Cross of Life, Ankh: Hidden Meaning of the Egyptian Cross

The cross of life is a complex symbol.

An incredible number of questions surround him. In particular, many seek to understand what it can represent today and, thus, what it could concretely serve us for.

For this, it is essential to look at the origin and meaning of this Egyptian cross. You will discover it in this article: this subject divides… and it is not the millennia which separate us from its creation which help us to see it more clearly.

Cross of life, ankh, Egyptian cross... Call it what you want, the fact remains that the controversy surrounding it will undoubtedly last for a long time.

Contents :

Introduction to the ankh

The Egyptian cross of life is above all… a hieroglyph!

Origin of the Egyptian cross: a debate that divides historians

Meaning of the Egyptian cross of life: between secrets and complexity

Our conclusion on the Egyptian ankh

An ancient coin engraved with the Ankh symbol.

Introduction to the ankh

For some, this Egyptian symbol is synonymous with life and immortality. For others, it will represent life or the union between the feminine and the masculine. There are those who consider it only as a simple hieroglyph without more depth.

Very present in the art of Egyptian civilization, its use in tombs and pyramids sometimes makes it seem to be linked to death, or perhaps to the divine.

In short, the meaning of the cross of life is a vast and above all very interesting subject. Unraveling all the secrets hidden behind promises to be a complicated mission.

However, we are going to take on this mission together by raising point by point each facet of the Egyptian ankh, this mythical symbol.

First of all, here is a very simple pendant which presents this particular cross. If you don't already know what this symbol looks like, go look at it to get a good idea of ​​it.

Anyway, now we can begin.

Engravings in the wall of a pyramids made of hieroglyphs.

The Egyptian cross of life is above all… a hieroglyph!

For many people, this symbol comes directly from the language of the pharaohs.

Indeed, the cross of life is one of the several hundred characters which formed the writing that the ancient Egyptians used.

We therefore find the ankh engraved in obelisks, used as a legend for frescoes and as a notation on the papyri produced by the scribes of the past.

We might think that this simple information would allow us to easily bring meaning to the cross of life but, unfortunately, this is not the case.

In the art of hieroglyphs, the meaning of no symbol is definitive. Over time and as the pharaohs succeeded one another, the message carried by this or that hieroglyph could vary completely.

Several possible meanings

Technically, it is easy to determine what meaning the Egyptian cross of life may have had. Egyptologists and linguists have worked together to tell us what its meanings could be:

  • Bouquet of flowers
  • Mirror
  • Renaissance
  • Union

Some of these terms (notably “bouquet of flowers” ​​or “mirror”) may seem surprising, but it must be understood that the Egyptian writing system was limited in the number of characters.

Thus, the same symbol could be used to designate different ideas, the context in which it was used then making it possible to find the right one.

In this sense, certain similarities can be established with modern Chinese or even Mayan languages.

In short, the information that will interest us the most here is the link between the Egyptian ankh and the concepts of union and rebirth.

As civilization developed along the Nile, the other senses gradually faded away to make way for these.

In fact, there was a time when the cross of life was the most widely used Egyptian symbol for good luck. It was held in the hands of the gods and pharaohs on paintings, guarded the entrance to almost all temples and decorated the clothes of important people in the kingdom.

The simple meaning of the Egyptian cross which would like it to be just a simple word among many others is interesting but still seems very limited here...

The sound of the ankh

In all likelihood, the symbol we are talking about was known to the Egyptians only as the “ankh”. This word was then pronounced “an-ke”.

This actually provides us with valuable information. The ankh was thus used more not for its meaning but for its pronunciation, being then added to other hieroglyphs to form more complex words.

The sages of ancient Egypt had the clever idea of ​​using certain already existing signs to represent sounds which, taken together, could designate more abstract concepts.

It is clear, however, that this significantly complicates our task when we seek to understand the meaning of what they may have written. Don't worry if you don't understand everything, the subject is difficult, even for specialists!

If we tell you all this, it's for good reason. The three consonants present in the word “ankh” were also present in the Egyptian terms “live” and “life”…

This is an interesting clue as to the meaning of the cross of life and this ultimately very significant nickname!

The Egyptian cross, a sign of politeness

This symbol was not only used by deities, priests or rulers. In reality, the entire people used it as a sign of politeness.

While we can wish “bon appetit” or “have a good day” to the people we meet on a daily basis, the Egyptians rather said “May you be full of life” or even “May your life be long and good”.

As strange as this may seem to us, there is nothing surprising in it.

Now, if there was one symbol that could carry this type of message, it was the cross of life. Far from the religious considerations of the elites, the people therefore seize it mainly for this reason.

Carving the ankh on your doorstep was a sign of openness and conviviality, offering it in the form of jewelry was a much appreciated attention, and drawing it with soot on the children's faces protected them from harm.

If you like this type of tradition and would like to share the positive message it carries, here is for example an amulet and a ring that the Ancients could have used!

A statuette of a pharaonic cat, an amulet that shows an eye of Horus and hieroglyphics, and the goddess Isis as a pendant

New esoteric knowledge

Thanks to the secrets of Egyptian symbols


Origin of the Egyptian cross: a debate that divides historians

We now understand better why we find the Egyptian ankh almost everywhere in the ruins and vestiges of this civilization... But that does not explain to us how this precise symbol, this very particular arrangement of curves, came into existence!

This is what we will try to discover here.

Knowing the context in which the ancients used it tells us a lot about the meaning of the Egyptian cross, but understanding why is just as important.

While the previous question was already complex, answering this one seems almost impossible.

Indeed, how on earth could we understand what could have happened in the heads of men and women separated from us by more than 5000 years of history?

It is clear, the question of the meaning of the ankh could well remain a mystery until the end of time...

However, we will explore some avenues together. Avenues which, if they are not infallible, at least have the merit of offering us new perspectives.

Engraving of the god Ra at the entrance to a very ancient Egyptian temple.

The cross of life as a symbol of Ra, Egyptian god

The shape of the Egyptian ankh could well teach us a lot about its origin.

Composed of a circle (which, by definition, has neither beginning nor end), its upper part represents the celestial world, that inhabited by the spirits of the gods.

Its horizontal bar would symbolize the barrier between our world and that of the divinities.

The vertical bar would show us how the world of the gods can sometimes pass this barrier to reach us.

This theory is interesting but we must add an element if we want to be complete: the circle also represents the Sun, an element governed by the god Ra. This hypothesis is supported by the large number of representations of Ra where he holds a cross of this type in his hands.

Thus, the Egyptian cross would show us the solar star resting on its axis above the horizon... This is much more colorful but offers us interesting perspectives as to the meaning of the ankh.

In this sense, a link can be established with the god Amon, a (very) important deity of Egyptian civilization. We will not talk more about it here because the subject would require an article in itself. Here's a link to the Wikipedia page that introduces you to Amon, if you're interested in the topic.

Egyptian temple of Abu Simbel with its famous giant statues of pharaohs.

The trail of kings and pharaohs

We have already mentioned it earlier but this point deserves our attention: the pharaohs and high dignitaries of ancient Egypt were often represented alongside crosses of life.

Certain scenes show us the sovereign surrounded and nourished by a multitude of small ankhs, in a way which could evoke a divine vital breath flowing through him. In this kind of context, gods are sometimes also present, which supports this idea of ​​vital momentum...

A superior breath of life, this is a beautiful meaning for the Egyptian cross.

Some, however, do not share this opinion, and rather think of the ankh that it would indicate a shift in power from the divinities towards the pharaohs.

Seeing a symbol previously associated with the powerful god Ra being held in the same way by the king would indicate that over the years more and more powers relating to the sacred were being attributed to it.

This element is confirmed by Egyptologists. It is in fact today established that as Egyptian civilization developed, the pharaoh began to occupy the true place of a living god.

The importance of the cross of life cannot therefore be explained by itself, but rather by its use as a symbol of the transfer of power between two entities? Possible…

Sarcophagus of a pharaoh's mummy enthroned in the middle of a tomb filled with symbols.

A key to the world of the dead

Another essential element in understanding the meaning of the Egyptian cross is its connection with the dead.

Often, it is said that it serves as a key allowing the smooth passage of the soul to the other world. Concretely, it would be through its link with life and eternity that the ankh would allow us to “penetrate the fabrics of the world” which separate us from the beyond.

Some people think, probably more simply, that drawing one on a tomb or a sarcophagus was nothing more or less than a mark of respect.

As we saw when we looked at the meaning of the Egyptian ankh as a hieroglyph, it can send a message of politeness.

Here, this message would rather be: “We wish you a long life, after life”.

Thus, the cross of life (a funny nickname given the use we are describing to you) was widely used during funeral rites in ancient Egypt. In particular, a representation was often placed on the forehead of the deceased, between his two eyes.

To add weight to this point of view, it is also interesting to note the presence of numerous ankhs in the famous “Book of the Dead”, one of the best preserved documents of Egyptian civilization consisting of a treatise on magic and philosophy.

If the secrets of the mysterious Egyptian civilization interest you, you should find something to satisfy your curiosity through the Egyptian lucky charms that we have collected on our site.

Silhouettes of a man and a woman spending time together.

The union of masculine and feminine through the Egyptian ankh

Here is the last theory that we are going to put forward to you as to the why and creation of the cross of life: that of the union of the masculine and the feminine.

For many, in fact, this Egyptian lucky symbol represents this sacred union capable of generating life and thus perpetuating the people of men.

This idea actually comes from a simple observation: the Egyptian ankh is formed from a juxtaposition of the emblems of Isis and Osiris. Isis is the nurturing goddess of Egypt, and her symbol is the oval. With the cross as his emblem, Osiris occupies the position of king as father and protector of the country.

Showing us the union between these two entities, the meaning of the Egyptian cross would be that of the powerful life that flooded the land each year, bringing fertility and an abundant harvest to the people.

Yes, it would be an allusion to the life-giving force of the Nile !

Moreover, certain texts present the ankh to us under the name “key of the Nile”. This leaves you wondering…

More broadly, certain esoteric currents consider it as the symbol of fruits arising from the union of opposite poles, the magical link which unites and balances the opposites, thus forming our world.

Two symbols carved in wood: an ankh (or Egyptian cross) and an eye of Horus.

Meaning of the Egyptian cross of life: between secrets and complexity

So what is the common thread in everything we have just seen?

For me, the answer is simple: the meaning of the ankh offers us a new understanding of life, a new and therefore very interesting point of life.

Those of us who desire to unravel the secrets of our world and who are ready to seek more than others must undoubtedly find in the cross of life a tremendous source of inspiration.

Life is a wonderful gift that has been given to us. However, in the same way that spring flowers fade once autumn arrives, our life will also lose its colors and finally end.

Life is meant to be lived and for us to embrace every moment it offers us. Unfortunately, many miss this essential message… or discover it too late.

However, if you are reading this, you are alive and well. It is therefore your duty to show your gratitude for the life you have been given and enjoy every moment! What if this was the meaning of the ankh?

Regardless, the fact is that this Egyptian symbol is still widely used today.

The meanings given to it necessarily differ from those attributed to it by the ancients but still remain faithful to this primordial message, to the essence of the cross of life.

In short, we will now see the opinion of those who, today, use the ankh on a daily basis.

1st meaning of the ankh: an energy channel

Many who use the Egyptian cross today have no idea of ​​the depth of the message it teaches us about life.

Indeed, for them, it is just a simple, very “practical” tool that they use without further thought. Concretely, this tool consists of an energy channel.

Because this symbol has its own intrinsic energy (this is debatable but everyone who has looked into the question has come to this conclusion), it “attracts” others and thus allows them to be channeled.

All this made the Egyptian ankh a privileged tool for certain spiritual, magical and even occult practices.

It may be interesting here to note that, as a general rule, women are more naturally attracted and seduced by the meaning of the cross of life.

This can be seen as a strong sign, the sign that, yes, a life-creating energy is indeed hidden behind the ankh, a sign that this ancient symbol has very concrete powers.

Even people who were initially doubtful reported a “gentle energy” emanating from the Egyptian cross they held in their hands. In particular, when we suggested that they try this ring, the testimonials were edifying.

2nd meaning of the ankh: love of life

It is obvious that the Egyptians loved life. Some thought that this civilization was obsessed with death (codified mortuary ceremonies, gigantic tombs, mummy traditions) but they were wrong.

In fact, all of these elements serve the simple purpose of celebrating life and, sometimes, “life after life.”

This love even went as far as extensive research into the extension of life and immortality. Some again speak of a secret magic while others will only see a philosophical reflection on posterity.

Thus, the meaning of the Egyptian cross would be that of love of life and recognition of this precious good as a gift.

This ties in with an idea that we put forward a few moments earlier, but this concept is central to understanding the ankh.

We are all supposed to enjoy life. When we look at the ankh, we are reminded of this essential message and the importance of filling our existence with vitality, energy and good humor.

3rd meaning of the ankh: symbol of the hippie movement

After falling into oblivion for centuries, the Egyptian ankh symbol experienced a revival during the 1960s. Despite all the documents which attest to it, no one knows how to find an explanation for this phenomenon.

However, the fact is that wearing an amulet of the Egyptian cross of life around one's neck was for the hippies a true sign of belonging to their community.

Perhaps we should not seek an explanation here in terms of the meaning of the ankh but rather in the context in which it could be used...

The Egyptians practiced great rituals dedicated to life and love, during which music was played to animate the bodies of the dancers, all amid flowers, perfumes and plumes of smoke.

In this sense, some of their ceremonies could resemble the hippie ideal of the liberated party.

4th meaning of the ankh: the New Age and new spiritual currents

The shattering return of the cross of life which we spoke to you about in the previous paragraph left a lasting mark on Western society.

At a time when the Catholic religion was in decline, people felt a need for the mysterious, the sacred and the unexplained. Even if few realize it in this way, this need precedes most of us.

In short, it is in this context that a whole bunch of alternative currents emerged, a good part of which were inspired by the traditions of the past to form their spiritual base.

Some of these movements are today described as "New Age" while others are seen only as amusing folklore. A large number, however, tended to disappear only a few years after their creation.

The religions of the past then provided messages tinged with mysteries and secrets. This undoubtedly pleased fans of esotericism and magic of all kinds.

Note also that today there are still neopagan movements, groups of mystics or more or less secret organizations which use (or even venerate for some) the Egyptian cross of life. Here you will find an article from a site from this type of trend which presents the cross of life to you from another angle.

5th meaning of the ankh: an emblem against the system

Hippie movements and practitioners of esoteric arts are not the only ones to have recently used the ankh. With the advent of Rock'n'Roll in the Western world, it was gradually used as a protest symbol by those who stood against the system and against the establishment.

Far from the religious use of the past, the meaning of the cross of life here was that of a great popular revolt. Thus, it became one of the most “underground” emblems of the time.

Angry at the bloodshed that was taking place at the time (Vietnam War in particular), young people began to use this cross, a vestige of a past civilization which had understood the importance of life and love, to shout to the rest of the world their pride in being free and their desire to remain so.

6th meaning of the ankh: the Christian cross of the Copts of Egypt

It's no secret: Egyptian civilization had its day, just like the pyramids and the pharaohs.

After its fall, the Greek and Roman empires succeeded each other. Then, an independent kingdom was established there for a few centuries. This period was associated (as with the rest of the Middle East and Europe) with a great wave of Christianization.

After early persecution, Christians finally overcame adversity and succeeded in sharing the Gospel like never before in history.

Thus, an important Christian community was formed in Egypt: the Copts. If this part of the history of the Church interests you, here is an article from the La Croix website which presents this community to you.

Egyptians by blood and heart but Christians by faith, choosing an emblem that would associate God and the traditions of a country practicing polytheistic paganism for millennia was not an easy task.

The solution, you must suspect, was found through the cross of life.

In a certain sense, the Egyptian religion thus adapted to a completely new practice, Christianity, while retaining some of its symbols. The meaning of the Egyptian cross had changed, but its presence was still there.

Even today, Coptic communities around the world use the ankh as the emblem of their churches. This shows that when a tradition knows how to adapt, nothing prevents it from lasting a long time... or even a very long time!

7th meaning of the ankh: a sign of pan-Africanist unity

In its more modern uses, the meaning of the ankh is sometimes much more than a fashion accessory.

In fact, of all the symbols originating from the African continent, it is the best known, the most widespread and undoubtedly the most appreciated.

In Europe and the United States (regions with a strong African diaspora), many people choose to wear the Egyptian cross to show their pride in belonging to Africa.

We can actually truly say of the Egyptian ankh that it is a symbol of the continent's cultural identity...

However, as we have seen, this cross has nothing to do with people other than Egypt. Historically, neither Morocco nor Congo (to take just two examples) used the ankh.

If today it is an emblem of Pan-Africanism, the proof is well established that the meanings of this type of cultural element can vary from year to year, and from century to century.

Several crosses of life half erased by time on a wall of the palace of an Egyptian pharaoh.

Our conclusion on the Egyptian ankh

As we mentioned earlier, symbols often change meaning over time. You will have noticed: the ankh is no exception to this rule.

Although the study of its meaning is a simply fascinating subject, the cross of life has become a recognizable symbol in popular culture and is used today in sometimes very different contexts.

Through jewelry and other lucky charms, people wear it without knowing what it could represent for the ancient Egyptians.

However, these people firmly believed that wearing this type of symbol was not trivial… and could involve major consequences (both good and bad).

You, now, know the true meaning of the Egyptian ankh, its origins and the main reasons why someone might want to wear it.

A symbol which signified renewal, eternal life, the primordial divine breath, the key to the Nile, the vital force which supports and maintains the world... Such a symbol can only have retained a little of the benefits with which it is associated.

Lucky charms featured in this article

Pendant of the Cross of Life (or Ankh)

Pendant of the Cross of Life (or Ankh)

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Detachable Amulet of the Cross of Life

Detachable Amulet of the Cross of Life

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Detachable Ring of the Cross of Life

Detachable Ring of the Cross of Life

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author picture(Cyril Gendarme)

Discover the author: Cyril Gendarme

Cyril Gendarme is a writer whose website "The Lucky Door" ("La Porte Du Bonheur" in French, his native language) has become a reference in the field of esotericism. Born in Belgium, Cyril has been attracted to the mysteries of the world since he was a child. When his interest in occultism was awakened, a particular subject caught his attention: lucky charms.

After years of study and in-depth research on esoteric traditions from around the world, Cyril decided to share his knowledge with the public through the internet. In 2019, he launched "The Lucky Door," a website dedicated to exploring lucky charms, magical symbols, and esoteric arts.

The Lucky Door is much more than just a showcase for those curious about magic, divination, or tradition. It is the result of Cyril's passion for researching and understanding the mysteries of the universe. Every piece of information available on the site testifies to his dedication to sharing his knowledge of the most hidden symbols and their unique powers.

In addition to his online work, Cyril regularly organizes workshops and conferences in different countries. His presence on social media is also highly appreciated, where he offers personalized advice and happily answers questions from his community.