The first thought that came to mind with this word was Nirvana’s “Heart Shaped Box” and how goofy it would be to sing a song called the “Cordate Box.” But anyway, the figural heart that we associate in love, affection, Valentine’s Day and religion looks nothing like our own internal organ heart at all. Our hearts have a vaguely similar shape if you turn it sideways, but otherwise it more closely resembles a steak. So I was curious and I looked up where the figural heart shape originates and it turns out there is quite a lot of debate about this subject. Apparently, it can be traced back to the silphium plant – which served as a form of contraceptive in Africa. I was going to post a photo of a silphium seed pod but it turns out that I cannot find one that actually looks anything like a heart – just a bunch of photos of coins with something that looks like a heart that is supposed to be the seed pod…so I don’t really buy this theory…and I don’t understand how NOT creating a baby means love…that would be the antithesis in my mind, but to each his own.
Other theories hold that the heart shape comes from Christianity, ie. the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Sacred Heart of Jesus. However, nothing I have found dates the depiction of this symbol back to an actual figural origin. Now, I have looked for all of 10 minutes so it might exist, but I still find it interesting how it is not very clear.
The third origin of the figural heart that I found in my brief searchings was its similarity in shape to the female vulva or buttocks. But then I also found reference to testicles…which in my opinion more closely resembles the heart shape than female naughty bits. Men have asses too so I don’t buy the female tie to the heart shape that is so often referenced.
The cordate symbol of love that we have come to know is arguably one of the most important shapes in our society. We come across it everywhere…and we don’t know exactly where it came from. Interesting…
…and in lots and lots of logos….
The heart shape has it’s own holiday and is most likely one of the first drawings most of us make as children (well, girls anyway) and yet there is no clear idea of its origin. We know where the circle came from and can read hyrogliphics but something we see everyday remains a mystery. It symbolizes all of these warm, fuzzy cozy sentiments yet we don’t know who to thank for it.
Maybe just being something purely good makes us forget it is essentially a stranger as far as symbols go. It is a universal symbol of goodness, of joy, and in my opinion, there are too few of those in our world so perhaps it’s best to just cherish it and smile when we see it.