Signs and Symbols

Possibly one of the most widely recognised symbols other than the cross, sacred to the ancient Egyptians, and often used as an amulet, this symbol is basically the T or Tau cross supporting a circular shape.  Giving the appearance of the shape of a key, in Egyptian hieroglyphics this symbol stands for life or living, and forms part of the Egyptian words such as 'health' and 'happiness'.  Linked with Egyptian gods and goddesses, such as Isis (eternal mother and High Priestess) and Osiris, most gods would appear to have possessed the ankh, to symbolise life and immortality, and it is thus often referred to as the Key of Life, or even the cross of life, because of its creative power. The loop of the ankh is considered to be the feminine, whilst the T shape is considered to be the masculine.  Together, these symbols reflect a continued existence.

Many illustrations of Egyptian gods show them wearing or carrying ankhs as an amulet to signify their immortality.  Combining the eternal with the physical, this symbol being both male and female, is worn by both sexes as an amulet.  If you are unfamiliar with the word amulet, it is basically a protector, or something which is considered to bring good luck to the wearer.  Coming from the Latin word amuletum, meaning 'means of defence', amulets are always considered to have inherent protective qualities, and have been used by many civilisations, not only the Egyptians who would have always had at least one amulet each, usually in the form of ornate jewellery, in their households.  Kings were given an amulet of an ankh by birthright.  A talisman, however, is a specific charm meant to have a specific purpose - such as attracting monetary gain, or helping to attract a partner.  It is well known that many witches wear the ankh as a protector.  An amulet of an ankh was given to all those who died, who, after their Day of judgement, were found righteous.

To some, the ankh signifies the Sun rising over the horizon, and thus regeneration, regrowth and renewal, whilst to others it resembles the human being, with arms extended, the loop representative of the head.  It is, interestingly, also the plan used by many churches and cathedrals rather than the standard crucifix.

Considered by many to have powerful protective qualities, this symbol is actively associated with health, prosperity and long life at every level -- Interpreting Signs and Symbols: A Beginner's Guide, p. 60.


Ankh the most valued symbol of the ancient Egyptians, also known as crux aitsata, or the 'ansate' or 'handled cross'. It combines two symbols, the tau cross - 'life', and the circle - 'eternity', thus together 'immortality', and also the male and female symbols of the two principal Egyptian deities Osiris and Isis, thus the union of heaven and earth. In hieroglyphic writing, it stands for 'life' or 'living', and forms part of words such as 'health' and 'happiness'. Egyptians wore the ankh as an amulet to prolong life on earth, and were buried with it to ensure their 'life to come' in the afterworld; belief in the ankh's power was reinforced by its resemblance to a key which would unlock the gates of death. This 'key' symbol was also carved on canal walls on the Nile, in the belief that its presence would control the flow of water and so avoid both floods and drought. The ankh was adopted by the early Coptic Christians of Egypt who also used it on their monuments to symbolise life after death. In more recent times, the ankh has been used by witches in spells and rituals involving divination, fertility and health. During the hippie movement of the late 1960s, it became a popular symbol of peace and truth -- Guinness Encyclopaedia of Signs and Symbols, p. 91.


This is a symbol for the goddess Osiris. It symbolises sex, fertility, and reincarnation. The ankh was a very powerful symbol in Egyptology. Most pictures drawn in that period have ankhs in them. The Pharaohs were buried with this symbol because they believed it would help them in their next life -- Who's Watching the Playpen?, p. 136.

Ancient Egyptian hieroglyph signifying "life," a cross surmounted by a loop and known in Latin as a crux ansata (ansate, or handle-shaped, cross). It is found in ancient tomb inscriptions, including those of the king Tutankhamen, and gods and pharaohs are often depicted holding it. The ankh forms part of hieroglyphs for such concepts as health and happiness. The form of the symbol suggests perhaps a sandal strap as its original meaning, though it has been seen as representing a magical knot. As a cross, it has been extensively used in the symbolism of the Coptic Christian church -- Copyright 1994-1998 Encyclopaedia Britannica.