(also known as ansate cross.)
supposedly, the ankh is the precursor to the christian cross. the ankh represents the union of man and woman (Osiris and Isis), and thus heaven and earth. when the christians got hold of it, they effectively cut out the female component by lopping off the circle of the ankh. this coincides with the theory that early christianity contained a holy trinity of man, woman and child, which was later amended to the more familiar Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

From a purely geek standpoint, Ankh was also a kickass game for the Apple II series. Although ostensibly an arcade game (move, shoot, avoid) it was actually also one of the first really mindbashing 'puzzle' games - shoot through this small hole, move the lever, open the other room, etc. etc. It took me about ten games to figure out that it wasn't just a slightly boring shooter; then it took me like four nights living on Frito-Lay to finish it. Ahhh, them days.

The river that runs through the city of Ankh-Morpork in Terry Pratchett's hilarious Discworld series. By the time the ankh reaches the city it's so polluted that you can quite easily walk over it and any fish dug up from it's murky depths explode upon exposure to air.

Egyptian symbol worn by Death in the award winning comic book series by Neil Gaiman, Sandman.
Interpretations of the ankh vary; the simplest definition being life. Some also believe that it represented balance - specifically the balance between life and death, though also the balance of man and woman.
The key to it all was that you could not have life without the existance of death - the two hold each other in check.
As for why Mike Dringenberg, the artist who developed the image of Death for Gaiman and Sandman, chose the ankh in his visual interpretation of Death:

"Part of that simply came out of the ankh being in vogue at the time. I also like the irony, though, because the ankh is the Egyptian symbol for life; and in some other cultures it became a symbol for immortality."
-- taken from The Sandman Companion, by Hy Bender. Copyright 1999.

There is one rather unglamorous theory about the origin of the ankh symbol: it is quite possible that it has evolved from the hieroglyph for 'sandal'. The loop is the sole and the three line extruding from it are the leather thongs used to tie the sandal to the foot.

Needless to say, this theory tends to irritate goths and anyone who sees it as a symbol for life, balance or the union of man and woman. It does seem to carry some academic merit though.

It is not always appreciated that hieroglyphics were not in origin two-dimensional painted characters but three-dimensional carved ones. By inspecting a carving with the 'ankh on it the nature of the sandal strings is clear. The phonetic basis of the Egyptian script allowed the word for "sandal thong" to be used also to mean "life", which there is no obvious way of drawing, because they sounded the same or similar.

It is sometimes confused with another hieroglyph, a sun with three rays radiating from it. Again, the difference is clear if you inspect real examples.

The word begins with the consonant ayin.


Although most commonly associated with the goddess Isis, the ankh was actually depicted as being held by many of the Egyptian gods. Even Anubis, the god of death and the underworld, carried an ankh. The ankh, or crux ansata, had different powers, depending on the god who held it. Primarily they were the powers of life, of water and for Anubis, for protection of the dead.

The symbol itself combines the forces of man and woman, the cross and the oval, heaven and earth, the womb and penis, and so also, Isis and Osiris.

This symbol is often associated with water, which the Egyptians believed could regenerate life. The ankh can be viewed as a form of key, a key to balance and enlightenment.

A related Egyptian symbol is that of the shen, standing for infinity and shown as a circle on a horizontal line.


To ansate: Not all Christians lopped off the loop.

I, being quasi-goth, was shocked to recently see my Arabic teacher, a little old lady of the first calibre and firmly Christian, wearing a rather nice silver ankh. I spent the hour-and-a-half lesson concocting lengthy daydreams on how she was a member of some secret cult; but when I finally asked her about it, the truth turned out to be far more mundane.

My teacher, it seemed, had travelled extensively in the Middle East - as one would expect. Apparently, the Ankh is a major symbol of the Coptic church, used in much of the same symbolic contexts as the cross is in, say, the Catholic or Anglican churches. The ankh was given to her by a Copt friend in Lebanon.

(Note: Maybe I'm lucky, but I have so far failed to acquire this game, even when I saw a stack of them in one second-hand store for ridiculously low price. Thus, this comment is mostly based on second-hand information...)

Back in the day, TSR made a little game called Dungeons & Dragons.
Thousands of companies said, "Hey! This is a fun game! We can make a game like this!" Thus was born many good role-playing games.
A lot of companies said, "My, isn't D&D popular! Let's make a game like this and get $$MONEY$$!!" Thus was born... the Garbage.

We have only bits and pieces of information, but back in 1988, when Protocol Productions published the Finnish translation of classic D&D, many other games started to creep to the Finnish RPG market. Many of them were original creations, some are unluckily fallen into obscurity. Or so the say. We're now talking about true hidden treasures here, folks. (Anyone got copy of Granag? Heard that's a pretty good D&D/Runequest module...)

The first RPG ever made in Finland was Miekka ja Magia, a somewhat legendary small-press game by Risto J. Hieta. Many game stories were frequently published in MikroBitti. Jesus, that was great stuff.

The second was ANKH, authored by Pasi Janhunen and published by Nelostuote, not exactly a highly ranked publisher. Which, surprisingly, is an acronym meaning Adventures of the North-Kalevala Heroes.

Nobody knew why the heck the name was in English, and the acronym failed to invoke the correct setting. (Egypt? Too freaking hot for Kalevalan heroes, thankyouverymuch.) Probably a pitiful attempt at making the game sound exotic or something.

The whole game reportedly smelled of... cheap. Game packaging was not good, the print quality was bad. There was one good picture, the cover picture, made by renowned fantasy comic artist Petri Hiltunen (who probably wants to forget the whole episode nowadays...), and the rest of the drawings were made by the game author, reportedly not as good.

The game itself was apparently a cheap variation of D&D, somewhat similar to Tunnels & Trolls, with some small elements from Runequest.

The game was set in Iron Age Finland, in the theme of Kalevala, as implied in the title. The problem was, while the game was Kalevalan in theme, there wasn't that much actual elements from Kalevala. Why "bard" character class instead of rune singer? The MikroBitti reviewer said the author might have found more horrifying monsters than what was found in the game by at least reading Kalevala at least once... Well, the game has the Giant Pike, and that's Definitely Enough. =)

Sources: my own recollections, Sininen Lohikäärme issue 2, my memory of one 1988 MikroBitti issue regarding RPGs in Finnish (I think it was J3 Kasvi's article), and various Usenet news articles that didn't have too much substance in this regard... this should be revised.

Ankh (?), n. [Egypt.] (Egypt. Archæol.)

A tau cross with a loop at the top, used as an attribute or sacred emblem, symbolizing generation or enduring life. Called also crux ansata.


© Webster 1913

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