In ancient times there were souls called sin-eaters. These were personified by spirits, birds, or animals, sometimes humans, who somewhat like the scapegoat, took on the sins, that is, the psychic waste of the community, so people could be cleansed and redeemed from the detritus of difficult life or life not well lived.

We have seen how the wild nature is exemplified by the finder of the dead, the one who sings over the bones of the dead, bringing them back to life again. This Life/Death/Life nature is a central attribute of the instinctual nature of women. Likewise, indorse mythology, the sin-eaters are carrion eaters who devour the dead, incubate them in their bellies, and carry them to Hel, who is not a place but a person. Hel is the Goddess of life and death. She shows the dead how to live backward. They become younger and younger until they are ready to be reborn and re-released back into life.

This eating of sins and sinners, and the subsequent incubation of them, and their release back into life once more, constitutes an individuation process for the most base aspects of the psyche. In this sense it is right and proper that energy is drawn out of the predatory elements of the psyche, killing them so to speak, draining their powers. Then they may be returned to the compassionate Life/Death/Life Mother, to be transformed and re-issued, hopefully in a less contentious state.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes. Women Who Run With Wolves

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