marg, here is Pristine2's homepage here at FOTMD. He clearly has not been active recently.
As you can see from the ED discussion, even the explanations for the hearts differ among different luthiers, and those explanations may indeed be particular to those individuals rather than representing some broad folk tradition. My uncle makes autoharps with a dog footprint as the soundhole. Why? Because the autoharp is man's best friend? Because music has left its imprint on his soul? No. Because he likes dogs. According to Ralph Lee Smith, Homer Ledford began making dulcimers with diamond-shaped soundholes for two reasons: to be different than other luthiers who were using hearts, and because they were easier to cut with a simple chisel. Practical, rather than symbolic reasons. But he received so many requests for hearts that he went back to making hearts instead (see Appalachian Dulcimer Traditions , 2nd edition, page 116).
It would be nice to find some interesting symbolic meaning to the trailing hearts, but it might be that we have to make something up. If that's the case, don't worry; we have enough "tall tale tellers" at FOTMD!
Dusty T., Northern California
As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
-- Dizzy Gillespie