How Did The Heart Become A Symbol of Love?

No one question the beauty of love, especially now that we're expanding our understanding of its meaning. Love is no longer limited to the boundaries of romance and is there, inside of us, waiting to be shared freely and intentionally.

The typical answer to the question "but where inside of us?" is "inside our hearts."

And that brings another question: why in our hearts?

When we see the current graphic representation of a heart and its distance from what a real heart looks like, it's hard to understand how it became the symbol of love. And also because now we know that the human organ that is the real maestro of love emotions is our brain, not our heart.

There are two different theories, both of them fascinating.

The Silphium Theory

silphium heart symbol of love
The first theory appoints to a now extinct plant called Silphium, cultivated around the city of Cyrene, in what is now the north of Libya. Silphium production and trade were so relevant for Cyrene's economy that, in the 5th and 6th centuries BC, its silver coins depicted the design of a heart, as we know it nowadays, representing the plant's fruits.
Silphium was used by ancient Greeks and Romans as food seasoning and medicine, but most importantly, as a powerful contraceptive. It became so popular that it was cultivated to the point of extinction. And that's how its heart-shaped fruits would have possibly become inexorably linked to sexuality and love.

The Aristotle Theory

According to some scholars, Aristotle is responsible for the heart representation as we know it today.

In the 4th century BC, ignoring the importance of the brain (who can blame him), the philosopher stated: "the heart is the most important organ of the body." He identified the heart as a three-chambered organ and the origin of the veins in the body. And concluded that the heart was "the center of vitality in the body," of the body's psycho-physiological system, including feelings and sensations.  

But it was his description of the heart that could possibly have inspired today's drawings of the heart: three chambers with a small dent in the middle.

Roman de la poire heart as a symbol of love

From ancient Asia to modern times

Inspired by the heart-shaped leaves of the plant peepal (sacred fig), depictions of the heart were also found in objects from The Indus Valley Civilization (3rd to 1st century BC, now northeast of Afghanistan and much of Pakistan).

In Japan, a heart symbol named Inome decorated Shinto shrines, Buddhist temples, castles, and weapons as a protection against evil spirits. The oldest one is dated from the 6th or 7th centuries.

The depiction of the heart as we know it today was first used in the Middle Age as a symbol of romance and courtly love. It appeared in a manuscript of 1250 and in Giotto's painting of 1305.

The heart symbol's popularity grew during the Renaissance. It was used in religious art depicting the Sacred Heart of Christ and as one of the four suits in playing cards. But it really exploded in the 19th century, when it was often used on Valentine's Day cards, candy boxes, and similar famous cultural artifacts to symbolize romantic love

Kotae blank inspirational cards

For Kotae

The hearts depicted in our cards carry what I would call a kind of responsibility. They are the inherent message of love that we want to share and the source of inspiration for what we do.

Their random character makes them unique, magical, and powerful. Kotae exists because of the hearts and not the opposite.

I personally am incredibly thankful to them. They opened my eyes to a potential that I could not see in myself. Not mentioning the joy I feel when I find each of them. The more I find new hearts, the more it confirms that jumping into the idea of sharing this joy with you was the perfect thing to do.

I hope you also love them as much as I do.

Click here to take a look at our hearts; love to you all!