sign is as old as
, and . Its meaning for the people
living in Europe before the last Ice Age of course is not known, but
since these Cro-Magnons were hunters one can be reasonably sure it
meant that life sustaining organ pumping around the blood of the
organism every second of its lifetime.
Graphically is related to , the sign for fire and for flight in the Middle Ages, and one of the most common signs in Western ideography. It is also related to , Aries, its graphic counterpart among the open sign structures, and to , for union or togetherness.
It is probable that began as , a pictorial sign for the heart of a man or an animal. Nowadays, at least in Sweden, is associated with the behind and defecation, as it is an old sign for a toilet for both sexes.
The heart does not appear in any established sign system. It is an anarchistic graph that has yet to find a place in any conventional sign system. Nontheless it is well known throughout the Western world as a sign for togetherness or love, especially sexual love, making love, affection and so on.
One sign that is often associated physically with is , the arrow, a symbol for directed energy, flow, penetration. See in Group 53.
Other ideograms that often appear together with the heart, for instance on posters for public events, and in advertisements of sales, are and . The combination stands for party, festivities, happiness, and favorable opportunities.
In connection with these fivepointed star signs, it is interesting to note that is a variation of the Arabic sign for the number 5.
The heart sign appears as a symbol in all the major cultural spheres. In the Christian trilogy of faith, hope and charity stands for charity as the anchor cross stands for hope. It also appears with a religious or positive meaning among Aztecs, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Celts, and Taoists.
In ancient Greece the heart sign (together with the flower) was related to , the lyre, the attribute of Eros, the god of sexual love, around 600-400 B.C. Later, the attribute of Greek Eros, his Roman counterpart Amor, and even Cupid (Latin = desire) was changed to the bow and arrow. On a Greek amphora from around 500 B.C. one can see used as leaves of a wreath placed on the head of Dionysos, the god of wine and feasting.
The heart sign is also used in Africa: see and .
In early heraldry it is not uncommon. It is found, for example, on the coat of arms of Magnus Ladulås from the thirteenth century, a Swedish king known for his work to ensure the safety and sanctity of women, and to put an end to the habit of knights and soldiers to take what they wanted from the peasants.
To find graphical opposites to the symmetric, soft, closed one has to look for the simplest of those structures that are asymmetric, straight-lined and open, with crossing lines, like or . The graphic opposition is mirrored by a corresponding semantic opposition. One would hardly imagine Hitler using as a symbol of his Nazi movement.
The biggest banking corporation of the world, the Japanese D.K.B. has chosen the heart sign for its logo in the form .