Symbols: ostrich feather, scales, ma’at

Ma’at (Mayet) was the goddess of the physical and moral law of Egypt, of order and truth. She said to be the wife of Thoth and had eight children with him. The most important of her 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 form of a woman seated or standing. She holds the sceptre 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 (ma’at) 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 if the pharaoh ever failed to live by and maintain ma’at that chaos would return to Egypt and the world and all would be destroyed. Thus, the pharoahs of Egypt saw it as their cosmic role to uphold the principles of Ma’at, and was due to Ma’at that the pharaohs had the authority to rule the land. Amenhotep stated that ma’at was placed upon his breast by Amon himself. Akhenaten, 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.

When the dead were judged, it is was the feather of Ma’at that their hearts were weighed against. If hearts of the deceased are as “light as a feather”, they were granted eternal life in the Duat. The near-weightlessness of their hearts indicated that their souls were not burdened with sin and evil. If their hearts did not “measure up”, the soul of the deceased was consumed by Ammut. This judgement occurred in the “Hall of the Two Truths”, Maaty.

The last role of Ma’at was to help guide the Sun-god Ra as he made his journey across the skies. It was she that determined the course that his boat took across the sky each day. It was sometimes said that she actually traveled in his boat with him, guiding its direction.