What Does the Arrow Through the Heart Mean?

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An arrow through the heart symbolizes feeling emotionally wounded, typically from romantic love. The arrow is that of Cupid, the god of erotic love in classical mythology. He is portrayed as a slender young man or a winged, chubby boy and carries a bow and arrow. According to myth, anyone shot by Cupid’s arrow is filled with uncontrollable desire for whomever they were gazing at when the arrow struck.

In the tale of Cupid and Psyche, the winged god becomes wounded by his own weaponry and experiences the pain of being lovelorn. This story, which appears in the novel “Metamorphoses” by Apuleius, was written in the second century A.D. and reads like a fairy tale, similar to Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.” In the story, Cupid’s mother, Venus, the goddess of love and beauty, becomes jealous of a beautiful young princess, Psyche. Cupid is sent to pierce her with an arrow so that she may fall in love with a monster. But upon seeing her, Cupid pricks himself and falls in love. Venus continues to persecute Psyche and thereby torments Cupid. Cupid eventually pleads to the gods, and at the story’s end, Psyche is made immortal. They are married, have a daughter named Pleasure and live happily ever after.