|Cult Center:||All Egyptian cities|
|Deity of:||Harmony, Order, Justice, Truth|
|Consort:||Thoth (in some accounts)|
|Symbol:||Was Specter, Ostrich feather|
Maat in GeneralEdit
The ancient Egyptians believed that the universe was ordered and rational. The rising and setting of the sun, the flooding of the Nile and the predicable course of the stars in the sky reassured them that there was permanence to existence which was central to the nature of all things. However, the forces of chaos were always present and threatened the balance of Ma´at. Each person was duty bound to preserve and defend Ma´at and the Pharaoh was perceived as the guardian of Ma´at. Without Ma´at, Nun would reclaim the universe and chaos would reign supreme.
Maat as the priniciple and the lawEdit
The Egyptians also had a strong sense of morality and justice. They felt that the good should prosper, and that the guilty would be punished. They praised those who defended the weak and the poor and placed a high value on loyalty especially to ones family. However, they also understood that it was not possible to be perfect, just balanced. Ma´at transcended specific ethical rules (which differed according to different times and different peoples) and instead focused on the natural order of things. That being said, certain actions were clearly against Ma´at as they increased the effect of chaos and had a purely negative effect on the world.
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(as found in Mosaic law of the 1st millennium BCE). Maat was the norm 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 5th 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.
Status in the UnderworldEdit
Each Egyptian's soul was judged in the Hall of Ma´at (depicted in the book of the dead and book five of the book of gates) when they died. Their heart (conscience) was weighed against the feather of Ma´at (an ostrich feather) on scales which represented balance and justice. If their heart was heavier than the feather because they had failed to live a balanced life by the principles of Ma´at their heart was either thrown into a lake of fire or devoured by a fearsome deity known as Ammit. If, however, the heart balanced with the feather of Ma´at they would pass the test and gain eternal life. At certain times it was Osiris who sat as judge in the ritual, and many other deities were involved in the ceremony, but the scales always represented Ma´at.
In the Duat, the Egyptian underworld, the hearts of the dead were said to be weighed against her single "Feather of Ma'at", symbolically representing the concept of Maat, in the Hall of Two Truths. A heart which was unworthy was devoured by the goddess Ammit and its owner condemned to remain in the Duat. The heart was considered the location of the soul by ancient Egyptians. Those people with good and pure hearts were sent 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.
Goddess of ScribesEdit
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 a text called the Text of Amenemope, the scribes are urged to follow the principals of Ma'at in his life and his work.
Pharaoh, the Protector of MaatEdit
All rulers respected Ma´at, but Akhenaten in particular emphasised his adherence to Ma´at, despite (or perhaps because of) his rather unconventional approach to the gods. Hatshepsut also emphasised her reverence for Ma´at by taking the throne name Ma´atkare (justice is the soul of re), again possibly because as a female ruler she needed to show that her position was in line Ma´at. She also built a small temple to Ma´at within the precinct of Montu in Karnak.
Ma'at is a goddess in a form of a young woman with a crown of a feather (possibly ostrich) protruding out of it. She has a was sceptre and an ankh, the symbol of eternal life.