Why a Heart?

The entire month of February, specifically Valentine’s Day, is essentially characterized by the shape of a heart. One sees hearts everywhere: as decorations in people’s houses, doodled on the sides of a young girl’s notebook, printed on cards, forming the shape of most boxes of chocolates, etc.

In our modern culture, the idea of love and the shape of a heart are practically synonymous. However, when one logically thinks about it, it is hard to think of a clear reasoning as to how these two ideas got linked together in the first place. Why a heart? No, it is not even a heart. In reality our symbol for love, the “heart,” looks nothing like an actual human heart. Through extensive research it is discovered that this symbol has been around for so long, no one is even completely sure where it came from. The leading source is the seed of the ancient, and now extinct, silphium plant.

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The shape of the seed, which very much resembles our traditional “heart,” was printed as the design on ancient currency. Somehow, for some unknown reason, people started associating this shape with the human heart, and with love. Philosophically, the human heart is said to be the seat of thought, reason, and emotion. According to the Roman physician Galen, the liver is the seat of passions, the brain the seat of reasons, and the heart the seat of emotions. Therefore, the heart is the symbolic source of human emotion.

It is no secret that most humans view love as the most important of all emotions. Our hearts are absolutely essential, and in a way, so is love. Hence, hearts and love may truly be connected after all.