own souls for others. Often times this led these people to be treated as outcasts or witches who society wouldn’t accept.

The reason this topic is brought up so often in our sessions is because in many ways my counselor and I are modern day sin eaters. He saw it before I realized it, which is usually what happens when someone from the outside looks in. I tend to spend a lot of my time taking on the burdens of others. I listen to them intently and try to help guide them whenever I can. At the very least most people that unload their burdens on my walk away feeling better about everything. It is a strange thing to describe but I can feel a transfer of the burden, I can feel the weight of it as they walk away. I imagine this must be how the sin eaters of old felt. After their ritual the walk back home must have been heavy.

Why do I do it? Why does anyone chose this? I honestly do not have an answer to that question. I think the answer may lie somewhere in my fascination with human psychology and my need to understand people. I think that maybe over the years I just happened to become someone that people could talk to with ease and felt better upon doing so. Although it wasn’t until I had the conversation about this in counseling that I realized what the burden actually meant. I carry these things with me all the time. I carry the weight of the burden of the “sins” of others. I don’t write this to toot my own horn, I write it to tell you that sometimes it sucks. I am an outcast. I am a loner. I have many people that I do engage with on a regular basis but I honestly do spend most of my personal time alone. When you carry the weight of others what do you do with your own? Well I carry that too. Sometimes I do break though. Most recently I had a close friend pass away. A Marine I served two tours with in my platoon. Unsure of the cause of death but my guess is overdose. I carried that burden while informing the other members of our company and trying to do my best to arrange travel and having guys tell me about their struggles with substance abuse and suicide. I have been talking to a friend of mine on a regular basis since this happened who has told me about his struggle with heroine. He’s standing on the edge of the ledge and wants to jump. Someone I haven’t spoken with regularly in years. How does one absorb all of this, with their own problems and everyone else’s and not break? It’s easy, I do. For the most part I have a few people that I share a few things with from time to time. I unload most of it on my counselor, which sucks but it is what you are supposed to do. I also have this blog to unload on. I have the outlets so that this doesn’t overwhelm me but it does suck from time to time. I do break. I carry the weight of so many burdens as well as my own.

So why do I still do it now? Because I can. I have come to a realization that everything I have endured has made me stronger. It has made me better. It has made me capable of carrying these burdens and not break as often as most people would. I know I can handle the weight which is why I still choose to continue eating the sins of others. Absolving their burdens and adding them to mine. It makes me a loner, it makes me an outcast, but it also makes me strong. It allows me to help other people in the best way I know how.

“I give easement and rest now to thee, dear man. Come not down the lanes or in our meadows. And for thy peace I pawn my own soul. Amen.”

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