Friday, May 25, 2012

Dr. Fate and the Ankh Symbol

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Dr. Fate has become synonymous with the Egyptian Ankh symbol.  Whether he is casting spells, teleporting or shooting energy from his hands, the ankh symbol is present.  I had to ask myself however, "when and how did this begin?"  When one looks back to the Golden Age Dr. Fate, the ankh symbols are not present.  And during the Golden Age, when Dr. Fate does shoot off energy from his hands, it is usually in the form of bolts.  

I asked Martin Pasko about Dr. Fate's association with the ankh symbol over a brief conversation via twitter private messages.  Mr. Pasko stated that he believed that it was he and Walt Simonson who first had Dr. Fate conjure up the ankh symbol in the Dr. Fate 1st Issue Special.

Mr. Pasko gave Mr. Simonson credit for incorporating the ankh symbol as a design element stating that "He used the ankh because of the Egyptian theme. My idea was that a different symbol would be used depending on which "theology" was being invoked."  Mr. Pasko also explained that "In the FLASH mini I did with Keith Giffen, he was supposed to have "manifested" Aztec glyphs as the visual, but I seem to recall Keith just did the ankh thing again, and that became his trademark visual shtik."  So there you have it, this is how Dr. Fate came to invoke the iconic ankh symbol.

As far as the original meaning of the ankh symbol, gives the following definition and description: 

"While the origins of the ankh may be obscure, the meaning is certainly clear - "life". It is with this basic connotation that the sign is carried in the hands of many Egyptian deities.
The ankh may represent the life-giving elements of air and water. It was often shown being offered to the king's lips as a symbol of the "breath of life." Anthropomorphic pictures of the ankh sometimes show it holding an ostrich-feather fan behind the pharaoh in a variant form of this idea. Similarly, chains of ankhs were shown poured out of water vessels over the king as a symbol of the regenerating power of water. Libation vessels which held the water used in religious ceremonies were themselves sometimes produced in the shape of the ankh hieroglyph.
The popularity of the ankh is evident in the numerous and varied types of everyday objects which were shaped in the form of the ankh. In Tutankhamun's tomb, a gilded mirror case was found in the shape of the ankh (see above left). The artist clearly was enjoying a play on words, as the Egyptian word for "mirror" was also, "ankh." Other objects such as spoons and sistrums were constructed in this familiar shape.
The ankh was popular throughout Egyptian history and due to its cruciform shape remained so into the Coptic period. It entered Christian iconography as the crux ansata, the handled or "eyed" cross."
I want to thank Mr. Pasko for being gracious enough to answer my question.  Be sure to follow him at @MartinPasko and to follow Mr. Simonson @Waltersimonson on twitter.  


  1. Check out BACK ISSUE MAGAZINE #24 for a great article on the Doctor Fate Pasko/Simonson reimaging. Wonderful article. Well worth anyone's time, yours especially. You can get it digitally cheap over on Twomorrows website.

    The Irredeemable Shag