Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Meaning of Ankh

The Ankh is a Kemetic symbol of eternal life i...Image via Wikipedia
By Jennifer Jaeger

When you think back to the 1960's there are two symbols that spring to mind, one is the old favorite, the peace sign and the other worn around the necks of various peace loving hippies was the ankh. But what is an ankh?

The ankh is a hieroglyphic sign or symbol found through most periods of Egyptian history. I have heard several explanations of what it represents stylistically. A sandal strap, a magic knot, a woman's sexual organs, or a mans (depends which book you read) and perhaps most poetically, Sirius rising being reflected in water (always liked that one).

However we do know what it meant, it represented the key of life, the vital key handed by the gods to the Pharaoh, literally "life". Eternal existence, the essence of all that is spiritual and good.

Often the ankh is held to the nose of the Pharaoh, giving him life. If we think of the art of the reign of the famous Pharaoh Akhenaton (1352-1336 BCE) Aton sends down his life giving rays of sunlight ending in a little hand holding an ankh in front of the Pharaoh and his family's noses. In other words the rays of the sun give life to the Pharaoh and through the Pharaoh to his subjects.

It is interesting to note that as most of the population in Ancient Egypt were unable to read the ankh was instantly recognizable to all, even the peasants. Sometimes it is seen as a potters mark but also is everywhere on all monuments where the Pharaoh is depicted interacting with the gods and goddesses of Ancient Egypt.
It became in Ancient Egyptian religion a symbol of all that was good, everlasting and vital about the gods. In early Christian times the sign was called the crux ansata and became a symbol of the Coptic Church.

In the 1960's the ankh was adopted by the "hippie" movement in the USA as their symbol to denote peace and free love. I don't know if the Egyptians would have approved but it was a nice touch to use it and in a way it has brought many people to want to learn more about Ancient Egypt and that's a good thing.

To learn more about the Ankh a good place to start would be this blog where you can learn about antiquarian books

Jennifer Jaeger is Australia's first agent for the Egypt Exploration Society and proprietor of Fine Egyptology and Ancient History books. Jennifer's love of Ancient History has led her to form a successful career importing and selling rare second hand and new books and journals specializing in her field of interest.

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1 comment:

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