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Ma'at:Goddess of Truth and Justice

By Kendra
(Written for Ecclasia)


To understand Mm'at,
balance a feather on its tip in the palm of your hand.

Ma'at literally means "Truth" in Egyptian. And in Ancient Egypt, Ma'at was not just a Goddess, but a concept as well. The concept, ma'at, was that which all of the people of Egypt had to adhere to. From the lowliest of the peoples up to the Pharoah himself. Each class of people had a different amount of responsibility to uphold the concept of ma'at. The Pharoah was the most responsible because he was the ruler of all Egypt, so he must be exemplary in this matter. Whereas the poorest people who were struggling from day to day had little or no responsibility towards upholding the laws of ma'at, because they had enough things to worry about. The concept of ma'at was why the Goddess Ma'at was so important to the Egyptian culture.

The Goddess Ma'at was that which kept balance and order in the entire Universe! Not just the people of Egypt, but everything in the heavens and the earth bowed down to the rules of Ma'at. She was what controlled the seasons, she controlled the water flowing in the oceans, and she controlled the circle of life among the animals. She controlled life and death, and all that was. And she kept it all in balance.

The story of Ma'at starts at the beginning of creation. When the God Ra settled the waters of Nun (the gods of chaos), Ma'at was born. She was his daughter, and yet she did not answer to Ra, he answered to her. Because she controlled the entire Universe. And being the Goddess of balance, she is not only there at the beginning of life, she is also there at the end.

Her greatest duty of all is that of judging those who die. When the Egyptians died, they went to the Hall of Ma'ati (double halls of truth). There they found the Goddess Ma'at, with her scales and her Ostrich feather. The myth of this event is somewhat confusing, because in some legends she is the Wife of Thoth, who has the head of the Ibis, and he is the one who weights the heart of the dead on her scales. Others say that she is the wife of Anubis, who has the head of a Jackal, and it is he who weights the heart of the dead on her scales. After the heart is placed on the scales, it is weighted against her Ostrich feather. If the scales do not tip, then the heart is light and the deceased may pass on to heaven. But if the scales tip towards the heart, then they have not lived a life of ma'at, and will be eaten by the demon Goddess, Ammuti. This is where we get the phrases "light hearted" and "heavy hearted."

Another important part of Ma'at's legends are the 42 Admonitions of Ma'at. These are 42 rules of how to live your life according to the concept of ma'at. These were written 1500 years before the Ten Commandments, and some scholars believe that these are what inspired Moses to write the Ten Commandments. I see these 42 admonitions as much more detailed, and some more realistic in what makes a person's life balanced and just. Some of the admonitions include, "I have not made anyone weep," "I have not turned the earth without cause," "I have not exploited the weakness of any man," "I have not demanded undo praise for my name," and "I have not turned away from any god in fear or shame." These are principles of how to live your life in balance with man and nature.

Because of the Goddess Ma'at being both a Goddess of truth and justice, and a concept of balance and order, she was the main icon of Judges and Courts. In Egypt, the judges would wear a feather on their heads, and most of them were also priests of Ma'at. The courts were often temples to Ma'at. Because of this, when the Greek culture took over power, they used the word "Logos" for ma'at. Logos was what they used to judge a person's life. In the bible, "Logos" was used instead of "Word," which was another name for "Jesus." John 1:1 "In the beginning was the logos*, and the logos* was with God and the logos* was God."

The representation of the Goddess Ma'at was that of a teenage, winged girl. Sometimes also depicted as twin girls. She always wears the Ostrich plume on her head, and holds the scales in her hand when weighting the hearts of the dead. She is wife to either Anubis or Thoth, and has no children of her own. She is a Goddess of the Equinoxes, when day and night are of equal length, and when the seasons are in the waning. Her name literally means "Truth," and she is the Goddess of truth, justice, balance and order. She is the Goddess for Libras. She is the Goddess Themis in Greece and the Goddess Tiamat in Babylonia. She is neither good nor evil, because nature needs both to exist, she is neutral.


Invocation of the Gods: Ancient Egyptian Magic for Today by Ellen Cannon Reed













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This page last updated March 10, 2004