How Come Valentine’s Day Hearts Don’t Really Look Like A Real Heart?

Photo Courtesy of Louvre

Photo Courtesy of Louvre

Photo Courtesy of Louvre

Reagan Alexander, Staff Writer

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The heart symbol is known all around the world as a representation of love, but most people do not know its origins. As a result of these ambiguities, there are many different theories explaining where this iconic symbol came from.
Before addressing the different theories associated with the modern symbol of love, one must first understand how an organ came to symbolize love. The heart organ as a symbol for love originated before the Common Era. Ancient beliefs from almost every major culture used the heart as the organ at the center of both mind and soul. Being at the center of everything, many believed the heart controlled emotions. Love being arguably the most powerful emotion, it’s easy to see how this strong emotion came to be represented by the most important organ.
One theory explaining the heart symbol describes how two lovers’ hearts can be combined to form the conventional heart shape. Love can create a special bond, and by connecting these two hearts, they create a new symbol for love that emphasizes being together.
Emma Siefker,‘20, agrees with this theory, saying she sees how two hearts put together can form a shape similar to that of the traditional simplified heart symbol.
For Siefker, the heart symbol also brings other connotations to mind, besides an organ.
“When I was little, my brother and I thought [the heart symbol] looked like a butterfly, which, now that I think of it, reminded us of love and happiness.”
Another theory, courtesy of Tumblr, claims the heart symbol is created when a single human heart and the brain connect. This symbolizes how people love with both their minds and hearts. The theory regards love and feelings as two tiered, using one’s heart to know what one wants, and one’s brain to think logically about one’s feelings, and what’s best for them. However, this theory does not really fit because the heart symbol, as a representation of love, originated sometime during the 14th century, before anatomical knowledge was very common.
TIME magazine explores how the human heart didn’t signify love until around the 14th century.
Eric Jager, author of Book of the Heart, explains that before the 13th and 14th centuries, people “thought of our hearts as books of memory, a place where God’s commands are written, and [believed] feelings for the beloved were somehow written on your heart.”
In the 14th century, the heart first depicted a heart symbol being held by the tip with the indented base hanging down, or upside down from how it is traditionally depicted.
Pierre Vinken, writer for The Lancet, wrote, “In the Middle Ages, the pine-cone-shaped heart was represented with a rounded base, it was only during the early years of the 14th century that the scalloped shape of the St. Valentine heart, with a fold or dent in the base, made its appearance.”
In the 15th century, the artwork called “Le don de cœur” meaning “the gift of heart” depicted a man holding a small red heart similar to St. Valentine’s. The heart then began the universal symbol of courting, which is dating and having the intent to marry. Now, the heart symbol represents love and joy.
Chrissy Hansen,‘20, mentioned that “I feel like someone from a long time ago saw a plant that looked like the heart we see now and that it might have reminded them of love.”
Many household and outdoor plants are similar to the heart symbol, which could have been a reminder of love many years ago. The Silphium plant was used in the 5th and 6th century as a form of medicine and contraceptive, which links it to love. The seeds of the plant are said to have been shaped in the current heart symbol and they also had some healing power to an extent, which kept loved ones together.
Today, the heart symbol represents love, for a significant other or just a friend.
While it signifies love, where did it truly come from? Perhaps the symbol was inspired by a plant, or popularized by a piece of artwork. Or maybe the symbol shows two hearts intertwined or a combination of the heart and the brain. There are many theories to the creation of the heart symbol and there is no way to know which one is true but however it came into existence, the heart is a beautiful representation of love today and will continue be so in the future.

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