14 February, 2011

Everything you wanted to know about Valentine's day. Part2

Now that we have dug through the origins of the day, lets find out about the symbolism.

Image by Miamiamia (Stock.xchng)

The heart symbol is a sign of love and a big part of the holiday celebration. It does not, however, look anything like a real heart. So why is this shape directly linked to love today? Once again, the story has more than one version, but all of them find their roots in ancient times.
According to one version, the heart shape comes from the now extinct plant, silphium. Images of the silphium’s seedpods could be found on the ancient coins of a 7th century BC city called Cyrene. The seeds had a very distinctive heart shape and were used in contraceptive potions, forever linking the image to the notion of sexuality and passion.

Another version offers that the heart symbol is, in fact, a representation of ivy leaves. Branches of ivy had long been used as decoration on ancient vases and in paintings. The XII-XIII centuries saw ivy leaves becoming a recurrent symbol in love paintings. From there on, the symbol spread across Europe and eventually turned into the red coloured heart shape we know today. Over time, the Catholic Church adopted the heart as the symbol for the love and the passion of Christ. Later, in 15th century it becomes a symbol for one of the playing cards suits, making it even more popular.

A more contemporary view of the heart image compares it with the symbolic depiction of male and female genitalia, thus linking it to sexuality and love.

No mater what the origins of the heart symbol are, today it signifies love. With the emergence of digital mediums, the heart is now depicted as “<” and “3″. It stands in for the long cherished symbol and often replaces the word love in the digital communications. As a result one can hear the expression I HEART you instead of I LOVE you.

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