5 reasons why vampire hunters should carry a sterling silver ankh instead of a cross
By Jenny Hill
Traditionally the cross is as basic a piece of vampire hunting kit as a stake, but I think that it is time that this received wisdom was questioned, as I believe we have all been conned by the undead with some very clever misinformation. It is in fact the ancient Egyptian Ankh which has the children of the night quaking in their velvet capes.
1. The ankh is older
First of all, there is the indisputable fact that the Christian cross is rather a recent symbol. Even during the first two centuries after the founding of Christianity the symbol of the cross was rather rare due to its connection with crucifixion (they preferred the friendlier image of a fish!). There are a number of cross-like symbols which pre-date Christian mythology (like the swastika in early Aryan mythology), but these are notably different from the standard cross as depicted in literature and moving pictures about vampire hunting. One of the earliest cross-like symbols was, of course, the Ankh itself, which is sometimes referred to as "crux ansata" (literally cross with handle).
2. The breath of life
Although there is great debate regarding the origin of the symbol (some say it is a sandal strap, others a fertility symbol depicting the thoracic vertebrae of a bull, others a belt buckle) there is a fair bit of consensus regarding its meaning - life, or more specifically the breath of life. As the simple Christian cross represents death and resurrection (something the undead are rather familiar with), but the ankh represents the breath of life (something the undead most certainly do not have), I think they are more likely to be bothered by the latter. There are literally thousands of depictions of Egyptian gods carrying the ankh in one of their hands and offering the ankh to pharaohs that they favour or to the deceased to give them everlasting life. During the Amarna period Akhenaten took the iconography one stage further and depicted little ankhs emanating from the sun god the Aten as its gift of life. It also makes regular appearances with the Was sceptre (strength) and Djed pillar (health) confirming again that it is a powerful force for good.
3. Ankh means mirror
In Middle Egyptian the word ankh also means mirror and as a result mirrors were often created in the form of the ankh. As everyone knows, vampires cast no reflection in a mirror making the ankh the anti-vampire symbol par excellence. You could carry a sterling silver ankh to confirm that your foe was indeed a vampire then use it to ward them off. This double meaning and use is typical of the kind of visual and linguistic puns that the ancient Egyptians loved.
4. Prevent undead rising
During the mummification process in ancient Egypt a ritual known as the opening of the mouth was used to bring the breath of life back to the deceased and the ankh was one of the amulets placed within the wrappings of the mummy. It is clear to me that this was intended to ensure that the deceased would not succumb to vampirism and that if they did they would be securely entombed within their sarcophagus (also known as "neb-ankh" - possessor of life). A sort of vampiric prophylactic, if you will.
5. Silver is pure
Finally, in many cultures silver has long been considered to be pure (hence its efficacy against werewolves and other nasties). This superstition has in fact been borne out by modern science, as it is now known that silver coated paper can be used to purify water in an emergency situation due to the anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties of the metal. I think that this is where the disinformation with holy water derives from; rather than getting a priest to bless your water, place your sterling silver ankh in the water. I wonder how many vampire hunters have met a gory end after chucking entirely harmless holy water in the face of a sniggering vampire.
My work here is done. May all fearsome slayers now be better prepared when they enter battle and may all vampires turn to dust at your feet. If you need to stock up on sterling silver ankhs look no further than Kemet Design for some stylish and potent jewellery to add to your arsenal.
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