ArticlePDF Available

RAMŠAK, Mojca. The human heart in traditional and pop culture, art, literature and speach. Ethnologia slovaca et slavica, ISSN 1335-4116, 2019, t. 40, 51-91.

ISBN 978-80-223-4682-5
ISSN 1335-4116
TOMUS 40 2019
ETHNOLOGIA SLOVACA ET SLAVICA is an international peer reviewed yearbook
founded in 1969 (by Ján Podolák with Piotr G. Bogatyrev, Julian Bromlej, Milovan
Gavazzi, Cvetana Romanska and Christo Vakarelski) at the International Congress of
Slavic Studies as an ethnological journal oriented toward Slavic countries. It is published
annually in English language. At present its scope includes various social processes,
mainly taking place in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. The editorial stra-
tegy is to advance international and interdisciplinary discussions and to contribute to
understanding social life in this region by publishing studies from the fields of ethnol-
ogy and social/cultural anthropology as well as other social sciences and humanities.
The main emphasis is on articles reflecting new trends and innovative approaches aimed
to contribute to the development of theory and methodology. The journal brings together
empirical studies of social phenomena based on ethnographic research, theoretical and
methodological articles, as well as discussions on current research problems. We also
give space to overviews, essays, book reviews and interviews with distinguished
scholars. The individual issues are dedicated to topics notable in scholarly debates and
public discourse in Slovakia and other countries of Central and Eastern Europe. The
issues are prepared by the Editorial Office in accordance to the corresponding calls for
papers. Some issues on particular topics are prepared by guests editors.
Marta Botiková Tatiana Bužeková, Hana Hlôšková, Helena Tužinská
Janusz Barański (Poland), John Eade (United Kingdom), Věra Frolcová (Czech Repub-
lic), Margita Jágerová (Slovakia), Juraj Janto (Slovakia), Danijela Jerotijević (Slovakia),
Mario Katić (Croatia), Patricia Krafcik (United States of America), Erik Laštic (Slova-
kia), József Liszka (Slovakia), Mirijam Mencej (Slovenia), Katja Michajlova (Bulgaria),
Alexander Mušinka (Slovakia), Jana Nosková (Czech Republic), Katarína Popelková
(Slovakia), Dragana Radojčić (Serbia), Mojca Ramšak (Slovenia), Martin Slobodník
(Slovakia), Saša Vojtechová Poklač (Slovakia), Katarína Žeňuchová (Slovakia)
© Univerzita Komenského v Bratislave, 2019
Editorial Office Subscription and Exchange Address
Department of Ethnology and Museology Central Library
Faculty of Arts Faculty of Arts
Comenius University in Bratislava Comenius University in Bratislava
Gondova 2, 814 99 Bratislava Gondova 2, 814 99 Bratislava
Slovakia Slovakia
ISBN 978-80-223-4682-5
ISSN 1335-4116
Marta Botíková, Tatiana Bužeková .............................................................. 5
Mateja Habinc ............................................................................................... 9
Tamás Mohay ................................................................................................ 27
Mojca Ramšak ............................................................................................... 51
Michal Uhrin ................................................................................................. 93
Michal Uhrin ................................................................................................ 115
Svetlana Vojnićová-Feldyová
(Slovenská evanjelická cirkev augsburského vyznania v Srbsku v slove
a v obrazoch )
Ján Botík ..................................................................................................... 125
Monika Vrzgulová
(Nevyrozprávané susedské́ histórie: Holokaust na Slovensku
z dvoch perspektív)
Martina Jakubcová ..................................................................................... 129
Milan Hrabovský
Rasa: Rasová klasifikácia ľudí
Michal Uhrin ............................................................................................... 133
(Osmičkové výstavy pre mnohoraké pripomínanie)
Marta Botíková ............................................................................................. 137
(Celoštátna súťaž študentských etnologických prác v roku 2018)
Hana Hlôšková ............................................................................................. 141
(Študentská konferencia “Etnológia bezhraníc” v Bratislave v roku 2017.
Spolupráca študentov etnológie z krajín V4)
Michal Uhrin ................................................................................................ 143
(Za Zuzanou Profantovou (1953 2018))
Juraj Zajonc ................................................................................................ 149
Abstract: We perceive the heart as the most important part and as the centre of
the body, the centre of emotions, such as love, passion, compassion, courage,
openness, honesty, firmness, and devotion. Sometimes the heart is also the centre
of wisdom. Such central position of the heart in our consciousness shapes its
rich metaphorical topography and produces abundance of material products.
In the Western iconography, hearts and cardioid shapes surround us as devotional
objects, pictures, and relics, related to religious worship. In the folk culture, the
heart is also a frequent figure on clothing, furniture, in literature, art, ritual,
belief, and in contemporary heart myths. The fashion, music and film industry
are copying, using and abusing heart imagery and ideas, mostly because they
are profitable. In the consumer world, the heart is an object and commodity that
makes money. We create the intangible “heartlands folklore” to express specific
beliefs regarding human hearts, to challenge our mutual connections, manage
problematic situations, create, and maintain hope.
Key words: human heart, traditional culture, popular culture, metaphors, religion,
heart symbolism, embodiment, body parts beliefs, history of medicine
Why the human heart?
Introductory auto ethnographic confession
When I was in my mid-thirties, I had a heart attack. It was a warm, quiet
day in September, and in the morning of that day, I did not know yet that it
could be almost my last. My cardiac disease knocked before it entered. During
the day, I experienced several classic heart attack symptoms, such as chest
pain, and pain in my upper left arm, but I did not recognise them. Perhaps I
was afraid to recognise them. During the night time, I experienced one pain-
fully paralyzing, chest tightening and almost fatal attack that took my breath
away. I took an aspirin, the only medicine I had at home. I did not go to the
emergency to get help though I phoned as quickly as I was able to, not either
visit the physician to measure and fix my heart later. Nevertheless, I survived.
Only a few people know what hit me then. I consciously did not seek for com-
passion or any other ways of understanding from anybody.
Today I recognise that not seeking for medical help was among other rea-
sons also a gender-biased decision. I felt terribly guilty although I was aware
that the cardiac diseases are usually not attached to social stigmas, shame or
taboos and that we do not consider them as morally inappropriate because the
heart mostly has a status of an emotional organ. The morning after the attack,
I had a serious dialogue with myself. I immediately re-set my life priorities
without any hesitation or regretting anything. They have stayed unaltered since
then. I decreased most of the demands on my heart. I connect the circumstances
of my heart failure with the tremendous existential stress and my utter lack of
inner and outer sources to handle it. It is not difficult to imagine that even after
fourteen years from this almost fatal event I still avoid the place, institution
and especially the people who systematically obstructed my work and me and
pushed me into this miserable state. After being so close to the death, I also
take better care of my cardiac and general health.
This transformative experience of cardiovascular malfunction arising from
mental factors or whatever it was pathologically, also determines my sincere
interest in all heart matters that is the anatomic heart, measured and treated,
and the heart of emotions with deeply interwoven culturally specific beliefs.
Later, my own heart attack, that fortunately did not end tragically, became an
inspiration and an important plot element of my ethno-medical and anthropo-
logical research. Since then, I listen carefully to what people say about the heart,
what kind of gestures they use when they speak from the heart, what kind
of heart messages they communicate, and how the heart and cardiac disease
appear in fiction, music, art and culture. Now, the event is distant enough in
time that I can think critically about the multiple perspectives and understand
the personal patterns and biases in the other people’s stories about the heart.
Irrespective of how we depict it, the heart never loses its central position in our
conceptual systems.
From the self-reflection on heart to more formal introduction
The rich cultural history of the human heart as a symbol fascinates me.
Therefore, following the abundance from intangible heart imagery and the
tangible material world, the essence of this reflection demonstrates where we
place the heart in Slovene somatic phraseology; what sort of heartfelt languages
we use; how we use the heart in religion; and follow the historical development
of some premeditatedly chosen notions and imagery of the heart symbolism.
Epistemologically, the nature of the text is rather explanatory than proving.
Since there is no inference or explanation without facts we can (usually)
think about something only if we know it; the text combines anthropological
historical, linguistic and medicinal evidence from the diachronic and synchronic
perspectives to make the heart symbolism obvious. Further, it illustrates and
exposes the details with a few examples from literature, history, religion, music,
film pop and folk culture to explain the abstractions or concrete phenomena.
I present the illustrative details in the boxes and explain them in the accompa-
nying text. The examples were not selected randomly but are balanced with the
purpose of this scientific essay. Since an essay is a literary form that animates
the reader about cultural phenomena also with its structure and since it allows
a certain degree of subjectivity, someone else might emphasis other examples.
I chose the following evidence to follow the red thread of the omnipresent
heart symbolism and to support my topic point about the centrality of the organ
in our mind.
One way to find about the human heart is through language because it
partly reflects the structure of our experience. This particular structure helps us
to understand on what way we perceive, how we get around in the world and
how we relate to others. Therefore, methodologically, the systematic analysis
of the human heart starts with the linguistic examples, evidenced in general
dictionaries, glossaries and thesauri indexed by the OneLook search engine
( for English language, by Fran ( for
Slovene language and from other lexicographical works. I also searched out
the Internet to find other usages of the heart idioms. The emphasized phrases
in the text refer to the above-mentioned databases (18,955,870 words in 1061
dictionaries for English and 591,807 words in 31 dictionaries for Slovene).
Besides that, the examples of the usage also come from my long continued,
more than a decennial lasting observation of everyday communication. Most
of the evidence on the heart is from the reference works and from the actual
daily use. This large corpus of heart expressions, connected to an embodiment,
and different cultural and historical studies on the human heart have no inten-
tion to become the mere heart eclecticism or present the trivial curiosities.
The purpose of a collected set of expressions and its uses is in explaining
our conceptual systems. I elaborated the presented classification of the heart
idioms with other historical and theoretical sources. I mostly followed Lakoff
and Johnson's (1999) examples of types of metaphors. Their classification of
mental schemes is helpful and methodologically precise in sorting the collect-
ed corpus of heart idioms that govern our everyday functioning. With a few
adaptations of Lakoff and Johnson models (Lakoff & Johnson, 1999; Lakoff,
2014) I created the basic structure of our perception of the human heart. It con-
sists of:
a) The orientational metaphor antagonisms, such as:
More/good/happy/success is up # less/bad/sad/fail is down.
Warm/soft/whole/bright/light is affection # cold/hard/broken/dark/heavy is
b) And of the spatial metaphors, such as the destination or container sets
of metaphors:
Purpose (love) is destination [and journey],
Achieving the purpose (or desire) is reaching the destination/acquiring the
desired object (love = heart).
Object (heart) is the container (of emotions, mental states), etc. (Lakoff,
Johnson, 1999; Lakoff, 2014
In addition to this, the heart is metaphorically an important source domain
that describes other abstract things, communication, or technology. Sometimes
its meaning is the centre (for illustration, “the heart of the city”, “the heart of
the country”, and “the heart of the matter”) or bodily sensation (“the heart is
aching”). Furthermore, the heart is also a target domain that describes bodily
functions and actions (“the heart is ticking/pumping”, “the heart is a sublime
The symbols, illustrations and square brackets are added by the author.
engine”). Alternatively, the heart metaphors that describe emotions are some-
times the source and the target domain at the same time because it is not clear
what we map on what (such as the exaggerations, “the melting heart” or “the
heart of stone” that are not bodily possible).
Subsequently, mentioning the epistemological source domains, we can say,
that the embodiment is what makes such concepts meaningful, linking what is
going on in our brains to our understanding of the real world. We learn the heart
metaphors in early childhood, even before we can speak and then we use them
with ease, without noticing. Grammar allows us to combine metaphors to pro-
duce an unlimited range of new metaphorical ideas a range that draws on
primary metaphors and basic complexes of primary metaphors, but which goes
way beyond those (Lakoff, 2014, p. 9, 10).
Beyond the metaphorical understanding, the paper also emphasizes the
cultural and historical background of the heart idioms. I combined the above-
mentioned sources to construct the broader picture of our ideas of the human
heart. My main assumption is twofold: the heart expressions are convention-
alized and stable in Slovene and English language and, therefore, safe for making
the deductions about the ways we create the notions of the human heart and
its importance for our mutual understanding. Secondly, the heart is more than
an organ in the human body and even more than a metaphor. It is an example
of the persistence of body parts beliefs across time, space and cultures. This
example of the “embodied mind”, as Lakoff and Johnson stated (1999, p. 4),
is shaped crucially by the peculiarities of our human bodies, by the remarkable
details of the neural structure of our brains and the specifics of our everyday
functioning in the world.
c) A brief cultural-historic overview of the notion
The history of metaphorical thought of the human body incorporates ima-
gery from art, technology and architecture. In this respect, one of the most fre-
quently mentioned body parts is a heart. It is in a core of everything we consi-
der as important. It weights the significance of our decisions, judges the deeds,
expresses the grief, and ache over the injustice in the world.
The word “heart” comes from the Latin cor, cordis. Spanish (corazón),
French (coeur) and Italian (cuore) take the Latin root, while German (Herz)
and English (heart) take the Greek one (kardia). The Indo-European root *kr- has
the original sense of “vibrating”. The Spanish term is the only one, which dif-
ferentiates itself partially from the others, since it is an augmentative, because
of the medieval conception of the heart as the seat of courage. This word alluded
primitively to the big heart of the man and of the woman-lover (Gutiérrez
Pérez, 2008, p. 30–31). In Slavic languages the word “heart”, srce is the same
in Croatian, Slovene and Serbian. In the Russian language, the heart is sérdce,
in Check and Slovak srdce. All these expressions come from the same Indo-
European root *k'ḗrd, meaning “heart”, “core” (Snoj, 1997).
So far, many cardiologists, pathologists, medical, art and cultural histori-
ans, curators and linguists (Boyadjian, 1980; Dietz, 1998; Young, 2002; Loe
& Edwards, 2004; Peto, 2007; Høystad, 2007; Gutiérrez Pérez, 2008; Morgan,
2008; Gonzalez-Crussi, 2009; Alberti, 2010; Amidon & Amidon, 2011; Wells,
2013; Oldfield & Jones, 2014; Elliott, 2017) studied the history and the concep-
tualizations of the heart from antiquity to present. They were mostly inspired
by art collections, historical and physical descriptions of the heart, literature,
lexicographical works, ethnology, anthropology, cultural studies, philosophy
and history of medicine. Though relevant, we cannot review all their ideas just
for the purpose of this article. However, we can mention some historical and
cultural facts to refer to the main thesis here, namely, the importance of em-
bodiment and the prevailing centrality of the heart in our minds.
To begin with a short historical overview and looking in the past dia-
chronically, the comprehension of the anatomical function of the heart inter-
twines with social and cultural ideas, and above all with the medical discover-
ies. For illustration, Greek physician Galen (129 A.D. c. A.D. 216) con-
cluded that the heart pumps blood throughout the body, though he did not
recognize yet that there is blood in the vessels. Avicenna, an Arab physician
and philosopher (A.D. 980 A.D. 1037) considered the heart as the supreme
organ. Among the artists, an Italian painter, sculptor and inventor Leonardo
da Vinci (14521519) made detailed drawings of the heart and circulation
with descriptions of how the arterial valves close and open, and the explana-
tion that the heart is a muscle that does not warm the blood. Again, among the
medical doctors, William Harvey, a British physician and anatomist (1578
1657), demonstrated the circulation of blood within the cardiovascular system
in 1628
and solved the enigma of biological function of the heart. He com-
pared the heart to a pump and transformed the way in which we think about
the human body. René Théophile Hyacinthe Laënnec, a French physician
(1781 1826), invented the stethoscope in 1816 and performed auscultations.
James Blundell, an English obstetrician (1790 1878), performed the first
successful transfusion of human blood to a patient, and, finally, the most
known heart surgeon of the 20th century, Christiaan Barnard (1922 2001)
performed the world's first human-to-human heart transplant in 1967. Of
course, many others contributed to the cardiovascular discoveries.
Let us
close this list with a remark that every new anatomical and surgical knowledge
and developments in cardiology also influenced the figurative language of the
heart and our reception of the body parts.
In his work An Anatomical Study of the Motion of the Heart and of the Blood in Animals
[Exercitatio anatomica de motu cordis et sanguinis in animalibus].
For a more detailed list of the history of cardiovascular discoveries see in Loe, Edwards, 2004,
who compiled and organised the information for easy access.
Secondly, the changing imagery of the organ began with the first known
medical illustrations of the heart that had a shape like pine cones or pyramids.
The descriptions of the organ by the Hippocratic School, by Galen and later by
Arabian physicians probably influenced the medical illustrations. Later, from
the 13th to the 16th Centuries, they depicted the organ in the form that derived
from the ivy leaf; however, the prehistoric potters in Afghanistan and the Greek
vase painters did not associate the ivy leaf decoration with the heart of ancient
times. The knowledge of anatomy, which Hellenic physicians had gained
through autopsies, had sunk into oblivion during the Middle Ages. The artists
and book illustrators inspired anatomists who portrayed the heart as an inverted
leaf, with the tip bent to the left and the stem symbolizing the arterial tree
(Dietz, 1998). The cardioid shape is common in nature. It appears as the leaves
and flowers of various plants. The strawberries, cherries and beetroots have the
heart in the section, the swans form it when they touch beaks, the doves when
they unfold their wings, and we can find it the human anatomy (Gately, 2010).
Even Leonardo da Vinci used the analogy between the leaf symbol and the
realistic shape in his early anatomic sketches (Dietz, 1998). In 1498, he pro-
duced the first accurate drawing of a human heart, instead of following prior
convention and depicting it as a pinecone. He also made a glass model of the
organ (Gately, 2010).
Today, the symbol with the two curves united in a tip is a pictogram for
a whole range of feelings and has become cardiology's emblem across the
world. The vegetal symbol absorbed much meaning in the course of European
cultural history. It turned into a general, exclusive and optically unique symbol
of the heart, and in human consciousness, a hint of the ancient idea of the seat
of the soul, of love and thought (Dietz, 1998).
Since 1977 when a graphic designer Milton Glaser designed the iconic
slogan “I heart (♥)” whatever object or place or person the heart became a pow-
erful, globally recognised commercial totem.
The tendency began with mass-produced Victorian era valentines and cul-
minated in 1977 with Glaser’s I NY. The entire weight of the cardiac meta-
phor devotion, passion, faith turned into a campaign to promote New York’s
tourism and to spend more money in hotels, restaurants and Broadway theatres.
The heart symbol less and less triggered the sublime thoughts. It also became
a principal logo for good health, low-fat diet, weight loss, etc. (Amidon &
Amidon, 2011, p. 192-193).
Given these points, complex metaphorical thought shows up in language,
in gesture, imagery (paintings, movies, dance, etc.), in mathematics, science,
and in moral and political ideology (Lakoff, 2014, p. 5). We express the richness
of our conceptual system related to the heart also with objects that surround us.
The imagery of the heart appears on all kinds of things in the contemporary
material culture. They are part of folk art and pop culture. They appear on:
playing cards, greeting cards, candies, cakes, gingerbread as tokens of love (in
Slovene lect), honey-bread products as precious souvenirs, festive braided
heart bread (pleteno srce), kitchen utilities (such as plates, dishes, waffle-iron
grids, fried egg models, cappuccino art, napkins), textiles (embroidery, cross-
stitch patterns, lace, fashion clothes, bedding), furniture, folk painting, home
decoration, religious collectibles and gifts, urns, body decorations (such as
jewellery and tattoos), anti-racist ads, etc.
Culturally, the representations of the heart carry a sort of duality and am-
biguity. The heart covers body and soul, physical and emotional, hard and soft,
suction and expulsion, red and blue, left and right, hot and cold, flesh and
blood. Even its sound is double lub-dub. Because of this extraordinary ver-
satility, we portrait the heart in an astounding variety of ways. It appears in
stories, poems, religious writings, song lyrics, paintings and sculpture. It sinks,
it grows, it faints, it bleeds, it flutters, it burns, and it sings, it rejoices, it breaks,
it fibrillates, it stops, and it fails. It is attacked, transplanted, sacrificed, wounded,
broken, given away, written on, occupied, stolen, hidden, swept, eaten, filled
(Young, 2007, p. 2-3). Such versatility is possible because the words for the
same body parts have different meanings for different people who live in
different eras, places and social environments. The same phrases do not have
the same level of arbitrariness for all. They can trigger strong mental images
for somebody or leave only a weak association of the same idea for another.
Yet, there are some universal traces of our reception of the heart that help us
place it in the embodiment scheme.
When we talk about the heart, we do not always know if we are talking
about the heart as something substantial, or something else with symbolic values,
attitudes and personal qualities of various kinds for which the heart is a meta-
phorical expression. Since the heart, despite all its differences, seems to be
central in many cultures, it perhaps represents something that is common to all
humankind. Perhaps there is a common language of the heart of all cultures.
Perhaps it enables people to understand each other instinctively across all lan-
guage boundaries and all religious disparities and cultural differences (Høystad,
2007, p. 12-14). Emotional events cause a rapid change in the rate and force
of myocardial contractility. Without understanding the underlying physiology,
nearly every culture (and nearly every person) has recognized a link between
the heart and the emotions. In love and in fear, our hearts may skip a beat or
pound in our chests (Loe & Edwards, 2004, p. 286).
The somatic phraseology of the human body translates the concerns and
fears of the society. Society reflects in the body tropes that illustrate our con-
cepts of the social order, morality, problems of society, abstract conceptual
domains, or unknown and unseen domains in the physical world. Body tropes
as thought patterns of reasoning, feeling, and emotion, describe how we build
relations, commitments, responsibilities; and what the mission of human exis-
tence is.
Image 1
The decorated coffee with milk hearts has become a standard form
of service in Europe.
Photo: Zvone Podvinski, Gothenburg, Sweden, September 15th, 2017.
Topography (placing) of the heart
Substantial versus symbolic heart
The cardiovascular system of the human body, responsible for pumping
and circulating the blood in the body, includes the heart, which is the most
important organ in the cardiovascular system, the blood and the blood vessels
(arteries, veins and capillaries). The organ runs the other elements of the system.
Heartbeats send blood throughout the body carrying the oxygen and the nutri-
ents to the cells of the body (Al-Harrasi, 2012, p. 194).
Medical explanations rely on biochemical and anatomical compounds, but
people map the body on the spatial location of the organs. The body is the sys-
tem in space, where parts relate to their mutual physical positions. We com-
prehend the heart as the CENTRE of the body. From the location of the heart,
the brain is up, and the rest of the body is out, on the periphery. (Mabeck &
Olesen, 1997, p. 273-274). As a consequence of such reception, we figuratively
express the diverse embodiments of the heart and place the emotions in or
near it.
The heart does not have the similarly uniform cultural definition that would
grasp all connotations through history and from the multicultural perspective.
Therefore, let us have a look at some of the notions and their meanings.
One of the most important ideas in our mind is that heart is in the right
place, in a position that is in accordance with the normality we consent. Liter-
ally, by saying HAVING A HEART IN THE RIGHT PLACE (imeti srce na pravem
mestu) we acknowledge that someone is compassionate, kind-hearted, loving
character who has the sense of rightness and justice, and such conduct (Keber,
2011) and whose intention is to do good things.
Many of the heart tropes say something of personal qualities and in daily
life reveal what sort of a person we are dealing with and what kind of per-
sonal and moral qualities our fellow human beings have. Therefore, according
to the orientational metaphor antagonisms, we talk about GOOD-HEARTED
or a COLD HEART. Our kindness of heart and ability to feel compassion, tell
who we are. For that reason, it is necessary to search one’s heart, even though
it can be both painful and embarrassing when we reveal its qualities.
The Slovene somatic phraseology expresses several semantic components:
from anatomy (structure and form), function (usage), topography (placing),
symbols (emotions), and combined (Kržišnik, 2009, p. 163-166).
In the Slovene language, we use at least 29 phrases with the word heart
(Keber, 2011), which are beyond the medical interpretation. In English, 221
nonmedical expressions involve the word heart but they do not describe the
cardiovascular system (Low & Edwards, 2004, p. 286, 290-291).
Love, passion, kindness
Emotions are the most basic thing of the human being and the heart stands
out as the place where they are located. Therefore, we can establish the orien-
tational metaphor the HEART IS A CONTAINER OF EMOTIONS. Among them,
love is the outstanding one. Emotions are not metaphorically located in the
heart in all languages and cultures Turkish locates them in the liver
. The
heart, being the place where feelings are located figuratively, opposes the
head, where we conventionally place the reason. Someone who is LED BY HIS
HEART (vodi ga srce) refers to a person who pushes that main capacity of the
intellect into the background in order to give free rein to his feelings (Gutiérrez
Pérez, 2008, p. 31).
The capital letters are the author's emphasis.
In the Slovene language, there is an idiom for unpleasant, irritating persons “get on (someone’s)
liver” (iti nekomu na jetra). This idiom has the same meaning as “get on (someone’s) nerves”
(iti nekomu na živce).
Such references to the heart are everywhere in literature, regardless of the
period, the language or the genre. In most music, popular, classical or tradi-
tional, in many films and in television, the metaphoric use of hearts is the rule
and no exception. It shapes many media contents and appears in advertising.
The metaphoric hearts stand in for cognition even in the computer-saturated
era. They hide in our language, and we fold them into common beliefs and
expressions, they spread automatically throughout our culture, and this uncon-
scious process guarantees its continuity. Constant exposure to the metaphor of
the heart reinforces its message but also renders it invisible. We do not think
about it, or we do not think what it might mean (Blechmann, 2005).
Likewise, the main globally spread idea of the book The Little Prince (Antoine de
Saint-Exupéry, 1943) based on the same idea. THE HEART SEES better than the
brains. We can see and understand the true nature of the things only if we perceive
them with the feelings. The perception (what one sees) is deceptive things that
we cannot see are also important. One needs to feel to understand and value the
spiritual world rather than the corporeal world (The Little Prince, 2018). To the
protagonist of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s classic, The Little Prince, the heart was
the perceiving and not the biological organ. “One sees clearly only with the heart.
Anything essential is invisible to the eyes.” (Kdor hoče videti, mora gledati s srcem.
Bistvo je očem nevidno.) (Blechmann, 2005)
In the Slovene language, there are other phrases about the heart that base
on the notion that the heart is the locus of feelings, the centre of emotions, love
and erotic passions. Being close to this centre also means that someone is
loved or desired, or, affected by something. Such phrases, for instance, are
NEAR/CLOSE TO (ONE'S) HEART (biti komu pri srcu); or, TAKE TO HEART (gnati
si k srcu), that is to be deeply moved, affected, sad or upset about something.
The phrase to HAVE A HEART FOR WHOM/WHAT (imeti srce za koga/kaj)
also bases on a well-known notion that the heart is the centre of various emo-
tions, among them especially love and courage. Both of them appear in the
phrase DO NOT HAVE THE HEART [for whom/what] (ne imeti srca za koga/kaj),
which means to be ruthless, heartless, or, to not have the courage.
Firmness of the heart
Many of the “heartfelt” languages and images of the heart and the blood,
from the Galenic principles. Today these concepts are figurative, but once they
were medical facts. For example, the heart warmed the blood in order to ge-
nerate and maintain a particular emotional state; or, it ran in response to the
sensations of anger, passion and fear (Alberti, 2010). Since Hippocrates (c.
460 B.C. c. 375 B.C.), we have understood heartfelt emotions as products of
the heart’s attraction or repulsion of an object or individual. The heart worked
in conjunction with the soul it had an intelligence that was straight from the
divine. Emotions influence cardiac health; the heating of the tenderness in
love, or, the chilling of the heart of grief could be lethal (Alberti, 2009, p. 519).
Even the rise of cardiology in the 19th century did not affect our perception of
the heart. At the level of personal experience, emotions remained heartfelt.
People continue to express emotions as belonging to the heart. We experience
emotions in our breasts. We rely on a linguistic communication with an emo-
tional expression that is about the heart: we are HEARTBROKEN, our HEARTS
HURT, BLEED, and GROW COLD (Alberti, 2009, p. 520). Love, symbolized in
the heart, is a valuable object. As such, it is delicate and fragile and, conse-
quently, it is breakable. The heart is a breakable object (Gutiérrez Pérez, 2008,
p. 33).
In our culture, we figuratively measure the firmness of the heart and
associate it to several materials, which we find in the physical world or manu-
factured. Figuratively, the human heart is of stone, metal, wood and glass.
Someone who has a heart of stone, iron, steel, marble, etc., refers to some-
one who is not easily moved and does not harbour feelings of sensitivity, com-
passion, sympathy or interest for others. The hardness of the material corre-
sponds to the hardness or coldness in attitude (Gutiérrez Pérez, 2008, p. 38).
To have a HEART OF STONE (kamnito srce, trdo srce) figuratively has
a negative connotation and it means to be cold, cruel, unfriendly, unkind, with
no sympathy for people, and with unfeeling, obdurate and stern nature. This
idea derives from one of the characteristics of the stone, which is its hardness;
therefore, we say that the STONEHEARTED people do not (cannot) express
kindness and affection.
The notion of the heart of stone dates back to ancient times, and, it came out in the
Bible (Job 41:24): “Its [Biblical sea monster, a powerful enemy, mostly depicted
as a crocodile or a whale] heart is as firm as a stone, yes, firm as the lower mill-
stone.” There the heart represents the beast’s nature, its disposition to be bold,
courageous, and unmerciful.
A WOODEN HEART is a close relative of the rocky brother. The character-
istics and the meaning of wooden hearts and stone hearts are similar. A person
with wooden heart is emotionally flat and lacks empathy or someone that holds
the emotions, who is quite cold and is not saddened easily. On the contrary,
in the language of love, a phrase I do not have a HEART OF WOOD means that
someone is sensitive and expects from others fairness without any kind of
The most known film and music wooden heart is Elvis Presley’s song Wooden
Heart (Muss i denn lit. Must I then) from his film G. I. Blues (1960). Later he
recorded it on the single Wooden Heart in 1961. It bases on a German folk song
written in 1827 about a soldier who has to leave the woman he loves. The song was
popular among German military and it became a patriotic song. The actress and
singer Marlene Dietrich (1901 1992) interpreted and recorded one version of the
song in 1959 on the single Lili Marlene (Wooden Heart, 2017; Muss I den, 2018).
Image 4
The scar on a beech tree carved heart and an initial of a lover (above).
Toško čelo near Ljubljana, Slovenia.
Photo: Izidor Ramšak, March 13th, 2018.
In the contrary, the modern wooden heart objects express affection, passion,
fondness and liking. Carved wooden heart with a name of a loving sweetheart
in tree bark is an obvious symbol of love. The wooden heart objects are popu-
lar with modern timber craft as gifts, wedding decoration, home ornaments
(hand carved spoons, bowls, boxes, knobs, etc.), wooden jewellery and even
wood heart-shaped cremation urns.
Today, the heart-shaped urns are in many sizes, colours and materials. The
cremated remains are often a tangible memory of loved ones. Holding a small
amount of the ashes is a small token of remembrance.
The idea of the heart-shaped urns resembles the 400 years old heart-shaped lead
urns with an inscription identifying the contents as the heart of Toussaint Perrien,
Knight of Brefeillac, excavated from the basement of the Convent of the Jacobins
in Rennes, France. Upon his death in 1649, they removed and embalmed his heart.
Later they buried it with his wife in 1656. Hearts were spiritual symbols and were
embalmed and buried at a place of importance or with a partner. It is a romantic
aspect to the burials. Embalming of royalty and nobles was a practice across Europe
as early as the Late Middle Ages; the Ancient Egyptians techniques influenced the
procedure, physicians and surgeons carried it out. The aim was to delay the process
of decay. They buried the hearts separately to the bodies they came from (Imaging,
2015, Griffiths, 2015).
One of the metal reliquaries, the silver urn from the collections of National Mu-
seum in Ljubljana, Slovenia, contains the remains (preserved heart) of Brother
Gabriel Giraud (1836 1899), the founder of Rajhenbeurg monastery. The X-rays
showed no presence of organic material, which would be the preserved heart of the
late Trappist monk. However, the radiography did prove that the urn contained
liquid, which could indicate that the urn indeed contains human remains (Knez,
2014, p. 70). Due to reservations of the Slovene museum professionals concerning
the exhibition of human remains, the brother Gabriel’s urn is not displayed (Knez,
2017: 66).
We compare abstract concepts, such as emotion or love, to fragile objects
that can be broken. Fragile, breakable objects are also human hearts which are
described as broken if they are no longer intact or do not function properly.
Once a heart is broken, one must make an effort to fix it. We compare the
emotional fragility with easy breakable materials, such as glass. The person
that has the HEART OF GLASS (stekleno srce) is emotionally fragile, easily upset,
or affected emotionally and who can cry easily.
A debate about the division between scientific and popular conceptions
of the heart is vivid in the 21st century. At the most basic level, the division
represents a comparison of the image found in a medical textbook and that
used on a greeting card. However, that division is not as broad as it was in the
19th century when scientific demarcations were first established. Some 21st-
century cardiologists trace the physical effect of extreme emotions (most nota-
bly grief) on the heart. Anger has an impact on the hearts of modern patients.
Research about arterial calcification and its links with irritability and anger are
reminiscent of the 18th-century discussions of anger and heart disease (Alberti,
2009, p. 520). The pain of a heartbreak can cause bodily damage the symp-
toms mimic those of a heart attack, but unlike the heart attack, there is no
evidence of blocked heart arteries (Is, 2016). In neurology, too, some researchers
are interested in the interaction between emotions, the heart, and the brain in
cognitive processes, perhaps marking a transition away from the isolated brain
and back to the body as a way of understanding how we experience or remem-
ber the emotions (Alberti, 2009, p. 520).
A BROKEN HEART (or HEARTBREAK) is a common phrase used to depict
the intense emotional pain, crushing, overwhelming grief or suffering after the
death of a love affair or close relationship. Feelings of great sadness or disap-
pointment occur after losing a loved one, through death, divorce, breakup,
moving, rejection, betrayal or another way. We use the phrase of the broken
heart to explain that a relationship has ended and that persons who formed it
are no a longer single entity. The heartbreak is the opposite of the whole heart.
HEART-WHOLE and HEART-FREE, among others, means to be unbroken and
affections free, not in love. The broken heart is not only folklore or a phrase,
as love went wrong many times in the history. Similarly, the phrase TEAR THE
HEART APART (raztrgati srce) or tear it to pieces means to tear it with force.
Similar meaning of a violent action has the phrase to RIP OUT THE HEART
(iztrgati srce). When one cannot forget or stop loving somebody and is hurting
or sacrificing for another, the violence is permitted: the person must be ripped
out, removed from the heart and the memory very quickly. The other therapies
include either getting rid of love memorabilia, like in the museums of heart-
break or, retaining the memories and reflecting the past relationships in the art
and through the life itself. Then, ultimately, one is able to move along. Figura-
tively, we suppose that a broken heart or a broken person reassembles when
the pieces are put back and mended. Then one becomes a whole entity again,
which is not divided or broken. At last, he/she can reach out to others, because
the heart is figuratively supposed to be a patchable organ. The PAIN THAT PECKS
IN THE HEART (bolečina, ki kljuje v srcu) eventually fades. Unfortunately, there
is no single and unique recipe for mending the aching hearts, not even figura-
The HEARTBROKEN people that are suffering, experiencing loss and sorrow,
can be driven to bad habits or even to suicide and murder. We find them in
literature, poems, and songs. Broken hearts also changed the path of history.
The HEARTBREAKERS (lomilci src), on the other side, are described as love
fakers that are playing with fire, as tear snatchers and quarrel patchers, as smooth
talkers and cool walkers, as eye-catchers, but and above all, not trustworthy
persons (like in the Elvis Presley’s song You’re a Heartbreaker from 1959).
For illustration, some artists are excellent examples of embodiment. Elvis Presley
(1935 1977) POURED HIS HEART into music and SANG FROM HIS HEART about not
so cheerful, HEART-TEARING emotions, such as heartbreak, heartache, loneliness,
jealousy and betrayal in many other songs: That's When Your Heartaches Begin
(1953), Heartbreak Hotel (1956), Wooden Heart (Muss I Denn) (1960), One Broken
Heart For Sale (1963), Big Love, Big Heartache (1964), One Track Heart (1964),
Cross My Heart And Hope To Die (1965), Your Cheatin' Heart (1965), I'll Hold
You In My Heart (1969), Home Is Where The Heart Is (1971), For The Heart (1976).
At the end, his songs and lyrics became his destiny that totally ECLIPSED HIS HEART.
He tragically died of a “broken heart syndrome” in 1977 after the divorce and after
the betrayal of his friends.
Another example of the effects of emotions on the body is a Slovene leading actor
Polde Bibič (1933 2012). He played many theatre and film roles of people dying
with heart disease or heart attack or a man seducing a farmer’s daughter who dies
of a heart attack after he asks her to marry him. Finally, in his old age, the actor fell
sick with heart disease. When a director of a theatre visited him in a hospital, he
asked him “Do you think that it is not possible that your acting people with heart
disease somehow lead to your illness?” (Štefančič, 2012)
Metallic hearts express coldness and firmness. The exception is precious,
valuable and expensive metal, such as gold. People with the HEART OF GOLD
(zlato srce) have an inner rich heart, full of love, faith and kindness. GOLDEN
HEARTS are figuratively shinning and illuminating others; they are wise,
genuinely kind and caring persons who deserve respect and loyalty.
In the ancient Egypt, the golden heart amulets were the depiction of the mind of the
individual but certainly not the ordinary mind. The heart of gold as an immortal
and solarized mind symbolized the wisdom (Sousa, 2007, p. 70).
Although iron is very strong metal, it can become weak if it is unpainted,
unprotected or exposed to water and air for a long time. The metal can oxidize
or rust and lose its strength. Thus, an old piece of metal can become rusty.
Therefore, we figuratively say that a RUSTY HEART (zarjavelo srce) is some-
body who is out of practice at performing a certain task because he became
less flexible, sensitive and he stiffened.
A well-known metallic heart is a Tin Man, the character of a TIN HEART (pločevi-
nasto srce), who appeared in the children’s book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by
L. Frank Baum (1900) and the musical fantasy film The Wizard of Oz (1939).
Earlier notions of the Tin Man appeared in cartoons and political advertising in the
1880s and 1890s. The Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz is made of metal and does
not have a heart. He needs oil on the way to the Wizard of Oz to ask him to give
him a heart. Although tin does not rust when it is exposed to moisture, only iron
does, the Tin Man worries about rusting. His wish is to become a normal human
with a heart because he is a human turned into a machine. With a heart, the Tin
Man could be a human-like, tender, gentle, and sentimental; he would hear his
heartbeat, and he would have emotions. In his searches of acquiring feelings or a
heart, he sings: “If I only had a heart.” In political interpretations of the Tin Man in
the 1890s, he is supposedly a worker, dehumanised by industrialisation, who lost
his natural body and his heart. He has a strong sense of cooperation and love, but
he needs the help of the farmers (in the story represented by a Scarecrow) to get
self-confidence (Harold & Harburg, 1939; Tin Woodman, 2017).
The film industry produced plenty of variations of Tin-Man, the characters who are
metaphors for the human body as a machine. Their invention coincides with the
rise of technology that also became a dominant cultural factor. For instance, in the
science fiction film Iron Man (2008) the superstar protagonist in form-fitting
powered armour, Tony Stark has the machine elements in his body that are poison-
ing his heart, his humanity. Similarly, the android Data, that is one of the protag-
onists in American science-fiction television series Star Trek, The Next Generation
(1987 1994), searches with his outsider's perspective on humanity for his
creator’s “emotion chip” in order to become more like humans.
In these films having or not having the heart means being humane and sympathetic
toward other living beings. The films on the potential future scenarios of the predo-
minant technology trends with human exoskeletons and wearable technology are
projecting our fears of the society without humanity, morality and social order that
is outside of our control.
The phrases on the heart and the courage project an orientational meta-
phor, where sad is down and happy is up. The lack of courage and spirit or
placing the courage in the lower parts of the body is a downward projection.
The phrase the HEART SANK INTO THE SHOES, or with another word I GOT
COLD FEET; MY HEART FAILED ME (srce je padlo v hlače) again comes from
the idea of the heart as the centre of various emotions. One of them is courage.
By using the metaphor of sinking heart, we are saying that someone suddenly
feels very worried, upset, sad, or, disappointed. The sinking of the heart means
that someone has lost the courage because of a great fear. When we are dis-
couraged, we LOSE THE HEART (izgubiti pogum).
We use the animal-like characteristics to describe the bravery and bold-
ness. To HAVE A HEART OF A LION (biti levjesrčen) is to be very courageous
or brave. If the LION-HEARTED (levjesrčen, pogumen) people are associated
with courage, then the CHICKEN HEARTED (boječ, plašen, strahopeten) are
associated with cowardice and fearfulness. There is a historical evidence for
A great military leader and warrior King Richard the Lionheart of England or
Richard Cœur de Lion (1157 1199) got his name the Lion or the Lionheart during
the two-month siege of Castillon-sur-Agen due to his noble, brave and fierce leader-
ship. He was referred to as “this our lion” (hic leo noster) as early as 1187 while
the byname “LIONHEART (le quor de lion) was first recorded in 1191 (Richard,
The poet Andreas Capallenus in 1184 defined the adoration the heart represented
as “the pure love which binds together the hearts of two lovers with every feeling
of delight”. The gentry accepted his notion that the heart was the seat of affection.
This led to the practice amongst various royal families in Europe of commanding
that they buried hearts in different places to the rest of their remains. Whereas their
bodies were entombed in family crypts, their hearts were interred in a spot, which
had personal associations of happiness (Gately, 2010). The same was with King
Richard the Lionheart of England. He wanted to bury his body at Fontevrault
Abbey in Anjou, his leonine heart at Rouen and his brain and blood at Charroux.
However, this fashion provoked the ire of the Church, which issued a decree in
1311 stating that the soul did not reside in the heart alone, but was evenly distrib-
uted throughout the body (Gately, 2010; Griffiths, 2015).
In ballads, songs, legends, plays, novels and in popular culture (in movies, ani-
mations, television series) Robin Hood is a supporter of the King Richard the
Lionheart. He is also a heroic character; a highly skilled archer and swordsman
who had stood up against tyranny in the interests of the common people and who
had robbed from the rich and give to the poor. Robin became an outlaw during the
misrule of Richard's brother John while Richard was away at the Third Crusade
(Robin, 2017). Robin Hood’s life inspired many authors to write books and plays
(such as Sir Walter Scott, Ivanhoe, 1820; David Farr, The Heart of Robin Hood,
2011). In the film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991) the notorious Sheriff of
Nottingham (Alan Rickman) who wanted to lock up Robin Hood (Kevin Costner)
threatened him: “I'm gonna CUT YOUR HEART OUT with a spoon!” He would use
a dull tool because that hurts more. The modern conception of Robin Hood as
decent, patriotic rebel owes much to literature and films. In popular culture, a pro-
verb FAINT HEART NEVER WON FAIR LADYis often associated with Robin Hood.
It means if you do not take a risk and if you are without boldness or courage, you
will never find a romance. It also means, None but the brave deserves the fair.”
Timidity and awkwardness will prevent you from achieving your objective and not
necessarily only in love. The general meaning is that to succeed in life one must
have the courage to pursue what he wants.
Openness, honesty
The OPEN-HEARTEDNESS (odkritosrčnost, iskrenost) is the quality that is
figuratively oriented from the inside out, from the body to the outer world. The
person who has this quality supposes that the world is trustworthy and safe;
therefore, he can easily POUR OUT THE HEART (izliti srce) and speaks out. The
phrase to pour out whatever emotions from the heart supposes that the heart is
a full container and that it works as a fountain that fills up.
When we obviously show and express our intimate emotions in gestures
or verbally in an honest and open manner, we use the phrase to WEAR THE
HEART ON ONES SLEEVE (nositi srce na dlani), which is based on a notion that
the heart is the centre of the feelings. The idiomatic expression is not equal to
all languages. In Slovene, we express emotional honesty with the phrase to
WEAR THE HEART ON THE PALM. The same or similar is in Polish (mieć serce
na dłoni), Spanish (hablar con el corazón en la mano) and Italian (parlare col
cuore in mano; [essere] col cuore in mano). In Czech the expression is to WEAR
THE HEART ON THE PLATE (nosit srdce na talíři), and in German to HAVE A
HEART ON THE TONGUE (das Herz auf der Zunge haben) (Keber, 2011; Gutiér-
rez Pérez, 2008, p. 34), where the emotions travel from the spoken words into
the heart. Such an image could be attributed to the fact that the person, in order
to clearly show his feelings, figuratively takes the heart out of his breast and
shows it on his hand, where it is more easily seen. The same happens in English
with the expression to wear one's heart on one's sleeve, which finds its expla-
nation in the chivalry tradition of the Middle Ages (Gutiérrez Pérez, 2008, p.
Merriam-Webster (2017) explains why the sleeve in the English language. In the
Middle Ages, a sleeve not only referred to a part of a garment covering the arm but
to a piece of armour for covering and protecting the arm. In a joust, knights would
often dedicate their performance to a lady of the court and wear something that
belonged to her. It could be a token, such as a scarf or a ribbon, worn around their
sleeve of armour. It indicated to the tournament's spectators who were the ladies
the Knights favoured. This chivalrous and affectionate gesture may be the source
of the saying “to wear your heart on your sleeve.” However, this is mere conjecture
since evidence is lacking that shows the use of a phrase in reference to a knight
outwardly displaying who his object of affection was. The only certainty is that by
the 17th century, a figurative meaning of the phrase existed, as attested by Shake-
speare's use, to express emotional honesty and openness.
We use the metaphor of a journey when we talk about openness or reserve
of someone’s character. It is expressed as a place that is opened or locked and
can be figuratively opened with a tool or with a KEY TO THE HEART (ključ do
srca). To FIND THE WAY TO SOMEONES HEART (najti pot do srca) is an act of
OPENING, OR UNLOCKING THE HEART (odkleniti srce). It means to make an
unapproachable person as approachable, to find the way to make someone love
you and to enter in the inner core of his/her being.
The material oxymoron of eternal love is a HEART LOCK or a padlock,
usually with engraved names of couples in love. The heart locks appear on
many bridges, fences or trees all over the world. The padlock on steel wires
of bridges and with the key thrown in the river is surprisingly symbolizing
love although being locked without the possibility of unlocking rather associ-
ates of an eternal jail. The love padlocks are not symbols of romantic, healthy
or loving commitments but rather carry an idea of patriarchal unions which
should stay unbreakable regardless of what happens and even if love turns to
the unfortunate suffering of both partners. Usually, lovelocks have the support
of the municipal authorities because they are tourist attractions that bring
Unchain My Heart (1961) is a song written by Bobby Sharp (1924 2013) and
recorded by Ray Charles and later by many others. It is a plea to the beloved woman
to unlock the relationship and a request for freedom from a careless, miserable and
dried emotion.
Image 2
Image 3
Lovelocks on the Butchers' Bridge (Mesarski most) in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
Soon after the opening in 2010, people started to hang locks on the steel wires.
Photo: Izidor Ramšak, March 9th, 2018.
Similarly, but less known is the Studenci Footbridge (Studenška brv)
in Maribor, where the municipality removed the lovelocks in 2015
because of their weight and difficulties of maintenance.
In both cases, lovers throw the keys in the river Ljubljanica or Drava bellow
the bridges. The act is symbolizing the unbreakable bond of eternal love.
From 2018, some shopping malls in Slovenia also host Valentine's Day Games
“Lock the love” (Zakleni ljubezen) for couples. They receive a free heart-shaped
lock with engraved names or initials if they hang the lock on a particular outer wall
of the store, take pictures and publish the photos on Facebook. A couple or a family
with the best-published photos gets a prize, e.g. swimming in thermal spas. In this
way, couples in the name of love increase the visibility of the companies and
market in their account. Without being aware of it, they also promote the ideology
of locked love and CHAINED HEARTS. They invite and encourage themselves publicly
and discuss the event in virtual space, on Facebook, usually with plenty of emoticons
and HEART SMILEYS that help to transmit love messages and its subtexts of mostly
intensive but indecisive teenagers love. It is also evident that girls attach more to
such expressions of emotion, although they try to conceal them by apparent playful
Other gestures and bodily actions such as PUTTING RIGHT HAND OVER THE
HEART, or near the place where the heart is, make us appear and behave more
honestly and morally. The unconscious gestures signify dignity, honour, hon-
esty, credibility, truthfulness, sincerity and thankfulness. In the army of the
United States of America, in the politics, or when saluting the flag, and in the
sports all over the world, it is common to use the intentional gesture hand over
the heart in the swearing. We also see it at the informal promising or singing
the national hymn when awarding the medals. The gesture triggers us to act
more virtuously, more morally.
We use the expression FROM THE BOTTOM/DEPTHS OF ONES HEART (iz
dna/globin srca) for emphasizing that someone is very sincere about some-
thing and has a sincere, deep, genuine feeling. It also expresses the deepest,
sincere appreciation and devotion. When someone SPEAKS FROM THE HEART
(govoriti iz srca), it also means that he shows honest, sincere feelings and does
not pretend or simulates. Similarly, HEART-TO-HEART (odkrit, iskren, topel,
prisrčen) expresses sincere and hearty action. A heart-to-heart talk, for instance,
is a declaration of frankness and very often a confession of love.
Finally, we associate a home to the heart, therefore we say: HOME IS WHERE
THE HEART IS (dom je tam, kjer je srce). This phrase expresses that when things
or people we love are surrounding us we feel at home; one prefers one's home
to all other places, and home is where one is most emotionally attached. Home
has much more to do with the quality (loved ones, places with memories, etc.)
and less with the quantity (big, luxurious mansions). The proverb is attributed
to Pliny the Elder, a Roman writer (A.D. 23 79) (Titelman, 1996).
Heartfelt languages
Sensations of the heart
If a HEART BEATS LIKE A HAMMER (srce tolče kot kladivo), it audibly, strik-
ingly strikes most likely because of sudden excitement, fear, expectation or
because of other conditions of agitation. Whenever we are overwhelmed, psy-
chologically and in stress, the functioning of the heart accelerates, as it has to
be prepared for greater efforts, for greater circulation. The heart rhythm distur-
bances or other more dangerous heart diseases are causing the sensation of
quick striking of the heart when the HEART BEATS LIKE CRAZY (srce tolče kot
noro). A physiologically stronger heartbeat can be a consequence of seeing
a HEART-THROB. It is a physically very attractive man, especially a young,
famous handsome celebrity, movie actor, pop singer or another idol. His good
looks excite immature romantic feelings in women so that they fall in love
with him and their hearts begin to melt whenever they see him.
By a MELTING HEART (mehko, blago srce), we figuratively label a person
that is easily emotionally affected and softhearted; or someone who cannot
control the feeling. When someone’s heart melts, the person begins to feel love,
affection, or sympathy for someone or something. The melting hearts change
the opinion, attitudes or behaviour; they become kinder and more sympathetic.
On the contrary, figuratively and anatomically speaking, the black hearts
always have a negative connotation. Talking about hearts, we often use meta-
phors referring to light and darkness. They relate to our eyesight, which we
highly trust, and with the symbolism of light and darkness, that is, the opposi-
tion between pure, joyful on the one hand, or, sad, and bad on the other. Light
is a symbol of life, and dark is a symbol of death (Ramšak, 2007, p. 24).
Therefore, the BLACK-HEARTED (črnosrčen) persons are very bad, cruel,
mean-spirited, manipulative, unfeeling, malevolent in their dealings with others,
filled with hate, animosity, jealousy, and with no moral limits. The other names
for them are sociopaths or psychopaths. In medical terms, we consider a BLACK
HEART as diseased, left without blood so that it would look darker and death
like. Figuratively, a black heart is a deviation and against any normal, kind and
loving human behaviour. It is a dangerous, cunning and spiteful person. The
LIGHT-HEARTED (brezskrben, vesel) people, on the other hand, are calm, safe
and without worries pushing them to the ground.
The synonym for black-hearted is also COLD-HEARTED (brezsrčen brez-
čuten, neusmiljen). Its intensification in coldness, a FROZEN HEART (ledeno
srce), on the other side, is a heart turned into, covered with ice, obstructed, or
blocked by ice. We comprehend a person with the frozen heart as incapable
of giving love and cold towards others what make him ruthless and cruel. The
concept of thawing or melting is important to this aspect. Frozen heart is
thawed/melted when it finally falls in love and starts trusting people. Only an
act of true love can thaw/melt a frozen heart.
Image 5
Traditional handmade gingerbread hearts (lectovo srce) with a mirror
and love inscription or verse for the dearest made by family business
Perger 1757 in Slovenj Gradec, Slovenia. Today, so called little bread
(mali kruhek) is used in protocol or as a souvenir.
In the English language in the late 13th century, the word SWEETHEART
became a form of address and in the 1570s it became a synonym for a loved
one. The notion comes from an adjective sweet and a noun heart. Today, sweet-
heart in English means a well-liked individual, kind, helpful and generous
person, a person loved by another person, a very attractive or seductive looking
woman. In English, we use it for talking to a person that we love or have
a romantic relationship with (boyfriend, girlfriend). In Slovene such use does
not exist, we use the world darling or love instead of sweetheart. Some men in
English speaking countries use it for talking to women they do not know and
many women find this use offensive.
comes with reference to labour contracts. The notion was first attested in 1959
and it means a deal, a privileged treatment of a favoured person or corporation,
often with illegal or unethical practices between friends so that both may profit
well or that gives one side unusually favourable terms, often in return for some
other benefit.
As sugar became increasingly common in Europe during the 18th century,
so the creation of sweets, pastries and cakes with this costly substance became
widespread. In cultural centres such as Vienna and Paris the Rococo style, which
emphasised the flamboyant and whimsical, was applied to sweetmeats for
sweethearts (Gately, 2010). In Slovene, a SWEET HEART (not sweetheart) is
associated with gingerbread (lect), the decorated pastry that is made from honey
dough and shaped either with a wooden or a tin mould or by hand. During the
late Middle Ages, lect was popular with the social elite. The gingerbread mak-
ing craft is one of the oldest that was practised in cities and on squares, while
in the countryside lect workshops appeared in the 19th century. In those times,
these products were highly regarded as meaningful tokens of love. Today,
honey-bread products are souvenirs, promotional items or business gifts. The
red colour of a lect heart symbolizes love and passion. The yellow ribbon
stands for infinity, while the green ribbon with flowers represents growth and
progress. The small mirror inside the heart is there for young women, so they
can admire themselves in it (Live Gingerbread Museum, 2017).
Image 6
The festive, figural white bread braided heart with four birds
and decorated with the stems of Asparagus aethiopicus made by Tonica
Jankovič from Leskovec at Krško, Slovenia. In the past, till the mid-20th
century, this form of ritual bread was usually baked for wedding feasts.
Roundtable of The Slovene Ethnological Society,
Ljubljana, September 14th, 2017.
Photo: Alenka Černelič Krošelj.
Although people now know that their hearts are not like heart-shaped
cardioids, they still prefer to associate the muscle beneath their ribs with sweet
sensations. The food industry and confectioners exploit the sentimental over-
tones that the heart acquired during centuries and they produce tons of heart-
shaped sweets that match every festive or everyday occasion.
A popular ingredient and decoration of both bonbons and tarts are cherries,
whose paired fruits had long been a symbol for lovers, and whose cross-section
is cardioid, as too are strawberries. As a food and medicine, the strawberry had
been used in Europe for the days of the Romans. It was expensive and tempera-
mental plant, which might produce lush and glorious fruit one year. However,
as the English colonies in Virginia began to flourish, and Europe learned of the
perfection and constancy of the new world strawberry, samples were imported.
One arrived in Paris in 1636 when a botanist described it as Fragaria americana
magno fructo the American Strawberry with the big fruit. They crossbred the
import with a female plant from Chile; the result is the modern commercial
strain. This was widely cultivated, and strawberry slices on tarts and heartshaped
strawberry cakes placed the heart symbol, with fresh associations (Gately, 2010).
Heart in religion and philosophy
Our most distant ancestors painted the heart on the walls of caves, but what
it meant to them is unknown (Gately, 2010). The earliest written references to
the heart appear in the Sumerian epic of the goddess of love Ishtar (c. 2,500
B.C.), which speaks of hearts filled with clemency and hearts broken by grief
(Boyadjian, 1980). In India, the heart was tied to emotions, intelligence, life,
and being, and in ancient China, the heart was considered the centre of the
intellect (Loe & Edwards, 2004, p. 286).
The early Chinese philosophers privileged the heart for its role in cognition.
To some extent, the heart works the same way as the (other) sense organs. One
of the most sophisticated and influential philosophers, Xunzi (or Hsün-tze,
Hsün-tzu, Xun Kuang, Xun Qing, c. 300 c. 230 B.C.), says that the heart
draws distinctions among reasons, explanations, emotions, and desires; by
implication, it does so in much the same way that the eye draws distinctions
among colours. Xunzi privileged the heart in at least three ways. First, the
heart controls the activity of the sense organs and of the body more generally;
it is the decision-making organ. Second, the heart can acquire new knowledge,
whereas the knowledge of the (other) sense organs of how to draw distinctions
among their objects is innate. Third, the heart, unlike the other organs, is able
to acquire knowledge of the Way. Xunzi sets out that the heart can come to
know the Way through being empty (emptiness is a state in which one tempo-
rarily sets aside one's prior learning so that one can learn something new),
unified, and still (Robins, 2017).
The ancient Egyptians held the heart in high regard: it was the only internal
organ left intact in the mummy. The Egyptian Book of the Dead, a collection
of usually illustrated mortuary texts compiled about 1,600 B.C., contains the
first physical description of the heart (Bowman, 1987, p. 337). The ancient
Egyptians were the first civilization which left us a theory of its purpose. The
heart was the part of the body where the soul and the intellect of its owner
resided (Gately, 2010), it was the source of human intelligence, emotion, and
the conscience (Amulet, 2008). Unlike the other internal organs that were
extracted during the process of mummification and stored in special jars in the
tomb (Amulet, 2008; Gately, 2010), the heart was left inside the corpse after
death. Even the brain, which today represent the source of human thought, was
removed from the body through the nose. However, the Egyptians kept the
heart in the body so that the deceased would have it at the judgment in the
afterlife. The Goddess Ma’at would weigh it against the feather of truth in the
afterlife and punish the HEAVY-HEARTED. They placed the HEART AMULETS
within the mummy’s wrappings near the chest of the deceased so that if his/her
real heart was damaged or destroyed the amulet could take its place. The Egyp-
tian visual art portrayed the heart itself as a scarab or dung beetle (Amulet,
2008; Gately, 2010). There are three types of specifically funerary scarabs:
heart scarabs, pectoral scarabs and naturalistic scarabs. The HEART SCARABS
became popular in the early New Kingdom (between the 16th century B.C. and
the 11th century B.C.) and remained in use until the Third Intermediate Period
(c. 1069 B.C. c. 664 B.C.) (Scarab, 2018).
The HEART SCARABS are large scarabs (4 12 cm long) often made from dark green
or dark coloured stones and are not pierced for suspension. The base of the heart
scarab was usually carved, either directly or on a gold plate fixed to the base, with
hieroglyphs, which name the deceased and repeat some or all of spell 30B from
The Egyptian Book of the Dead. The spell commands the deceased's heart not to
give evidence against the deceased when the gods of the underworld are judging
the deceased. They hung the heart scarabs around the mummy's neck with a gold
wire, and the scarab itself was held in a gold frame (Scarab, 2018).
Symbolic contexts in the use of heart amulets were illuminated conscience,
wisdom, justification and divine birth. The Egyptians connected the contexts
of the use of the amulet with the idea of purity. While they used the amulets
as a royal decoration, they were also a symbol of purification in the presence
of the Pharaoh. The same idea of purity is in the amulet of justification, since
it was a symbol of the purity measured by the weighting of the heart (Sousa,
2007, p. 62-67).
Among the ancient Maya (c. A.D. 250 900) right through to the final
stages of the Spanish conquest in the 17th century, HUMAN HEART SACRIFICE
was a supreme religious expression. A number of Maya and Spanish colonial
texts describe this human sacrifice (Madrid Codex, Popul Vuh, Annals of the
Kaqchikels, Songs of Dzitbalche, Landa’s La Relación de las cosas de Yucatán).
The amputation of the still-beating heart and the offering of this vital organ
considered the essence of life and nourishment for the divine forces. The Maya
accomplished heart sacrifice with predetermined acts regulated by a set of
rules. The ritual heart removal, a violent vivisection of a struggling victim, was
probably completed in less than eight minutes. Religious motivations were the
removal of a vital organ and the ritual destruction of the victim’s life (Tiesler
& Cucina, 2006, p. 505, 506; Human, 2017). The heart extraction with the flint
knife was the most common form of human sacrifice besides the decapitation,
disembowelment, entombing and the arrow sacrifice. It was influenced by the
method used by the Aztecs in the Valley of Mexico. The heart removal usually
took place in the courtyard of a temple, or upon the summit of the pyramid-
temple (c. 900 1524). When they removed the heart, they gave it to the priest
who smeared blood upon the image of the temple's deity. Sometimes they
would throw the corpse down the pyramid steps to the courtyard below. The
assistant priests skinned the corpse, except for the hands and feet. The priest
would then remove his ritual attire and dress himself in the skin of the sacrifi-
cial victim before performing a ritual dance that symbolised the rebirth of life.
If it was a notably courageous warrior who had been sacrificed then the corpse
would be cut into portions, and parts would be eaten by attending warriors and
other bystanders. They gave the hands and feet to the priest who, if they had
belonged to a war captive, wore the bones as a trophy. Later the angry Maya
sacrificed the Spanish captives, friars and missionaries, during the Spanish
conquest of Yucatan between 1511 and 1697 (Human, 2017).
An American film Apocalypto (2006), played by the actors with indigenous back-
grounds, shows a peaceful Maya tribe from the early 16th century in the Central
America that is brutally attacked by warriors who are seeking slaves and human
beings for sacrifice for their gods. The film, as much as it was financially success-
ful, was criticised because of the historical inaccuracies.
The most controversial part in the film is the bloody SACRIFICE OF THE HEART that
together with a hidden scream and shock of victims lasts only ten seconds. The
ritual acts of placing the victim on the altar, ripping his heart out of the chest,
showing it to the masses beneath the pyramid, the agony of still alive man, his
decapitation and throwing first the head and then the rest of the corpse from the top
of the pyramid, lasts less than a minute and a half (Apocalypto, 2006). In the film,
they sacrificed hundreds of people. However, there are no archaeological evidences
that Mayan people sacrificed on such a large scale. The director of the film, the
actor Mel Gibson, copied that from the Aztecs, who sacrificed 25,000 people a year.
Unfortunately, the film just cannot decide which civilisation it wants to present the
Mayan or the Aztec. In addition, the film is on the collapse of Mayan civilisation
and the conquistador arriving at the same time, although the Mayan civilisation
ended 600 years before their arrival. The numerous historical misrepresentations of
the Indians and exaggerations in the film only show the use of an alternate history
for the sake of entertainment.
Image 7
The depiction of Aztec human sacrifice with extracting the heart
in a religious document Codex Magliabechiano, Folio 70,
from the mid-16th century (Complete colour facsimiles of the hand-painted
manuscript is stored in the National Central Library in Florence, Italy.
Codex Magliabechiano bases on an earlier unknown codex).
The function of the extracted heart is the transformation into a god.
Among the ancient Greeks, there was a disagreement about the role of the
heart. In the earliest written mentions of the heart, they already linked it with
love, grief, pride, courage, life, death and music (Bowman, 1987, p. 337; Young,
2007, p. 3). For Aristotle, the heart (or its analogue in bloodless animals) is
crucial. It is the first part created by the heat derived from the semen of the
male parent, and henceforth it is the primary internal source of that heat and
thus of further development (Singer, 2016). Aristotle considered the physical
heart as the seat of intellect, and this view prevailed until the days of the Roman
physician Galen, who decided instead that it was responsible for the emotions,
with the exception of love, which resided in the liver (Gately, 2010).
The Platonic tripartition rational, spirited, and desiderative that corre-
spond to and are located in the brain, the heart and the liver is central for
Galen’s physiology of the whole body. Galen relies on proofs from plausibility
and analogy: for example, that the heart is the seat of the spirited part of the
soul (related to responses of anger and indignation) gains plausibility from the
fact that one observes perturbations of the heart in certain particular excited
states of mind. He demonstrates the fact that the spirited a range of emotional
reactions related to anger, indignation, shame, pride, anxiety, fear is located
in the heart by a number of examples, both from everyday experience and
from traditional thought (Singer, 2016).
The Greeks also used the pictogram ♥ to depict ivy or vine-leaves, respec-
tively the symbols of constancy and regeneration. They depicted carnal love
as a naked boy armed with a bow and arrows, with the image of the god Eros.
When Eros wished to curse or bless people with the emotion that he ruled, he
aimed his darts at their eyes rather than their breasts and they felt its effects
throughout their entire bodies (Gately, 2010).
The arrival of Christianity compounded the confusion over the meaning
of heart, the purpose of love, and the function of the heart. The Christians fol-
lowed Judaic lore vis-à-vis the heart, which held that it was home to all our
feelings. In Judaism, the sacred texts were full of references to the glad-, the
kind-, the heavy-, and the hard-hearted; they decided that love was a meta-
physical concept, which had nothing to do with the world of the flesh or any
part thereof. They adopted the heart as an icon of the vine, the Classical symbol
of rebirth, and used it on their tombs to symbolize the hope of resurrection.
However, the pagan tribes of Europe who converted to Christianity had dif-
ferent thoughts about the purpose of the heart, which they generally associated
with courage, and alternative meanings for the cardioid shape. In the eastern
parts of the continent, they used the cardioid shape in horse amulets and de-
picted the path of the sun through the heavens over the seasons. The triquerta
carvings of the Celts, meanwhile, which also resemble the heart, represent
eternity, and the similar Viking valknut design symbolized the power of the
god Odin to induce battle-madness in warriors. When these disparate cultures
united under the cross, they also developed a common secular iconography,
and in the medieval era established the first link between affection and the
cardioid shape, with the arrival of the concept of Courtly, or Romantic, love
(Gately, 2010).
The Church fought for possession of the cardioid symbol, the definition
of love, and the purpose of the heart for much of the middle ages. Its attempts
at dominance were spearheaded by a doctrinal innovation devotion to the
SACRED HEART, which manifested the love and suffering of Jesus Christ.
Female devotees were especially prone to visions of the divine organ. They
were led by Saint Gertrude who had a hallucination in the late 13th century
during which she rested her head on the chest of Jesus and heard his heart beat.
She asked St. John, also present in her vision, if he too had enjoyed those
“delightful pulsations” when he embraced Christ at the Last Supper. The apostle
confirmed he had, but had kept quiet about the sensation. He saved its revela-
tion for a time when the world had grown weary and cold and needed such
surprises to rekindle its love. Saints Mechtilde & Marguerite continued Gertru-
de’s good work and established the beating heart of Jesus as symbolic of the
love he had for humankind (Gately, 2010).
With the rise of Christianity, the heart took on a new symbolic importance.
The heart of Jesus, representing the love he had for humankind, became a me-
dium, if not an object, of worship. Although the cult of the Sacred Heart had
its origin in early Christianity and was revived by St. Francis of Assisi (1182
1226) and St. Catherine of Siena (1347 1380), it did not grow into a wide-
spread movement until the 17th century. Indeed, most medieval monks were
inclined to associate the heart with original sin. Gradually the image of the
Sacred Heart of Jesus acquired the visual characteristics that it has today:
flames, a cross, a crown of thorns, a ray of light, or a wound, usually caused
by an arrow (any of these features singly or in combination). The wound
reference to Augustine's Confessions (“You will pierce our hearts with the
arrow of your love.”) and the attribute of the wounded heart refers to the famous
vision of St. Teresa of Avila (1515 1582), who reported that a winged angel
had pierced her heart through repeatedly with a golden divine arrow until she
moaned in ecstasy. Her heart, preserved in alcohol since 1582, enables the
diagnosis of her death: Theresa d’Avila could perhaps have died from a coro-
nary thrombosis with rupture of the heart: the arrow, which pierced her heart
during her illness, was probably the manifestation of an attack of angina. Fol-
lowing Teresa's vision, the heart pierced by an arrow symbolizing revelation
through emotion came into greater prominence. It was not until the 19th cen-
tury that the cult of the Sacred Heart reached its climax in Catholic countries,
giving rise to images in a variety of media: Velvet banners, porcelain water
stoups, oil lamps, embroidered wall hangings, and postcards adorned homes or
churches, all featuring the wounded heart of Jesus (Bowman, 1987, p. 337-
The visual iconography of the Sacred Heart developed during the Counter-
Reformation, which emphasised those parts of Christianity that required faith
to imagine. Paintings appeared showing Christ opening his robe to reveal a heart
shaped heart, or the same, solo, encircled with a crown of thorns, and topped
with a halo and another crown of gold. The church also developed a reciprocal
doctrine: The Immaculate Heart of Mary, which symbolised the love of human-
kind for their Saviour and encouraged the production of images in which Mary
too displayed a radiant organ (Gately, 2010).
In Roman Catholic Church, the Sacred Heart is the heart of Jesus Christ,
which is a symbol of his love and sacrifice. The representation of this is usually
bleeding, as an aid to devotion. Jesus Christ's physical heart is the representa-
tion of the divine love for humanity. The Sacred Heart is a flaming heart with
divine light, pierced by the lance-wound, encircled by the crown of thorns,
surmounted by a cross, and bleeding. Sometimes the image is shown shining
within the bosom of Christ with his wounded hands pointing at the heart. The
wounds and crown of thorns allude to the manner of Jesus' death, while the fire
represents the power of divine love (Sacred, 2017).
Image 8
Ex voto picture of Immaculate Heart of Mary behind the church altar
in Ruše, Slovenia. It has written thanks of a grateful convalescent,
the cottager’s daughter. The message below the picture, says
"In the thank for the repeated help in a 25 years old illness after begging
the mother of God of Ruše on August 15, 1903.”
Photo: Mojca Ramšak, Ruše, May 26th, 2017.
The IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY is a devotional name used to refer to
the interior life of the Blessed Virgin Mary, her joys and sorrows, her virtues
and hidden perfections, her virginal love for God the Father, her maternal love
for her son Jesus, and her compassionate love for all people. Traditionally, seven
wounds or swords pierce the heart, in homage to the seven dolors of Mary, and
the roses or another type of flowers wrap around the heart. The veneration of
the Heart of Mary is analogous to the worship of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
There are differences in this analogy. The devotion to the heart of Jesus is
directed to the “divine heart” as overflowing with love for humanity. In the
devotion to Mary, the attraction is the love of her heart for Jesus and for God
(Immaculate, 2017).
Devotional objects, pictures, writings and relics, related to religious worship
of Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary are part of our life.
Relics (Latin: reliquiae = mortal remains) are mortal remains or personal be-
longings of saints. A Major relic might be the complete body of a saint, or else
individual body parts such as a head, arm, leg, bone (humerus, ulna or femur) or
other body part that was affected during the saint’s martyrdom (a heart or a tongue
if they have been miraculously preserved). A reliquary can be only a part of a saint
or a blessed, approved by the Church. Sometimes a relic is an object a saint
touched, such as a garment. The Church worships them as exceptionally holy.
Larger relics are usually enshrined and kept in churches but also in a public or
semi-public oratory, in a private oratory or in a private house only. Some devout
individuals can even have the honour of keeping smaller relics at home and can
carry them on their persons (Knez, 2014, p. 10-11).
The breverls (that is folded sheets of holy cards, also a small pendant in the form of
a tiny cushion worn around the neck, on either rosaries or an amulet cord or else
stitched onto clothes) were supposed to bring happiness and to protect from illness.
The amulets or talismans’ power depends significantly on the strength of people’s
will and faith. A breverl functioned as both a talisman and as medicine. It protected
the wearer from evil, demons, witches, possession, plague, fire or inclement weather.
Some breverls had a shape like hearts; they made them for cribs or little children’s
beds. Such objects soon became merchandise. At first, one could obtain them from
local healers or so-called “witches”, but later it was possible to buy them at bless-
ings or village fairs. In some shops even today, it is possible to buy these objects
for good luck and as protection against illness (Knez, 2014, p. 48).
However, the Church did not achieve its desired monopoly over the heart
symbol. The appearance of a new use for the symbol, which put it in front of
more people’s eyes than ever before happened in 1480, shortly after the appear-
ance of the printing press, when the commercial manufacture of playing cards
commenced in France. Printed cards used hearts as their second suite instead
of the cups, representing the Holy Grail, which hitherto had appeared on hand-
painted decks. Whilst the HEARTS ON CARDS maintained a sacred connection
the four suites were analogous to the Medieval feudal estates: spades, which
had been swords, symbolised the gentry; hearts, which once were grails, the
clergy; diamonds spoke for the merchants; and clubs were linked with agri-
culture and hence the peasantry they were employed in a profoundly secular
context. People associated the heart symbol with gambling instead of love,
whether for God or vice versa (Gately, 2010).
Another controversial phenomenon regarding the Sacred Heart is FASH-
IONING RELIGION. When a religion becomes fashion, specific religious symbols
echo important religious events and church equipment (Battista, 2013).
The religion and fashion are not mutually exclusive. The motifs used in
modern fashion, such as catholic cross, sacred heart, paintings, images of saints,
drawings, altarpieces, statues, photographs of popes, Byzantine religious mo-
saics, roman temples, cathedrals, ornaments from baroque churches, Jewish
symbols, Muslim hijabs, or even Satanist attires, are sometimes fused and
mixed together. The technology improved so much to allow the reproduction
of any image of the fabrics. Each important religious event, from religious
processions to the death of a Pope, can become extremely fashionable and can
be used and misused by the textile and fashion industry. If sex sells, why not
using the same principle for religion? In fashion industry, you can sell sex and
religion together. Richly embroidered or printed dresses for both sexes in the
same colours as icons or other religious objects, reproduction of the attire of
certain statuses, nuns, cardinals, and popes, lace looking like sacramental linens,
accessorised with jewellery, scarves like stoles, shoes and bags that resemble
the richness of church or prayer equipment, are no longer blasphemous in high-
fashion collections.
Many designers find the pomp of the Church, the artisanship behind the rich vest-
ments, and the beauty of some icons and statues incredibly inspiring. There is one
main reason why fashion designers love using religion as inspiration. They are not
trying to be extremely controversial, but copying religious paintings and imagery
is copyright free. The sad truth is we use these symbols not to provoke or to find
holiness in a wardrobe; we essentially use them to save money in fashion industry
(Battista, 2013).
In some cases, the Vatican even approves the creation of new design, such as the
little black priestly dress (in Italian l’abito pretino, l’abito talare), created by the
Fontana sisters for Ava Gardner in 1955 and a version of it worn by actress Anita
Ekberg in the film La dolce vita in 1960. In the 1980’, pop stars like Madonna used
religious imagery in her music video spots (Like a Prayer, 1989), wearing rosary
beads and crosses as necklaces. In time, we got accustomed to seeing religion entering
fashion and pop culture. Not that many people criticised models wearing luxurious
bags covered in Miraculous Medals or gold and silver heart-shaped ex-votos pinned
at the waist (Battista 2013). In the Catholic churches you may see the walls or behind
the altar sacristies covered with ex-voto pictures and objects, among them silver
hearts, that represent tokens showing how a believer’s vow (voto) was fulfilled.
Ex-votos influenced the world of fashion and buying second-hand ex-votos in street
markets for covering garments is a cheaper version of high fashioned religion
(Battista, 2010).
Image 9
Fashion, music and film industry are trivialising the religious symbols.
Dolce Gabbana Sacred Heart Fashion, Spring 2015.
The worldwide circulation of the heart symbol through art, playing cards
and above all, however, through religious worship, has made the heart the
probably most popular non-geometric symbol (Dietz, 1998). Over the centuries,
the red playing-card heart has become familiar to us through art, architecture,
advertising and kitsch. Vegetal decorations, such as fig leaves and later ivy
leaves appeared in the third millennium B.C. and they anticipated the modern
heart shape. The transformation of the ivy leaf into the red playing-card heart
of spiritual and physical love took place parallel to the secularization of the
religious heart metaphor into the heart found in the literature of the middle
ages. The monastic illustrators, inspired by the art and ornamentation of the
latter years of antiquity and Roman times, painted Trees of Life with heart-
shaped leaves. In paintings of the 12th and 13th centuries, ivy leaves appeared
in love scenes, before long in red the colour of warm blood, which had sig-
nified good luck, health and love since prehistoric times (Dietz, 1998).
From then on, the red heart spread quickly across Europe, especially in the
area of the Catholic Church. Various facts are responsible for this:
The profanation of the heart-shaped leaf to a symbol of physical love, but
also a symbol of compassion and devotion in secular and religious art.
The acceptance of the heart image in the Sacred Heart cult of the Catholic
The use of the symbol in heraldry, as a watermark in paper production, and
as a company stamp in art printing, which was at the same time an anticipa-
tion of modern commercial art.
The inclusion of the heart in the deck of cards: at the end of the 15th century,
cards began to be standardized, especially the symbols. The red heart replaced
the goblets found on Italian tarot cards (Dietz, 1998).
Final crystallization
In the end, we can finally crystallize some relevant findings that help us
understand our reception of this vital organ. First, from a plethora of seeming-
ly scattered and changing human heart phenomena we can conclude that the
heart with its multiple historical, cultural and linguistic meanings goes far
beyond the human anatomy. In fact, social and cultural notions overlap with
and influence the attempts to understand the anatomical functions of the heart.
Beyond the medical knowledge, we find the figures of the heart that influence
our beliefs in somatic phraseology, culture, religion and arts.
Secondly, the philosophical insight into the bodily schema as something
with structure places the heart in the centre of the body. Culturally motivated
ideas of where to map feeling, thinking or knowing in the human body places
the heart in the concept of cardiocentrism and leaves the other two conceptual
strategies (cerebrocentrism, abdominocentism) empty. The heart only rarely
metaphorically “travels” in other body parts and leaves the heart region. When
it happens, it usually goes “down” what indicates troubles. Conceptually the
heart is also a container for emotions. If it is full, it brings us to the emotional
states, described as up, if it is empty, we are down. It gives us other orienta-
tions towards upper and bottom states, and, it is the purpose of the destination.
In addition, as a vessel of emotions, it strongly affects our health and wellbeing.
The mind concepts pour over and in the real physical body.
Third, the language we speak shape the way we think. The supposition
that the world languages are biased and narrowed by culture and therefore the
uses of the word heart would be in accordance with social or cultural differences
was not confirmed. On the contrary, when we compare linguistic evidence
across cultures and through time, regardless of how languages differ in their
descriptions of numbers, colours, events, space and time, nouns, etc., we find
almost universal attention to the heart across cultures. The heart idioms as sub-
jects of linguistic examination show the same or similar attributes. This means
that different languages require paying attention to some universal attributes
of the physical heart and create equally universal concepts of the heart.
Fourth, the heart’s symbolic meaning turned from the conception of love
into widely abused and the commercialized idea that everything is for sale.
Yet, the intuitive link between the heart and love that was expressed through
history is very much still alive in cross-cultural perspective.
The evidence presented in this paper shows that we intuitively use these
culturally embedded notions of the heart that had changed only slightly through
history. In comparison to that, it would be equally instructive to have a cultural
analysis of the reception of human brains because we also put them on a body
map as a central organ. However, if we are asked to show on the body the loca-
tion of the mind, we would likely point at our heads. But when we have to
point our feelings, we would probably touch and point at our hearts. The heart
remains an emotional centre, and not just in words. It is not surprising mental
hygiene recommends, “Listening to the heart.” It beats for you so listen close.
Alberti, B. F. (2009). The art of medicine. Heartfelt emotions. The Lancet, 374(9689),
Alberti, B. F. (2010). Matters of the Heart: History, Medicine, and Emotion. Oxford:
Oxford University Press. Retrieved September 3, 2017, from
Alberti, B. (2017, July 3). Blog. Retrieved September 3, 2017, from
Al-Harrasi (2012). The Arab Body Metaphor in Contemporary Arabic Discourse: An
Exploratory Study. In A. Littlejohn & R. M. Sandhya (Eds.), Language Studies:
Stretching the Boundaries (pp. 190-207). Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publish-
Amidon, S. & Amidon, T. (2011). The Sublime Engine. A Biography of the Human
Heart. New York: Rodale.
Amulet (2008). African Tribes, Cultures, Countries. Ancient Egypt, Faience, Votive,
Statue, Figurine. Division of Ethnology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of
Natural History, 26. 6. Retrieved February 13, 2018, from:
Apocalypto, the sacrifice scene (2006). Retrieved February 18, 2018, from
Battista, A. (2009, December 11). Ex-voto fashion. Irenebrination: Notes on Art,
Fashion and Style. Retrieved September 22, 2017, from
Battista, A. (2013, August 29). Fashioning Religion: How a Fake Search for the Spiri-
tual Became an Unfashionable Trend. Irenebrination: Notes on Art, Fashion and
Style. Retrieved September 22, 2017, from
Blechmann, R. K. (2005). The Heart of the Matter. Retrieved February 1, 2018, from
Bowman, I. A. (1987). The Symbolism of the Heart: A Review. Texas Heart Institute
Journal, 14(4), 337-340.
Boyadjian, N. (1980). The Heart: Its History, Its Symbolism, Its Iconography, and Its
Diseases. Antwerp (Belgium): Esco Books.
Dietz, A. (1998). Ewige Herzen Kleine Kulturgeschichte der Herzbestattungen.
Munich: MMV Medien und Medizin Verlag. (English translation by Pauline
Liesenfeld: Eternal Hearts a short cultural history of heart burials.) Retrieved
August 29, 2017, from
Fran, slovarji Inštituta za slovenski jezik Frana Ramovša ZRC SAZU (2017). Ljubljana:
Inštitut za slovenski jezik ZRC SAZU. Retrieved September 22, 2017, from
Elliott, M., Shrimplin, V. (2017, February 14). Affairs of the Heart: An Exploration of
the Symbolism of the Heart in Art. London (St Valentine’s Day lecture in Museum
of London). Gresham College.
Gately, I. (2010, February 14). A Heart-Shaped History. The Iconography of Love.
Lapham’s Quarterly. Retrieved September 4, 2017, from
Gonzalez-Crussi, F. (2009). Carrying the Heart: Exploring the Worlds Within Us.
Kaplan Publishing.
Gonzalez-Crussi, F. (2013). Of metaphoric hearts. Hektoen International Journal,
5(2). Retrieved September 19, 2017, from
Griffiths, S. (2015, December 2). Embalmed hearts found in beautiful 16th century
urns reveal their owners suffered from coronary diseases. Mail Online. Retrieved
September 20, 2017, from
Gutiérrez Pérez, R. (2008). A Cross-Cultural Analysis of Heart Metaphors. Revista
Alicantina de Estudios Ingleses, 21, 25-56.
Høystad, O. M. (2007). A History of the Heart. London: Reaktion Books.
Harold, A., Harburg, Y. (1939). If I only had a heart [The Wizard of Oz lyrics from the
television musical]. Retrieved January 17, 2018, from
Human sacrifice in Maya culture (2017). Retrieved February 15, 2018, from
Immaculate Heart of Mary (2017). Retrieved September 21, 2017, from 2017; 21. 9. 2017
Imaging reveals evidence of disease in 400 year-old French hearts (2015, December
2). Past Horizons, Adventures in Archeology. Retrieved September 20, 2017, from
Is Broken Heart Syndrome Real? (2016, April 18). American Heart Association. Re-
trieved September 11, 2017, from
Keber, J. (2011). Slovar slovenskih frazemov. Ljubljana: Založba ZRC, ZRC SAZU.
Retrieved August 28, 2017, from
Knez, D. (2014). Relikvije in relikviariji iz zbirke Narodnega muzeja Slovenije =
Relics and reliquaries from the collection of the National Museum of Slovenia.
Ljubljana: Narodni muzej Slovenije.
Knez, D. (2017). Trapist, žara in srce. Razstaviti ali ne? In D. K. Osvald & E. Štrukelj
(Eds.), Etika v muzejih, ravnanje z ostanki živih organizmov: zbornik prispevkov. =
Ethics in museums, how to handle remains of living organism: collected papers
(pp. 57-66). Ljubljana: Ministrstvo za notranje zadeve Republike Slovenije, Poli-
cija, Muzej slovenske policije.
Kržišnik, E. (2009). Telo in frazeologija. In M. Pezdirc-Bartol (Ed.), Telo v sloven-
skem jeziku, literaturi in kulturi: zbornik predavanj (pp. 151-168). Ljubljana:
Znanstvena založba Filozofske fakultete.
Lakoff, G. (2014). Mapping the brain’s metaphor circuitry: metaphorical thought in
everyday reason. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 8, 1-14.
Lakoff, G., Johnson, M. (1999). Philosophy in the Flesh. The embodied mind and its
challenge to Western thought. New York: Basic Books.
Live gingerbread museum (2017). Retrieved April 4, 2018, from
Loe, M. J., Edwards, W. D. (2004). A light-hearted look at a lion-hearted organ (or,
a perspective from three standard deviations beyond the norm). Part 1 (of two
parts). Cardiovascular Pathology, 13, 282-292.
Mabeck, C. E., Olesen, F. (1997). Metaphorically transmitted diseases. How do pa-
tients embody medical explanations? Family Practice, 14(4), 271-278.
Morgan, D. (2008). The Sacred Heart of Jesus. The Visual Evolution of a Devotion.
Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.
Muss I den (2018). Retrieved January 17, 2018, from
Oldfield, B. J., Jones, D. S. (2014). Languages of the Heart: The Biomedical and the
Metaphorical in American Fiction. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 57(3),
Onelook Dictionary Search (2017). Retrieved September 22, 2017, from
Peto, J. (Ed.) (2007). The Heart. New Haven, London: Yale University Press.
Ramšak, Mojca (2007). Družbeno-kulturne podobe raka dojk v Sloveniji = Social and
cultural imagery of breast cancer in Slovenia. Ljubljana: Delo Revije.
Richard I of England (2017). Retrieved September 20, 2017, from
Robin Hood (2017). Retrieved September 20, 2017, from
Robins, D. (2017). Xunzi. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philo-
sophy. Stanford: Stanford University, Center for the Study of Language and Infor-
mation. Retrieved February 22, 2018, from>
Sacred Heart (2017). Retrieved September 22, 2017, from
Scarab (artifact) (2018). Retrieved February 13, 2018, from
Singer, P. N. (2017). Galen. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philo-
sophy. Stanford: Stanford University, Center for the Study of Language and Infor-
mation. Retrieved February 22, 2018, from>
Snoj, M. (1997). Slovenski etimološki slovar. Ljubljana: Mladinska knjiga; electronic
edition 2015. Ljubljana: Založba ZRC, Znanstvenoraziskovalni center SAZU. Re-
trieved January 18, 2018, from
Sousa, R. (2007). The Meaning of the Heart Amulets in Egyptian Art. Journal of the
American Research Center in Egypt, 43, 59-70.
Štefančič, M. (2012, July 27). Igralec. Umrl je Polde Bibič – ali pa tudi ne. Mladina.
The Little Prince Study Guide (2018). eNotes. Retrieved January 20, 2018, from
Tiesler, V., Cucina, A. (2006). Procedures in Human Heart Extraction and Ritual
Meaning: A Taphonomic Assessment of Anthropogenic Marks in Classic Maya
Skeletons. Latin American Antiquity, 17, 4, 493-510.
Tin Woodman (2017). Retrieved September 12, 2017, from
Titelman, G. Y. (1996). Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings.
New York: Random House.
Wells, F. C. (2013). The Heart of Leonardo. London: Springer-Verlag.
Why Do We Say “Wear Your Heart on Your Sleeve”? (2017). Merriam-Webster, Word
History. Retrieved September 6, 2017, from:
Wooden Heart (2017). Retrieved September 12, 2017, from; 12. 9. 2017
Young, L. (2002). The Book of the Heart. London: Flamingo.
Young, L. (2007). The Human Heart. An Overview. In J. Peto (Ed.), The Heart (pp.
1-30). New Haven, London: Yale University Press.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Full-text available
The present study reports on the cultural marks encountered in three (possibly four) skeletons retrieved from primary deposits of the Maya Classic period at Palenque, Calakmul, and Becán, Mexico. We propose that the patterns of cut and stab lesions encountered in the trunks of these individuals stem from perimortem violence that accompanied heart removal from below the rib cage rather than from postmortem evisceration. We confirm the feasibility of this procedure by experimental replication in modern corpses. The interpretation of those procedures synthesizes information obtained from osteological, archaeological, and iconographic sources and leads to a broader discussion concerning the techniques, impact, and meanings of human heart sacrifice and associated body manipulations in Classic period Maya society. Methodologically, we conclude that direct skeletal evidence of heart sacrifice can be rare, imposing a cautionary caveat on the current discussion of mortuary remains in the Maya area.
Full-text available
An overview of the basics of metaphorical thought and language from the perspective of Neurocognition, the integrated interdisciplinary study of how conceptual thought and language work in the brain. The paper outlines a theory of metaphor circuitry and discusses how everyday reason makes use of embodied metaphor circuitry.
Full-text available
In this article we propose a cognitive model which results of metaphorical expressions gathered from dictionaries and thesauri and their later examination and classification. We begin with basic conceptual operations, such as reification and personification, to arrive at more complex metaphors which constitute the "Idealized Cognitive Model".
Full-text available
From its origins in the mid-seventeenth century visions of the French nun Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647–90) to its continuing employment in worship today, the Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus has been controversial. Vigorously promoted by Jesuit spiritual directors, embroiled in the controversies of Jansenist writers, closely associated with Royalist political causes in France, and taken around the world by Sister Sophie Barat in the nineteenth century, the Devotion’s practices took on the shape of its evolving visual culture and iconography. This volume traces the unfolding visual biography of the sacred heart and shows how imagery documents the Devotion’s remarkable evolution.
Full-text available
The examination was guided by recent theories on metaphors, holding that our conception of the physical world in many ways derives from personal bodily experiences. Such experiences are fundamental to the elaboration of abstract structures of meaning, which, through metaphorical projections, provide a constitutive role in our overall comprehension of the world. It is thus to be assumed that patients will bring their own cluster of metaphors into the consultation room to structure the doctor's explanations. Our study was an attempt to identify some manifestations of this work of structuring and to learn about its consequences for interpersonal communication between patient and doctor. The aim of this study was to examine how, and to what extent patients in a general practice understand pathoanatomical and pathophysiological disturbances as explanations of their illness. The empirical basis of the study comprised interviews with a group of patients from a general practice, who were asked to narrate their understanding of medical disturbances. Based on these interviews we identified and classified a number of metaphors they used to describe bodily problems and relations. A deviating mechanical understanding of the body, which we characterize as ethnomechanics, was manifest in all the interviews. This understanding is expanded upon and its significance discussed. Although patients do not feel qualified to understand scientific explanations of their health problems, they do relate to a scientific disease mode of understanding. They do not, however, relate to the fine details and professional implications of this mode. Instead they will associate medical explanations with their pre-established, illness-based system of understanding through imaginative projections. Doctors need to be aware that patients possess such imaginative and experiential resources to make sense of medical explanations. Attempts to draw patients radically away from these resources may cause confusion and undesired breakdowns in the communication between them and their physician.
Full-text available
Throughout history, the heart has been associated not only with its life-sustaining function but also with its close ties to the human emotions. In this literature and Internet review, we attempt to gather and organize information from both of these perspectives as they relate to the heart in the following 11 categories: (1) fun facts, (2) medical photography, (3) history, (4) languages (etymology), (5) nonmedical English expressions, (6) death, (7) the arts, (8) movie titles, (9) song titles, (10) Shakespeare, and (11) the Bible. Part 1 will cover the first five topics, and Part 2 will cover the last six topics. These data may be useful to those who are engaged in teaching about the cardiovascular system.
The role of heart disease in American fiction has received less attention from scholars of literature, history, and medicine than have portrayals of tuberculosis, cancer, or HIV/AIDS, despite the fact that heart disease topped mortality charts for most of the 20th century. This article surveys manifestations of coronary artery disease in popular works of 20th-century American fiction to trace how authors and their protagonists grappled with the disease while knowledge of pathophysiology and therapeutics evolved. Countering Susan Sontag's mechanistic vision of patient encounters-where disease is absent of metaphor-we pair popular fiction with concurrent historical analysis to show that the proliferation of technological narratives of cardiac therapeutics could not displace the deeply symbolic nature of characters' encounters with heart disease. Because of the limited ability of the biomedical narrative to convey the meanings of disease and treatments, doctors and patients need to communicate through the rich possibilities of metaphor.
George Lakoff and Mark Johnson take on the daunting task of rebuilding Western philosophy in alignment with three fundamental lessons from cognitive science: The mind is inherently embodied, thought is mostly unconscious, and abstract concepts are largely metaphorical. Why so daunting? "Cognitive science--the empirical study of the mind--calls upon us to create a new, empirically responsible philosophy, a philosophy consistent with empirical discoveries about the nature of mind," they write. "A serious appreciation of cognitive science requires us to rethink philosophy from the beginning, in a way that would put it more in touch with the reality of how we think." In other words, no Platonic forms, no Cartesian mind-body duality, no Kantian pure logic. Even Noam Chomsky's generative linguistics is revealed under scrutiny to have substantial problems. Parts of Philosophy in the Flesh retrace the ground covered in the authors' earlier Metaphors We Live By , which revealed how we deal with abstract concepts through metaphor. (The previous sentence, for example, relies on the metaphors "Knowledge is a place" and "Knowing is seeing" to make its point.) Here they reveal the metaphorical underpinnings of basic philosophical concepts like time, causality--even morality--demonstrating how these metaphors are rooted in our embodied experiences. They repropose philosophy as an attempt to perfect such conceptual metaphors so that we can understand how our thought processes shape our experience; they even make a tentative effort toward rescuing spirituality from the heavy blows dealt by the disproving of the disembodied mind or "soul" by reimagining "transcendence" as "imaginative empathetic projection." Their source list is helpfully arranged by subject matter, making it easier to follow up on their citations. If you enjoyed the mental workout from Steven Pinker's How the Mind Works , Lakoff and Johnson will, to pursue the "Learning is exercise" metaphor, take you to the next level of training. --Ron Hogan Two leading thinkers offer a blueprint for a new philosophy. "Their ambition is massive, their argument important.…The authors engage in a sort of metaphorical genome project, attempting to delineate the genetic code of human thought." -The New York Times Book Review "This book will be an instant academic best-seller." -Mark Turner, University of Maryland This is philosophy as it has never been seen before. Lakoff and Johnson show that a philosophy responsible to the science of the mind offers a radically new and detailed understandings of what a person is. After first describing the philosophical stance that must follow from taking cognitive science seriously, they re-examine the basic concepts of the mind, time, causation, morality, and the self; then they rethink a host of philosophical traditions, from the classical Greeks through Kantian morality through modern analytical philosophy.
Despite the fact that the heart amulet stands amongst the most important items of magical protection in Ancient Egypt, little attention has been dedicated to the study of its symbolism. Although the heart amulets may seem quite simple in shape, its real complexity becomes evident when attention is paid to the formal diversity of this object that in fact was shaped according to different types and styles of depiction. It is also true that the heart amulet was perhaps one of the most frequently depicted amulets in Egyptian art, being a common iconographic feature in some well defined pictorial contexts where it appears as a distinctive attribute of gods or humans. Given the wide diversity of shapes and contexts in which the heart amulet is depicted, we can not expect to find only one meaning attributed to it, nor that its meaning stayed unchanged. In this study, our aim is to point out the main symbolic uses of the heart amulet through the analysis of its artistic rendering and also to highlight its variations throughout the Egyptian history.