The Egyptian ankh, one of the most recognizable symbols in ancient Egyptian culture, has captivated the imagination of people for centuries. Its distinct looped cross shape has been associated with life, power, and eternity. What many may not realize is that this symbol holds significant meaning within Christianity as well.
The ankh, often referred to as the “key of life,” was an integral part of ancient Egyptian religious and cultural practices. It symbolized the concept of life and was closely associated with gods and goddesses. In Egyptian mythology, it was said that the ankh held the power to unlock the mysteries of life and death.
Ankh, the Egyptian Sign of Eternal Life
Among the most recognizable symbols of ancient Egypt, the Ankh Symbol (often translated as “the key of life” or “the cross of life”) dates back to the Early Dynastic Period (around 3150–2613 BCE). To elaborate, it is essentially a cross with a top ring that can be decorated with artistic elements; nevertheless, it is typically simply a plain gold cross. In this article, we will examine the ancient Egyptian symbol Ankh and all the information regarding the Christian symbol Ankh’s spiritual significance.
Ankh means “life” or “breath of life” in Egyptian hieroglyphics. Since the Egyptians believed that this life on Earth was but a stepping stone to the next, it was a metaphor for both this world and the next. Along with the Djed and The Was emblems, it is one of the oldest Egyptian symbols. Many Egyptian gods held it in tomb paintings and inscriptions, and Egyptians wore it as an amulet.
Coptic Christians of Egypt adopted the ankh as their own in the fourth century CE because of its strong associations with the hereafter. This use of the ankh as a representation of the promise of eternal life via believing in Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection likely originated with the Christian use of the cross as a sign of faith today. As a testament of their faith, early Christians in Rome and elsewhere used the fish as a fertility symbol. Using a picture of a cross—a common symbol of death—would have been as inappropriate as wearing an amulet picturing an electric chair in modern times. The early Christians readily adopted the ankh cross as their symbol because of its long history as a sign of life.
No one knows where the ankh came from. According to Egyptologist Sir Alan H. Gardiner (1879–1963), it likely originated as a sandal strap, where the upper loop would have wrapped around the ankle and the vertical post would have connected to the toes. The sandal was an integral component of ancient Egyptian daily life, and its Egyptian equivalent, “nkh,” has a common etymological ancestor with “ankh.” After some thought, Gardiner concluded that the ankh sign represented life. Nevertheless, this idea has never been widely acknowledged.
It is more plausible, but not commonly acknowledged, that everything sprang from the goddess Isis’ belt buckle, as proposed by Egyptologist E.A. Wallis Budge (1857-1934 CE). Wallis Budge linked the ankh’s significance to the Egyptian tjet, meaning “knot of Isis”—a ceremonial belt that represented the female reproductive organs and fertility. Consistent with the ankh’s meaning in Egyptian and other cultures, this idea proposes that it first appeared as a fertility indicator. According to Egyptologist Wolfhart Westendorf (b. 1924 CE), who cites the similarities between the ankh and the tjet as evidence for Wallis Budge’s thesis, the two ancient Egyptian symbols were frequently used together.
Ancient Egyptian deities, Egyptian religion, Egyptian gods and goddesses (2)
The Connection Between the Egyptian Deities and the Key to Eternity
It’s incredible how much meaning can be extracted from something as basic as a symbol. The ankh symbolizes the sex organs, the sun rising over the horizon, and the merging of the celestial and terrestrial realms. The ankh is often represented in gold due to its association with the sun; conversely, silver represents the moon and the sun’s color is connected with the sun. What does the ankh look like, though, when we disregard the intricacy of its component parts? Because of its resemblance to a key, the ankh may have a different symbolic significance in magic. The ankh was thought to contain the key to death’s gates and the afterlife, both of which were highly significant to the Egyptians.
The sun, fertility, and light are all associated with the ankh, and it is also associated with life, particularly the promise of eternal life. Scholar Adele Nozedar observes:
This is why you may see the Egyptian Ankh Symbol on many tomb inscriptions and artworks. Deities like Anubis and Isis in the beyond. Various deities were often seen placing the ankh on the lips of the deceased, reviving it and allowing it passage to the afterlife. Numerous tomb paintings depict the goddess Ma’at with an ankh in each hand, while Osiris holds the ankh in his. Many sarcophagi, tomb amulets, and caskets included the ankh as a prominent emblem because of its association with the gods and the afterlife.
During the Early Dynastic Period, when the cults of Osiris and Isis first emerged in Egypt, the Ankh sign became widely used. Images of Isis wearing the tjet girdle predate the ankh’s appearance, lending credence to the theory that the two are related.
Ancient Egyptian deities, Egyptian religion, Egyptian gods and goddesses (2)
The Egyptian religion of Isis, which told the same tale and bestowed the same advantages, eventually eclipsed that of Osiris. The story of Osiris’s rebirth and resurrection took center stage, but he continued to be venerated. But during the beginning of the Early Dynastic Period, the worship of Osiris was widespread since he was a god who had died and then lived again, giving life to others. Osiris’ devoted wife Isis became a mother goddess associated with fertility throughout that time. She saved him from Set’s murder and brought him back to life. An Egyptologist named Flinders Petrie asserts:
Despite her early association with Osiris worship, Isis later makes an appearance in mythology as the sister and bride of Osiris. But she and Osiris were always in separate worlds. People used her name far more often than Osiris’, and she appeared in daily life far more frequently than Osiris. Her priesthood and worship were also far more popular. Her incorporation into the Osiris myth brought her a significantly bigger following, but it did not diminish her divinity or independence.
The myth of Isis’s mother goddess status and Horus’s marriage to her were the cornerstones of her significance in subsequent epochs. Isis as a nursing mother was uncommon in Egyptian art until the 26th dynasty, when it became increasingly prominent and eventually eclipsed all others.
Isis is depicted more often than the other Egyptian gods while holding the ankh, however all of them are depicted. All other gods were seen as mere extensions of the supreme divinity and power of Isis, who rose to prominence as the most revered goddess in Egypt. As a path to everlasting life, the Isis religion advocated for individual resurrection. Just as she had rescued her husband Osiris from death, Isis may rescue those who believe in her. The ankh took on a new significance as a result of its association with the powerful goddess who could rescue souls and provide for them in the afterlife.
Similar to the ankh, the djed was a renowned amulet. Even though the sacred scarab beetle was the most well-known amulet in ancient Egypt, the ankh was nearly as well-known. As the cult of the god Amun flourished in the New Kingdom (1570–1069 BCE), the ankh came to be associated with him. During this period, the ankh was widely used in religious ceremonies within the temple, which led to its association with the worship of Amun and the monarch’s noble status.
Master Akhenaton and the Life-Giving Key
Even after Akhenaten banned the worship of Amun and the other gods and made Aten the sole deity of Egypt during the Amarna Period (1353–1336 BCE), the ankh emblem continued to be widely utilized. Beams of light from the Aten solar disc finish in the emblem, which manifests in artwork and inscriptions, giving believers life. Shortly after his father Akhenaten passed away, his son Tutankhaten—whose name means “living image of the god Aten”—took the throne. He ruled Egypt from 1336 to 1327 BCE, during which time he changed his name to Tutankhamun, meaning “living image of the god Amun.” Under his reign, the ancient religious tradition was revived, and the ankh continued to hold its mysterious significance.
Despite the widespread disapproval of Akhenaten’s reign and the efforts of Tutankhamun’s successor Horemheb (1320 – 1292 BCE) to erase the Amarna Period from Egyptian history, the Ankh continued to serve as a renowned symbol. Throughout Egypt’s early documented history, the ankh was utilized in inscriptions, most notably by Ramesses II (1279 – 1213 BCE), the greatest pharaoh of the New Kingdom.
The Ankh remained a renowned emblem even though the regime of Akhenaten was despised and Tutankhamun’s successor Horemheb (1320 – 1292 BCE) sought to eradicate any references to the Amarna Period from Egyptian history and culture. Inscriptions with the ankh were commonplace throughout ancient Egypt, and they were most prevalent during the reign of Rameses II (1279–1213 BCE), the most distinguished ruler of the New Kingdom.
Quickly understanding the ankh meaning was the key to its significance. Even anyone unable to read would have been able to comprehend the significance of items such as the djed and the ankh. As mentioned before, the Egyptian key of life is worn by multiple gods. However, as the ankh began to be associated with Isis and her cult, the djed became more linked to Osiris.
By the time of the Old Kingdom (c. 2613 – 2181 BCE), the ankh had become a powerful emblem of everlasting life. The deceased were called ankhu, meaning “living,” while sarcophagi and caskets were called neb-ankh, meaning “regularly decorated with the symbol” (possessing life). During the Middle Kingdom (2040-1782 BCE), mirrors were referred to as nkh. Several hand mirrors shaped like the ankh were created, the most renowned of which was discovered in the tomb of Tutankhamun.
It was no accident that the ankh was associated with the mirror. According to Egyptian belief, mirrors have magical powers and reflected Earthly existence in the hereafter. During the Festival of the Lanterns, ancient Egyptians would keep burning oil lamps all night long to honor the goddess Neith, who was also associated with the ankh, by reflecting the stars in the sky and creating an earthly reflection of the heavens. Doing so helped to lower the veil between the realms of the living and the dead, facilitating communication with those who had passed on to the Field of Reeds, where they now reside in paradise. Mirrors were commonly used for divination beginning in the Middle Kingdom.
Wearing and carrying the ankh, an amulet, was common practice both in this life and the next. Heiress Margaret Bunson states that the Wedjau thought that their metal, wood, faience, terracotta, or stone amulets had magical powers and bestowed supernatural benefits and charms onto their wearers. The amulet’s potential power was determined by its material, shade, structural shape, or place of origin spell. Living Egyptians would wear amulets as pendants, and the linen coverings of the deceased’s coffins would contain amulets as well. The potential substitutes of amulets were utilized at various points in time and for various reasons. Some were inscribed as religious emblems meant to attract the favor of a particular god, who would then intervene on behalf of the wearer through prayer and other means.
In the fourth century CE, when Christianity gained widespread acceptance, many of the ancient religion’s symbols were either forbidden or forgotten as they fell out of favor. Still to be utilized was the ankh cross, although one of these was the djed sign—strongly associated with Osiris. As per the research of researcher Jack Tresidder, the ankh:
Sunlight on the skyline, the union of male and feminine energies, and other opposites have all been suggested by its shape, which some have also seen as a portal to hidden wisdom and the afterlife. The Coptic church of Egypt adopted the ankh as a substitute for the cross. For Christians, the ankh symbolizes everlasting life in Christ.
The ankh, unlike other artifacts from the old faith, found a new use while retaining its original significance and the promise of eternal life. The ankh is no exception to the rule that “powerful symbols frequently stray across cultures despite their origins,” as mentioned by Adele Nozedar. Because it represents eternity and the cosmos, the Coptic Christians of the fourth century were the first to adopt it as a symbol to emphasize Christ’s promise of life beyond death. Christians still wear crosses similar to the ancient Egyptian ankh—a sign of everlasting life—but without the top loop. They do this because they want to feel closer to their god and all that he promises.
The Ankh emblem is currently used as a symbol across nations and religions around the world, far beyond its ancient Egyptian origins. Whether they are Christians or not, almost no religious person would object to wearing an ankh. The Ankh was really one of the few Egyptian symbols that continued to be used after Egypt became Christianized in the fourth and fifth century AD.
Early Coptic (Egyptian) Christians used the ankh sign as a staurogram, which is a representation of the Christian cross. Another name for it is the “crux ansata” or “handled cross.” It resembled the Ankh cross but had a circular rather than an oval loop at the top. Coptic Christians were quick to assert that the Ankh foretold the coming and resurrection of Jesus Christ, thus they didn’t see any difficulty with incorporating a pagan symbol into their faith. This was due to the fact that the pagan Egyptians of that time interpreted the Ankh as representing the afterlife.
Coptic Christians kept using the crux ansata in media and decorations for millennia, even if it failed to achieve popularity in Western Christianity. After millennia have passed after the collapse of ancient Egyptian society, the Ankh is still seen as a harmless symbol of life by Western Christians and other faiths.
The Ankh vs. cross parallels don’t seem to offend many people, Christians and non-Christians alike. This is particularly true given that many Christian groups have been combining the two for quite some time. Akin to the inverted Christian cross, the Ankh has served a same purpose. The inverted cross has deep roots in Catholic symbolism, originally representing the first pope, Saint Peter. Conversely, the inverted cross has lately come to represent anti-Christianity.
In contrast, the inverted Ankh has no place in Egyptian religious or cultural practices; rather, it has become a symbol of death and anti-life in modern art.
For the ancient Egyptians, this earthly trip was just a stepping stone to an everlasting life, so the ankh, which means “life” or “breath of life” in hieroglyphics (‘nh = ankh), represents both the here and now and the future.
The ancient Egyptian hieroglyph meaning “life,” Ankh, features a cross with a loop on top, which is called a crux ansata in Latin. As a revivifying amulet, the ankh was often held or offered by Egyptian deities and rulers. A sandal strap served as an inspiration for the shape of the emblem.
The Egyptian Ankh is a sign of rebirth and vitality. The ancient Egyptians used this hieroglyphic to represent the oneness of the sexes, reincarnation, and everlasting life. Over the years, it has been a recurrent theme in Egyptian art.
As a symbol of conception or the act of giving life to a mummy, the Egyptian gods frequently were shown making physical contact with mortals using an ankh in their artwork. The current Rosicrucians and other hermetic orders believe that it opens the gates of death due to its key-like design.
Ankh is built by the gods who are responsible for it, starting at the top with a circular ring that represents the heavenly world and the spirit of Ra, the Sun God for the ancient Egyptians. The key is held in the gods’ hands within this circle.
People have believed the Ankh can bring good fortune and wealth for a long time. From the time of the Ancient Egyptians, it was renowned as a powerful occult weapon that was used in healing rituals, magical ceremonies, and clandestine initiations.
Wedjat, also known as Horus’s eye, could protect and cure, while the scarab beetle represented tremendous power. But it stands for many aspects of existence, including the material life, the immaterial life, the immortality of the soul, the transience of death, and the possibility of rebirth. A teardrop-shaped hoop with a cross-connecting right underneath it represents the sun rising beyond the horizon.
Ankhs were all the rage in the ’90s, when grunge was at its peak. Nowadays, it’s still worn by famous people like Katy Perry, Beyonce, and Rihanna.
The ankh is still used today as a symbol of ancient Egypt and in jewelry and art to convey the original meaning of the ankh in life. Men and women alike are welcome to sport this emblem.
The Ankh is most commonly worn as a necklace, but it can also be fashioned into rings, bracelets, charms, earrings, or even earrings with symmetrical designs. Whether understated or grandiose, the Ankh is a fragile symbol of life and its celebration.
One could assume that you are wearing the Ankh for religious purposes due to its striking resemblance to the Christian cross. For those who don’t know what the symbol means, you might have to explain it.
Musicians like Tupac Shakur and Erykah Badu have contributed to the ankh’s meteoric rise in popularity among Egyptian signs. There are many who think the sign has gone mainstream. Its effects have rippled through the tattoo and jewelry industries as well as those that own the ankh symbol through trademark.
In Egyptian hieroglyphics, the ankh—sometimes called the first cross—stands for everlasting life. Oneness of the sexes is symbolized by it. The ankh’s loop represents the womb of a woman, and the vertical line represents the genitalia of a male.
“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. Not many people understand the meaning of the symbol, but it’s quite popular among Black women.
The purpose is lost. owns the property. One Tallahassee body piercing shop reports that black people’s interest in the symbol has grown in recent years. “Ankhs are worn by two types of people: gothic youths who were likely impacted by the 80s film “The Hunger,” and African-Americans, whose effect I didn’t see until I worked at the recording studio of Erykah Badu.
S.I.S.T.U.H.S. is a FAMU group that takes great pride in the power and unity of its female members, and the ankh is their symbol. Three years ago, it was founded.
“Because the ankh signifies the full woman, it only made sense for our company,” remarked Kanika Frasier, a senior public relations student from Miami and co-founder of S.I.S.T.U.H.S. The ankh has many symbolic implications, and we educate our members about them.
But there are plenty who don’t think infatuation is that terrible.
Since its creation, the ankh has been around for thousands of years. The proprietor of Aura, a seller at FAMU’s flea market, Abyssinia, noted that the fact that it has become popular is a positive thing because it now gives Africans access to information. Their understanding of its background, relevance, and relevance to Africans is enhanced as a result.
One possible meaning of the ankh sign, according to soothsayers, is the ability to perceive things from a fresh angle.
We can keep our eyes on the broader view as we observe the ever-changing parade of life.
Traveling through portals to other dimensions could likewise be viewed from this vantage point.
My “opinions” regarding the significance of the ankh symbol have come from where?
The horizontal line below the top loop stands for the horizon of Earth, and the top loop for the sun. It is believed that the spot where the sun and earth meet is holy. Sunlight nourishes the soil, which in turn produces abundant crops along the Nile, which were vital to the Egyptians’ way of life.
The concept of the loop as a gateway to other dimensions is another angle from which to view Ankh’s significance. The ankh is believed by the Egyptians to be the key that unlocks the gates of the afterlife. Egyptian funerary art is replete with ankhs, lending credence to this hypothesis.
The ankh sign is more than just a representation of “life” on a fundamental level. Additional ways of looking at it are:
Position of Power
When you see the ankh sign in the Tarot, think about the depth of expression it represents. (which appears on the Emperor card in traditional Rider-Waite, however it may take on many forms in different decks to convey the same themes).
It’s more about teaching ourselves to see the magnificence and potential in every experience of life. The ankh is a constant reminder of how our whole outlook can be altered by a meeting of forces. In addition to reiterating our viewpoint, it gives us the assurance that we are constantly embraced by a multitude of loving spirits.
1–The Ankh, a cross with a loop at the top, was worn by both the living and the dead as a protective talisman.
2-Reincarnation, bodily and spiritual life, and the Ankh were all concepts important to the ancient Egyptians.
3-It was thought to be the secret to the yearly flood of the Nile, which enriched the soil of ancient Egypt.
4- Legend has it that the top loop of the Ankh represents the mouth of a fish, which grows and thrives in water (a metaphor for Egypt’s very existence), bringing floods and the rebirth of the rich land to the people who lived there.
5-According to an other theory, it was meant to represent the sunrise. This theory is applicable to both the ‘Sa’ and another comparable symbol. The loop is supposed to represent the sun disc, the crossbar the horizon line, and the vertical bar the sun’s path. The ancient Egyptian hippopotamus goddess Taweret and the dwarf deity Bes were both linked with the letter “Sa,” which denoted “protection of nascent life.”
6-The ankh-shaped mirror case found in King Tut’s tomb is a testament to the ancient Egyptians’ skill in crafting. There is a cartouche on the edge that shows the hieroglyphics of previous pharaohs. The mirror’s frame features inlaid stones of red jasper, turquoise, and dark blue lapis lazuli.
7-Believing that life and death were reflections of one another, the ancient Egyptians used mirrors as a divination tool. Therefore, it was common for mirrors to be shaped like an ankh sign.
8-Blue was the most popular shade for the Ankh Symbol; the ancient Egyptians associated it with royalty, and the most precious stones, lapis lazuli and turquoise, were blue tones.
9-In Ankh, the color red represented the goddess Isis, who was also called the mother goddess.
10-The mirror case that housed the ankh also featured powerful symbols, such as the sun disc, the lotus, and the central scarab emblem.
Eleven. The ankh is frequently shown as being held by the Egyptian deities of old.
12-A talisman, often called an amulet, is a religious artifact that typically consists of a small stone or object that has been engraved with magical inscriptions. These inscriptions may contain formulas, sacred texts, or other signs and symbols.
13- The sign also represents vitality and power.
14-Ancient Egyptians used this symbolic figure as a sign of magical protection; its origins are debatable, although some Egyptologists believe it evolved from a glyph.
15-The Latin name for it is the Crux Ansata, which translates to “cross with a handle.”
The ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses were depicted with Ankh in front of the king’s face on tomb paintings; this symbolized the breadth of an unending existence.
17-Rituals and ceremonies for purification also made use of the Ankh emblem.
18-In order to distinguish themselves from “ordinary people,” it was common practice to depict pharaohs and other rulers with an Ankh.
19-The ‘Knot of Isis,’ sometimes called the ‘Ankh,’ is a complex bow with a knot that has long since lost its sacred meaning.
20-Another symbol is the closed-loop, which stands for infinity and everlasting.
Fast forward to the spread of Christianity in Africa, particularly in the early centuries of the faith. As Christianity gained popularity, it naturally intersected with the existing beliefs and practices of the people. In Egypt, this fusion of ancient Egyptian symbolism and Christian theology led to the incorporation of the ankh into Christian iconography.
While the ankh predates the Christian cross by centuries, the similarities between the two are unmistakable. Both symbols feature
a vertical line intersected by a horizontal line, representing different aspects of spirituality and faith. The ankh, with its looped top, adds an extra layer of meaning that resonates with Christian teachings.
In Christianity, the ankh took on a new significance, representing the eternal life offered through the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The looped top of the ankh is often interpreted as a representation of everlasting life. Just as Christ conquered death, the ankh symbolizes the triumph over mortality and the promise of eternal life for believers.
The horizontal line of the ankh can be seen as a symbol of sacrifice. It serves as a reminder of the crucifixion, wherein Jesus willingly gave his life for the redemption of humanity. Through this act of ultimate sacrifice, Christians believe they are granted salvation and the opportunity to attain eternal life.
The incorporation of the ankh into Christian symbology highlights the dynamic and diverse nature of religious beliefs. It shows that as Christianity spread across different regions, it adapted and assimilated elements of local cultures and traditions. This merging of ancient Egyptian symbolism with Christian
theology created a unique and meaningful expression of faith in Egypt.
For many Christians in Egypt, the ankh serves as a reminder of their cultural heritage and spiritual understanding. It symbolizes the rich history and intricate tapestry of beliefs that have shaped their religious identity. The ankh is not only a symbol of faith but also a connection to the long-standing traditions and mystical wisdom of ancient Egypt.
The presence of the ankh within Christianity demonstrates the inclusivity and adaptability of the religion. It encourages believers to appreciate the diverse cultural expressions of faith and to recognize the universal yearning for spiritual meaning and transcendence. The ankh serves as a bridge between different civilizations and belief systems, promoting dialogue and understanding.
In contemporary Christianity, the ankh may not hold the same prominence as other symbols like the cross or the crucifix. Nevertheless, its significance as a historical and cultural emblem remains. Its presence in churches, artwork, and religious jewelry is a testament to the enduring legacy of ancient Egyptian symbolism and the profound connections it has forged with Christian beliefs.
In conclusion, the Egyptian ankh holds a multifaceted meaning within Christianity.