February 8, 2018
As Valentines Day approaches lets look at the symbols that we associate with this romantic day. Of course there are flowers and cupid, rings and dinners and of course hearts. How did this iconic symbol come to be.
It doesn’t look like the human heart. Why do we even associate the heart with feelings and emotions? Where did the belief that the heart is at the center of passion come from? Why is it red?
Lets start with the color. According to Amy Cunningham, Editor of RomanceFromTheHeart.com, in many cultures around the globe, red represents passion and strong emotions. Pretty simple. In our own history red is used to signify determination, strength and fierce emotions.
Again according to Ms Cunningham, “the current shape of the heart is based on the actual human heart. The ancients, including Aristotle and even some today believe that the heart contains all human passions. However the traditional heart shape looks nothing like the actual. In fact it more resembles the heart of cattle”. This would make sense since the slaughter of cattle was much more accepted than cutting into a human. It is also said that the drawing of a modern heart possibly originated because of botched drawings of the human heart by medieval artists after a philosopher inaccurately described the shape. There are pictures of hearts on Tapestries and paintings and even playing cards.
Of course there or other more interesting ideas on where the design comes from. According to Amy Cunningham, the heart shape actually represents the body features of the female. Because the female gives birth to life, this could account for the association with the heart-shape and love.
Another popular theory is that the shape is derived from a plant seed. The now extinct plant called the Silphium was a major export in the city of Cyrene in Northern Africa during the 7th century BC. The plant was most commonly used as seasoning but was also widely used as a contraceptive in ancient Egypt. Because it was so important to their economy they put the shape of the seed on their coin. And, you guessed it, it is in the shape of a heart. According to Amy Cunningham, “because of it use as a contraceptive and the resemblance of its seed to the heart, the heart soon became associated with sexuality and eventually with romantic love.
According to Keelin McDonnel, In the more theological arenas, “In the 17th century Saint Margaret Mary Alocoque had a vision of a heart surrounded by thorns. This symbol became known as the Sacred heart of Jesus and was associated with love and devotion.
Well there you have it. Just a few of the more popular theories where the shape of the heart comes from and why we associate it with love and passion.