The symbol of the heart is an ancient one, and difficult for historians to trace.
It certainly makes sense that the heart was thought to be the center
of emotions; haven't we all felt pangs in our heart when we're sad and
skips in the heart when we're excited? But why was the heart shape
chosen to represent the organ, when certainly even the ancients knew
better? (Tearing out hearts during battle, for example, was certainly
practiced by some culture; so surely they knew what a real heart
Perhaps the first known use of the heart shape comes from the 7th
century BC, in Cyrene. In that city, at that time, Silphium was a
plant so highly prized for it's use as birth control that it became
extinct. The seeds of Silphium were shaped like hearts, however,
making historians believe that the heart shape we know today was based
upon this early form of birth control.
Some historians have tried to argue that the heart shape originated
with the Egyptian concept of ab, "the heart...the source of good and
evil within a person, the moral awareness and centre of thought that
could leave the body at will, and live with the gods after death, or
be eaten by Ammut as the final death if it failed to weigh equally
against Ma'at." ("The Ancient Egyptian Concept of the Soul,"
) But this seems less plausible (to this Researcher, at least) than
the Silphium theory.
Much later, heart symbols show up in stained glass windows,
symbolizing the soul or love of Jesus. (Perhaps because the Roman
Centurion who pierced Jesus' heart at the time of the crucifixion saw
blood and water flow from Christ's heart.) Later still, the Catholic
Church claimed the symbol of the heart originated with St. Margaret
Marie Alacoque, who had a vision in the 17th century where she saw a
heart shape surrounded by a crown of thorns.
For more on the history of the heart symbol, check out "Silphium" at
The Fact Index: http://www.fact-index.com/s/si/silphium.html and "A
History of the Heart" at HeartSmith:
history heart love symbol
Egyptian ab heart soul