The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things

Ever wonder why your VDay cards have hearts on them?

In the Bible, and in much later literature, the heart is used as a metaphor to refer to the moral core of a human being. This is true from the earliest passages; Genesis 6:5 situates the thoughts of evil men in their hearts, and Exodus 5 through 12 speak repeatedly of the Lord “hardening Pharaoh’s heart;” by this it is meant that God made Pharaoh resolve not to let the Israelite slaves leave Egypt, in order to bring judgment against him. In Egyptian mythology, the heart was weighed in a balance against the feather of Maat, symbolising truth, in the judgment of the dead in the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Similarly, in Jeremiah 17:9, we are told that the “heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked”; and that the Lord is the judge who “tries” the human heart.

The Roman physician Galen considered the heart to be the seat of the emotions; the Stoics taught that the heart was the seat of the human soul. (Galen also located the seat of the passions in the liver, and the seat of reason in the brain.) While Galen’s identification with the heart and emotion were proposed as a part of his theory of the circulatory system, the Biblical text, this traditional Western medicine, and similar literary usages have caused the heart to be identified as the source of human emotions; and especially, the emotion of love.

This shape also appears on playing cards as the pip of the suit of hearts. What the traditional “heart shape” actually depicts is a matter of some controversy. It only vaguely resembles the human heart. Some claim that it actually depicts the hearts of cattle; while beef hearts resemble the heart shape somewhat more closely, the resemblance is still small. The shape does resemble that of the three-chambered heart of the turtle, and that of the human male prostate gland, but is surely not patterned after either of these organs. There are many claims that the “heart” shape actually depict features of the human female, such as the female’s pubic mound. A Sumerian cuneiform symbol for “woman” closely resembles the heart shape, and is believed to directly depict the pubic mound. Others maintain the heart resembles the shape of the female breasts or the female buttocks, especially when bent over in readiness for copulation; meaning that the heart was a symbol of fertility and maturity as a possible mating partner.

This shape is particularly associated with love poetry; it is often seen on Valentine cards, candy boxes, and similar popular culture artifacts as a symbol of love and romance. (via Wikipedia)

Posted by on 2/12/2005. Filed under IRL. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.
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