Goddess of truth, justice, wisdom, the stars, law, morality, order, harmony, the seasons, and cosmic balance
Maat was both the goddess and the personification of truth and justice. Her ostrich feather represents truth.
|Major cult center||All ancient Egyptian cities|
|Symbol||scales, ostrich feather|
|Parents||Ra and Hathor|
Maat or Maʽat (Egyptian mꜣꜥt /ˈmuʀʕat/)refers to the ancient Egyptian concepts of truth, balance, order, harmony, law, morality, and justice. Maat was also the goddess who personified these concepts, and regulated the stars, seasons, and the actions of mortals and the deities who had brought order from chaos at the moment of creation. Her ideological opposite was Isfet (Egyptian jzft ), meaning injustice, chaos, violence or to do evil.
Ancient Egypt was a civilization of ancient North Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in the place that is now the country Egypt. Ancient Egyptian civilization followed prehistoric Egypt and coalesced around 3100 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under Menes. The history of ancient Egypt occurred as a series of stable kingdoms, separated by periods of relative instability known as Intermediate Periods: the Old Kingdom of the Early Bronze Age, the Middle Kingdom of the Middle Bronze Age and the New Kingdom of the Late Bronze Age.
Truth is most often used to mean being in accord with fact or reality, or fidelity to an original or standard. Truth is also sometimes defined in modern contexts as an idea of "truth to self", or authenticity.
Law is a system of rules that are created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. It has been defined both as "the science of justice" and "the art of justice". Law regulates and ensures that individuals or a community adhere to the will of the state. State-enforced laws can be made by a collective legislature or by a single legislator, resulting in statutes, by the executive through decrees and regulations, or established by judges through precedent, normally in common law jurisdictions. Private individuals can create legally binding contracts, including arbitration agreements that may elect to accept alternative arbitration to the normal court process. The formation of laws themselves may be influenced by a constitution, written or tacit, and the rights encoded therein. The law shapes politics, economics, history and society in various ways and serves as a mediator of relations between people.
Cuneiform texts indicate that the word m3ˤt was pronounced /múʔʕa/ during the New Kingdom of Egypt, having lost the feminine ending t. ⲙⲉⲉ/ⲙⲉ "truth, justice".Vowel assimilation of u to e later produced the Coptic word
The New Kingdom, also referred to as the Egyptian Empire, is the period in ancient Egyptian history between the 16th century BC and the 11th century BC, covering the 18th, 19th, and 20th dynasties of Egypt. Radiocarbon dating places the exact beginning of the New Kingdom between 1570 BC and 1544 BC. The New Kingdom followed the Second Intermediate Period and was succeeded by the Third Intermediate Period. It was Egypt's most prosperous time and marked the peak of its power.
The earliest surviving records indicating that Maat is the norm for nature and society, in this world and the next, were recorded during the Old Kingdom of Egypt, the earliest substantial surviving examples being found in the Pyramid Texts of Unas (ca. 2375 BCE and 2345 BCE).
In ancient Egyptian history, the Old Kingdom is the period spanning c. 2686–2181 BC. It is also known as the "Age of the Pyramids" or the "Age of the Pyramid Builders", as it encompasses the reigns of the great pyramid builders of the Fourth Dynasty— among them King Sneferu, who perfected the art of pyramid-building, and the kings Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure, who constructed the pyramids at Giza. Egypt attained its first sustained peak of civilization during the Old Kingdom—the first of three so-called "Kingdom" periods which mark the high points of civilization in the lower Nile Valley.
The Pyramid Texts are the oldest known corpus of ancient Egyptian religious texts dating to the Old Kingdom. Written in Old Egyptian, the pyramid texts were carved onto the subterranean walls and sarcophagi of pyramids at Saqqara from the end of the Fifth Dynasty, and throughout the Sixth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom, and into the Eighth Dynasty of the First Intermediate Period.
Later, when most goddesses were paired with a male aspect, her masculine counterpart was Thoth, as their attributes are similar. In other accounts, Thoth was paired off with Seshat, goddess of writing and measure, who is a lesser-known deity.
Thoth is one of the ancient Egyptian deities. In art, he was often depicted as a man with the head of an ibis or a baboon, animals sacred to him. His feminine counterpart was Seshat, and his wife was Ma'at. He was the god of wisdom, writing, hieroglyphs, science, magic, art, judgment, and the dead.
Seshat, under various spellings, was the ancient Egyptian goddess of wisdom, knowledge, and writing. She was seen as a scribe and record keeper, and her name means she who scrivens, and is credited with inventing writing. She also became identified as the goddess of accounting, architecture, astronomy, astrology, building, mathematics, and surveying.
After her role in creation and continuously preventing the universe from returning to chaos, her primary role in ancient Egyptian religion dealt with the Weighing of the Heart that took place in the Duat.Her feather was the measure that determined whether the souls (considered to reside in the heart) of the departed would reach the paradise of the afterlife successfully.
Ancient Egyptian religion was a complex system of polytheistic beliefs and rituals that formed an integral part of ancient Egyptian society. It centered on the Egyptians' interaction with many deities believed to be present in, and in control of, the world. Rituals such as prayer and offerings were provided to the gods to gain their favor. Formal religious practice centered on the pharaohs, the rulers of Egypt, believed to possess a divine power by virtue of their position. They acted as intermediaries between their people and the gods, and were obligated to sustain the gods through rituals and offerings so that they could maintain Ma'at, the order of the cosmos. The state dedicated enormous resources to religious rituals and to the construction of temples.
Duat is the realm of the dead in ancient Egyptian mythology. It has been represented in hieroglyphs as a star-in-circle: 𓇽. The god Osiris was believed to be the lord of the underworld. He was the first mummy as depicted in the Osiris myth and he personified rebirth and life after death. The underworld was also the residence of various other gods along with Osiris. The Duat was the region through which the sun god Ra traveled from west to east each night, and it was where he battled Apophis, who embodied the primordial chaos which the sun had to defeat in order to rise each morning and bring order back to the earth. It was also the place where people's souls went after death for judgement, though that was not the full extent of the afterlife. Burial chambers formed touching-points between the mundane world and the Duat, and the ꜣḫ "the effectiveness of the dead", could use tombs to travel back and forth from the Duat.
The afterlife is the belief that the essential part of an individual's identity or the stream of consciousness continues after the death of the physical body. According to various ideas about the afterlife, the essential aspect of the individual that lives on after death may be some partial element, or the entire soul or spirit, of an individual, which carries with it and may confer personal identity or, on the contrary, may not, as in Buddhist nirvana. Belief in an afterlife is in contrast to the belief in oblivion after death.
Pharaohs are often depicted with the emblems of Maat to emphasise their role in upholding the laws and righteousness.
Pharaoh is the common title of the monarchs of ancient Egypt from the First Dynasty until the annexation of Egypt by the Roman Empire in 30 BCE, although the actual term "Pharaoh" was not used contemporaneously for a ruler until Merneptah, c. 1200 BCE. In the early dynasty, ancient Egyptian kings used to have up to three titles, the Horus, the Sedge and Bee (nswt-bjtj) name, and the Two Ladies (nbtj) name. The Golden Horus and nomen and prenomen titles were later added.
Maat represents the ethical and moral principle that every Egyptian citizen was expected to follow throughout their daily lives. They were expected to act with honor and truth in matters that involve family, the community, the nation, the environment, and the gods.
Maat as a principle was formed to meet the complex needs of the emergent Egyptian state that embraced diverse peoples with conflicting interests.The development of such rules sought to avert chaos and it became the basis of Egyptian law. From an early period the king would describe himself as the "Lord of Maat" who decreed with his mouth the Maat he conceived in his heart.
The significance of Maat developed to the point that it embraced all aspects of existence, including the basic equilibrium of the universe, the relationship between constituent parts, the cycle of the seasons, heavenly movements, religious observations and fair dealings, honesty, and truthfulness in social interactions.
The ancient Egyptians had a deep conviction of an underlying holiness and unity within the universe. Cosmic harmony was achieved by correct public and ritual life. Any disturbance in cosmic harmony could have consequences for the individual as well as the state. An impious king could bring about famine, and blasphemy could bring blindness to an individual.In opposition to the right order expressed in the concept of Maat is the concept of Isfet: chaos, lies and violence.
In addition to the importance of the Maat, several other principles within ancient Egyptian law were essential, including an adherence to tradition as opposed to change, the importance of rhetorical skill, and the significance of achieving impartiality and "righteous action". In one Middle Kingdom (2062 to c. 1664 BCE) text the Creator declares "I made every man like his fellow". Maat called the rich to help the less fortunate rather than exploit them, echoed in tomb declarations: "I have given bread to the hungry and clothed the naked" and "I was a husband to the widow and father to the orphan".
To the Egyptian mind, Maat bound all things together in an indestructible unity: the universe, the natural world, the state, and the individual were all seen as parts of the wider order generated by Maat.
A passage in the Instruction of Ptahhotep presents Maʽat as follows:
There is little surviving literature that describes the practice of ancient Egyptian law. Maat was the spirit in which justice was applied rather than the detailed legalistic exposition of rules. Maat represented the normal and basic values that formed the backdrop for the application of justice that had to be carried out in the spirit of truth and fairness. From the Fifth Dynasty (c. 2510–2370 BCE) onwards, the vizier responsible for justice was called the Priest of Maat and in later periods judges wore images of Maat.
Later scholars and philosophers also would embody concepts from the Sebayt, a native wisdom literature. These spiritual texts dealt with common social or professional situations, and how each was best to be resolved or addressed in the spirit of Maat. It was very practical advice, and highly case-based, so few specific and general rules could be derived from them.
During the Greek period in Egyptian history, Greek law existed alongside Egyptian law. The Egyptian law preserved the rights of women, who were allowed to act independently of men and own substantial personal property, and in time, this influenced the more restrictive conventions of the Greeks and Romans.When the Romans took control of Egypt, the Roman legal system, which existed throughout the Roman Empire, was imposed in Egypt.
Scribes held prestigious positions in ancient Egyptian society in view of their importance in the transmission of religious, political, and commercial information.
Thoth was the patron of scribes who is described as the one "who reveals Maat and reckons Maat; who loves Maat and gives Maat to the doer of Maat".In texts such as the Instruction of Amenemope the scribe is urged to follow the precepts of Maat in his private life as well as his work. The exhortations to live according to Maat are such that these kinds of instructional texts have been described as "Maat Literature".
|Goddess Maat |
Maat was the goddess of harmony, justice, and truth represented as a young woman.Sometimes she is depicted with wings on each arm or as a woman with an ostrich feather on her head. The meaning of this emblem is uncertain, although the god Shu, who in some myths is Maat's brother, also wears it. Depictions of Maat as a goddess are recorded from as early as the middle of the Old Kingdom (c. 2680 to 2190 BCE).
The sun-god Ra came from the primaeval mound of creation only after he set his daughter Maat in place of Isfet (chaos). Kings inherited the duty to ensure Maat remained in place, and they with Ra are said to "live on Maat", with Akhenaten (r. 1372–1355 BCE) in particular emphasising the concept to a degree that, John D. Ray asserts, the king’s contemporaries viewed as intolerance and fanaticism.Some kings incorporated Maat into their names, being referred to as Lords of Maat, or Meri-Maat (Beloved of Maat).
Maat had an invaluable role in the ceremony of the Weighing of the Heart. (See below: "The Weighing of the Heart").
The earliest evidence for a dedicated temple is in the New Kingdom (c. 1569 to 1081 BCE) era, despite the great importance placed on Maat. Amenhotep III commissioned a temple in the Karnak complex, whilst textual evidence indicates that other temples of Maat were located in Memphis and at Deir el-Medina.The Maat temple at the Karnak complex was also used by courts to meet regarding the robberies of the royal tombs during the rule of Ramesses IX.
In the Duat, the Egyptian underworld, the hearts of the dead were said to be weighed against her single "Feather of Maʽat", symbolically representing the concept of Maat, in the Hall of Two Truths. This is why hearts were left in Egyptian mummies while their other organs were removed, as the heart (called "ib") was seen as part of the Egyptian soul. If the heart was found to be lighter or equal in weight to the feather of Maat, the deceased had led a virtuous life and would go on to Aaru. Osiris came to be seen as the guardian of the gates of Aaru after he became part of the Egyptian pantheon and displaced Anubis in the Ogdoad tradition. A heart which was unworthy was devoured by the goddess Ammit and its owner condemned to remain in the Duat.
The weighing of the heart, pictured on papyrus in the Book of the Dead typically, or in tomb scenes, shows Anubis overseeing the weighing and Ammit seated awaiting the results so she could consume those who failed. The image would be the vertical heart on one flat surface of the balance scale and the vertical Shu-feather standing on the other balance scale surface. Other traditions hold that Anubis brought the soul before the posthumous Osiris who performed the weighing. While the heart was weighed the deceased recited the 42 Negative Confessions as the Assessors of Maat looked on.
Egyptians were often entombed with funerary texts in order to be well equipped for the afterlife as mandated by ancient Egyptian funerary practices. These often served to guide the deceased through the afterlife, and the most famous one is the Book of the Dead or Papyrus of Ani (known to the ancient Egyptians as The Book of Coming Forth by Day). The lines of these texts are often collectively called the "Forty-Two Declarations of Purity".These declarations varied somewhat from tomb to tomb as they were tailored to the individual, and so cannot be considered a canonical definition of Maat. Rather, they appear to express each tomb owner's individual practices in life to please Maat, as well as words of absolution from misdeeds or mistakes, made by the tomb owner in life could be declared as not having been done, and through the power of the written word, wipe particular misdeed from the afterlife record of the deceased. Many of the lines are similar, however, and paint a very unified picture of Maat.
The doctrine of Maat is represented in the declarations to Rekhti-merti-f-ent-Maat and the 42 Negative Confessions listed in the Papyrus of Ani. The following are translations by E. A. Wallis Budge.
From the Papyrus of Ani .
The Assessors of Maat are the 42 deities listed in the Papyrus of Nebseni,to whom the deceased make the Negative Confession in the Papyrus of Ani . They represent the 42 united nomes of Egypt, and are called "the hidden Maati gods, who feed upon Maat during the years of their lives;" i.e., they are the righteous minor deities who deserve offerings. As the deceased follows the set formula of Negative Confessions, he addresses each god directly and mentions the nome of which the god is a patron, in order to emphasize the unity of the nomes of Egypt.
Anubis or Inpu, Anpu in Ancient Egyptian is the Greek name of the god of death, mummification, embalming, the afterlife, cemeteries, tombs, and the Underworld, in ancient Egyptian religion, usually depicted as a canine or a man with a canine head. Archeologists have identified Anubis's sacred animal as an Egyptian canid, the African golden wolf.
Nut, also known by various other transcriptions, is the goddess of the sky, stars, cosmos, mothers, astronomy, and the universe in the ancient Egyptian religion. She was seen as a star-covered nude woman arching over the Earth, or as a cow. She was depicted wearing the water-pot sign (nw) that identifies her.
The ancient Egyptians believed that a soul was made up of many parts. In addition to these components of the soul, there was the human body.
Babi, also Baba, in ancient Egypt, was the deification of the hamadryas baboon, one of the animals present in ancient Egypt. His name is usually translated as "bull of the baboons", roughly meaning "chief of the baboons".
The Book of the Dead is an ancient Egyptian funerary text generally written on papyrus and used from the beginning of the New Kingdom to around 50 BCE. The original Egyptian name for the text, transliterated rw nw prt m hrw, is translated as Book of Coming Forth by Day or Book of Emerging Forth into the Light. "Book" is the closest term to describe the loose collection of texts consisting of a number of magic spells intended to assist a dead person's journey through the Duat, or underworld, and into the afterlife and written by many priests over a period of about 1000 years.
The ushabti was a funerary figurine used in ancient Egyptian religion. The Egyptological term is derived from Ancient Egyptian: 𓅱𓈙𓃀𓏏𓏭𓀾wšbtj, which replaced earlier 𓆷𓍯𓃀𓏏𓏭𓀾 šwbtj, perhaps the nisba of 𓈙𓍯𓃀𓆭 šwꜣb "Persea tree".
The Ipuwer Papyrus is an ancient Egyptian hieratic papyrus made during the Nineteenth Dynasty of Egypt, and now held in the Dutch National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden, Netherlands. It contains the Admonitions of Ipuwer, an incomplete literary work whose original composition is dated no earlier than the late Twelfth Dynasty of Egypt.
The Papyrus of Ani is a papyrus manuscript in the form of a scroll with cursive hieroglyphs and color illustrations that was created c. 1250 BCE, during the nineteenth dynasty of the New Kingdom of ancient Egypt. Egyptians compiled an individualized book for certain people upon their death, called the Book of Going Forth by Day, more commonly known as the Book of the Dead, typically containing declarations and spells to help the deceased in their afterlife. The Papyrus of Ani is the manuscript compiled for the Theban scribe Ani.
Instruction of Amenemope is a literary work composed in Ancient Egypt, most likely during the Ramesside Period ; it contains thirty chapters of advice for successful living, ostensibly written by the scribe Amenemope son of Kanakht as a legacy for his son. A characteristic product of the New Kingdom “Age of Personal Piety”, the work reflects on the inner qualities, attitudes, and behaviors required for a happy life in the face of increasingly difficult social and economic circumstances. It is widely regarded as one of the masterpieces of ancient near-eastern wisdom literature and has been of particular interest to modern scholars because of its relationship to the biblical Book of Proverbs.
Ancient Egyptian literature was written in the Egyptian language from ancient Egypt's pharaonic period until the end of Roman domination. It represents the oldest corpus of Egyptian literature. Along with Sumerian literature, it is considered the world's earliest literature.
The ancient Egyptian papyrus stem hieroglyph is one of the oldest language hieroglyphs from Ancient Egypt. The papyrus stalk, was incorporated into designs of columns on buildings, also facades, and is also in the iconographic art portrayed in Ancient Egyptian decorated scenes.
The Heart scarab is an oval, scarab artifact dating from ancient Egypt. Mostly an amulet, it was also used as jewelry, a memorializing artifact, or a grave good. The heart scarab was used by referring to Chapter 30 from the Book of the Dead, and the weighing of the heart, being balanced by Goddess Maat, of Justice, Truth, & Order. As in many current religions, the individual had to show 'worthiness' to achieve the Afterlife. Another concept in Egyptian reliefs states the name of the individual being honored and saying: person xxx, the Justified, using two hieroglyphs.
The Egyptian Book of the Dead of Qenna is a papyrus document housed at the Dutch National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden. One of several thousand papyri containing material drawn from Book of the Dead funerary texts, Qenna uniquely includes a passage that describes a deceased person’s activity in an afterlife location it calls the “house of hearts.” While the house of hearts is mentioned in at least two tomb inscriptions, Qenna treats it in more detail. The passage appears as an addendum within Spell 151 of the Book of the Dead:
"You will enter the house of hearts, the place which is full of hearts. You will take the one that is yours and put it in its place, without your hand being hindered. Your foot will not be stopped from walking. You will not walk upside down. You will walk upright."
Ancient Egyptian afterlife beliefs were centered around a variety of complex rituals, that were influenced by many aspects of Egyptian culture. Religion was a major contributor, since it was an important social practice that bound all Egyptians together. For instance, many of the Egyptian gods played roles in guiding the souls of the dead through the afterlife. With the evolution of writing, religious ideals were recorded and quickly spread throughout the Egyptian community. The solidification and commencement of these doctrines were formed in the creation of afterlife texts which illustrated and explained what the dead would need to know in order to complete the journey safely.
The Cavern deities of the underworld were ancient Egyptian minor deities charged with punishing the damned souls by beheading and devouring them.
The Assessors of Maat were 42 minor ancient Egyptian deities of the Maat charged with judging the souls of the dead in the afterlife by joining the judgment of Osiris in the Weighing of the Heart.