Who Eats the Sin-Eater's Sins?

Devouring the news to absolve ourselves of... something

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 18th and 19th century in the surrounding area, up through Scotland and Wales, sin-eaters would have been a familiar sight, if not one exactly sanctioned by the church, who, having a monopoly on the redemption of souls, would have seen such a practice as muscling in on their corner.

The essence of Munslow and company’s duties were to perform a sort of shamanistic ritual in which a piece of bread and a bowl of ale were passed over the remains of the recently deceased. The sins of the deceased were, obviously, thereby subsumed into the meal, and the sad bastard would dine on them, taking the sins on as his own, ensuring that the dead would pass unmolested through the gates of Heaven. 

Sin-eaters were commonly itinerant, destitute types — who but the most desperate would agree to such a one-sided metaphysical bargain in the first place? —  traveling here and there until they were called upon in haste. They were paid very little for the gruesome task, and furthermore shunned as foul pariahs for their trouble when it was done, each bite of bread, each sip of ale further curdling their own load-bearing souls.

Munslow was unique, however, in that he was said to be a well established farmer in his time before getting into sin-eating. It was the loss of his four children that drove him to the practice, it's been written, perhaps out of grief, or perhaps as an attempt to ensure their safe passage into the next life. You almost have to respect it. Unlike the other gig economy sin-eaters, our man did it for the love of the game. All of a sudden the world’s collective goth girlfriends look like hacks in comparison.


Here are some things that happened this month.

On Tuesday, a woman being held in jail in Texas killed herself. She couldn’t afford the $1,500 she would need for bail.

Meanwhile, a GoFundMe for Peter Strzok, a very well off cop who lost his job for being rude to the president, has raised almost $450,000 in less than a week.

Last Friday, dozens of Yemeni children were bombed to their deaths by a missile fired by the Saudi-led, and U.S.-supported coalition that hit their school bus. As CNN reported, the "500-pound laser-guided MK 82 bomb” was made by Lockheed Martin. Take a look at some of what was left of their belongings via a BBC reporter on Twitter.

On Wednesday, a man named Joel Arrona-Lara was seized by ICE while stopped at a gas station in San Bernadino. He was in the process of bringing his pregnant wife to the hospital to give birth. The agents left her to fend for herself, the aftermath of which was caught on the security camera of the gas station.

Following a large public outcry over the particular cruelty of this job, ICE released a statement saying Arrona-Lara was wanted for a homicide in Mexico, although his lawyer questions whether or not that’s actually true.

Emilio Amaya Garcia told CBS2 he has been in contact with the Mexican consulate who said it currently has no information about ICE’s claim. Garcia added Arrona-Lara’s detention paperwork shows he is in custody for being in the country without documentation.

Perhaps, although it certainly wouldn’t be beyond ICE to lie and lie and lie.

On Friday, a Houston doctor was sentenced to ten years probation after being convicted of raping a sedated patient in her hospital bed who was there after experiencing a severe asthma attack. Shafeeq Sheikh lost his medical license, but will serve no time, all of which sounds very bad, sure, but hold on, maybe his lawyer can explain:

At trial, Sheikh testified that the sex had been consensual. He told the judge and jury that the woman had touched his penis and taken off her underwear, the Chronicle reported.

His defense lawyer also showed the jury photos from Laura’s Instagram account, where she posted sexy photos to 14,000 followers as part of her job promoting a clothing boutique.

“He made a mistake, but he didn’t sexually assault her,” attorney Lisa Andrews argued, according to the Chronicle. “Here we have this Latina woman with her fake boobs that came onto that little nerdy middle-aged guy, and he lost his mind.” via Buzzfeed.

Please refer to the name of this newsletter for my thoughts on the above.


Every so often a poll will come out that says something like "3% of respondents had “little to no awareness of Donald Trump” and we tend to scoff in amusement at that sort of thing. lol must be nice! But I wonder sometimes about those people — those beautiful, smooth-brained and innocent children of god — whether or not they’re on to something the rest of us aren’t.

Most people do not attend hourly to the sins of the world in its perpetual cycle of grief and misery on Twitter. Most people have better things to do with their lives than read 10,000 posts. Presumably, if you are reading this, you trend toward the heavier news diet than most, if not quite on the Clockwork Orange eyeball torture feed I live on. I wonder if there’s a better way to live without abstaining from the feed entirely?

What exactly is it we’re doing, those of us who scroll through our newsfeed endlessly, like an addict lifelessly pulling the lever on a slot machine waiting for information and sadness to spill out?

Certainly there are ways to effect change in the world — taking to the streets, protesting, boycotts, pressuring your representatives, helping register people to vote — but those of us on the barricades of the news cycle I think sometimes delude and flatter ourselves that by paying vigilant witness we’re performing some necessary function.

Sometimes I think, like the sin-eaters with no other options, I behold the grief of the world without respite because I have no other choice. Each sin I consume I can turn into a living. Much like them it’s a paltry one to be sure, and we’re not much respected either. Other times I think a lot of us, and myself included, tend to be more like ol’ Bobby Munslow. We’ve been driven mad with grief, and we know nothing else but to continue to compound it in a gluttonous feast. We gorge ourselves on the sins of others until it sickens us, hoping, without any sort of reliable proof, that in the end it might help someone, but knowing nonetheless that it won’t.


Maybe it's all gonna turn out all right and I know that it's not, but I have to believe that it is.


Thanks for reading Welcome to Hell World this week. If you like it please share with your friends who you think might be interested.

Here are a couple things I wrote elsewhere this week.

Lara Trump: who is the 'good Trump' who offered Omarosa 'hush money'?

For years, Lara Trump has remained, if not exactly “the good Trump”, at least far from the worst one. Perhaps the best thing that could have been said about her up until now is that most people probably didn’t know who she was. They probably will now. via The Guardian

The Real-Life Consequences of Messing Around on Twitter

Live by the post, die by the post. If nothing else, that might be the lesson of the Trump era, which serves as a daily reminder of just how potent a recipe for chaos the combination of an impulsive personality and social media can be. Seemingly every week, stories emerge of the administration scrambling to reverse engineer policy justifications for what are in all likelihood spur of the moment, unconsidered pronunciations. That’s not just true of the president, however, as the last tumultuous week online for Elon Musk, runner up in the World’s Most Extremely Online Billionaire sweepstakes has shown us. via The Observer

How to Protest Alex Jones on Twitter by Blocking Fortune 500 Companies

As of today, anyway, Jones is still active on Twitter, where he’s sowing seeds of doubt about the release of a hypothetical Donald Trump n-word tape. To most reasonable people, his sort of routine is easily dismissed horse shit. But, as we’ve seen of late with the type of harassment that parents of Sandy Hook victims have undergone from Jones’ followers, silly nonsense can have real world consequences, because there will always be people gullible enough to fall for it. via The Observer


I went to see the Nazis gather down at City Hall in Boston on Saturday (normal sentence). Here’s a recap of what I saw on Twitter if you’d like to look at it.

Ok that’s all for now. Leave me alone.