Egyptian Ankh Symbol

Egyptian Ankh Symbol

The Egyptian Ankh Symbol of Life

The Egyptian Ankh Symbol, often known as “the key of life” or “the cross of life,”; Ankh was one of ancient Egypt’s most iconic symbols, dating from the Early Dynastic Period (c. 3150 – 2613 BCE). To illustrate more, it’s basically a cross with a ring at the top that can be embellished with artistic touches; although it’s usually just a basic gold cross. Here we analyze the Egyptian symbols Ankh meaning in ancient times and all facts about this spiritual Cross Ankh meaning in Christianity.

The Egyptian Ankh

The ankh is an Egyptian hieroglyphic symbol for “life” or “breath of life,”. It was representing both mortal existence and the afterlife; Because the Egyptians thought that one’s earthly journey was only part of eternal life. Hence, it is one of the oldest Egyptian symbols, frequently found with the Djed and The Was symbols, carried by a plethora of Egyptian gods in tomb paintings and inscriptions, and worn as an amulet by Egyptians.

The Christian Ankh

The ankh’s connection to the afterlife made it a particularly powerful emblem for Egypt’s Coptic Christians; Coptic Ankh as their own in the fourth century CE. The Christian use of the cross as a sign of faith today is most likely derived from this use of the ankh as a symbol of Christ’s promise of everlasting life through believing in his sacrifice and resurrection. The fertility symbol of the fish was utilized as a sign of faith by early Christians in Rome and elsewhere. They would not have used the image of the cross, which is a well-known form of execution, any more than someone today would wear an amulet depicting an electric chair. The ankh cross, which had already established itself as a sign of life, was easily assimilated into early Christianity and became its symbol.

Origin & Ankh Symbol Meaning

The ankh’s origin is uncertain. Sir Alan H. Gardiner (1879 – 1963 CE), an Egyptologist, theorized that it evolved from a sandal strap with the top loop extending around the ankle and the vertical post connecting to a sole at the toes. Because the Egyptian word for “sandal” was “nkh,”; Which derived from the same root as “ankh,” and because the sandal was a part of daily life in ancient Egypt. The ankh sign came to signify life, Gardiner got to his conclusion. However, this notion has never received widespread recognition.

Key of Life Relation to Egyptian Gods and Goddess

Egyptologist E.A. Wallis Budge’s (1857-1934 CE) idea, that everything sprang from the goddess Isis‘ belt buckle, is more likely, though not universally recognized. The ankh meaning was associated by Wallis Budge with the Egyptian symbol tjet, or “knot of Isis,”; It was a ceremonial belt considered to signify female genitalia and fertility. This argument, that the ankh originated as a fertility sign, is consistent with the meaning of ankh throughout Egyptian history and beyond. Wallis Budge’s thesis is supported by Egyptologist Wolfhart Westendorf (b. 1924 CE); Who points out the ankh’s resemblance to the tjet and the use of both symbols from ancient Egypt.

egyptian gods gods of egypt eye of horus horus egyptian god egyptian gods and goddesses (2)

Egyptian Gods and Goddesses Relation to the Key of Life

Ankh and the Sun

It’s amazing how much significance can be wrung out of such a simple symbol. The male and female genitalia, the sun rising over the horizon, and the union of heaven and earth are all represented by the ankh. Because of this connection to the sun, the ankh is generally depicted in gold; On the other hand, the sun’s hue, and silver are associated with the moon. But, putting aside the complexity of these individual pieces, how does the ankh appear? Its likeness to a key suggests a different meaning for the ankh as a magical symbol. The Egyptians believed that the afterlife was just as important as this one; Also, they believed that the ankh held the secret to death’s gates and what lay ahead.

The ankh has a connection with life, especially the promise of endless life, as well as the sun, fertility, and light. Adele Nozedar, a scholar, notes:

“Because of this, the Egyptian Ankh Symbol is frequently shown in tomb art and inscriptions. In the afterlife, deities such as Anubis or Isis. Many Gods and Goddesses were frequently pictured pressing the ankh against the lips of the soul to rejuvenate it and open it to a life after death. In a number of tomb paintings, the goddess Ma’at is represented holding an ankh in each hand, while the god Osiris grasps the ankh. The ankh’s relationship with the afterlife and the gods led to its use as a major symbol; We found this on many caskets, tomb amulets, and sarcophagi”.

The Egyptian Ankh Symbol and Isis Goddess

With the emergence of the cults of Isis and Osiris in Egypt during the Early Dynastic Period; the Ankh symbol became widespread. Early representations of Isis wearing the tjet girdle before the ankh’s introduction; This is confirming the ankh’s relationship with the tjet discussed previously.

egyptian gods gods of egypt eye of horus horus egyptian god egyptian gods and goddesses (2)

The cult of Osiris grew in popularity in Egypt until it was surpassed by the cult of Isis; Which presented the same story and offered the same benefits. Osiris was still revered, but he faded into the background as the myth of his rebirth and resurrection unfolded. The cult of Osiris, however, was popular at the start of the Early Dynastic Period since he was the deity who had died and returned to life, providing life to others. Isis was a mother goddess linked with fertility at the period, but she eventually became Osiris’ faithful wife, rescuing him after his murder by Set and bringing him back to life. Flinders Petrie, an Egyptologist, claims:

Triad of Osiris and the Key of Life

Isis became associated with Osiris worship at a young age and appears in later stories as Osiris’ sister and bride. However, she was always in a different realm than Osiris. Her worship and priesthood were significantly more popular than Osiris’; People used her name far more frequently than Osiris, and she appeared in daily life far more frequently. Her inclusion in the Osiris myth did not negate her independence or importance as a divinity, but it did give her a far larger following.

In later times, the fundamental way of her importance was the marriage of Horus with the myth and the establishment of Isis as the mother goddess. Until the twenty-sixth dynasty, Isis as a nursing mother was rarely depicted; after that, the type grew in popularity, eventually outgrowing all other religions in Egypt.

Many Egyptian gods are portrayed holding the ankh, however, Isis is represented more frequently than the others. Isis eventually became Egypt’s most famous goddess, and all other gods were considered just manifestations of her true power and all-encompassing divinity. The Isis cult preached personal resurrection as a means of achieving eternal life. Isis might save individuals who put their faith in her, in the same manner, she had saved her husband Osiris from death. The ankh’s relationship with such a strong goddess gave it a new definition, as it was now particularly associated with the great goddess who could save one’s soul and offer for them in the hereafter.

Ankh and Amun God

The djed, like the ankh, was a famed amulet. However the sacred scarab beetle was the most popular amulet in ancient Egypt, the ankh was almost as famous. The ankh became connected with the god Amun during the New Kingdom (1570-1069 BCE), when his cult grew in strength and majesty. At this time, the ankh was frequently employed in temple rites and became connected with the cult of Amun and the nobility of the monarch. 

King Akhenaton and The Key of Life

The ankh symbol was still commonly used during the Amarna Period (1353-1336 BCE), when Akhenaten outlawed the cults of Amun and the other gods and established Aten as Egypt’s single god. At the end of the beams of light emerging from the solar disc of Aten, the symbol appears in paintings and inscriptions, providing life to those who believe. Within a week of the death of Akhenaten, his son Tutankhaten (whose name includes the ankh sign and indicates “living image of the god Aten”) ascended to the throne, dominating from 1336 to 1327 BCE, changed his name to Tutankhamun (“living image of the god Amun”), and restored the ancient religious tradition, keeping the ankh with the same significance it always seemed to have.

Akhenaten Museum

Akhenaten by joncallas

Even though Akhenaten’s rule was reviled, Tutankhamun’s successor Horemheb (1320 – 1292 BCE) attempted to remove all traces of the Amarna Period from Egyptian history, the Ankh stayed as a famous emblem. The ankh was used frequently in inscriptions by the finest monarch of the New Kingdom, Ramesses II (1279 – 1213 BCE), and it was used during Egypt’s earliest recorded history.

Even though Akhenaten’s rule was reviled, Tutankhamun’s successor Horemheb (1320 – 1292 BCE) attempted to remove all traces of Amarna Period from Egyptian culture and history, the Ankh stayed as a famous emblem. The ankh was used frequently in inscriptions by the finest monarch of the New Kingdom, Rameses II (1279 – 1213 BCE), and it was used during Egypt’s earliest history.

The History of the Ankh Symbol in Use

The significance of the ankh lay in the rapid recognition of the ankhs’s meaning. The meaning of artifacts like the djed and the ankh would have been understood even by those who couldn’t read. The Egyptian key of lif was never exclusively identified with Isis; as previously said, several gods are represented wearing the symbol; nonetheless, as the djed became more associated with Osiris, the ankh became more associated with Isis and her cult.

The ankh was well-established as a potent symbol of eternal life by the period of the Old Kingdom (c. 2613 – 2181 BCE). The dead were known as ankhu (having life/living), while caskets and sarcophagi were known as neb-ankh (regularly decorated with the symbol) (possessing life). The name nkh was used for mirrors during the Middle Kingdom (2040-1782 BCE), and a number of hand mirrors in the shape of the ankh were made, the most famous of which was found in Tutankhamun’s tomb.

Key of Life in Mirrors and Amulets 

The ankh’s link with the mirror was not coincidental. The Egyptians considered that the afterlife was a reflection of life on Earth and that mirrors had magical abilities. During the Festival of the Lanterns, all of ancient Egypt would light oil lamps all night to reflect the stars in the sky and create a mirror image of the heavens on earth, which was dedicated to the goddess Neith (another deity associated with the ankh). This was done to assist lift the barrier between the living and the dead, allowing people to communicate with friends and loved ones who had moved on to the Field of Reeds to live in paradise. From the Middle Kingdom onwards, mirrors were frequently employed for divination.

The ankh was also a popular amulet, worn during life and carried to the afterlife. Wedjau amulets were constructed of metal, wood, faience, terracotta, or stone and were believed to hold magical abilities, giving the bearer supernatural advantages and charms, according to historian Margaret Bunson. The material, shade, structural shape, or spell of origin dictated the amulet’s potential potency. Amulets were worn as pendants by living Egyptians, and amulets were placed in the linen wrappings of the deceased’s coffins. At different times and for different purposes, the promising alternatives of amulets were used. Some were engraved as religious symbols to draw the attention of a specific deity, securing the god’s supplication and involvement on the wearer’s behalf. 

The Ankh Meaning in Christianity

As Christianity became more widely accepted in the 4th century CE, many of the ancient religion’s symbols fell out of favor and were either prohibited or forgotten. One of these was the djed sign, which is strongly identified with Osiris, but the ankh cross remained to be used. The ankh, according to scholar Jack Tresidder:

“Its form has been interpreted as a sun shining on the skyline, the merger of male and female, or other polarities, as well as a door to special, profound secrets and the spirit afterworld. The ankh was passed down to the Coptic church of Egypt as a type of the cross; Ankh meaning in Christian was to signify the eternal life through Christ”.

While other relics of the old religion faded away, the ankh assumed a new purpose while keeping its original meaning of life and promise of an endless life. “Powerful symbols frequently stray across cultures despite their origins, and the ankh is no special thing,” Adele Nozedar said in her writings. It was first borrowed by fourth-century Coptic Christians, who used it as a symbol to reaffirm Christ’s word that there is life beyond death” because it symbolizes immortality and the universe. The ankh cross, as a symbol of eternal life, gradually lost its loop at the top and evolved into the Christian cross, which, like the ancient ankh, is worn by Christians today for the same reason: to identify and connect with their god and all that deity guarantees.

Should Christians wear the Ankh?

The Ankh emblem has long outlived its ancient Egyptian origins and is now utilized as a global symbol across nations and religions. There are few religious individuals in the world who would object to the use of the ankh, whether Christians or not. Indeed, after the Christianization of Egypt in the 4th and 5th centuries AD, the Ankh was one of the few Egyptian symbols that remained in use.

The ankh sign was employed as a staurogram (a representation of the Christian cross) by early Coptic (Egyptian) Christians. It could also be used as a “handled cross,” or “crux ansata.”; It was an Ankh-shaped cross with a round loop on top rather than an oval loop. They didn’t think it was a problem to include a pagan symbol in their religion because the pagan Egyptians of the period explained the Ankh as a symbol for the afterlife; Which the Coptic Christians readily claimed to predict the arrival and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Although the crux ansata did not gain popularity in Western Christianity, Coptic Christians continued to use it in decorations and media for millennia. Even Western Christians and most other religions regard the Ankh as a harmless emblem of life today; millennia after the ancient Egyptian civilization fell. 

Ankh vs Cross

Many people, Christians, and non-Christians alike don’t appear to be bothered by the Ankh vs. cross analogies; Especially because many Christian groups have been blending the two for a long time. The Ankh has been utilized in the same way as the Christian cross has been used upside down. In Catholic Christianity, the inverted cross was originally a symbol of Saint Peter, who was thought to be the first Pope. The inverted cross, on the other hand, has recently become a symbol of anti-Christianity. 

The upside-down Ankh, on the other hand, was never employed in Egyptian cultural beliefs and faith; Yet it has been used symbolically for anti-life or dying in contemporary art.

Spiritual meaning of ankh

The ankh is an Egyptian hieroglyphic symbol for “life” or “breath of life” (‘nh = ankh); It symbolizes both earthly presence and eternity because the Egyptians thought that one’s earthly journey was only part of eternal life. 

Ankh Symbol Cross

Ankh, an ancient Egyptian hieroglyph for “life,” has a cross with a loop on top, also known as a crux ansata in Latin (ansate, or handle-shaped, cross). The ankh is frequently clutched or offered by gods and pharaohs as a vivifying talisman. The symbol’s shape is inspired by a sandal strap.

The Egyptian Ankh symbol can be used to portray life and rebirth. The ancient Egyptians employed this hieroglyphic sign to symbolize perpetual life, reincarnation, and the unity of male and female. It’s a recurring topic in Egyptian art over the years.

Why do Egyptian gods carry Ankhs?

In Egyptian art, gods were often depicted contacting a mortal with an ankh, representing conception, or bestowing life to a mummy. Its key-like design fosters the concept that it unlocks the gates of death, and modern Rosicrucians and other hermetic orders hold this belief. 

Ankh, It is constructed, beginning at the top, by a circular ring, which signifies the heavenly world, the spirit of Ra, the Sun God for the ancient Egyptians; this circle also acts as the grip of the key, from which it is handled by the gods who are responsible about it.

The Ankh has long been regarded as a potent bringer of fortune and money. It was known to be a strong occult weapon from the time of the Ancient Egyptians and was utilized in magical rites, healing procedures, and secret initiations. 

The scarab beetle was a symbol of enormous strength, and the Wedjat or Horus eye had the ability to guard and heal. However, it represents a variety of characteristics of life, including physical life, eternal life, immortality, death, and reincarnation. To signify the sun rising beyond the horizon, the symbol is a teardrop-shaped hoop with a cross-connecting right underneath it.

Ankh Jewelry Today

During the 1990s, as part of the grunge movement, the Ankh was extremely popular. Celebrities such as Beyonce, Rihanna, and Katy Perry continue to wear it now. 

Today, the ankh is employed as a representation of the original meaning of ankh in life in both jewelry and art, as well as a symbol of ancient Egypt. It’s a symbol that can be worn by both men and women. 

The Ankh is most usually worn as a necklace, but it can also be made into elegant and symmetrical earrings, rings, bracelets, and charms. The Ankh is a delicate reminder of life and the celebration of life, whether subtle or dramatic.

Because the Ankh resembles the Christian cross so closely, you can be mistaken for someone who is wearing it for religious reasons. You may need to explain the symbol to individuals who are unfamiliar with it.

Ankh Symbol and Black Culture

Egyptian signs, particularly the ankh, have grown increasingly popular as a result of musical artists such as Erykah Badu and Tupac Shakur. Some argue that the sign has become a societal craze. Tattoos, jewelry, and organizations that use the ankh symbol as a trademark have all been affected by it. 

The ankh is an Egyptian hieroglyphic symbol representing life and eternity that is also known as the first cross. It denotes masculine and female oneness. The ankh’s loop signifies a woman’s womb, while the vertical line depicts a man’s genital.

“I’ve noticed over the last four years that the ankh has become more than a fad or trend,”; Said John Paul, a tattoo artist at Capital City Tattooz in Tallahassee. It’s very popular among black women, but only approximately half of those who get tattoos know what the sign means.” 

What’s the point? is owned by Kim Casey. Blacks have recently taken interest in the emblem, according to a body piercing store in Tallahassee.  “There are two categories of people that regularly wear ankhs; gothic kids who were probably affected by an 80’s movie called “The Hunger,”; I didn’t observe the African community becoming influenced by the ankh until I served at Erykah Badu recording studio.”

Ankh and Famu Group

The ankh is the sign of S.I.S.T.U.H.S, a FAMU group that prides itself on female togetherness and strength. It was founded three years ago. 

“Because the ankh signifies the full woman, it only made sense for our company,”; Kanika Frasier, a co-founder of S.I.S.T.U.H.S. and a senior public relations student from Miami, explained. “We teach our members about the different meanings of the ankh and how it represents us.” 

However, not everyone believes infatuation is that horrible.

“Thousands of years have passed since the ankh was created. And it’s a good thing it’s become a vogue because it now provides information to Africans,”; said Abyssinia, the owner of Aura, a flea market vendor who visits FAMU. “As a result, they learn about the origins, significance, and how it relates to us as Africans.”

The Symbol Ankh Meaning by soothsayers

Soothsayer’s interpretation of the ankh symbol is that it represents seeing through the opening of a new perspective. 

As we witness the procession of life always moving, this vision could be focused on the bigger picture. 

This perspective could also be used to the journey through portals that lead to worlds beyond our own. 

Where did I acquire these “opinions” about the meaning of the ankh symbol? 

The top loop represents the sun, while the horizontal line beneath it represents the earth’s horizon. The meeting of the sun and the earth is considered sacred. As the sun nurtures the ground, it delivers life in the form of copious crops along the Nile; Which were essential to the Egyptians’ survival.

Another way to look at Ankh’s meaning is to think of the loop itself as a portal to other worlds. Indeed, the Egyptians consider the ankh to be a key that opens the gates to the afterlife. An abundance of ankhs may be found in Egyptian funeral art, which supports this theory. 

Yes, the ankh sign represents “life” at its most basic level, but it is much more than that. Other interpretations include:

Symbol Ankh Meaning and Terms

  • Power
  • Authority
  • Protection
  • Royalty
  • Hidden wisdom
  • Covenant
  • Honor
  • Sacred

Consider the richness of conveyance here when we see the ankh symbol in the Tarot. (which, in the classic Rider-Waite, will be found in the Emperor card, but maybe portrayed in different deck renderings to express these ideas). 

It’s more about reprogramming our minds to recognize the wonder and power that exists in every moment of reality. The ankh serves as a reminder of how a confluence of forces can change our entire perspective. It also affirms our position and assures us that we are always surrounded by a sea of adoring spirits.

Ankh Facts and Amulets 

1- Both the living and the dead wore the Ankh as a protective talisman, a cross in the shape of a T, with a loop at the top. 

2- The Ankh’s Meaning: The Ankh represented physical and eternal life, immortality, and reincarnation to the ancient Egyptians. 

3- It was regarded as the key to the Nile’s annual overflow, which fertilized ancient Egypt’s land. 

4- The Ankh’s top loop was said to depict the mouth of a fish; That symbolically, flourished in the water (symbolizing Egypt’s existence), delivering the inundations and rejuvenation of the fertile land to those who relied on it for survival.

5- Another idea claims it was designed to depict the sunrise; However, this also applies to another similar symbol known as the ‘Sa.’; According to this hypothesis, the loop represents the sun disc, with the crossbar indicating the horizon line and the vertical bar signifying the sun’s course. The ‘Sa’ was associated with Taweret, the ancient Egyptian hippopotamus goddess, and Bes, the dwarf god, and meant “protection of nascent life.” 

6- The craftsmanship of ancient Egyptians may be seen in the ankh-shaped mirror case recovered in King Tut’s tomb. The rim is embellished with a cartouche featuring the hieroglyphics of earlier Pharaohs. The red jasper stone, turquoise, and dark blue Lapis lazuli stone are inlaid in the mirror housing.

7- The ancient Egyptians utilized mirrors for divination since life and death were thought to mirror each other. As a result, mirrors were frequently designed like an ankh sign. 

Read More Facts about the Ank

8- The most common hue for the Ankh Symbol was blue; Which represented monarchy to the ancient Egyptians, and stones of this color included lapis lazuli and turquoise; Which were the most valuable of all stones. 

9- The goddess Isis, also known as the mother goddess, was signified by the color red in Ankh. 

10- The center scarab emblem, the lotus, and the sun disc are among the potent symbols portrayed on the mirror casing that contained additional magical protective power for the ankh.

11- The gods and goddesses of ancient Egypt are often shown clutching the ankh. 

12- A talisman, sometimes known as an amulet, is a religious device; It was made up of a stone or other small object etched or carved with magical inscriptions; Many other magic signs, symbols, and formulas, or sacred text are included. 

13- The sign also denotes strength and health. 

14- The ankh’s origins are debated, but some Egyptologists believe it evolved from an ancient Egyptian glyph; This symbolic image was a sign of magical protection. 

15- It’s also known as the Crux Ansata, which means “cross with a handle.”

16- On tomb paintings, ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses were represented with Ankh in front of the king’s face; This was representing the breadth of an endless life. 

17- The Ankh emblem was also utilized in purifying ceremonies and rituals. 

18- To separate themselves from “mere humans,” pharaohs and rulers were sometimes shown carrying an Ankh. 

19- The ‘Knot of Isis‘ is often mistakenly identified as the ‘Ankh,’ and has been characterized as an intricate bow with a knot of long-forgotten religious significance. 

20- The closed-loop, which signifies eternity and infinity, is also a symbol.


Related FAQ

Is the ankh a religious symbol?

Symbol of The Key of Life

Ankh Symbol was the life sign in The Ancient Egyptian religion and it was always used by the kings of Egypt who though that it will give them a long prosperious life.

Is the ankh good luck?

For many people up till now, the Ankh Symbol is a sign of good luck, however, in ancient times it was used to represent life.

What religion is ankh?

Ankh was created by the ancient Egyptians, who believed it represent the Nile of Egypt as the main source of life. Later on and since it's very similar to the Christian cross sign, many Coptics in Egypt use it as a cross.

Is it offensive to wear an ankh?

Absolutely not, there are many Christians in Egypt who wear it as the cross symbol. So it's not offensive to wear the Ankh as an amulet.

What does an ankh tattoo mean?

Many of the young generations now make Ankh tattoo as it's very similar to the cross of Christianity. So it's more like for religious porposes

What is the power of the ankh?

Actually, the Ankh symbol is just representing life and there is no magical power that it carries or have. It was the life sign in the ancient Egyptian times.

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