What exactly is a “sin-eater”?

by bellemountain

I heard this term on a podcast. They described it as someone who could absolve others of their sins by eating bread off their chests, after they die. It also portrayed sin-eaters as totally shunned from society, despite doing a job that is highly valued. They described that it was a Protestant way of doing Catholic last rites and that it sometimes included witchy incantations and things. I tried to look into it further, which just raised more questions than answers. Did this practice start in the 17th century, medieval times, or earlier?Was this a profession people took on because they thought it was noble, or because they were already outcast from society? Did gender play a role in sin-eating? It seems to be a very popular concept in literature over the centuries, but I’m wondering how popular this role was in real life. Was it usually just bread that sin-eaters ate or were there other foods? Does this practice have any actual connection to “soul food?” Why and when did this fall out of practice? Any information about this profession/practice would be appreciated.