The Legend of the Tear Jar

In the dry climate of ancient Greece, water was prized above all. Giving up water from one's own body, when crying tears for the dead, was considered a sacrifice. They caught their precious tears in tiny pitchers or "tear jars." The tears became holy water and could be used to sprinkle on doorways to keep out evil, or cool the brow of a sick child

The tear jars were kept unpainted until the owner had experienced the death of a parent, sibling, child or spouse. After that, the grieving person decorated the tear jar with intricate designs, and examples of these can still be seen throughout modem Greece.

Legends of tear bottles, or lachrymatories, also abound in stories of Egypt and middle eastern societies. In ancient Roman times, mourners filled small glass vials with tears and placed them in tombs as symbols of love & respect. In the Old Testament of the Bible, the notion of collecting tears in a bottle appears in Psalm 56:8.

In the Victorian era, a tear bottle was one of the greatest gifts you could give someone. It meant that you loved them, that you shared a grief which brought you together.

This ancient custom symbolizes the transformation that takes place in people who have grieved deeply. They are not threatened by the grief of people in pain. They have been in the depths of pain themselves, and returned. Like the tear jar, they can now be with others who grieve and catch their tears.

~Linda May and Pleasant Gill White~
grief counselor and founder of the
Sibling Connection.


"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13

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