Heart (Culture)


August 20, 2022

In many cultures, the heart is believed to be the abode of a person's life force, spirit or soul. The heart is depicted with various symbols, the most famous of which (♥) has spread almost worldwide as a symbol of love. The heart is often indicated in text messages and other character-based forms of communication by writing the less than sign and the number sign three: <3. The symbol also appears on playing cards as one of the country emblems, in which case it is called a heart.

Meaning of the heart in folklore

Several organs and body parts have been considered the abodes of the soul. The most significant of these have been the head, heart and stomach. Often the heart is considered to be the home of the spiritual aspects of a person related to emotions and forces. Other features may have been combined with other body parts. For example, several hunter-gatherer peoples believe that the head is the home of the prey animal's soul, but the heart is the home of strength and character. The head has been treated with respect and the head has been in a place of honor at parties, so that the animal would return to nature. The heart, on the other hand, could have been eaten to gain strength. Even today, we metaphorically speak of the head as the home of reason and the heart as the home of emotions. Connecting emotions to the heart has seemed natural to many, because the most valuable emotions are often felt somewhere in the chest. Many people feel fear more in their stomachs. Although the head has long been considered the location of all mental activity in scientific contexts, very recently attention has been paid to the dense network of nerves found in the stomach and intestines. According to some researchers, some of the feelings may be located in the stomach and intestines, where they seem to be located, although this is controversial.

The Heart in Early Philosophy and Science

Many ancient and medieval scientists and philosophers, including Aristotle, thought that thoughts, feelings, and reasoning resided in the heart, denying the role of the head and brain. According to the Stoics, the human soul resides in the heart. However, for example, healers and doctors have already known early on that head injuries damage mental functions the most. The Greek physician Galenos believed that passion is located in the liver, thinking in the brain and emotions in the heart. He presented this notion together with his proven notion that the heart maintains blood circulation. According to some, the later actual or metaphorical placement of emotions in the heart was Galen's original. The heart is an almost universally known symbol of love. The symbol only vaguely resembles the heart, the internal organ that maintains human blood circulation. The heart is actually depicted with a variety of symbols. The most famous heart symbol today is actually thought not to have originally depicted a heart, but a woman's buttocks. The symbol is possibly of Greek origin.


On topic elsewhere

Reijo Heikkinen: The heart knows everything [outdated link]. At the Kainuu Heart Association's 50th anniversary on October 26, 2007.