The ankh is a symbol you are likely familiar with.
It is a popular symbol in jewelry designs, clothing, and tattoos.
In the “new age” context, we often see ankh symbols next to yin/yang, pentagram, triple moon, and eye of Horus imagery.
The trouble with this is that many people who wear the ankh do not understand its deep spiritual power.
The term new age implies that these symbols are more recent.
But they are some of the oldest religious symbols in existence.
The ankh itself pre-dates the Christian cross.
To wear an ankh is to step back in time, and access the spiritual knowledge of the ancient Egyptians.
Symbolism in the Ankh Tattoo
If you are considering an ankh tattoo, read on!
This simple, sleek looking symbol is more than meets the eye.
It is made up of several images, each with its own special meaning.
In this article, we will explore the meaning of ankh tattoos:
- The key of life
- Is the ankh a cross? Theories.
- The African spirituality of the ankh
- Electromagnetics in ancient Egypt
- The divine feminine
- The divine masculine
- Gods and Goddesses associated with the ankh
Now, you can have a more intimate relationship with the ankh than ever before.
That way, you’ll be able to decide if an ankh tattoo is right for you.
If you do decide to get one, you can wear it with confidence and pride.
Ankh: The Key of Life
Taken as a whole, the ankh resembles a key.
The ankh is often simplified as a symbol of life.
While this is true, the word “ankh” translates to “life” in the Afro-Asiatic language of ancient Egypt.
But the story behind the symbolism is much more interesting than one simple word.
After all, life as a concept on its own doesn’t mean much.
What is the ankh saying about life?
The ankh symbol was often worn in Egypt as an amulet to prolong one’s life, and ankh imagery was used in burial.
Often, the dead would be adorned with an ankh amulet, or tombs would be decorated with the symbol.
The idea was that this symbol would help them open the door to the afterlife.
Once there, they could start the next part of their journey.
In many Egyptian paintings and carvings, a divine figure holds an ankh to a person’s lips.
This was to symbolize their life after death.
The loop on the top of the key can represent the breath of life and the element of air.
In this context, an ankh tattoo would symbolize:
- A long, healthy life.
- Life after death.
- The eternal life of the soul.
- The element of air
Ankh: Life-Giving Water
In some art pieces, the Egyptian gods pour water over a pharaoh’s head in a cleansing ritual.
When this rite is depicted, the water is often drawn as a chain of small ankh symbols.
The ankh represents the elements of both air and water.
This makes sense, given that both are essential for human survival.
In many ways, the ankh symbolizes two things coming together to create one life-giving force.
Is the Ankh The Original Cross?
If you are going to wear an ankh symbol, you should be aware that it is steeped in religious controversy.
Many Christians do not embrace the symbol.
They think of it as a “pagan cross,” and distance themselves from it as a result.
The truth is, the ankh is not a cross symbol.
It is not associated with Christ in any way, though there is some crossover with the themes of life after death.
In fact, the ankh predates Christ.
The “who used it first” question is a difficult one to answer.
Some say it is a case of coincidental crossover.
Others say Christians re-appropriated the cross to erase/detract attention from Egyptian spirituality.
There are even some theories that say Christ did not even die on a cross.
The specific shape was not mentioned in the original scripture.
In fact, some say the most accurate translation would be “tree.”
However, the Christians did not fabricate the idea of crucifixion.
There were people crucified on the “T” shape we’ve come to associate with Christ today.
Where do you stand on the issue?
Are the ankh/cross similarities a coincidence, or something more nefarious?
If you decide to get an ankh tattoo, you may find yourself in some interesting debates!
The African Spirituality of the Ankh
Something important to understand is that the ankh isn’t a dead symbol.
It is very much alive, and an important part of Kemetic spirituality.
Kemetic spirituality, or Kemetism, has been around in a less formal context for some time.
It began to emerge as a more organized/public religion in the 1970’s.
Kemetism is a renewal for the polytheistic beliefs of ancient Egypt.
It comes from the root word “Kemet,” the original name for Egypt, which was later named as such by the Greeks.
It would have originally been spelled “kmt.” In hieroglyphs, it was spelled with a crocodile skin forming the letter “K,” an owl for “M,” and half a loaf of bread for the “T” sound.
The word “Kemet” translates to “The Black Land.”
Historians believe this name came from the nutrient-dense soil of the Nile river.
Others say it was about the deep skin of the Black people who lived there.
In today’s context, there is debate over who the original people of Egypt/Kemet were.
It is a country that sits in the northeast corner of Africa and is linked to the Middle East.
The area was conquered several times over the years.
So it is difficult to determine the original race of the people who lived there.
Kemetism is an African belief system, so the Ankh can be a reclaiming of the African roots of Egypt.
Another reminder that your ankh tattoo may be a conversation starter, to say the least.
Electromagnetics in Ancient Egypt
The ankh is made up of two parts, the loop and the cross-like shape on the bottom.
Some say the ancient Egyptians were using this shape to conduct static electricity.
A startling idea, because it was long before its discovery in the western world.
Because of some carvings and paintings, some people believe the Egyptians had electricity.
Further to that theory, some link the top piece of the ankh to the Greek “omega” symbol.
This symbol later became a measurement for electricity.
An interesting piece of synchronicity, at any rate!
In this context, an ankh tattoo can represent:
- A curiosity about science.
- A thirst for knowledge of the ancient world.
- A belief that the Egyptians discovered electricity first.
The Divine Feminine
The top part of the ankh has an almost egg-like shape.
It is an oval that is a little more rounded and “open” on one end, and it narrows toward the cross-like shape.
With this in mind, the ankh is often seen as a womb.
The “stem” of the cross could easily symbolize the birth canal.
The side “branches” would be Fallopian tubes.
Ancient Egyptians had an incredibly sophisticated society with knowledge of surgery and medicine.
It was also a matrilineal society.
They likely knew more about female anatomy than the Greeks, who were more focused on males.
The top loop of the ankh also has associations with the sun god, Ra.
Women would often bathe in the sun to increase their fertility.
So the loop is a reference to both the womb and this practice.
Taken in this context, an ankh tattoo symbolize:
- Your divine connection to womanhood
- A maternal bond
- The life-giving power of the womb
It may be an auspicious symbol for a person who would like to have children someday.
The Divine Masculine
The cross below the top loop of the ankh is phallic in nature.
This represents the male and female powers coming together to create life.
This is literal in the sense that a male (semen) element must join with a female (egg) element to create a baby.
But it can also refer to the masculine/feminine balance within us all.
It is necessary to embody both elements to live a full, happy life.
Taken in this context, your ankh tattoo may represent:
- Your divine connection to manhood
- Your paternal seed
- The life-giving power of the phallus
- Living in balance between masculine and feminine energies
The Gods and Goddesses Associated with the Ankh:
If you are getting an Ankh tattoo, you may pair it with the following deities.
They are all depicted in ancient art with the ankh symbol:
- Ra: The sun god, father of all gods. He is associated with the life-giving sun, and warmth.
- Osiris & Isis: The genital imagery of the ankh is often associated with Osiris and Isis. They were both lovers and brother/sister. The yearly flood of the Nile was necessary for survival in Egypt, and it is said to represent their love. Legend has it that the flood is made up of Isis’s tears. She cries over the death of Osiris, who was killed by his jealous brother.
- Ma’at: Ma’at is a goddess who brings order to the chaos of the world. As such, this is also the name given to the essential life principles in Egypt. It is said that, when you die, your heart will be measured against the feather of Ma’at. If you lived a good life in harmony with the divine laws, you are granted eternal life. If not, your soul was eaten by a crocodile and you ceased to exist.
- Anubis: A guide through the underworld, Anubis facilitates your heart weighing ceremony.
Ankh Tattoo with Eye of Horus
Ankh Tattoos with Flowers
Ankh Tattoos with Wings
Nefertiti Ankh Tattoos
Snake & Ankh Tattoos
Anubis & Ankh Tattoos
Ankh Tattoo Designs
Sketchy Ankh Tattoos
Graphic Ankh Tattoos
Tribal Ankh Tattoos
Watercolor Ankh Tattoos
Ankh Tattoo Ideas
Who knew one small symbol could contain such multitudes?
Are you still excited to get an ankh tattoo?
Explore our gallery for some life-giving inspiration!
Small Ankh Tattoos
Thin Ankh Tattoos
Ankh Tattoos on Dark Skin
Ankh Tattoo Placement
Ankh Tattoos on Wrist
Ankh Tattoos on Chest