The Ankh – Symbol of Life

Allante McPhearson


Anthro. 303

The Ankh – Symbol of Life

The Ankh is an ancient Egyptian symbol. Many know it as “The Cross” with a handle. It looks exactly like the Christian’s Cross, due to the Christians deriving their symbol from the ancient version, but it has a circle as its upper half which also has multiple representations within itself. The Ankh as a whole represents Life, Existence, never-ending Transformation, Immortality, Self-Actualization, and Reincarnation. It is a symbol that once Understood, it alters the life of the specific individual and allows them to see the small and drastic changes they have undergone in order to gain Insight into themselves, their Life and its Purpose, and understanding of their Reality. In this perspective it is about “Life”, which also entails “living’, meaning the cultivation of a Meaningful Life, understanding how to do so, and the importance of it. This was the meaning of Success within the society because it coincided with Enlightenment or a State of Consciousness meant to be achieved by all beings only when ready. The circle’s meaning ranges from the Physical Womb, to the Cosmic Womb, to the Sun, with each always “birthing” Life; in unison with the bottom half of the Ankh it also symbolizes the unison of male and feminine divine energy, which again is the Union of Life (this Union of ‘Upper’ & ‘Lower’ will be described in other works). Ankh means mirror in Egyptian, which can easily be understood as the external world that we reference as life and it always being a “reflection” of us, or us a reflection of it, because we are Life. This “simple” but profound understanding is the basis for Knowing how to Create or Manifest the life we desire to live, which is what Life is about from The Beginning.

Many times within hieroglyphs there are Kings depicted as being “bathed” in Ankhs poured from water vessels; the symbolism demonstrates the purifying ability of water which is highly important. Once it is all understood then the cohesion and flow of Life-force energy is mastered to a degree, allowing the one that understands a unity with life and themselves that was not possible to achieve without the understanding. One becomes more responsible as they Know and Understand the Interconnectedness of all things which is Life itself. The individual must master being able to sustain their Life-Force energy above the previous, transcended state and understand how our Flow is always Harmonious with the Universe (all life); it is this insight that is most vital because once internalized we take full responsibility of how we manifest all situations in life through our [energy] state of being, and it is from there that we know we must either continue our ways of living or cultivate a lifestyle that is more conducive to personal growth, Love (of life), and ultimately Transcendence (of our Ego, self-perceived “I”). All of these facets and insights in tandem are the Ankh!

Drawing from a few different models and theories that we learned in class, there’s an infinite amount of different explanations what this symbol really meant to the culture, meaning what it actually did for the society. It was often used as a symbol not only in hieroglyphs, but also within rituals. The symbol played multiple roles from instilling values, to identifying which societal members were of a certain “rank” in consciousness level, to gaining deities assist in healing during ceremonies of healing and purification. It is a ritual to study and internally understand the Ankh within itself through meditating on it; it has also been used in therapeutic rituals to provide the participants with a revitalized sense of Being, as well as to ask deities for divine energy to heal physical, emotional, and psychological issues. The symbol is used as a ritual in the sense that it is something to be studied, even practiced, at every moment until one merges their being with the Wisdom that it is Encoded within. It demonstrates its use as a stability mechanism to make individuals learn to cope with life’s many challenges and unknowable variables. As a rites of intensification, understanding the Ankh means the values of being a more “Conscious” are internalized and are means to be initiated into the higher understanding portion of the culture, those whom would be considered Wise. Once Transcending a lower state of consciousness the Ankh and its teachings are presented and it is not until embodied does a student or participant complete their Rite of Passage. Being able to be given the chance to access the knowledge captured within the Ankh was important to the society and being introduced to it induced Van Gennep’s three phases, separation, liminality, and incorporation. Those introduced start with the first phase of separation because the initiates are removed from their status of which they are at, due to obtaining such conscious altering information. Once within the initiation process, in the transition stage, you are introduced to new activities which aid your understanding of the symbol and its values and knowledge, which ultimately leads in changing the initiate’s status. Finally, the initiate goes through the incorporation phase where they go back into our normal society but with their new earned status and it changes the way all social interactions occur, due to what is known by the initiate and how they must embody a new persona of more valuable character. The Ankh is a symbol of embodying empowerment, which occurs through dedication and internalizing wisdom passed down through oral traditions. Once initiated to learn such wisdom and be accepted within certain societal groups, the concept “too risky to fake” is in full effect. Too internalize such knowledge takes the breaking down of multiple perceptions and limitations we have placed upon ourselves which the symbol, and its use in also as a ritual, is used to dissolve these false perceptions; sometimes hours of prayer or meditation is required, fasting is practiced, refrain from taking part in societies normal “pleasures” are practiced in order to get a more clear understanding of what it is they are studying. These cause mental & physical stressors on initiates and practicing members which in some cases are too overwhelming, even for those who hoped most to join the group. These practices are too risky, for participants that are not dedicated to a life of understanding such “esoteric” matters. The symbol is used as a system of values all embedded within it, as well as having many other functions, with its Ultimate Goal to aid humans in reaching their highest capacity of understanding and embodying our Life’s Purposes through a Complete Unification of Life.

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