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Lachrymatories (Tear Bottles)

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posted on Apr, 24 2016 @ 10:11 PM

And I wept tears for endless days it seemed,
Over broken promises and shattered dreams.
I think Da Vinci drew it right in his art,
Tears do come directly from the heart.

Tear bottles... yep, that's what this thread is about. I started out wanting to talk about the way they were used from way back in the days of the Pharaoh's up to current times. Such a hopeless romantic am I that I jumped in head first, wanting to believe in them. So beautiful the thought was, such a simple yet loving gesture. A gesture that has faded in and out of practice through the ages of man. But the more I looked, the more I started to doubt their authenticity.

There is not a lot of information out there about them. Just bits and pieces that have been regurgitated over and over again by websites. None of those websites have listed the original sources either. So, once again, it has been a long and tedious process trying to sort fact from fiction.

But the beauty of the bottles and the stories behind them ... well, I just needed to know if it was the real deal or not. So, I am sharing the info I've found and maybe ... just maybe someone out there can help shed some light as to whether these were real or not.

One of the first mentions of Lachrymatories were in the bible when David prays to God, “Thou tellest my wanderings, put thou my tears in Thy bottle, are they not in Thy book?” (Psalms 56:8, approximately 1020 BCE) I am unsure really if this is in reference to tear bottles or something more profound. I would assume the latter but this passage is used as evidence to speak to how old the use of Lachrymatories really are.

In the times of the pharaohs, within the tombs of the dead around 100 CE, there were numerous small vials found buried with the deceased. It has been suggested that these were tear bottles, used in times of mourning as a symbol of love and respect. They were also used by the Greek and Romans for the same purpose. (one website states that tomb raiders found these bottles in roman tombs instead of Egyptian tombs... have been unable to verify either as fact)

Out of both of these statements I could only verify one as factual. So I decided to concentrate on the Victorian era instead. After the Greek and Roman period, the lachrymatories were forgotten for a bit, but gained popularity again in the 19th century.

During the Victorian and Civil War era, they used tear catchers to collect their tears and put them in extravagant bottles to be buried with their dead. During funerals, they would pass around tear catchers and collect the tears as they mourned. The bottle was capped with a special topper that would let the tears evaporate. It was believed that when all the tears had dried up within the bottle, the mourning time had passed.

During the civil war, soldiers going away to war gave tear bottles to their wives. Hoping that the bottle would be full when he returned, a true sign of how much he was loved and missed while he was gone. On every website I visit they talk about how there is written documentation on this... but I have yet to find any.

As I poured through website after website, trying to collect more facts and history on the subject.. I found one that debunked the tear bottles of the Victorian era. . This website stated that none of the information that I'd been reading was true. That tear bottles were in fact nothing more than throw away bottles used by the rich in the 19th century Victorian era to carry their perfumes home in. Once they got home, they would transfer the perfume into a eloquent spray bottle and throw the "tear bottle" away.. but this information I couldn't confirm either.

I was crushed, this cannot be! Such a beautiful way to remember and show respect for someone. ... and it was all a ruse? I was determined to prove them wrong.. so began my search.. a couple of Monsters and a few hours later... I found some references to them. Most is from the 1800's.

Three references to them are from journals/magazines written in the late 1800's. ..they are all minimal:

The Atlantic Monthly pg. 186 ( poem about a Greek girls tears gathered in a glass)

Harper's New Monthly Magazine, pg. 197 (Notates a white lachrymatory with very delicate incrustation, right column towards the bottom)

The Living Age, pg. 46 (Talks about how lady Sloan won't need to go shares with the tear bottle. First paragraph on page.)

And two from museums: Both notating inventory of the pieces they have in their collection of antiquities:

Full text of glass

Museum of London Blog

And then... after all that... I find a reference in Imperial Reference Library comprising a general encylopædia : (copywrite 1898)

Lacrimatory, n. A type of small, thin-necked, often tubular, glass bottles found in ancient tombs in Italy and Greece. They served to contain unguents and perfumes, and not to hold tears, as has been fabled; also called tear bottles.

So.. real or not? I still have no idea. Maybe one of you guys can figure it out. But I do like the thought of it, either way...

Thanks for reading,

posted on Apr, 24 2016 @ 10:54 PM
Quality thread. (thank you)

As someone once said, I want to believe.


posted on Apr, 24 2016 @ 10:55 PM
a reply to: blend57

I like the thought as well but in a more pragamatic way. Hang your head down and let the bottle catch your tear. Now our (my) tear ducts are blocked from the multitude of tears. I have tear bottles under my eyes.

Edit because funky tablet posted too soon.
edit on 24-4-2016 by liveandlearn because: (no reason given)

posted on Apr, 25 2016 @ 08:27 AM
a reply to: abe froman

Thank you. I'm glad you found something of value in it. For a romantic like me the idea to collect your tears in a bottle for your loved one is so beautiful. I was very hopeful that it could be proven as factual. I think sometimes we as humans need ceremonies like this. To help with our own grief as well as to honor the dead.


I like to deal with things sensibly as well.. there is another reason that they used to bottle their tears. It was thought to help with the emotional aspect of the mourners. Although back in those days there was no scientific evidence to support it, reading through some of the information I collected I found some studies done on emotional tears as well. The conclusion was that when we shed them, through the tears our body is excreting or getting rid of stress and toxins within it. Emotional tears were found to have higher levels of ACTH and enkephalin - a natural pain killer.

So, kinda makes sense they would encourage people to cry. I have more info on this aspect of it if you wish to know. But I have to get ready for work right now, so, I am unable to write out a proper response. It is truly an interesting subject though.

Thanks for your comments.. I appreciate your thoughts.


posted on Apr, 25 2016 @ 08:49 AM
a reply to: blend57

Excellent thread. I like obscura like this. I just checked on eBay and you can purchase a Civil War Era lachrymatory vial for a reasonable price. I may get one and add it to my oddities.

posted on Apr, 25 2016 @ 01:59 PM
Ive seen these in antique stores all my life and never gave much thought to it.

Thanks OP!

Not as romantic, but much more real...

Belly button lint collection! Sorted by color!!
edit on 4252016 by Butterfinger because: format

posted on Apr, 26 2016 @ 07:04 AM
a reply to: AugustusMasonicus

I am going to be buying a few of these as well. No matter if they are filled with tears or perfume..I can't wait to see the look on peoples faces when they open the box and see such a beautiful gift. Although I can't decide which kind I like better. For me it would be the simple tear drop shaped bottle.. but I think most others would like the intricately designed ones..(Pics of both)

Roman Era

Victorian Era

a reply to: Butterfinger

Um.. If that is more real (belly button lint collection) I'm gonna stay a hopeless romantic forever! Big, fat yuck to the whole deal of collecting belly button lint! Gross Factor = 100!

From the picture they kinda look like jars full of cereal. Fluffy rice crispies or something..Dunno... I wonder what they smell like..............

Thanks for the thoughts and links.

edit on 26-4-2016 by blend57 because: (no reason given)

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