I poo-poo’ed valentines day in my post last year, so I thought I’d find something fun to do this time around. Not that I think it has any more merit mind you (though you’re welcome to it if forced affection makes you feel better).
The idea and history of the heart shape has a few more caveats that didn’t quite fit well with the comic. One is the idea of the Egyptian hieroglyph IB or AB (heart) as the original stylized heart. The Egyptians didn’t think highly of the brain and figured emotions and thoughts stemmed from the heart*, which gave the hieroglyph increased significance in regards to passion. And even though we know they got it flat out wrong, without the benefit of a scientific process it’s hard not to sympathize. After all you get heartache when you love a person, and heartburn when you love a pasta. It seems obvious; Culturally and linguistically we still hang on to the notion of the heart as a house for the soul and emotions.
The problem is that you’d be at odds saying that the various versions of the hieroglyph for IB (heart) look anything like the stylized cartoon heart. It’s basically a jar with handles, and resembles a real lumpy biological heart, if anything.
And I found no transitional forms.
The fig leaf motif is much more convincing as it has an unbroken line from past to present with explicable transitions and the Silphium plant was note worthy in that it got the heart shape and meaning perfectly from the start.
The next caveat is the claim that Saint Margaret Marie Alacoque’s vision of the sacred heart was the origin of the stylized heart shape. This is boring because it’s readily disproved (though admittedly it must have played a part in popularization).**
Overall the notion of an organically developed symbol for the heart together with the conscious or unconscious attraction to the form sits the best with me as an explanation.
With that I wish you all a Happy Valentines Day tomorrow!
Whether you (are a toolbox and choose to) celebrate or not.
This post was brought to you by Thalium (Tl).
*Aristotle also had similar ideas.
**That, and ‘Hysterical Virgins’ is a whole other post.