Egyptian Gods: Ammit

In Egyptian mythology, Ammit is the funerary deity who represents the divine retribution of all souls. She appears with the head of a crocodile, the body of a lion or a wild cat and the hindquarters of hippopotamus (based on the premise that these are the largest and most feared man-eating animals known to ancient Egyptians). The name Ammit also spelled as Ammut, Amhemit, Ammet, Amam or Amemet.  Literally her name means “devourer” and so she also acquired titles like “The Devourer of the Dead”, “Devourer of Millions”, “Demoness of Death”, “Demoness of the Underworld”, “Eater of Hearts”, “Bone Eater”, “Eater of Souls”, “Greatness of Death”, and “Dweller or Devourer in Amenta (a place West of Nile where many Egyptian cemeteries were located)”.

According to the myths, Ammit sits beneath the Scales of Justice of Ma’at (Goddess of Truth) in the Hall of Truth before the Throne of Osiris (Patron of the Underworld). She waits for souls to be ferried in by Anubis (Conductor of Souls).  Each soul, after performing the crucial rituals after his death, is given the chance to defend the deeds of his previous existence.  Thoth (God of Wisdom) serves as the prosecutor while Osiris and the goddesses Isis and Nephthys are judges. After the prosecution, each heart of the deceased is weighed on the scale against an ostrich feather from the headband of Ma’at. If a heart’s weight is found to be “as light as a feather” (a sign of not being completely good but reasonably balanced), the soul is then given to Osiris for admittance to Aaru for eternal life. For hearts heavier than the feather, Anubis feeds the heart to Ammit for devouring, ensuring no further physical existence and eternal restlessness of the soul. This means dying the second time for believers. Ammit represents every aspect of afterlife that the Egyptians feared.

Other scholars believed that Ammit resides near the lake of fire in Duat (the underworld) and protects it. After every judgment, she throws the hearts of the wicked into the fiery lake to be destroyed.

Often she is not worshiped as other goddesses but is seen primarily as a warning that every Egyptian should abide by the principles of Ma’at. She is sometimes even personified as a demon, but in reality she acts as one to ensure order, enforce good, and ward off evil. She is an emblem that every person is given a chance to defend his or her actions before being adjudged to eternal damnation.

She is linked to the hippopotamus goddess Tawaret by virtue of appearance and evil-warding functions, and to Sekhmet by virtue of the lioness features and of their protective functions of the lake of fire.