Why Is the Heart Symbol so Anatomically Incorrect

The heart is a rather unsightly organ. A twisted, bulbous mass of ventricles, veins, and muscle, it inspires neither romance nor lust. Yet in a grossly simplified form, it has become the reigning metaphor of our love.

We’re talking, of course, about the anatomically incorrect heart () — a symbol at once cherished by teenage texters and detested by crusaders of medical accuracy.

The symbol is ubiquitous in our modern world. It dangles from necklaces, earrings, and bracelets. It shows its face in an endless sea of Valentine’s Day cards. It’s emblazoned on t-shirts, graffitied on walls, and is offered, in an endless array of colors, across all mediums of technology.

How did this weird-looking, medically-inaccurate symbol become the go-to representation of the human heart — and moreover, an expression of our love and desire?

More specifically, how did this:

…become this?:

Origins of the “Heart” Shape

Historians have found relics resembling the modern heart symbol that date as far back as 3000 BC. But these early instances — etched into Grecian, Minoan, Cretian, Mycean, and Roman pottery — were actually representations of ivy or fig leaves, and had no connection with the human heart, or the idea of love.

In ancient Greece, for instance, the symbol was often used to portray a vine leaf, which harkened to Dionysus, the god of wine. Wreaths featuring these symbols were commonly worn by priests during festivals and feasts:

Gold ivy wreath featuring symbols resembling the modern heart symbol, found in Chalkidike, Macedonia, Greece (c. 350 BC)

Completely independent of the Greeks, this symbol was used elsewhere in the world, also to signify leaves of some sort. In Etruscan art (4th century BC Italy), these ivy leaves symbolized procreation, fidelity, and rebirth, and were often presented to brides and grooms during wedding ceremonies. In the 2nd century BC, Buddhists began inscribing the symbol as a way of depicting the fig leaf, which, to them, represented enlightenment.

During the 2nd century in the city of Cyrene, the symbol illustrated silphium, a plant used in ancient times as a crude form of birth control. The trade of this plant was so incredibly lucrative in Cyrene that the symbol for its seeds was printed on currency:

Coins from ancient Cyrene, depicting silphium seeds

But despite bearing great semblance to what we now recognize as the “heart symbol,” these depictions had nothing to do with human anatomy. Historians are uncertain as to exactly when these representations of leaves became interlinked with the human heart — but the answer likely lies in a lack of anatomical understanding at the time.

Some of the earliest human anatomy studies were conducted by Galen of Pergamon, a Greek physician who tended to the grave injuries of gladiators, and was able to examine human organs without performing dissections. From these studies, he composed some 22 volumes of medical text, which included an account of the heart as looking akin to a pine cone, or an inverted leaf — similar to the representation of ivy in ancient Greece.

Between antiquity and the middle ages, a tremendous body of medical knowledge was lost, in part due to the Roman Catholic Church’s discouragement of scientific advances in anatomy (religious powers outlawed autopsies). As a result, scholars, artists, and doctors had to rely on ancient, humor-based anatomical descriptions. Galen’s writings — including his description of the heart — were generally accepted, and they served as “the foundation of authority for all medical writers and physicians” for nearly 1,300 years.

The Rise of the Heart Symbol

Beginning in the mid-13th century, the symbol began popping up in artwork — this time, representing not ivy leaves, but the human heart, and moreover, love.

The first known instance of this appears in “Le roman de la poire” (“Romance of the pear”), a French love tale dating back to 1250, in which a man and his lover peel a pear together with their teeth. As was common in such books, the first letter of each chapter was often ornately decorated; in one of these letters, an “S,” a man is depicted handing his heart (a symbol of his love) to his damsel. Note the likeliness to the modern heart emblem:

The French text “Roman de la poire” (c. 1250) pictures a kneeling man handing his heart to a love interest — the first instance of the heart symbol signifying love in a metaphorical context

In his famous Scrovegni Chapel masterwork, Italian painter Giotto included an allegorical portrait of Charity handing her heart to Christ — again, represented as a pine-cone shaped, indented form similar to the modern heart symbol. Revered by other artists of the era, this painting influenced a number of other works throughout the 1300s and 1400s, all of which portrayed the human heart in a similar form, and enlisted it as a symbol of love.

Despite considerable advances in anatomy throughout the 16th and 17th centuries (including da Vinci’s highly accurate drawings of the human heart), the symbol exploded in popularity.

Leonardo da Vinci’s anatomically accurate heart drawings (c.1507) had little effect on eradicating the symbol in artwork

Whereas previous depictions were usually upside-down, from the 1500s onward, the heart symbol assumed its upright stance (point facing downward), and became an ubiquitous presence in paintings, books, and heraldry. Here are a few examples we dug up:

An image from the French text “Petit Livre d’Amour” (c. 1500), showing a man “depositing his heart in a marguerite flower,” which symbolizes his mistress

A shield representing the five wounds of Jesus during his crucifixion (c.1530s); note how all human body parts are represented accurately, except the heart

Saint Augustine holding a burning heart (Philippe de Champaigne, c.1650)

Another perpetuator of the anatomically incorrect heart symbol was the advent and rise of playing cards. The first suit, developed in Mamluk Egypt in the 1370s, was made up of cups, coins, swords, and polo-sticks; by 1450, the Swiss-Germans had changed this to shields, roses, acorns, and bells. It wasn’t until the early 1500s that the French coined the modern-day suit: trèfles (clubs, ♣), carreaux (diamonds, ♦), piques (spades, ♠), and cœurs (hearts, ♥).

Playing cards became immensely popular, and with them, the heart symbol became an irrevocable mainstay.

A French card set (c.1550s)

But the most lasting application of the heart symbol came from the Roman Catholic Church.

On December 27, 1673, Margaret Mary Alacoque, a nun from the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary, claimed to encounter Jesus Christ. In this encounter, Christ supposedly told her “to rest her head upon his heart” and inform the world of his eternal love. This tale eventually resulted in the devotion of the “Sacred Heart,” or the belief that Jesus Christ’s physical heart is the representation of his divine love for humanity.

Many subsequent depictions of Christ showed him possessing “a flaming heart shining with divine light” — most often with his wounded hands pointing at the heart. It became not only an enduring image of Christ, but of the heart symbol — and it secured the symbol’s permanence long after anatomy studies proved it to be grossly inaccurate.

We ♥ Symbols

By the 19th century, () had long been established as the go-to representation of the human heart, as well as the reigning symbol of love.

In 1977, New York City ran its “I ♥ NY” advertising campaign, marking the first instance of the symbol being used as a logograph for the verb “to love.” Thereafter, it became not only a representation of love, but a direct replacement for the word: “I ♥ [X]” morphed into the de facto way that people expressed their feelings for one another in Valentine’s Day cards, love letters, and (later down the line) text messages.

Interestingly, after being enlisted as a emoticon for “remaining lives” in the video game The Legend of Zelda (1986), the heart symbol also came to denote health. Dozens of video games copied Zelda, but moreover, health-food companies, and even the American Heart Association, enlisted the symbol as an ideogram for well-being throughout the 1990s.

Today, the symbol is everywhere: We scrawl it on notepads and secretly pass it in middle school classrooms. We text it with reckless abandon. We wear it on shirts, print it on cards, and stick it to the bumpers of our cars.

This once-earnest attempt at drawing an accurate heart has long-since been proven anatomically incorrect. We know now that the heart is a complex mass that is neither cute nor emanates feelings of love — but nonetheless, “♥” has become a fixture in our lives.

Heart to Heart Rita Dove, 1952

https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/heart-heart

It’s neither red
nor sweet.
It doesn’t melt
or turn over,
break or harden,
so it can’t feel
pain,
yearning,
regret.

It doesn’t have
a tip to spin on,
it isn’t even
shapely—
just a thick clutch
of muscle,
lopsided,
mute. Still,
I feel it inside
its cage sounding
a dull tattoo:
I want, I want—

but I can’t open it:
there’s no key.
I can’t wear it
on my sleeve,
or tell you from
the bottom of it
how I feel. Here,
it’s all yours, now—
but you’ll have
to take me,
too.

 

My take on this poem:

The heart isn’t actually red or sweet or “heart shaped”.It is just a muscle that pumps blood. It doesn’t actually feel emotions.It doesn’t physically melt or harden or soften because of the way I feel.It can’t voice its opinions, but I still feel as though my heart is bursting with things I want.I can’t actually open it or lock it because there is no physical key. I can’t wear it on my sleeve or retrieve words that describe how I feel, because it doesn’t record how I feel. And even though there is no logical explanation for it, I want to give you my heart, but i cannot only give you my heart, “you’ll have to take me too.”

 

American Gods on Starz:Must See!

It is safe to say that American God’s Neil Gailman is decently portrayed on Starz Show with the same name.When I first watched the show, I felt as if I was having the book being read to me.The special effects and the stellar cast made up of Gillian Anderson, Crispin Glover, Ian McShane, Kristin Chenoweth, Orlando Jones, Peter Stormare definitely helps the cause.

American Gods is about the faith the first American settlers brought from their lands such as Eastern Europe Mythology and the difference between the things we worship now such as the phone, the internet and such.The older Gods battle with the Present Gods for control .Who do you think will win? Who wins in real life?Has our fixation for technology and media become our Gods?I Recommend that you read the book and follow up with the exciting series!

Can’t Wait for Season Two!

 

Some Of Us Are So Tired of Political Controversies

Things have gotten too political lately.The latest stunt has been William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar with a Trump-Like figure.The actors have been getting death threats.It has been 5 months since Mr.Trump has taken office and some of us are still mystified as to how he got elected in the first place. Actors that have spoken for or against the president are either praised or hated for it. Kathy Griffin portrayed  a beheaded Trump and anyone associated with her has had to pull out endorsements or has had to speak against her.Where is the fine line between respectfully criticizing this nation’s president and disrespecting the same?

“We just got slammed,” the executive and artistic director of Shakespeare Dallas Raphael Parry told the Globe. “It’s pretty amazing the vitriol, the wishing we would die and our family would die. A whole lot of them say that we should burn in hell.” A pair of protesters interrupted Friday’s performance and were heard shouting “Stop the normalization of political violence against the right!” and “you are inciting terrorists.”

It is healthy to talk about and express an obvious anxiety that we as a nation are feeling.It is healthy to speak out against what of what is unjust and defend the defenseless. However, ridiculing a nation’s leader is distasteful and not helpful.Let us celebrate our similarities and respectfully speak out against what we might find to be injustice without adding fuel to the fire.

Quote excerpted from http://time.com/4823353/shakespeare-threats-julius-ceasar/ 

Be happy for what you already have

Perhaps we underestimate the power of loyalty and reliability and we trade it for excitement , extravagance and adventure. Maybe what you do everyday isn’t always exciting, but always be happy for what you already have. If you have at least one person that you can go to everyday, treasure that. In loneliness we learn that while it is perfectly okay to depend on ourselves, it is impossible to measure the power of love. The love we receive should then be distributed amongst ourselves.If you love yourself, then you are loved !It is not only from pain that you learn, although there is much to be learned from pain. There is so much more to be learned from love.

Whatever philosophy you might follow in life, remember that it must not hurt others or be self harming. It must make you do only good things, it should preach love .

Man angry at Women-only Screening of Wonder Woman-See the Mayor’s Response

I must applaud the actions of an Austin,Texas Mayor that bashed a citizen’s sexist remarks.A man was angry that select theaters would only screen for women for the movie Wonder Women.I think his arguments are brilliant and i couldn’t have said it any better. Should he want an only men screening for Superman, i’d say go ahead,but that wouldn’t prove much of a point.Men didn’t have to fight for their rights,they just always had it. Wonder Woman has become a symbol of power in a country that at times even our leaders make us feel less than, not to mention many other countries were women are mutilated, raped, and abused with no one to speak out for them. I even understand the man’s claims that this is a sexist move, but he fails to understand the need for encouragement towards women.As a woman pursuing a career in STEM I have been discouraged  to do so, and the world looks at us as the weaker sex.

This man claims as follow:“The theater that pandered to the sexism typical of women will, I hope, regret it’s decision,” the man wrote in a rant. He also threw out false claims, like “women pretend they do not know that only men serve in combat because they are content to have an easier ride” and “women gladly accept gold medals at the Olympics for coming in 10th and competing only against the second class of athletes. Name something invented by a woman!”

The letter-writer continued, “If Austin does not host a men-only counter event, I will never visit Austin and will welcome it’s [sic] [deterioration].”

This is an excerpt of the mayor’s response: “I am writing to alert you that your email account has been hacked by an unfortunate and unusually hostile individual,” the mayor wrote. “Please remedy your account’s security right away, lest this person’s uninformed and sexist rantings give you a bad name. After all, we men have to look out for each other!”

“Can you imagine if someone thought that you didn’t know women could serve in our combat units now without exclusion?” Adler continued. “What if someone thought you didn’t know that women invented medical syringes, life rafts, fire escapes, central and solar heating, a war-time communications system for radio-controlling torpedoes that laid the technological foundations for everything from Wi-Fi to GPS, and beer? And I hesitate to imagine how embarrassed you’d be if someone thought you were upset that a private business was realizing a business opportunity by reserving one screening this weekend for women to see a superhero movie.”

As an added stinger, Adler ended by calling the man’s views “an embarrassment to modernity, decency, and common sense.”

Instead, I’d encourage this man to call for unification and not to impose his views. He just proves exactly our point, that there are men out there with that mindset. I guess they never heard of Madam Curie, Dorothy Hodgkin, Mileva Einstein who contributed to research with her husband Albert Einstein, and Lise Meitner the woman who discovered nuclear fission with Otto Frisch among numerous others. He should go see “Hidden Figures’ instead of Wonder Woman and also look up the advances in science that were made thanks to women.

Be your best

Do not look outside for comforts or reassurances that you want. Be the person you hope to have in your life and everything will follow.Be the successful,loyal,ambitious,generous,kind,loving person you hope to find . Find comfort in being your own company and being your best friend. Love yourself and love others without any intention of being rewarded.Only when you have found all you need in yourself,you can provide the love to others.

Be the person you admire the most.Do not easily accept people’s beliefs, but listen to them. Never change for anyone, but strive to be the best you can be. And even when it is hard to believe people can be good, be good.

You change the environment, not the flower

Sometimes you love at a level people can’t even comprehend and behind a great love story, there’s an individual finding himself or herself. And as you never stop learning about people, you never stop learning about yourself. There’s sacrifice that comes with love and love always starts with you.

I love this quote that says that “In life you’ll realize that there’s a purpose for every person you meet.Some are there to test you… Some will use you… Some will teach you and some will bring out the best in you”. Most people that come into your life are a reflection of you, of what you’ve done, will do, of what you are willing to. Some people will make you question your character, they will make offers you “cannot refuse”. Others will be there to find your vulnerability and manipulate it to their liking.Remember even your weaknesses can turn into strengths. Be strong and courageous to be who you are, just be resilient and persevere.

My favorite people are those who are here to teach me. Not to necessarily impose their opinions on me, but for me to expand my horizons, see the world in different eyes. Even people that do not share your beliefs can teach you things. To be open minded is to accept there is more than to this life than what you see, what you hear, what you learn. Even the most ludicrous idea should be analyzed. My other favorite type of people are those that either bring the worst out of me or the best out of me.

Why the worst?We all have triggers; things that have an unexpected effect on us. We do have control of our emotions, remember that. And to learn this you may have to have an encounter with a situation that completely gets you out of control.You don’t necessarily start avoiding life ,you can’t dodge what it throws at you, but you can decide who the person is that you want to be.

The people that bring out the best in you make you remember your humanity. They remind you, that you must do good to receive any good. They remember how much you have grown as a person and how you can work on becoming even better. Try to always be your best version.