The ankh is a hieroglyph (representation of a concept) for “life”. It symbolizes eternal life, to be specific.
Egyptologists, archaeologists, religionists, historians, random people – no one can decide on where the ankh came from. Where the idea spawned from. Why some random ancient Egyptian dude or dudette made a teardrop/cross shaped thingy and wore it as a necklace.
Like most symbolism, mythology, and archaeology, we have no freaking idea. We’re just guessing from what we have when it comes to things like Celtic symbolism, runes, and ancient Egyptian symbolism. If something isn’t literally written out, we don’t know anything for certain.
And I am in no way an Egyptologist, so I have no clue either. But I love symbolism and I’ve always been fascinated by the Ancient Egyptians. So this is what I’ve found and what I like.
I am, after all, a writer. I like poking at things, collecting stories. Possibilities.
One theory is that the ankh is a combination of female and male. Some believe it was first used as a belt buckle for the goddess Isis.
“The theory of Egyptologist E.A. Wallis Budge (1857-1934 CE), who claims it originated from the belt buckle of the goddess Isis, is considered more probable but still not universally accepted. Wallis Budge equated the ankh with the tjet, the “knot of Isis”, a ceremonial girdle thought to represent female genitalia and symbolizing fertility. This theory, of the ankh’s origin stemming from a fertility symbol, is in keeping with its meaning throughout ancient Egyptian history and beyond to the present day. Egyptologist Wolfhart Westendorf (b. 1924 CE) supports Wallis Budge’s claim”
Combined with other amulets the ankh could bring the wearer greater health. It was also known as a powerful magical talisman, some believe. There’s a huge dispute on that one. Careful who you say that too. You might get your head bit off.
Here’s an interesting tidbit…
“Archeologists have discovered pictures in ancient Egypt that show the gods pouring water on the pharaoh’s head as part of a cleansing or ritual for purification. The water is shown as chains of ankhs”
According to Scholar Adele Nozedar:
“The ankh represents the male and female genitalia, the sun coming over the horizon, and the union of heaven and earth… Its resemblance to a key gives a clue to another meaning of this magical symbol. The Egyptians believed that the afterlife was as meaningful as the present one and the ankh provided the key to the gates of death and what lay beyond”
The ankh is often depicted on the Egyptian god’s and goddesses’ fingertips. For example, Isis, who was connected to rites of the dead and known as a magical healer. Or Anubis, the jackal god associated with mummification and the afterlife. Let’s try Ma’at. The goddess of truth, harmony, balance, and justice. And don’t forget Osiris, the god of the underworld and judge of the dead. And to wrap things up, the sun god Ra.
The ankh eventually became a symbol of the planet Venus, and then the goddess Venus (or Aphrodite).
Apparently every divine being had an ankh. Or were throwing ankhs at their subjects’ heads.
Christians, as usual, adopted the symbol in their quest to take over the world. As opposed to demonizing it. (No offense to Christians, I’m a Christian. Every religion and pretty much every country tried taking over the world at some point. *rolls eyes*)
“Its shape has been variously understood as the rising sun on the horizon, as the union of male and female, or other opposites, and also as a key to esoteric knowledge and to the afterworld of the spirit. The Coptic church of Egypt inherited the ankh as a form of the Christian cross, symbolizing eternal life through Christ (35).”
The ankh is also known as a good luck charm. Probably because every Egyptian god and goddess was sporting it from their nose hairs and every Ancient Egyptian had about twenty of them just lying around or adorning their clothes, face, furniture, and probably their cats.
One thing that is known for certain, is that the Ancient Egyptians favored the symbol. It shows up all over in burial tombs, sculptures, paintings, and was carried as an amulet.
Curiously, mirrors were often found in the shape of an ankh. One theory is that the mirror could then let the owner look into another world.
“The Egyptians believed that the afterlife was a mirror image of life on earth and mirrors were thought to contain magical properties.”
Speaking literally, some people think the ankh is the depiction of a sandal strap. Others think it’s a flower. Yet another theory is that it’s a human raising their hands. As stated above, some think it is genitalia.
So basically, the ankh was the post-it note for the Ancient Egyptians. Thing was everywhere!
I absolutely love it. 🙂
I always hear of it being used as a luck charm. I’d never looked into it further so I didn’t know about all of this awesomeness. There are just so many stories and possibilities. It’s drool worthy.
As a genre fiction writer there are just so many ideas rolling around in my head.
Ankh mirrors that might peer into another realm! Eternal life! Ma’at, Ra, and Venus!