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What is this symbol?
December 21, 2011 4:50 AM   Subscribe

What is the significance of a symbol that was everywhere in the '90s? It consisted of a vaguely heart-shaped urn-like thing with an open top and flames coming out of the top. If memory serves, there were usually Xs across the widest point of the heart, and sometimes flames in the background. I remember this from the sleeve art for Celebrity Skin (Courtney Love is wearing a tee shirt with the symbol) and from the old House of Blues logo. What is this symbol called, and what does it mean?
posted by pxe2000 to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Maybe it's a play on the the sacred heart?
posted by 200burritos at 4:53 AM on December 21, 2011


It is indeed the sacred heart, a (usually) Catholic devotion which was revived to its modern form by Marguerite Marie Alacoque and then the Jesuits.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 5:00 AM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, and it can also be the Immaculate Heart of Mary (the Sacred Heart being that of Jesus). Usually you can tell which it is because it's shown superimposed on the appropriate person, but when the heart is displayed on its own, the Sacred Heart usually has a crown of thorns, while the Immaculate Heart is usually either pierced by seven wounds or swords, or else is wrapped in roses.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 5:23 AM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Now I'm wondering why this was so ubiquitous in the '90s...
posted by pxe2000 at 5:26 AM on December 21, 2011


Smashing Pumpkins
posted by empath at 5:45 AM on December 21, 2011


Now I'm wondering why this was so ubiquitous in the '90s...

I'd hypothesize because tattoos became fairly ubiquitous in the '90s, and Catholic symbology and Mexican artwork are fairly standard tattoo themes.
posted by xingcat at 5:50 AM on December 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you're looking for other examples from the '90s, Dream Theater's 1992 album has a Sacred Heart on the cover and their live album, released the next year, features a close-up. (The latter album's Wikipedia article currently claims it's inspired by the Immaculate Heart, but it has a crown of thorns, so I'm about to fix that.)

I can't really explain why it suddenly became ubiquitous in the '90s though. I didn't notice it particularly.
posted by kindall at 6:52 AM on December 21, 2011


Now I'm wondering why this was so ubiquitous in the '90s...

I recall it featuring semi-prominently as a motif in Baz Luhrmann's Romeo+Juliet. Cause or effect, I don't know.
posted by gauche at 7:42 AM on December 21, 2011


Seconding Romeo + Juliet.
posted by smitt at 7:52 AM on December 21, 2011


The Smashing Pumpkins used it regularly in their album art and promotional material before that movie came out -- both for Gish and Siamese Dream (which was a huge record)
posted by empath at 8:14 AM on December 21, 2011


Oh, and further: Billy Corgan worked with Courtney Love while she was making that album, and was possibly even involved with her at the time. So I'm guessing he's the source for it being used on Celebrity Skin.
posted by empath at 8:18 AM on December 21, 2011


That, the Rock of Ages, and nautical stars were just about the most common tattoos for people who started getting tattoos just as it was getting popular (around '92 where I was).

Then they were overtaken by butterflies and Tasmanian Devils.
posted by coolguymichael at 9:03 AM on December 21, 2011


empath: "Oh, and further: Billy Corgan worked with Courtney Love while she was making that album, and was possibly even involved with her at the time. So I'm guessing he's the source for it being used on Celebrity Skin."

Excuse the digression, but that's not all he was the source of on that album. His influence is so apparent that he ought to have his name on the cover.
posted by dust of the stars at 11:59 AM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


My thought was, for the influences on 90's rock you might also trace the use of Catholic iconography and imagery to Jane's Addiction and the Pixies who were both really influential on a lot of these bands? earlier, the sacred heart is on the Birthday Party's "Mutiny/the Bad Seed" double EP cover as well.

also it was kind of a time when a lot of iconic religious imagery was frequently appropriated for collage, use in music videos - for instance, the "Heart-Shaped Box" video by Nirvana.
posted by citron at 10:18 PM on December 21, 2011


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