Sunday, July 1, 2012

How The Heart Got Its Shape

Heart Ivy : Heart bookmarker. Two heart pattern leaves close to each other as bookmarker.Heart Ivy : valentine vector background with branch of ivy and heartsHeart Ivy : Red heart of the forest
The shape of the heart symbol, which symbolizes love, bears little resemblance to the human heart, so I wondered about the origin.  There are several different ideas about the origin of this symbol going back to anywhere from the 7th century BC up to the 17th century. 

One idea is the heart shape of the now-extenct silphium plant from North Africa was used for birth control in the 7th century BC, and so became associated with sex and then eventually love.

Another idea proposes that the heart-shaped ivy leaf used to decorate early Christian burial sites eventually evolved to represent human life, which was believed to be driven entirely by the heart.  The human heart was rarely seen due primarily to religious bans on autopsies and the fact that surgery as is known today did not exist.  The heart was believed to be not only the seat of life but also the seat of emotion, so the heart-shaped ivy leaf eventually became associated with the emotions of love.  Blood is red, so the monks who painted illuminations in manuscripts eventually painted the heart symbol red.

Yet another idea proposed is that 17th century Saint Mary Margaret saw the sacred heart in this shape in a dream or vision.

For more information click here and click here.  What did you learn today?

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