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When did the heart shape first become a symbol of love?
asked in Symbols, hearts, love
The heart (♥) has long been used as a symbol to refer to the spiritual, emotional, moral, and in the past also intellectual core of a human being. As the heart was once widely believed to be the seat of the human mind, the word heart continues to be used poetically to refer to the soul, and stylized depictions of hearts are extremely prevalent symbols representing love.
In religious texts the heart has historically been ascribed much mystical significance, either as metaphor or as an organ genuinely believed to have spiritual or divine attributes.
In Egyptian mythology, the heart portion of the soul was weighed in a balance against the feather of Ma'at, symbolising truth, in the judgment of the dead in the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Egyptian sources do not actually reveal whether the heart had to be lighter or heavier than the feather for the deceased to pass into paradise - all depictions show only the weighing of the heart, not the actual results, heavier or lighter.
Similarly, in the Bible, this idea emerges in the earliest passages; Genesis 6:5 situates the thoughts of evil men in their hearts, and Exodus 5 through 12 speak repeatedly of the Lord "hardening Pharaoh's heart." By this it is meant that God made Pharaoh resolve not to let the Israelite slaves leave Egypt, in order to bring judgment against Pharaoh and demonstrate his power: "'Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these miraculous signs of mine among them'" (Exodus 10:1). In the Book of Jeremiah 17:9, it is written that the Lord is the judge who "tries" the human heart.
The Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary are traditional Roman Catholic devotional images.
European traditional heart symbol.
 In early science and philosophy
Many classical philosophers and scientists, including Aristotle, considered the heart the seat of thought, reason or emotion, often rejecting the value of the brain.
The Stoics taught that the heart was the seat of the soul.
The Roman physician Galen located the seat of the passions in the liver, the seat of reason in the brain, and considered the heart to be the seat of the emotions. While Galen's identification of the heart with emotion were proposed as a part of his theory of the circulatory system, the heart has continued to be used as a symbolic source of human emotions even after the rejection of such beliefs.
These themes were reiterated in the European Middle Ages.
Supplement from 01/27/2009 07:05pm:
It is believed that the "valentine" was the first greeting card.
Valentine's Day is the second largest card sending and receiving day each year only surpassed by Christmas. One billion valentine cards are sent each year.
The first written valentine is attributed to a young Frenchman, Charles, Duke of Orleans. From his confinement in the Tower of London after the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, Charles fought his lonely confinement by writing romantic poems or rhymed love letters to his wife in France. About sixty of them remain. They can be seen among the royal papers in the British Museum.
During the fifteenth century, one valentine showed a drawing of a knight and a lady, with Cupid in the act of sending an arrow to pierce the knight's heart.
By the sixteenth century written valentines were so common that St. Francis de Sales, fearing for the souls of his English congregation, sermonized against them.
During the seventeenth century people made their own valentines using original verse or poems copied from booklets with appropriate verse. The Victorians took the cards to elaborate lengths, trimming them with lace, silks and satins and embellishing them with special details like feathers, flowers, Cupids and hearts, gold leaf, hand painted details and even sweetly perfumed sachets.
The first commercial valentines appeared circa 1800 and were rather simplistic. Cards were hand-delivered. Until the mid-1800's, the cost of sending mail was beyond the means of the average person, and the recipient, not the sender, was expected to pay the cost of mailing. It wasn't until the advent of the penny posts that the modern custom of sending Valentine's cards really gained critical mass.
By the 1830's and 1840's Valentines contained delicate and artistic messages. Valentines made of fine papers and decorated with satin, ribbon, or lace commanded high prices. They had pictures of turtledoves, lovers' knots in gold or silver, bow and arrows, cupids, and bleeding hearts. All of these symbols have become associated with love and lovers.
In the 1840's the first mechanical valentines were introduced. By pulling a tab, a figure or object on the card could be made to move. Some had elaborate honeycomb pop-outs or various other three-dimensional features.
Manufactured Valentine cards didn't appear until the end of the nineteenth century.
"Penny" postcards, which were popular from about 1890 to 1917, were called penny postcards because they were mailed with a one-penny postage stamp.
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The symbol of the heart is an ancient one, and difficult for historians to trace.
It certainly makes sense that the heart was thought to be the center
of emotions; haven't we all felt pangs in our heart when we're sad and
skips in the heart when we're excited? But why was the heart shape
chosen to represent the organ, when certainly even the ancients knew
better? (Tearing out hearts during battle, for example, was certainly
practiced by some culture; so surely they knew what a real heart
Perhaps the first known use of the heart shape comes from the 7th
century BC, in Cyrene. In that city, at that time, Silphium was a
plant so highly prized for it's use as birth control that it became
extinct. The seeds of Silphium were shaped like hearts, however,
making historians believe that the heart shape we know today was based
upon this early form of birth control.
Some historians have tried to argue that the heart shape originated
with the Egyptian concept of ab, "the heart...the source of good and
evil within a person, the moral awareness and centre of thought that
could leave the body at will, and live with the gods after death, or
be eaten by Ammut as the final death if it failed to weigh equally
against Ma'at." ("The Ancient Egyptian Concept of the Soul,"
) But this seems less plausible (to this Researcher, at least) than
the Silphium theory.
Much later, heart symbols show up in stained glass windows,
symbolizing the soul or love of Jesus. (Perhaps because the Roman
Centurion who pierced Jesus' heart at the time of the crucifixion saw
blood and water flow from Christ's heart.) Later still, the Catholic
Church claimed the symbol of the heart originated with St. Margaret
Marie Alacoque, who had a vision in the 17th century where she saw a
heart shape surrounded by a crown of thorns.
For more on the history of the heart symbol, check out "Silphium" at
The Fact Index: http://www.fact-index.com/s/si/silphium.html and "A
History of the Heart" at HeartSmith:
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turn a bum upsid€ down. it is h€artshap€d. i cannot put a pic, but try it. it's why m€n lik€ a larg€ round bum.
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