In ancient Egyptian mythology, the ankh was a symbol of eternal life. The shape of the ankh resembles a capital T with a loop connected to the top. The ankh could also be described as a cross with the top arm replaced by an upside-down teardrop shape. In hieroglyphics, the ankh is frequently seen being carried, through the loop, in the hands of Egyptian gods and goddesses. The ankh symbol was later adopted by the Coptic Christian Church as the crux ansata, meaning “cross with a handle.”
Archaeologists are unsure of the origins of the ankh symbol or what it was meant to represent. Some theories are that the ankh is a stylized sandal strap, the path of the sun on the horizon, or a combination of three-element-male and one-element-female genitals. Others suggest that the ankh was meant to portray a kind of knot or bow, and in earlier depictions of the ankh the longer bottom segment is two separate parts. Hand mirrors were frequently formed using this shape, and the Egyptian word ankh not only meant “life,” but also “mirror.”
As with other symbols, the ankh is commonly used by those who have no clue what it means but who find it pretty. In modern times, the ankh has been associated with the vampire fantasy genre because of its connotations of eternal life. It has also been popular with Goth subculture, likely because of the ankh’s fancied connection to vampires and its assumed “dark” implications. When used for deliberately symbolic purposes, the ankh is typically a reference to religious pluralism, suggesting that all spiritual approaches equally lead to “life.”
The Bible’s teaching is that eternal life is only offered through faith in the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).