The Ancient Egyptian Goddess Maat
The ancient Egyptian goddess Maat is a bit more difficult to define than the other gods and goddesses of Egypt. She was more, let’s say, ethereal, and didn’t have that duality that other gods had.
Her origins is also a little difficult to trace. According to some myths, she was another daughter of Ra, also rising around the same time as he did (like Hathor).
He set her and the order that took the place of chaos. She was not born of him, as were his two children Shu and Tefnut, there was no physical act of creating her.
She has no specific place or classification. In the mythology, it seems that she arose, along with her father, from the primordial waters Nun at the moment of creation.
As such, she was also the overseer of order in the cosmos, she regulated the movements of celestial bodies, the seasons and nature’s cycles.
In a way, it was like she was in the background as an ideal and only appeared in physical form when her role was specific…
She was also not born as part of a pair like many other deities were, but her male counterpart was Thoth, the god of wisdom.
They did not produce any offspring, but they shared similar duties, such as accompanying Ra on his barque for the solar journey. The pair would write the course for the journey and Horus would steer the way.
She was never depicted as half-animal half-human, nor associated with any animal. In fact, the only distinguishable feature the Egyptian Goddess Maat has is the Feather of truth.
She would either wear it on her head or just carry it.
Egyptian Goddess Maat and The Feather of Truth
This feather has great significance in ancient Egyptian beliefs, and it plays one of the main roles in the Weighing of the Heart Ceremony.
As seen in the Book of the Dead, during the Weighing of the Heart Ceremony, her feather is what the heart of the dead is weighed against. If the heart is lighter or in balance, that means the deceased has passed the first text on the way to the afterlife.
If the heart is heavier than Maat’s feather, it is eaten by the demon Ammit and the deceased has no hope of an afterlife.
Once the deceased passed this test, they entered into The Hall of Maat, which is basically the hall of judgment where they would have to confess their sins and list their good deeds.
Usually this would take the form of the 42 Declarations of Innocence, sometimes called the Negative Confessions of Maat.
And so the most significant depictions of her were in the Book of the Dead since her role there was so important. But other than that, her ideal was at the heart of the duties of the pharaoh, who was responsible for upholding “the Decree of Maat”.
There are many depictions of kings wearing her emblem to symbolize this important role of kingship.
Viziers, as the highest officials and judges after the king, were called Priests of Maat.
As she also represented the concept of morality, law and order, judges in the courts carried a feather or wore Maat amulets to show they were aligned with finding the truth and serving justice.
This is how important she was…
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