"In the county of Hereford was an old custom at funerals to hire poor people, who were to take upon them all the sins of the party deceased, and were called sin-eaters. One of them, I remember, lived in a cottage on Ross high-way. The manner was thus: when the corpse was brought out of the house, and laid on the bier, a loaf of bread was delivered to the sin-eater over the corpse, as also a mazar-bowl (a gossip's bowl of maple) full of beer, which he was to drink up, and sixpence in money; in consequence whereof, he took upon him, ipso facto, all the sins of the defunct, and freed him or her from walking after they were dead. In North Wales, the sin-eaters are frequently made use of; but there, instead of a bowl of beer, they have a bowl of milk. This custom was by some people observed, even in the strictest time of the Presbyterian government. And at Dyndar, volens nolens the parson of the parish, the relations of a woman deceased there had this ceremony punctually performed according to her will. The like was done in the city of Hereford in those times, where a woman kept many years before her death, a mazar bowl for the sin-eater, and in other places in this county, as also at Brecon, at Llangore, where Mr. Gwin, the minister, about 1640, could not hinder this superstition."
-- Aubrey of Gentilisme, MS. quoted in Kennett's Par. Ant. vol. 2, p. 276.