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Those times (1800's) were still dominated by religious views. So anything not mainstream or in line with the majority would be considered sinful in nature. Using a theme from the very nature of this site I would think that combining religious views with old world (read: immigrants) beliefs could rustle up a sin or three. Perhaps a mother-to-be was caught making some token to appeal for protection for her baby (unwed mother-to-be) or superstitious reactions could be sinful since they impose a fear of things that could not exist in accordance with christian values (ghosts, imps, evil yard gnomes). An old lady is caught putting out milk for the spirits, or people celebrating Beltane or Samhain. Or something as simple as allowing an ankle to be seen by a man who is not your hubby let alone running naked in the corn.
The ability of mankind to categorize ANYTHING as sinful is pretty much unlimited and has been more about power (or guilt) than righteousness (IMHO). Might be a theme to approach as well.
sorry to have rambled on....good luck with the book....we all get signed first editions you know
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