Ma’at is the Goddess responsible for Egyptian Law, Order, Truth, Justice, Immortality and Primordial Being. She was not just Order, but Space as well. She was the one who gave the breath of Life to the Gods. She is said to be the wife to Thoth and bore unto Him eight children. The most important of these children was Amon. These eight were the chief Gods of Hermopolis and (according to the priests there) they created the Earth and all that is in it.
Ma'at is depicted in the forma of a woman seated or standing. She holds the scepter in one hand and the ankh in the other. A symbol of Ma'at was the ostrich feather and She is always shown wearing it in Her hair. In some pictures, She has a pair of wings attached to Her arms. Occasionally, She is shown as a woman with an ostrich feather for a head.
Another symbol of Ma'at is the primeval mound upon which the creator God stood at the beginning of time. It was when the world was created and chaos was eliminated that the principles of Ma'at were set in place. The Egyptians believed that at if the pharaoh ever failed to live by, and maintain, ma'at chaos would return to Egypt and destroy the world.
Ma'at is often found in funerary scenes and pictures, with Her feather placed opposite the heart of the recently deceased. If the scales were balanced, the deceased was allowed to go on to the afterlife (Duat). If, however, the heart was heavier than the feather, Ammut devoured the deceased. Judges in both human and divine spheres were known as representatives of Ma'at. The pharaohs of Egypt saw it as their cosmic role to uphold the principles of Ma'at, and it was due to Ma'at that the pharaohs had the authority to rule the land. Amenhotep stated that ma'at was placed up on breast by Amman Himself. Akhenanthen, the "heretic" king who was accused of deviating from Her laws by his successors, repeatedly emphasized his adherence to Ma'at on many of his monuments.
Although She is a Goddess of the Underworld, Ma’at is much honoured and revered. The Egyptians believed that you had to live a life that is in accordance with Cosmic Justice, Law and Order. Failure to do so would mean that you were doomed as upon death, your heart would be weighed on the scales before Ma’at, the Lady of Truth.
The Papyrus of Ani
The doctrine of Ma'at is represented in the declarations to Rekhti-merti-f-ent-Ma'at where the 42 Divine Principles of the Goddess Ma’at were listed. Also referred to as “The Declaration of Innocence of the Dead before the Gods of the Tribunal at the Weighing of the Heart”, this document is found within the “Egyptian Book of the Dead” (as mentioned earlier).
These 42 declarations were pronounced by the deceased after Anubis took them into the presence of the Goddess Ma’at and the Divine Judge Thoth (Tehuti). If the Principles of Ma’at were respected the heart of the deceased would have nothing weighing down, so it would be lighter than the feather and everlasting life would be given due to respect of these laws that balance the Universe.
Erroneously referred to as the “42 Negative Confessions”, unlike the Christian commandments, the Principles all commenced with the statement “I have not” as oppose to “Thou Shalt not”.
- I have not committed sin.
- I have not committed robbery with violence.
- I have not stolen.
- I have not slain men or women.
- I have not stolen food.
- I have not swindled offerings.
- I have not stolen from the Neteru (the Gods).
- I have not told lies.
- I have not carried away food.
- I have not cursed.
- I have not closed my ears to truth.
- I have not committed adultery.
- I have not made anyone cry.
- I have not felt sorrow without reason.
- I have not assaulted anyone.
- I am not deceitful.
- I have not stolen anyone’s land.
- I have not been an eavesdropper.
- I have not falsely accused anyone.
- I have not been angry without reason.
- I have not seduced anyone’s wife.
- I have not polluted myself.
- I have not terrorised anyone.
- I have not disobeyed the Law.
- I have not been exclusively angry.
- I have not cursed the Neteru (the Gods).
- I have not behaved with violence.
- I have not caused disruption of peace.
- I have not acted hastily or without thought.
- I have not overstepped my boundaries of concern.
- I have not exaggerated my words when speaking.
- I have not worked evil.
- I have not used evil thoughts, words or deeds.
- I have not polluted the water
- I have not spoken angrily or arrogantly.
- I have not cursed anyone in thought, word or deeds.
- I have not placed myself on a pedestal.
- I have not stolen what belongs to the Neteru (the Gods).
- I have not stolen from or disrespected the deceased.
- I have not taken food from a child.
- I have not acted with insolence.
- I have not destroyed property belonging to the Neteru (the Gods).