Season 6, Episode 2 of 'Outlander' Highlights the Centuries-Old Practice of Sin Eating

Leila Kozma - Author
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Mar. 14 2022, Published 10:32 a.m. ET

In Season 6, Episode 2 of Outlander, Marsali (Lauren Lyle) gives birth to her and Fergus's (César Domboy) son, Henri-Christian. In a circle of life moment, Grannie Wilson (Anne Kidd) passes away after suffering an aortic aneurysm.

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Jamie insists that they should turn the church into a meeting room for Freemasons. He also agrees to supply the members of the Cherokee tribe with much-needed guns. But how does the sin eater come into the picture?

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Season 6, Episode 2 of 'Outlander' features a sin eater.

Season 6, Episode 2 of Outlander references the centuries-old practice of sin eating. In the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, sin eaters were required to visit the dying and consume a slice of bread thoroughly soaked through with their sins. (Some believe that sin eating dates all the way back to the Middle Ages.)

The sin eater would then wash down the horrors with a wooden bowl of ale. They received some financial compensation for their services, after which they were banished from the property. Abuse would often be shouted at them, and physical threats weren't uncommon.

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Sin eaters are often described in folklore as heretics going against the official dictum of the church. By agreeing to consume other people's sins, they helped other people escape purgatory. The catch? They had no chance of going anywhere near heaven.

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According to outlets like Vice, Gizmodo, and Atlas Obscura, sin eating carried a social stigma. Those who agreed to take on the profession were likely in need of money. Alas, it was widely believed that the sin eater would become worse each time they consumed someone's sins. As such, they were perceived as the accumulation of the transgressive deeds the parishioners committed during their lifetime.

Sin eaters serve as the topic of movies like The Last Sin Eater and novels like The Sin Eater by Megan Campisi. Joseph Downes' The Mountain Decameron, a collection of folklore tales originally published in 1836, and Ingrid Harris's The Gift of Suffering, a book published in 2007, mention sin eaters too.

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While sin eating is thought to have been particularly prevalent in parts of Wales, England, and Scotland, the practice may have escaped to other regions like Appalachia as well. (The Last Sin Eater revolves around the trials and tribulations a community of Welsh immigrants had to face after starting a new life in Appalachia in Kentucky.)

In Season 6, Episode 2 of 'Outlander,' a sin eater is paid to free Grannie Wilson from the consequences of her misdeeds.

In the episode, Grannie Wilson suffers an aortic aneurysm, leading those around her to believe that she has lost her life. A sin eater gets called in, who eats the bread used as the symbolic container of her sins.

Catch new episodes of Outlander every Sunday at 9 p.m. EST on Starz.

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