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.