Where Does The Heart Symbol Come From?
A couple of months ago, I came up with a fabulous marketing scheme I thought was sure to keep me forever in my fans’ minds. I decided that I would have a tattoo artist at all my shows to tattoo hearts on any audience members that were interested in getting a tattoo memento. Good idea, right? Because my name is Edoheart.
The idea is related to an application I started on Facebook called edoheart’s Hearts but to be fair, I also extrapolated it from a performance I witnessed an artist friend of mine, Ernest Truely, give while we were on tour in Europe.
I was stunned but the man was able to convince hordes of people to pay him to brand (yes, burn) them with card symbols- hearts, clubs, spades and diamonds. There were lots of wonderful ideas behind this branding about American culture and religion. We, the audience members, held hands in a circle, surrounding the branded-to-be while Ernest fired up the metal brand and eventually pressed it into someone’s skin.
For me, the idea of branding and tattooing is a really powerful one and the results can be quite beautiful. I come from a culture in which scarification and tattooing was and is done in important rituals. Here’s a photo of a Nuba Woman I found on the internet. I don’t know what her name is, which is annoying- or why she is posing for this photograph; probably, she was photographed sometime in the early to mid 20th Century.
I did not undergo any processes of scarification myself but I currently have one small tattoo- an eye of Horus.
According to Wikipedia, The Eye of Horus is an ancient Egyptian symbol of protection, royal power and good health. The eye is personified in the goddess Wadjet (also written as Wedjat, Uadjet, Wedjoyet, Edjo or Uto and as The Eye of Ra or “Udjat”). The name Wadjet is derived from ‘wadj’ meaning ‘green’ hence ‘the green one’ and was known to the Greeks and Romans as ‘uraeus’ from the Egyptian ‘iaret’ meaning ‘risen one’ from the image of a cobra rising up in protection.
I am realizing just now, that Edjo looks a little like Edo… and green was my first favorite color… It’s sometimes beautiful the way things line up in life. This tattoo has protected me many times, but that’s another story.
Let’s fast-forward a couple of weeks. I’d convinced the secret tattoo artist I wanted to tattoo for me to participate and he’d agreed to create thirty-three designs of hearts. We started discussing the origin of the heart. He thought the heart symbol was from Europe. I thought it was from Africa- because I think everything originates in Africa. And why not? That’s where homo sapiens sapiens come from! We argued about it some more and then I decide to google it. I don’t know what people did before Google but I was right.
The heart symbol in its earliest usage is found in Libya and Egypt, on coins, and comes from the shape of the silphium plant’s leaf. Silphium was thought to aid in birth-control. Silphium comes from Libya- the only place it ever grew- and is now extinct. Here is a photo of an ancient silver coin from Cyrene- an ancient city in LIBYA, depicting a seed/fruit of Silphium.
Fast-forward some more and Egypt is in the middle of a desperate fight for freedom from tyranny and oppression, with the very means I had used to find out where the heart symbol comes from- THE INTERNET- taken away from them. (If you’re like me, you’re already drawing connections between birth control, information, the internet and hearts and minds.)
It has been widely noted that to completely block the internet (and phone usage) is an unprecedented action for any government. My brother, who is in prison, just reminded me though, that all throughout time, government and ruling parties have tried to completely stifle the flow of information to protect their powers. My brother asked me whether I thought the Egyptian people felt they were in prison like he was. I said, “Maybe not, they are able to run around and talk to each other and there are people shouting and demonstrating.” Then he said, “But people in prison here, they do these things also. And the flow of information inside here is incredibly controlled.”
It is dangerous and a cruel to limit education, information, communication. We all have a right to knowledge. If you limit those things, are you not limiting the ability to dream, even and to improve one’s self? It was this that made me decide I want to set up a charity dedicated to increasing technological assistance and materials to African artists. I’m calling it “Dream Africa” and hoping to get going soon!
I don’t know about you guys but anytime I see a people trying to throw off a dictator, I support them, I feel for them.
More information from Wikipedia on the Internet: An important part of the Egyptian soul was thought to be the Ib (jb), or heart. The Ib or metaphysical heart was believed to be formed from one drop of blood from the child’s mothers heart, taken at conception. To Ancient Egyptians, it was the heart and not the brain that was the seat of emotion, thought, will and intention. This is evidenced by the many expressions in the Egyptian language which incorporate the word ib, Awt-ib: happiness (literally, wideness of heart), Xak-ib: estranged (literally, truncated of heart).
The Ancient Egyptians were smart enough to invent the Pythagorean Theorem and to build amazingly mathematically precise pyramids… they could be right about the heart/soul.
If all action originates in the heart and all hearts come from the first mother, then repressing others is repressing yourself. And to love others is to love yourself.