The Last Sin Eater—by Catherine Cavendish
My latest novella – The Malan Witch – features two of the most evil witches you could ever encounter. Their sins were innumerable and their possession of an ancient cottage on a remote and picturesque coastline spells danger not only for Robyn Crowe’s life but her soul as well.
In thee circumstances, she might have been well advised to call on the local sin eater – should she have been lucky enough to find one still around. You see, the last one died in 1906, and when you find our more, you’ll probably not be surprised that there was hardly a queue of people waiting to take up his discarded mantle.
You can still visit him -or rather, his grave – for he lies (we hope at peace) in the graveyard of the peaceful rural St. Margaret’s Church in the tiny village of Ratlinghope near Shrewsbury in Shropshire, England. He was evidently held in high esteem by local folk who restored his memorial stone and held a commemorative service for him on its completion on 2010.
His name was Richard Munslow and his occupation – if you could call it that – was to eat and drink over the body of a deceased person and, by doing so, take on the sins of the recently departed.
Their services were generally called on in cases of sudden death where the unfortunate person had been unable to perform their final confession and be shriven. The sin eater would ensure that the loved one would enjoy a smooth and untroubled passage to heaven.
Sin eaters were generally poor and would be paid to perform their services. Sadly, they were often shunned by respectable people as they also prevented the sin-ridden deceased from returning to the word of the living and were often associated with witches and all manner of evil spirits. No one wanted to know them – until they required their services. The wooden platter on which their food and drink was served was destroyed after the ‘ceremony’ of sin-eating was performed as it was believed it would be forever infested with evil. Even to look a sin-eater directly in the eye was considered exceptionally bad luck.
The practice of sin-eating is an ancient custom, its origins lost in the far-off mists of time. It was also fairly localized – being practiced mainly in Wales and the English border towns and countryside (known as the Marches). By the 19th century, it had largely died out.
Curiously, Richard Munslow was not of the poor and downtrodden classes. He was a well-off farmer of good social standing but it is believed that his four children all died of Scarlet Fever within one week of each other in May 1870 and this sent him into such a state of depression and mental anguish that he resurrected the already outdated ritual of sin-eating.
Naught remained of their bodies to be buried, for the crows took back what was theirs.’
An idyllic coastal cottage near a sleepy village. What could be more perfect? For Robyn Crowe, borrowing her sister’s recently renovated holiday home for the summer seems just what she needs to deal with the grief of losing her beloved husband.
But behind those pretty walls lie many secrets, and legends of a malevolent sisterhood – two witches burned for their evil centuries earlier. Once, both their vile spirits were trapped there. Now, one has been released. One who is determined to find her sister. Only Robyn stands in her way.
And the crow has returned.
You can order The Malan Witch here:
About The Author
Following a varied career in sales, advertising and career guidance, Catherine Cavendish is now the full-time author of a number of paranormal, ghostly and Gothic horror novels, novellas and short stories. Cat’s novels include The Garden of Bewitchment. The Haunting of Henderson Close, the Nemesis of the Gods trilogy – Wrath of the Ancients, Waking the Ancients and Damned by the Ancients, plus The Devil’s Serenade, The Pendle Curse and Saving Grace Devine.
In addition to The Malan Witch, her novellas include The Darkest Veil, Linden Manor, Cold Revenge, Miss Abigail’s Room, The Demons of Cambian Street, Dark Avenging Angel, The Devil Inside Her, and The Second Wife
Her short stories have appeared in a number of anthologies including Silver Shamrock’s Midnight in the Graveyard. Her story, The Oubliette of Élie Loyd, will appear in their forthcoming Midnight in the Pentagram, to be published later this year.
She lives by the sea in Southport, England with her long-suffering husband, and a black cat called Serafina who has never forgotten that her species used to be worshipped in ancient Egypt. She sees no reason why that practice should not continue.
You can connect with Cat here: