Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Oh for Crying Out Loud!

Some ancient Romans cried into little glass bottles when in mourning. Once filled, they left the tear-shaped vials in the tombs of the newly departed as a sign of respect.

But for others, it wasn’t enough to have family members cry into their cups. Professional mourners were available to wail, moan and tear out their hair in honor of your terrible loss. And for an extra coin or three, they could be convinced to cry into little vials too.

Sandy Fry, one of my awesome critique group partners, introduced me to tear catchers. I had not heard of them though I’ve since learned they were common in the first century CE.

The practice survived into the Middle Ages and beyond. During the Civil War, it was said that some women cried into tear catchers and saved them until their husbands returned from battle. In the Victorian Era, some tear bottles were made into the shape of cigars so men would not be embarrassed to use them.

It seems like a strange though touching custom. But certainly not—as some have hinted—a vial one. (Hey don’t groan at me—that was Sandy’s pun!)

4 comments:

MikeA said...

What would they have charged if they'd been demanded to "cry me a river!"

Jessica said...

Very interesting. . .

Elizabeth O. Dulemba said...

It is kind of sweet...
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Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

It is sweet. But I wonder--especially in Rome where everything was about status--whether it didn't, at some point, turn into a popularity contest. As in, my friend had more tear vials than yours....