Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Why does the heart have the shape we all know?

Nobody knows where the original source of the shape of the heart lies, which symbolises love and affection. The 'commercial' heart, only partially, does it resemble the anatomical heart within the human body.

The shape in the first picture is akin to the Egyptian hieroglyph for the heart, which was (for the Egyptians) of paramount importance not only for the body but also for the soul. That is why it was the only organ not removed during the process of embalming, which had to weigh exactly like a feather in order to enable the soul of the deceased to obtain permission to enter the underworld.
Another ancient form, that looks like the heart known to us all, is the fruit of the herb Silphium. It is a kind of fennel which grew in the coastal town of Cyrene, located in Libya. The heart maybe took the shape from the fruit, that was engraved on coins. This plant was to Cyrene a lucrative export product.
The silphium was used as a vegetable and a condiment. But according to the geographer Strabo it had therapeutic properties. The Roman historian Pliny the Elder says that it was used also as an antidote for unwanted pregnancies. It is this use, according to many historians, which highlighted this specific symbol to a symbol of love and romance.

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