by Beth Hansen-Buth
Working at a Metaphysical Store called Eye of Horus, we are constantly asked questions about all things Egyptian. One of the most well-known symbols of ancient Egypt is the ankh, which also is known as the original cross. For most people it’s just a cool looking image for a tattoo or as a pendant worn by the Goth kid down the street. Much of what we know about Egyptian culture and beliefs came from the artwork and artifacts of the tombs of the kings, and the ankh plays a prominent role in that aspect, not because it’s a symbol of death, but because it’s a symbol of life.
“This magic knot or cross, known as Nem Ankh, the key of life, was often used in the iconography of opposites. The loop over the tau-cross could stand for the Sun, for Heaven and Earth as the macrocosm and for man as the microcosm. It is generally interpreted as a symbol which expresses the reconciliation of opposites of the integration of active and passive qualities. This is amply confirmed by the fact that, when recumbent, the ankh symbolizes both male and female sexual attributes in precisely the same way as the very realistic Hindo depiction of a Hermaphrodite standing on a Lotus flower.”
A Dictionary of Symbols, Jean Chevalier and Alain Gheerbrant
The ankh also resembles a key and is considered the key to eternal life after death. As such, it was traditionally used as a pendant to ward off destruction or decay, and was cast in gold rather than silver, to better reflect the nature of the Sun. Speaking of the Sun, another theory says that that the ankh symbolizes the sunrise, with the loop representing the Sun rising above the horizon, which is represented by the crossbar. That leaves the vertical section below the crossbar to represent the path of the sun. There are many pictures of Gods and Kings holding the ankh, indicating that they had the power to give life. Whatever the meaning of this beautiful symbol, we at Eye of Horus celebrate the Ankh as the dance of life, and the abilities that are given to us to enjoy that life.
- The Ancient Ankh Symbol of Life – Feature Story with photos from Tour Egypt Website
- DancenAnkhen – Another unique design for clothing, gifts & accessories from HorusGear