Tears remind me of the ocean and our salty origins in the womb. Can the emotions associated with them be preserved in their brine? There was a time when people actually thought so and paused to collect tears.

I stumbled on the tradition during a trip to Turkey in which I visited an archaeological museum in the resort town of Bodrum (ancient Halicarnassus). There, in the case in the Museum of Underwater Archeology, were the most beautiful pastel glass bottles I had ever seen. Rough-hewn, they dated to 100 AD and were evidence of a time people collected mourning tears and placed them in bottles to be buried with the dead. These vessels, or lachrymatories, were even referenced in the Old Testament 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 gentle custom had a revival in the Civil War era, when departing soldiers would give them to their wives. In Victorian times they were presented during rites of passage as heartfelt keepsakes. Modern glass artisans are reviving the art of ‘collectears’. “The sea is nothing but a library of all the tears in history,” Lemony Snicket writes.

Instead of wiping away
tears in the future, you may want to save them, and even display them. They are an ultimate souvenir of our bodies.

-Maureen Seaberg

Maureen Seaberg is an author (Tasting the Universe) as well as a synesthete and synesthesia expert for Psychology Today. Her k's are teal and her 8's are aubergine; Paris is the palest blush tone and Istanbul the whitest pearl in her personal palette. Despite getting caught in a sandstorm, she was the first person in the world to take an iPIX 360-degree photo of the Taj Mahal at dawn in 2000. She speaks fluent Spanish, having lived in Madrid, and enough Turkish to bargain at bazaars. 

August 2012