Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Sin-Eater

One who magically takes on the sins of a dead person, usually by eating food placed on or passed over the deceased's chest, so that the deceased's soul may be delivered from Purgatory. Sin-eating is found in many societies, both Christian and pagan, and was commonly practised up to the 19th century. The concept has been used in a number of horror novels, including Elizabeth Massie's Sineater (1992) and Ramsey Campbell's The Long Lost (1993). Rod Serling's Night Gallery: The Sins of the Father (1972), with Richard Thomas as a young sin-eater, is based on a short story by Christianna Brand originally published in The Fifth Pan Book of Horror Stories (1964). [JF]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.