Women In Law Edition 21'

Philosophy and Thought


Nada Nayel

Maat ,also spelled Ma’at, is the goddess of truth, justice, wisdom and cosmic order, in the form of a lady with the ostrich feather on her head, is the symbol of justice, she holds the key to life (Ankh) in one hand and holds in her other hand the scepter of judgment and sometimes it symbolizes the goddess of truth and justice only by the ostrich feather. The illustration of Maat as a goddess began to appear as early as the middle of the Old Kingdom.

Maat represented the most fundamental religious concept of the Egyptian view of the world. It was a concept of demand to the world that the gods, pharaohs and ordinary people had to obey.

Maat was the harmony of the Universe. Lack of Maat and her departure meant an inevitable return to the original chaos (Nu) and the end of the known world.

In the beliefs of the ancient Egyptians, Maat’s role in the afterlife can be demonstrated due to the importance of the ostrich feather as it played a massive role during the final judgment. The people believed that before entering the afterlife, the deceased was expected to deny all the evil deeds he might have committed in his lifetime. In such a case, he appeared before the goddess of truth, Maat, to go through confrontation.

This confrontation is called the “Weighing of the Heart” ceremony, in the ceremony the feather's lightweight was used as a counterweight to the human heart, which was believed to be the base of the soul. If the heart was heavier than the feather, that means the evil deeds of this person were too massive and his soul would be consumed by Ammut, who was a female demon and goddess with a body that was a combination of lion, hippopotamus and her head was of a crocodile and meaning that Ammut took his soul, he went to hell.

However, if the heart was lighter than the feather of Maat, or its weight was equal, the soul could live on in the afterlife which means go to paradise, help Osiris, the god of the afterlife, in judgment, associate with other souls, or even return to earth periodically to visit family and certain places.

The Ancient Egyptians also had an advanced legal system to ensure that Maat remained in daily life. It is thought that the Priests of Maat were involved in the justice system as well as tending to the needs of the goddess, and Pharaohs depicted Ma’at to affirm their commitment to order and justice.

Also to affirm the important role of Maat in ancient Egyptians and how powerful of an impact it had on the people, there were Laws and Ideals called, ‘THE 42 LAWS OF MAAT’ and ‘THE 42 IDEALS OF MAAT’. The 42 Laws of Ma’at, known as The Declaration of Innocence or Negative Confessions, is a list of 42 sins that the soul of the deceased honestly declares it has never committed when it stands for judgment in the afterlife. A few examples from the laws are:

1- I have not committed sin

2- I have not committed robbery with violence

3- I have not stolen

4- I have not slain men and women

5- I have not stolen food

6- I have not swindled offerings

7- I have not stolen from God/strong>

8- I have not told lies

9- I have not carried away food

10- I have not cursed…

The 42 Ideals of Ma’at, also known as Positive Affirmations, were compiled by a group of priestesses as a parallel to the Negative Confessions of Ma’at as these ideals declare what the soul has committed of good deeds. Here are some Ideals from the 42:

1- I honour virtue

2- I benefit with gratitude

3- I am peaceful

4- I respect the property of others

5- I affirm that all life is sacred

6- I give offerings that are genuine

7- I live in truth

8- I regard all altars with respect

9- I speak with sincerit