It's difficult to say exactly when the
first tear bottles came into being, however, we can be certain that the legends
began in antiquity. The Old Testament of the Bible (KJV) references collecting tears in a bottle in Psalm 56:8 when David prays
to God, “Thou tellest my wanderings, put thou my tears in Thy bottle; are they
not in Thy Book?” The reference predates the birth of Christ by over 1000 years.
See more under Antiquity.
Tear bottles were fairly common in
Roman times, around the time of Christ,
when mourners filled small glass bottles or cups with tears and placed them in
burial tombs as symbols of respect. Sometimes women were even paid to
cry into these vessels, as they walked along the mourning procession. Those crying the
loudest and producing the most tears received the most compensation, or so the
legend goes. The more anguish and tears produced, the more important and valued
the deceased person was perceived to be. See
more under The Roman Period.
Tear bottles reappeared during the Victorian period
of the 19th century, when those mourning the loss of loved ones would
collect their tears in bottles with special stoppers that allowed the tears to evaporate. When the tears
had evaporated, the
mourning period would end. See more under
The Victorian Era.
In some American Civil War stories, women were
said to have cried into tear bottles and saved them until their husbands
returned from battle. Their collected tears would show the men how much they were
missed. See more under The U.S.Civil War.
The tear bottle tradition has historically been a
mourning tradition. Only in contemporary times have tears of joy and inspiration
been captured. In current music and literature, tear bottles have once again been romanticized.
References to the power of the tear bottle tradition occur in contemporary music
videos, novels, and poetry. Contemporary tear bottles
are created by glass artists around the world and a few successful
manufacturers. See more under Contemporary
Today, lachrymatory bottles may also
be called a tear bottle, tear catcher, tear vial, unguentaria, or unguentarium. There are also several less
common spellings for lachrymatory, including lachrimatory.