Pouring one out for you
How the newest "Pouring Glass" emoji is also one of the oldest
Late last year, Emoji 14.0 was released and among them was a curious new emoji: “Pouring Liquid” () aka Libation. While it may be new to our seemingly infinitely growing emoji keyboards it’s a gesture older than emoji itself. It’s true. How old is the act of libation? I’m glad you asked. It dates back to Austin Powers, The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999). lololol jk. We’ve been “pouring liquid” as a way to honor the dead for millennia. In truth, the earliest citation can be traced back to Ancient Egypt (water mostly did the trick back then). Water was symbolic, considered as a life-giving liquid. To pour some out was presumably a true sacrifice.
It’s so old the Old-Testament references the practice as per Genesis 35:14, “Jacob set up a pillar in the place where he had spoken with him [God], even a pillar of stone. He poured out a drink offering on it and poured oil on it.” Libations in Ancient Greece consisted of alcohol (mostly wine). It’s specifically referenced in Homer’s The Iliad and well documented in The Encyclopedia of Ancient History. Ancient Rome incorporated the practice of libation both as an offering to the gods and a sign of respect for those who have passed on.
These days, the ritual of pouring out liquid has been incorporated all over the world: China, India, Cuba, Russia indigenous tribes in South America and countless African cultures including but not limited to the African-American holiday Kwanzaa, which incorporates a ritual of libation.
This act to honor friends who have died is prevalent present day in hip-hop and pop-culture (Boyz in the Hood, 1991 and 2Pac’s “Pour Out a Little Liquor”, 1994). So how did libation go from relief sculptures on sarcophagi and into your emoji keyboard? Well, in 2019 O'Plérou Grebet, an Ivorian designer, started to create images of Ivorian culture and sharing them online.(You can use them as stickers in WhatsApp!) A few made promising emoji candidates and we worked together on a proposal for “Pour Emoji”. In his words:
This concept is important to me because it's a traditional custom in many African countries, especially Côte d'Ivoire and it's a way to stay connected to our ancestors. I use it with friends when we are talking about projects or plans, like a "May God bless our plans" but with the ancestors instead. I find it cool because it's a kind of "digital spirituality" and I like how it blends an ancestral practice with modern technology.
I love that 💕
As an emoji, has a great deal of multiple uses in addition for acknowledging or honoring someone. The phase “pour out” means to freely express yourself. The more colloquial, “spill the tea” indicates you have some goss to divulge. When used alongside other emoji it can mean something entirely new (e.g. “I’m a bit accident prone 👕”). The gesture is both literal and symbolic and now it sits sandwiched between other food and drink items, infinitely pouring, as if it has always been there … because in some ways it always has.
This blog post dedicated to Mary Daniel, June 5, 1931— April 10, 2022. World’s Best Roommate, World’s Best Grandma. This one is for you GG (a hazelnut iced coffee ofc) lol xoxoxoxo