The Ankh’s original meaning remains debatable, theories of its origin include the Egyptian sandal strap and a magical knot. As a hieroglyphic sign the Ankh means ‘life’ and symbolises eternal existence. As such, the Ankh is often attributed with the royal and the divine, often a god is shown holding the Ankh to the nose of the Pharaoh, giving to him ‘the breath of life’.
The ankh can be seen being held in the hands of deities/royalty in some relief/stelae fragments in the Petrie Museum(in the same manner that they are held by some characters in the tarot cards):
• Case IC11: UC14781 (limestone slab with unidentifiable goddess holding ankh, 17th dynasty).
• Case IC12: UC14783 (limestone slab with Antef VIII worshipping Min and holding the ankh, 17th dynasty).
The image of the Ankh is also identifiable in a more private/domestic religious context:
• Faience ankh, from Meroe in Sudan.
The Ankh appears frequently as a symbol in tarot cards, examples include:
o ‘The Lady of Life’ (Queen of chalices) – Queen shown holding the ankh sign in her hand, described as the “amulet of life”.
o ‘Seth’s Ladder’ (2 of chalices).
o ‘Isis’ knot’ (9 of chalices) – Ankh described as a “very powerful talisman, symbol of positive energies that bring life with them”.
o ‘The Chalices of Souls’ (10 of chalices).