We associate the Ankh with the ancient Egyptians as it can be seen in many of their writings and artefacts, and can be seen in the Egyptian pantheon next to or in the hand of, almost every deity.
Ankh is also known in Latin as "crux ansata" which translates to, "cross with a handle", which makes sense due to the fact many Egyptian gods are seen in drawings to be carrying the ankh by its loop handle. They are also seen with the cross with it held with both arms held over their chest, and sometimes with one in each hand.
The general meaning of the symbol is "life" and is used quite literally as well as metaphorically. It is thought that the fact that many of the Gods carrying an Ankh that were painted within tombs were to signify the gift of life into the afterlife.
Similarities have been made between ankh, and the symbol "Tyet" the knot of Isis. The meanings are the same, meaning Life and Welfare, but linking it closely to the goddess Isis.
Ankh was considered to be such an important symbol, that it has even been found in archaeological digs as far as Mesopotamia and Persia, and was even featured on the seal of the biblical king Hezekiah.
With such importance and provenance, it is no surprise that the symbol has carried on today to evoke a similar meaning. The symbol was adopted in New Age mysticism in the 1960s as well as having a place in Paganism and many other communities.
In many communities such as Wiccans and Pagans, the symbol is used as a healing tool, using the symbology of life to aid the healer. The Ankh would be placed over areas of the body that require attention, regeneration or divine healing. The Ankh is predominantly used with forms of magick and is sometimes worn as an amulet to protect the wearer from negative energies and bad luck, maintaining the bearers "life" energy.