Egyptian Gods: Ma’at
Ma’at is the ancient Egyptian goddess that represented the conceptions of divine order, balance, morality, truth, reality and justice. She came into being when Ra rose from the waters of Nun, thus she is known to be one of his daughters. In this aspect, she is said to have set the world in order after the creation, especially the behavior of the stars, the seasons, the mortals and even the deities. She is the wife and consort of Thoth and bore eight children with him who later became the eight primeval deities of Hermopolis (the most famous of which is Amun). Her name, sometimes also spelled “Mayet”, literally means, “That which is straight”.
She is often depicted a woman, seated or standing, whose crown had a single ostrich feather protruding from it. She may also be seen as a woman with ostrich feathers for a headdress or sometimes, as a woman with an ostrich feather as her head. She is also occasionally depicted as a winged goddess. She holds a specter in one hand and the symbol of ankh in another. She is often associated with the symbols of the scales and the primeval mound where the god creator stood at the beginning of time.
Ma’at is revered for bringing the end of chaos and giving structure into a world once ruled by darkness and disarray. That is why pharaohs made sure to uphold her principles lest chaos return and destroy the world. All rulers respected her but her most fervent followers included the Pharaohs Akhenaten and Hatshepsut. Hatshepsut even built a temple to her honor in Karnak near the precinct of Montu and named her throne Ma’atkare which literally translates into “justice is the soul of re”.
As the goddess of justice, she is the patron of judges who wore small pendants of her as a sign of her authority over them.
She is believed to be the antithesis of life in Upper and Lower Egypt – where one is a fertile valley and the other a barren desert. In this aspect, she emphasized her role as the protector of good and the destroyer of evil and the maintainer of balance.
As a daughter or eye of Ra, she is believed to have chartered the course which the sun God follows in his journey across the skies. Some scholars believe she was in the sky boat and helped her father steer it during every journey.
Hall of Ma’at
The Hall of Two Truths, otherwise known as the Hall of Ma’at, signifies the rite of passage each souls must undertake in order to live in bliss in the kingdom of Osiris. Her feather of truth was weighed on one side of the scale against the heart of the dead. Ma’at is the central figure in this rite. Each soul must recite the forty-two truths of Ma’at. Thoth serves as the prosecutor and Osiris and his sisters Isis and Nephthys as judges. If a heart is found as light as the feather of Ma’at, they will be granted passage into Aaru for eternal life. However, if a heart is heavier than that of the feather, the deceased is conceived to be burdened of evil and sin. The heart will then be given to Ammit – who will devour the heart or throw it into the blazing fiery lake rendering the soul into oblivion, unending restlessness and second death.
42 Truths or Confessions of Ma’at
- I have not committed sin.
- I have not committed robbery with violence.
- I have not stolen.
- I have not slain men and women.
- I have not stolen grain.
- I have not purloined offerings.
- I have not stolen the property of the god.
- I have not uttered lies.
- I have not carried away food.
- I have not uttered curses.
- I have not committed adultery, I have not lain with men.
- I have made none to weep.
- I have not eaten the heart [i.e I have not grieved uselessly, or felt remorse].
- I have not attacked any man.
- I am not a man of deceit.
- I have not stolen cultivated land.
- I have not been an eavesdropper.
- I have slandered [no man].
- I have not been angry without just cause.
- I have not debauched the wife of any man.
- I have not debauched the wife of [any] man. (repeats the previous affirmation but adressed to a different god)
- I have not polluted myself.
- I have terrorised none.
- I have not transgressed [the Law].
- I have not been wroth.
- I have not shut my ears to the words of truth.
- I have not blasphemed.
- I am not a man of violence.
- I am not a stirrer up of strife (or a disturber of the peace).
- I have not acted (or judged) with undue haste.
- I have not pried into matters.
- I have not multiplied my words in speaking.
- I have wronged none, I have done no evil.
- I have not worked witchcraft against the King (or blasphemed against the King).
- I have never stopped [the flow of] water.
- I have never raised my voice (spoken arrogantly, or in anger).
- I have not cursed (or blasphemed) God.
- I have not acted with arrogance.
- I have not stolen the bread of the gods.
- I have not carried away the khenfu cakes from the Spirits of the dead.
- I have not snatched away the bread of the child, nor treated with contempt the god of my city.
- I have not slain the cattle belonging to the god
Her roles in ancient Egypt are further explained and implied in the various epithets that were given to her including:
- Directress of the Underworld Justice
- Lady of the Hall of Judgment
- Lady of the Heavens
- Queen of Earth
- Ma’at the Beautiful
- Perfect Measure
- Right Order
- Sustainer of the Sun
- The Changeless
- The Good Gift
- The Undeviating
- That which Is True
- Tracer of the Course of the Sun
- Twofold Truth
- The Measure of the Heart
Ma’at was loved throughout all Egypt and her cult center is found in Karnak where the ruins of her temple still lies.