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  • Writer's pictureMandira Antar

Tattoo symbols / The heart

Updated: Oct 13, 2018

Let's find out the deeper connection of the heart symbol in tattoo art... Why make this tattoo choice, where to place it, what energy will you get from it!

I guess it is one of the first things you learned to draw since childhood. Even those who declare never to have painted a straight line in their lives, have signed a card with a heart for a finish... In valentine's day you come to detest it. It is an inspiration for sweets, home decorations, cards, logos, fabrics, paintings, jewellery, illustrations... it is one of the most recognisable symbols of modern culture and stands for love and the human heart. But how did it become so popular? What is it's origin?

If we take a walk in nature, we will immediately notice that the heart shape in nature is very common. Leaves, swans kissing, clouds, stones, pedals of flowers, there is no shape that nature doesn't include.

In the prehistoric cave of Magura in Bulgaria the are 7.000-10.000 old paintings that represent figures in everyday activities, calendar phases and some symbolic figures that for some researchers are an evidence of the heart origin symbolism.

According to those studies the heart derives from a stage of consciousness that represents lust and desire. It is painted as male and female forms holding their arms up to the sun and receiving life energy.

Hearts can be seen on the Bible Jesus holds in the Empress Zoë mosaic in the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. It probably dates from 1239 .

The sacred heart in Roman Catholic church is a representation of the heart of Jesus, drawn with a light around it, a crown of thorns and bleeding. It reminds us of the divine love of Christ for humanity that caused him to suffer in order to save us. The first indications of devotion to the Sacred Heart are found in the eleventh and twelfth centuries in the Benedictine and Cistercian monasteries. It is the absolute empathetic symbol.

The truth is though that the heart symbol with it's present meaning of romantic love was first illustrated during the Middle Ages. This makes sense because romantic love and marriage the way we know it in the Western world today was an invention of those days.

Some say that the heart symbol represents specific parts of the female body or a more enriched illustration of an upside down triangular, the symbol of water according to Aristotle and Alchemy.

In the Eastern spiritual symbolism though, the heart (Anahata) chakra embodies the energy heart and not the biological one. Which means that the energetic heart of a person is not located in the left side of their chest but in the middle. And it's symbol is a lotus with two triangles in the middle one looking up and the other down, combining the element of water and fire. This is why the heart's element is the air element. This makes sense to me because the human heart can receive and be empathetic and forgiving and understanding, but it also spreads it's aroma and love and compassion and get's connected.

Heart and tattoo

In tattoo design the heart is one of the most used elements. The first thing it means and the most obvious is passionate love.

Particularly loved in old school designs due to it's clear form and clean edges as well as the colour red that usually fills it. We often see it drawn with a banner than has names or a declaration that expresses the wearer of the tattoo.

Celtic or tribal designs use the heart shape as well. They are simple and beautiful and loved by those who prefer clear designs and black lines. The good thing about the heart in a design is that it is easily implied with the minimum lines.

Even if you draw it half people do the correlation themselves. That being said you can play with it in the design and combine it with anything you want. You can have a tree, a key, a feather, a flower, a dream-catcher in a heart shape and include both meanings in one design with minimum effort. You can place anything you want in it, a name, a face, two faces kissing, your pet, a spirit animal, any symbol... there is no end to that list, only your imagination frontiers. The meaning of the combination is different in any case and the heart usually enhances the symbolism of the object or picture. e.g. the locker heart is a symbol of a loving trustful relationship, a spirit animal in a heart or heart shaped, symbolises embracing it in our hearts.

The combined Cross, Heart and Anchor is another religious symbol, representing for Christians the three theological virtues of faith, hope and charity.

There is also the wounded heart or broken heart. It resembles the sacred heart but it is more dramatic and represents the broken heart that still beats. Expressing your pain and visualising your wound might give you the strength to overcome and have a closure. It can also give you a feeling of connecting to someone you loved.

Burning heart boosts the meaning of passion and desire. It tells a story of a vivid feeling that still burns in your heart.

The heart with wings is also a very common choice standing for two different things. It is about the freedom of the heart, it's lightness as well as the inner soul of a person. It is also about the spirit of someone that has left with whom we feel heart-connected.

Now, just because it is so used it does not mean that there is no reason to choose it. If you have read my previous story of the 12 basic steps to get a tattoo you should know that the reason for your tattoo design is personal and unique.

Opening our hearts is one of the most difficult things. We are all afraid of getting hurt and making the choice of a heart tattoo is always about being connected to our feelings and true self. Maybe you want to make decisions based more on your heart, open your heart to new adventures and explore your creativity. The heart symbol is about sharing our compassion and passion.

Place the heart around your chest area to have that effect. Having on the back is about receiving and in front about sharing. It can also give you a feeling of support and love for yourself or someone you feel connected to.

Place it in your hands to help yourself express creativity, or on your legs to feel more rooted and supported. Choose the left side of your body if you want to express more and embrace your feminine qualities or your right side to accept and love more the masculine wounded part of you.

Maybe you have a part of your body that needs actual therapy. If you believe that having a medical problem is about an emotional and spiritual imbalance - and i am one of those people - then chose a heart tattoo to help that part of your body to be healed.

In conclusion, the heart has all the wonderful attributes of a balanced and strong symbol that will never be old fashioned... How old fashioned is love? Find a design that fits your personal taste and place it on your body to remind you of the love for yourself or anyone whose heart you want to carry always with you...

Check out my tattoo page and message me for a custom design that we co-create with love and enthusiasm! Like our facebook page to stay in touch!


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