The History & Meaning of the Ankh and Cross
We all have seen the timeless motif of the cross represented in jewelry as well as the ankh, or the Egyptian cross with its upper loop. But what is the meaning of these two popular symbols?
Ankh Cross Meaning
The ankh was a symbol sacred to ancient Egyptians and central to their beliefs about life and the afterlife. With a history dating back over 5,000 years, the ankh is one of the most recognizable and spiritual symbols of ancient Egypt. The ankh cross topped by a closed loop, carries a timeless meaning as the hieroglyphic symbol for “life” or “breath of life.”
The Egyptians believed in a timeless circle of existence, and for them, the ankh symbolized both life on earth and what lies beyond. The ankh was worn by individuals in their daily lives as well as depicted as being carried by Egyptian gods in tomb paintings and descriptions. Not surprisingly the ankh was also called the “key of life” in its representation of the link between how we live life on earth and what that means for our afterlife.
Historically, ankh crosses have not only been associated with the concepts of life and eternal life, but with life forces such as the sun, fertility, and light. The ankh also has relevance to harmony on earth through the balance of energies and spirit.
For Christians, the cross is a most treasured and sacred symbol. As Christ’s crucifixion on the cross enabled man to experience salvation and eternal life, so the cross represents the union of heaven and earth. The symbolism of the cross goes deeper – the horizontal line representing the quality of earthly life and the known, and the vertical representing the spiritual and unknown realm. By wearing a cross, you are acknowledging and honoring God and the promise of eternal life.
The cross is also often associated with the image of the tree of life depicted in Genesis, the first book of the Bible. While the tree of life represented knowledge of good and evil, so the cross represents that knowledge for those of Christian faith. The cross is also a strong symbol of spiritual protection and strength that can shield the wearer from the forces of evil. For many, it serves as a closely held reminder of faith, love, and connection.
Although distinct in their history and meaning, the origin of the ankh and cross share a commonality in their transcendent meanings that encompass earth and life beyond.