Egyptian Symbol Gallery

01
of 14
Ankh

Egyptian Ankh
Catherine Beyer

Ancient and modern meanings of ancient Egyptian symbols.

The ankh is the most well-known symbol to come out of ancient Egypt. In their hieroglyphic system of writing the ankh represents the concept of eternal life, and that is the general meaning of the symbol.

Read more: The Ankh

02
of 14
Was Symbol

Was Symbol Ancient Egyptian
Acient Egyptian Symbols. Catherine Beyer

The was symbol represented a ceremonial staff and was often displayed in connection with the ankh. The was staff is often seen in the hands of various gods, particularly Anubis and Set. The crooked top of the staff mirrors the strange animal shape of Set's own head. A physical was bears the carved head of this animal. The was staff was a symbol of power and rulership, as ceremonial staffs and scepters generally are.

03
of 14
Eye of Horus

Eye of Horus
Ancient Egyptian Symbols. Jeff Dahl

After the ankh symbol, the icon commonly called the eye of Horus is the next most well known. It consists of a stylized eye and eyebrow. Two lines extend from the bottom of the eye, possibly to mimic the facial markings on a falcon local to Egypt, as Horus's symbol was a falcon.

In fact, three different names are applied to this symbol: the eye of Horus, the eye of Ra, and the Wadjet. These names are based on the meaning behind the symbol, not specifically its construction. Without any context, it is impossible to definitively determine which symbol is meant.

Read more: Eye of Horus

04
of 14
Djed Column

Djed Symbol - Ancient Egyptian
Ancient Egyptian Symbols. Catherine Beyer

The djed column as an Egyptian hieroglyph represented stability. It was often displayed artistically in combination with the was staff and the ankh, which created a combined meaning of strength, success, longevity and long life.

Because Egyptian culture survived for such an immensely long time – more than two thousand years – it contains many contradictory myths as well as vastly different meanings for various symbols. These evolve over time as old ideas become incorporated into new myths or gods ascending in popularity start taking over aspects of other deities.

Read more: Djed Column

05
of 14
Ankhs, Was Staves, and Coptic Cross Image

Coptic Cross on Ancient Monument with Ankhs and Was Symbols
Remih

The ankh, was staff, and djed column were often used in combination with each other in ancient Egypt. Here a pattern of alternating was staves and ankhs is obvious on a pillar at the Philae temple. With the coming of Christianity, Coptic Christians carved a version of their cross into the column as the temple was re-purposed as a church.

06
of 14
Eye of Horus within Triangle

Eye of Horus Triangle
Modern Egyptian Symbol. Jeff Dahl, modified by Catherine Beyer

The Eye of Horus is an ancient Egyptian symbol. However, turn of the century occultism and then new age beliefs adopted the symbol, often placing with within an equilateral triangle. While the eye is ancient, this depiction within a triangle is not.

Those who use the symbol often see it as representing knowledge, enlightenment, and insight, particularly into spiritual and esoteric matters, although there are certainly other interpretations as well.

Perhaps the most famous depiction of the symbol is in an image of Aleister Crowley where it is emblazoned on his hat.

The eye might face left or right.

Some connect it with the Eye of Providence, which exists within Christian and deist contexts. This is the watchful eye of a superior power surveying humanity. This connection is particularly emphasized by conspiracy theorists who believe in an overbearing New World Order which inserts its own pagan or Satanic images into otherwise innocuous contexts.

07
of 14
Confessions of Aleister Crowley's Eye of Horus

Confessions of Aleister Crowley
From the Confessions of Aleister Crowley

An Eye of Horus within a triangle within a sunburst. An image used by Aleister Crowley and the Golden Dawn. This version comes from Crowley's autobiography, the Confessions of Aleister Crowley.

08
of 14
Aleister Crowley with Eye of Horus

Aleister Crowley with Eye of Ra

A photo of early 20th-century Thelemic prophet Aleister Crowley in ceremonial attire, including an Eye of Horus, set within a sunburst triangle placed on his hat.

09
of 14
Old Coptic Cross

Old Coptic Cross
Catherine Beyer

An old-style Coptic Christian cross bearing clear influence from the Egyptian Ankh.

Read more: Coptic Cross

10
of 14
Modern Coptic Cross

Modern Coptic Cross
David A se

Old style Coptic crosses bear a clear influence from the Egyptian Ankh. However, modern Coptic crosses have largely lost that influence. Rather, they are equal-armed crosses which may or may no have a circle within or behind the center-point of the symbol.

Read more: Coptic Cross

11
of 14
American Coptic Logo

American Coptic Logo

Coptic Christianity has its own set of symbols. The old Coptic cross bears a strong influence from the Egyptian Ankh. Modern Coptic crosses often lose that influence, appearing as equal-armed crosses. However, modern Coptic organizations may still employ older symbols, sometimes returning to the ankh itself. Both the Christian cross and the ankh are strong symbols of eternal life and resurrection, so the connection can be easy to make.

This image comes from the American Coptic website. It bears an equal armed cross set within what is clearly an ankh. A sunrise is set behind the symbol, another reference to resurrection.

Read more: Coptic Crosses

12
of 14
United Copt of Great Britain Logo with Ankh

United Copts of UK Logo
United Copts of the UK

Coptic Christianity has its own set of symbols. The old Coptic cross bears a strong influence from the Egyptian Ankh. Modern Coptic crosses often lose that influence, appearing as equal-armed crosses. However, modern Coptic organizations may still employ older symbols, sometimes returning to the ankh itself. Both the Christian cross and the ankh are strong symbols of eternal life and resurrection, so the connection can be easy to make.

This image comes from the United Copts of Great Britain website. Lacking any sort of a Christian cross, it displays only an ankh and a pair of lotus blooms, both references to their ancient culture.

 

Read more: Coptic Crosses

13
of 14
Eye of Ra

Eye of Ra
Asavaa

The term "Eye of Ra" is used in a couple different contexts. Sometimes it is a symbol similar to the Eye of Horus. However, the Eye of Ra is more than simply a reference to a part of a god. The Eye of Ra is its own distinct thing in Egyptian mythology, a feminine power that works Ra's will, often in the hands of a variety of different goddesses such as Hathor and Sekhmet. It is most often represented by a sun disk with a cobra surrounding it, such as is shown here. Ankhs handing from the cobras' necks are not uncommon.

Read more: Eye of Horus and Related Symbols

14
of 14
Wadjet Eye

Wadjet Eye
Public Domain

This is most likely a Wadjet Eye, similar to the Eye of Horus. The distinguishing feature here is the cobra to the right of the eye, which represents the goddess Wadjet. Wadjet is the patron goddess of Lower Egypt, and the cobra here wears the crown of Lower Egypt. The vulture to the left is Nekhbet, the patron goddess of Upper Egypt.

Read more: Eye of Horus and Related Symbols