Reflections & ‘A’ is for Ankh

There is this incredible desire for me to do more “A” words that were inspired by the Pagan Blog Project, which I am supposed to be participating, but I am only participating on my own terms. I say this, not because it is my aim to be contrary, but rather my life is so busy at the moment, just doing my morning pages over on is hard enough some days! To be honest, there are tons of ‘A’ words to be written about. There’s Ankh, Azazel, Athame, Anubis, etc. The list goes on and on.

Oh hell..I will just go ahead and do another one!


A is for Ankh

According to Egyptologist, Richard H. Wilkerson, in his book, “Reading Egyptian Art: A Hieoglyphic Guide to Ancient Egyptian Painting and Sculpture”, (1994, Thames & Hudson, p. 177):

“The origin of this most familiar of hieroglyphs is somewhat obscure and suggestions for its original identity have ranged from expressions of arcane sexual symbolism to representations of the humbls sandal strap.”

According to Wilkerson and others, it can be thought of as a sandal strap or in terms of the vagina and fallopian tubes. A similar assignation has been given to the Tet or Isis Knot. Both symbols appear as elaborate bows. Ultimately, the ankh is the symbol for “life”, and its design is incorporated into other ritual and common objects used in Ancient Egyptian life such as the sistrum and the hand mirror – which ironically is also referred to as “ankh”. The ankh has survived in religious iconography even to this day in the form of the crux ansata of the Coptic Church, also referred to as the ‘eyed’ or ‘looped’ cross. The fact that it is in a cruciform shape, according to Wilkinson and others, is probably one of the largest reasons why it still survives to this day.

The ankh is given to represent life-giving air and water and in the many extant examples in sculpture, painting and jewelry from the Dynastic periods and beyond, it is often offered to the deceased and in particular the Pharaoh himself. It is seen being poured out like a libation over the deceased as signifying just how life-giving a resource water truly is. It is also offered to the nostrils so that the king or others can intake life into themselves.

Interestingly, of Ancient Egypt’s gods or Netjeru are shown with the ankh, usually being held within their right hand. This positioning of the symbol underscores the power of the idea that Netjer can both bestow or withhold ‘life’ if They so choose. The symbol of life or eternal life, can at least in this interpretation, be held to mean that the ankh is an instrument of life and death as well. It indicates a sophisticated understanding that part of life is death, as well as the possibility for rebirth, has an infinite number of variables.

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