NOTES: Sin-eaters were common functionaries at eighteenth- and nineteenth-century funerals in Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. They would take unto themselves the sins of the dead by consuming bread and beer over the corpse. In addition to the feed, they charged a fee for this ritual scapegoating. Like undertakers, they were needed but not much appreciated, and not infrequently reviled because of their proximity to the dead and their miserable stipend. Their place in the ceremonial landscape of death put them at times at odds with the reverend clergy. —TL
Source: Poetry (February 2011).
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This poem originally appeared in the February 2011 issue of Poetry magazine
Poems by Thomas P. Lynch
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