I’ve always been drawn to Victorian mourning rituals, especially the regalia of full mourning attire worn by new (often affluent) widows, and the incredible pieces of personalized mourning jewelry. I love how mourning consumed every part of life, because grief often does that, and it can be cathartic to acknowledge it and reflect it externally.
After a friend showed me a Victorian glass tear catcher, my curiosity was piqued and I decided to see if I could discover what other mourning baubles and trinkets might have existed in the nineteenth century to help Victorians address their grief.
After the death of a loved one, some Victorians employed the use of this handy tear catcher to collect all of their tears for one year. A special stopper would be used that allowed the tears to evaporate over time. Akin to an hour glass, it was believed that once the tears vanished completely, the mourning period would cease.
Hand of Remembrance Brooch
Brooches made out of vulcanite, depicting a feminine hand, were so popular with the Victorians that they were mass produced. What denoted the brooch as being a ‘hand of remembrance’ was due to what the hand was holding. A hand holding a laurel wreath, a symbol of eternal life, was commonly used as an elegant mourning accessory.
Jet Black Mourning Pins
New widows wearing the cumbersome widow’s weeds, the ultimate drab fashion statement, had to ensure that all other items on their person were also drab and dull; shiny ornamentations were a social taboo during the period of deep mourning. These mourning pins would prevent a devoted widow from cramping her own style.
Today’s funeral cards (small cards with the person’s name and date of death, sometimes scripted with a prayer, given out at a funeral as a token to remember the person by) are angelic and sometimes even cheery. I much prefer the Victorian ones on gorgeous raven paper with soft gold writing.
Mourning Doll/Grave Doll
Victorian families who were well-to-do could afford a life-size wax doll to be made in the likeness of their deceased infant or small child. They would be dressed in the child’s clothes, and usually some of the child’s hair was used to make the doll’s.
Families would ready the little doll for their child’s funeral, and after burial, the doll would be left at the grave with the child. However, many families took the doll home with them and cared for it like they might a real child, even changing its clothes and putting it to bed in a crib.
Featured Image via Friends of Oak Grove Cemetery.