Here's just one of many male Immortals the ancient Egyptians showed as carrying an ankh. This one, said to be Heru-Ur, holds it in his left hand:

Unlike the 'Was Sceptre' carried by male Immortals only, the Ankh was carried by female Immortals as well. Here's Sekhet with an Ankh in her right hand:

By the much later time of king Tutankhamun, a mortal pharoah in about the 1400s BC, the Ankh had become a small ornamental amulet. This and the Was Sceptre were thought to have magical properties. Nobles, scribes, and peasants wore small copies of these objects, hanging from their necks, just as today many people wear small crosses for pendants (and amulets), 2000 years after the time of Jesus of Nazareth. Here is a (rather poor quality) reproduction of the Tutankhamun amulet:

The Ankh is said to mean 'life.' Because it's often shown in ancient illustrations on the base of an Immortal's throne, like this:

it has been proposed that it had something to do with sandal straps. I grew up in a house about 500 years old where the front door key was about 5 inches long and about 2 inches wide, made of solid iron. It was very similar to an Ankh to look at. I suggest that what we are looking at with an Ankh is an ancient key. That is why, I think, both male and female Immortals carried them. The Immortals were very careful to keep well away from ordinary human beings, and it is logical to deduce the Immortals kept their private residences locked. These residences were at the top of huge ziggurats, where only very carefully selected personal human attendants (priests) were permitted entrance to the ante-rooms. What the Ankh sign would have been originally was the key to the life led by the Immortals. Only very few mortals attained that distinction. Apparently Enoch, the Hebrew patriarch, was one (Genesis 5.22.4); Elijah, the Bible prophet, was another (2 Kings 2:11); and Ganymedes, a beautiful youth of Phrygia, son of Troas, King of Troy, was another, taken to 'heaven' by Jupiter (Zeus). Ganymedes became a cupbearer to the Immortals. A fourth was Hercules, a half-immortal son of Jupiter and Alcmena. After many trials and tribulations Hercules found himself with an incurable disease caused by Dejanira's mystic tunic. Hercules tried to commit suicide but was swept up to 'heaven' by Jupiter in the same way as was Elijah in an altogether different society. (Jupiter to the Romans was Zeus to the ancient Greeks). Over a period of some several thousand years the Ankh key of the Immortals turned into a symbol, and a symbol for 'life' because the Immortals had been remote and long-lived during the time they were on this planet.

The Immortals are sometimes shown handing an Ankh to a (human) king, It has been said that this represents giving the king the breath of life. But it seems to me the king received the Ankh 'key' (originally actually, later symbolically) so that he could attend the Immortal councils. These were convened to decide on some course of action the king would be required to put into effect for the governance of the subject people, or when he attended to ask for advice. The phrase ' the key to the kingdom' lasted in Europe until the early 20th century, and ceremonial 'keys' are still occasionally presented by city mayors to visiting dignitaries.

The ancient Egyptians differentiated very clearly between the Immortals and the mortal kings appointed by the Immortals. The king Horus was said to be the son of Osiris and the mortal female Isis. What we see when we look at Horus, the half-Immortal king, is that he does not have an Ankh or Was Sceptre. He has a human face, he wears a different head-dress, the crown of which is a combination of the crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt combined. He holds a crook and flail:

It has been suggested that the flail is a fly swatter, or a shepherd's whip, or that it was 'originally an instrument used by goatherds for collecting ladanum.'

It seems to me much simpler than that. The clue to what is going on here comes from Genesis 4,2b (King James Version):

2.b. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.

3. And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord.

4. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock

The Hebrews reportedly spent many generations in Egypt. They were also later conquered by the Assyrians and many of them were transported to Mesopotamia. That's why the Bible has so many echoes of both Egyptian and Mesopotamian ancient traditions. According to ancient Sumerian (early Mesopotamian) literature, from humans who had previously been hunter-gatherers the Immortals 'fashioned' a type of human who became agriculturalists, operating the two staple industries the Immortals had created: herding and farming. Next the Immortals set up the kings to organize these uncouth elements into coherent societies of subject peoples. We have an example of this in the Biblical book of Exodus, where Yhwh organizes his new subject people, the Israelites, using Moses as a king in all but name. That's why Horus, as a king, has a crook and a flail. The crook is the shepherd's crook and the flail was used to winnow the chaff from the wheat or other grain on the threshing floor of a granary. Horus the king was (later, and symbolically) ruler of the sheep herders and the grain farmers.

In the next chapter we'll talk about the axe and double axe, which played an important part in the earliest civilized societies.