Have you ever wondered how the heart shape symbol we associate with love and romance for Valentine’s Day began? After all, the human heart hardly resembles the popular drawings with the two rounded sides that lead to a pointy-bottom. In reality, our hearts are more rounded at the bottom with smooth sides, sporting a series of thick blood vessels at the top of this powerful fist-sized muscle. To put it another way, there are few different theories that may amuse you.
To begin with, the ancient Greeks and Romans may have something to do with it. At the time, they established a robust trade in Libya in a city-state of Cyrene based on an extinct plant called the Silphium. This plant was used for everything from seasoning food, serving as ingredient in perfume, treating diseases, to being an aphrodisiac to the most popular purpose, a form of birth control. The Romans were so taken with Silphium that they even depicted its seed pods on their coins. Therefore, this is the closest shape of our current heart symbol for Valentine’s Day we know today that may account for one theory.
Others contend that our Valentine’s Day heart shape symbol has more direct sexual connotations. Some believe this shape centers around a woman’s body, namely the anatomy of the buttocks and mons pubis.
Sex and lust may be the original aspect as to the origin of the heart shape symbol for Valentine’s Day, but during the middle ages the heart linked more to the emotion of love. Since the church was publically against dissection, it was rarely common for an autopsy or a dissection for people as a rule to know what the true shape was. Being the case, animal hearts were the closest specimens, such as the cow’s heart to the current heart shape symbol of Valentine’s Day.
Of course, these animal hearts didn’t have the pointy-bottom. However, during the medieval period, artists and writers elaborated on those animal shape hearts with more creativity in design in their paintings to illustrations to reflect love. Centuries later, the heart shape symbol as we know it became the result.
If you’re curious about more of the fascinating origins of Valentine’s Day, I hope you read my earlier post.
Happy Valentine’s Day!