A sin-eater is a person who consumes a ritual meal in order to magically take on the sins of a person or household. Traditionally, the food was believed to absorb the sins of a recently deceased person, thus absolving that person's soul. Consequently, sin-eaters supposedly carried the sins of all people whose souls they 'ate.'
The sin eater paid a high price to help others drift smoothly into the afterlife: the coin he was given was worth a mere four English pence. Usually, the only people who would dare risk their immortal being during such a religious era were the very poor, whose desire for a little bread and drink carried them along.