Lachrymatory or Tear Catcher – Funeral & Grief Artifacts

This is one of those customs that fascinate me, and is one which is so clearly tied to helping one manage their grief.   To me, the lachrymatory seems outright poetic.  Check it out:

A Lachrymatory or Tear Catcher / bottle was popular from the 1720s until after the Civil war, and were an important custom among those of high social status upon the death of a husband or child.   A woman would gather with her closest female relatives and friends, hold a memorial service before the sun set on the day of death.   A close female friend or relative would present her with the lachrymatory which would be used to catch tears wept during the memorial.

Some bottles were designed to be sealed shut with paraffin, to be emptied upon the grave a year later.  Others are designed with a cap that allows for evaporation, the idea being that when the tears have dried away, the time of mourning is over.

The tradition was taken from the book of Psalms 56.8, written by David.    However, tear bottles were also quite popular in Ancient Rome, though the bottles were shaped differently.