Danny at Shutterstock’s blog investigates the origins of the ubiquitous heart symbol:
A leading theory contends that during the seventh century B.C., the silphium plant was used as a form of birth control in the city-state of Cyrene. Legend has it that the plant was so important to the local economy that “coins were minted that depicted the plant’s seedpod, which looks like the heart shape we know today,” according to Slate. …
For a long time before the common era, hunters reportedly scrawled the symbol on cave walls, though its meaning to those early people is unclear. Ancient Egyptians, for instance, believed that the heart epitomized life and morality. The Greeks held that it controlled reason, thought and emotion. It’s possible that the Greek association of ivy with the god Dionysus (the god of sensual things) led to the heart being identified with romantic love. Once the heart surfaced as a mark for sex, it’s not a large leap to understand how it came to connote love, too. And, in time, eternal love.
But non-procreative love, right? If it started as a symbol for contraception … So naturally, so to speak, the Vatican decided that the symbol actually began in the 17th century and was about Jesus who never had sex or romantic love at all. The Sacred Heart is indeed a powerful symbol. But the seed against seed wins out.
(Photo by H Matthew Howarth)