The Irish Independent notes that in another time and place, a human head was the most thoughtful of amorous presents:
While most couples celebrate Valentine’s Day with flowers, chocolates and candlelit dinners, archivists have unearthed evidence that a less savoury romantic gesture was practised historically – bestowing a severed head on a loved one.
This left-field approach to love-making, practised by 19th-century Taiwanese aborigines, was discovered in the 150-year-old letters of botanical explorers.
Taking someone’s head after killing them was a ritualistic part of life in the culture until the 1930s and suitors would present severed heads to potential partners to woo them or to brides to celebrate their marriage, according to archive material in the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew.
The ritual, highlighted as part of the Archive Awareness Campaign, is revealed in a letter to Kew written in 1864 by Kew gardener Richard Oldham, who explains why he cannot explore the Taiwanese mountains near Tamsui.
In 1903, author, explorer and consul James Davidson recorded that a northern tribe called the Atayals were the most active head-hunters and used severed heads to gain favour with unmarried women.