Updated: Feb 23
When a person declares: “I put my heart and soul into it”, they mean to say they’ve invested all they’re capable of with all the energy they can muster. And when someone pledges a vow, it is often accompanied by a hand over the heart to illustrate their sincerity.
“For one human being to love another human being; that is perhaps the most difficult task that has been entrusted to us, the ultimate task, the final test and proof, the work for which all other work is merely preparation.” – Rainer Maria Rilke, Novelist & Poet
In utero, the heart is the first organ to be created, pulsating at sixty-five beats per minute by the end of the fourth week of conception. But symbolically, the heart has come to represent so much more than the magnificent muscle that keeps you alive by pumping blood through your body. The heart grows wise from lessons learned through feeling, compassion, and empathy. It embodies the very center of your being - both physically and spiritually. Forever, it has been considered the location of the Soul.
Positioned in the center of your chest is your Anahata, or heart chakra. Great volumes of books have been written about chakras and there is no room to give adequate justice to this, or any of the chakras, in this one little blog. But I can say the Anahata is literally the “heart” of the chakra system, anchoring the three lower with the three higher chakras situated along the spine. Here you will find the mysteries of love.
We all know there are many kinds of love. The three most common include Agape, for deep spiritual love, Philia for friendship and brotherly love, and Eros, for passionate erotic love
“It is the enchantment of love that opens the road to wider consciousness. When we fall in love, we are suddenly stripped of our defenses, lifted out of our self-centered habits, and propelled into an enlarged view of the world. Love melts our rigid attitudes and alters our psychic structure. When we fall in love, we see things anew – colors are enhanced, places take on a new meaning, interests of the beloved become interests of our own.” – Anodea Judith, author, Therapist & Public Speaker
It was not until the Middle Ages that the heart became associated with tender emotion. Today, the heart is synonymous with the word “love” and all the connotations therein. At no time is this more prevalent than the secular celebration of sentimental romance known as St. Valentine’s Day.
But the heart is not the only symbol for love. Tying the knot for instance, has been around since the ancients. This dates to the Babylonians, who took a thread from the bride’s dress and metaphorically tied it together with a thread from the groom’s garment. The act of binding is significant, illustrating unity of body and Spirit. Many pagans celebrate “handfasting” to replicate this symbol. This ritual continues to be a meaningful part of traditional weddings, while becoming more popular in modern day ceremonies.
Then of course there is the wedding ring, likely the most universal token of unity in marriage. Apparently, there is archeological evidence to suggest that as far back as 4000 BC, the ancient Egyptians exchanged wedding rings made from reeds, leather, and bone. As is still done today, they placed the ring on the third finger because they believed the vein in this finger ran directly to the heart (this is not true).
For as long as villages had wise old women, there were infatuated young lovers knocking on their door asking for help in their quest of a Soul mate. Often, this came in the form of spells, or the equivalent of positive affirmations today.
“Mark you sure and mark you well as I cast this runic spell. Turn the wheel one full measure, ask for love and seek your pleasure.” - Old Sal, Traveling Gypsy.
The wise woman worked with what she had on hand to make any variety of teas and tinctures. In her self-made apothecary you would likely find an endless array of medicinal herbs and plants. Apple, dill, lavender, and thyme were popular choices. But the herb used most frequently was basil, especially in the use of love charms. Today, you’ll still see it in the crown worn by a Greek bride, which is tied to the groom’s crown later in the ceremony.
In the wise woman’s garden, you would see a vast selection of flowers ranging from roses to hyacinths. And of course, there would be jasmine, whose flowers represent love, purity, and feminine sensuality. For centuries, physical charms in the form of sachets were created using jasmine in hopes of attracting love.
If it was on hand, honey, an aphrodisiac, was used to concoct a love elixir along with detailed instructions for the user. Did these old notions and potions work? Like anything else, it was more than likely the ritualistic actions and positive intent of the querent that brought the magic. If the old woman was truly wise, her alchemy would come with the warning: although it is amazing to wish more love into your life, it goes against the laws of nature and free will to coerce a specific person to love you.
On that note, many old books contain the most delightful recipes and magical love lore. These are just a few fun ones – there are a ton more:
“Shortest to marry, longest to tarry.”
This wives’ tale comes from the ‘Wishbone Pull’ advising two people to tug on each side of a wishbone. Whoever gets the shortest part will be first to marry.
As you recite the alphabet, twist the stem off an apple. At whatever letter the stem breaks away from the apple represents the letter of your true love’s first name. Another version of this is to recite the names of your suiters or love interests while you twist the stem. At whatever name you land on when the stem breaks away, will be the person you marry.
To find out if you will get married by the end of the year, throw a shoe at a door on the evening of St. Andrew’s Day (November 30th). You will get married if the shoe lands facing the door.
Love Dreams are well-known and practiced all over the world. They are exactly what they imply: the dreamer will see the face of his/her future partner. Although the dreamer could do this on any night, it was believed the magic was more potent on particular nights such as St. Valentine’s Day, St. Agnes’s Day and St. John’s Eve. The common denominator is that the dreamer needed to place the item(s) under their pillow before going to sleep. Once again this is not an exhaustive list:
daisies or daisy roots
wild yarrow plucked from a graveyard
nine female holly leaves wrapped in a three-cornered handkerchief tied with nine knots
the branch of a poplar tree tied with the person’s socks or stockings
ten ivy leaves gathered in silence on Halloween night.
If we bring ourselves back to modern day, most people know that when working with intentions around love, it is to focus on positive emotion and feelings, as opposed to a particular individual. As mentioned earlier, one should never interfere with the free will of another. The universe is expansive and therefore focusing on one person limits the possibilities because you’re not leaving yourself open. You have placed blinders on your eyes and if Mr. or Mrs. Right walks through the door to your left, you will not see them as you’re focused on what’s straight ahead of you.
The impact for days like St. Valentine’s Day is they invite people to pause and think about how they can celebrate their partner, their parent, their child, their friend. In the busy day to day, it is easy to take your loved one for granted, and a day dedicated to love may be exactly what we need to remember just how special the people in our lives are.
If you are drawn to this blog, then I suspect you are someone who gives love easily, and as a result, may bypass another kind of love: Philautia, better known as Love of Self. This is a healthy form of love where you recognize your value and all you contribute to others and the world at large. When the world is reminded to send love to others, remember to also take some time in contemplation and meditation to ask yourself if your needs are being met. Visualize what you consider to be a healthy mind, body and Spirit and then create an environment that nurtures your well-being. If there is time, pamper yourself with a long soak in a bathtub filled with scented bubbles of jasmine or hyacinth. And don’t wait for February to come around to do it – set a date with yourself at least once a month.
In the end, love is not external, it is deep within you; it is a state of being. Just as the Sun is not selective as to where he shines his his rays, emit your love and light to yourself, your loved ones and to the world, not just one day, but every day.