Saturday, January 2, 2010
Welcome to the first “O, JULIET Love Games” giveaway event! Not only is the theme HEARTS, but the prizes (besides signed copies of O, JULIET) are also HEARTS. How did this iconic symbol become the universal shorthand for love?
The most ancient reference dates back to the 7th century B.C. Cyrene, a city-state in North Africa, grew and traded a highly valued plant call silphium. In fact, the Cyrenese harvested this species of giant fennel to extinction. Why? Besides being used as an aphrodisiac, an ingredient in perfumes, and as a hair restorer, the plant was a highly effective birth control potion. So revered was silphium in the culture that its seed pod was memorialized on Cyrenese coinage. The shape of that pod? A perfect “heart.”
No wonder the shape came to be associated with love and eroticism – it allowed a man and a woman to make love without making a baby!
A bit later the Greek philosopher, Aristotle, and the Roman physician, Galen, asserted that the human heart was the seat of all emotion. Perhaps because the organ beats faster when excited or stirred by love, these two ancient trend-setters believed it natural to associate the heart with passion. But the human heart doesn’t look much like the stylized version (the two humps above a pointy bottom) which is recognized by all major human cultures. Some believe it resembles the female pubic mound or a spread-open vulva. Turning it upside down draws comparisons to a pair of rounded, swinging breasts, or even the female buttocks. Perhaps more farfetched is the suggestion of the heart’s similarity to the tip of the penis.
By the 15th century, Europeans were celebrating Valentine’s Day (a fascinating subject which I’ll discuss in a post in February). And by the 16th century an Irishman had created the first “Claddagh ring” which, with its heart, hands and crown, was (and still is today) the Irish symbol of eternal love, friendship and loyalty.
In the 19th century the Victorians co-opted the arrow-pierced heart and accompanying cupid as the symbol of love, especially for Valentine’s Day.
Milton Glaser’s iconic I ♥NY logo has effectively turned the age-old symbol into a universally recognizable verb, now ubiquitous and used on bumper stickers and t-shirts to advertise everything from Japanese Pro Wrestling to a feature film called “I ♥ Huckabees.”
Whatever it’s history and however it is used, the heart remains a potent symbol of love, and since love is the one and only theme of O, JULIET, I couldn’t have chosen more perfect prizes for the first “Love Games” GIVEAWAY than hearts.
ENTER THE FIRST "O,JULIET LOVE GAMES GIVEAWAY" NOW!
Over the next few weeks, I will be holding THREE SEPARATE GIVEAWAYS for a heart necklace and a signed copy of my new book O, JULIET. Be sure to check back here for many chances to win! Each giveaway will also function as a fun, open-forum discussion about love, as each giveaway will require participants to briefly answer a different question about love through the ages.
O, JULIET Love Game #1: What are the qualities in a lover that are most important to you?
This giveaway is for a carved Thai silver heart necklace and a copy of O, JULIET. It is open to all participants, worldwide. A winner will be chosen and announced on January 18th. In order to qualify for entry, please provide your e-mail address along with your answer to the Love Game question listed above.
I just made it possible for ANYONE to comment and enter this giveaway. You do NOT have to open a Google account. It was just a simple change in setting. Sorry for the earlier confusion.
Lots of love,