The Concept of Purgatory in England Page: 194
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Perhaps an example of the early Reformers finding themselves in a
position where they were unable to provide an alternate explanation for the soul's
experience at death comes in the form of a very peculiar institution called 'Sin-
Eating.'421 First reported by the late seventeenth-century antiquarian, John
Aubrey, this phenomenon has led to many differing opinions between folklorists
and historians alike. Aubrey reported in 1686-87, in the county of Herefordshire
in Wales, the unique phenomenon of individuals taking the sins of recently
deceased upon themselves in return for some form of compensation. Aubrey
reports that this occurrence was popular under the late seventeenth century
Presbyterian government of Wales:
In the County of Hereford was an old Custome at funeralls to hire/have
poor people who were to take upon them all the sinnes of the party
42 For general comments on this subject see Van Scott, Encyclopedia, 262-63.;
Jacqueline Simpson & Steve Roud, A Dictionary of English Folklore (Oxford: Oxford Univ.
Press, 2000); Elizabeth Mary Wright, Rustic Speech and Folk-Lore (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press,
1913; republished, Book Tower, Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1968); Eleanor Hull,
Folklore Of The British Isles, Methuen's Anthropological Series, ed. R.R. Marett (London:
Methuen, 1928: reprint, Norwood Editions, 1977); Thomas Gwynn Jones, Welsh Folklore And
Folk-Custom (London: Methuen, 1930; reprint, Folcroft, Pa.: Folcroft Library Editions, 1976).
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Machen, Chase E. The Concept of Purgatory in England, dissertation, August 2010; Denton, Texas. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc30487/m1/199/: accessed November 27, 2022), University of North Texas Libraries, UNT Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; .