The goddess Ma’at:
Most of us would define truth as facts and information that can be proven or verified by evidence and reason. For the Egyptians, however, truth was embodied by the Goddess Ma’at. Ma’at was the goddess of truth, order, and justice. She was the one who brought order to existence and placed judgment upon the souls of the dead.
Ma’at was represented as a woman wearing an Ostrich feather and a red robe. The Ostrich feather represents light and is usually associated with Ra the sun God. The ostrich feather that is slightly bent became the symbol for Ma’at and truth.
As Ma’at is one of the deities present in the beginning of creation, she also is associated with life and carries an Ankh. She judges all who pass into the afterlife and is also depicted holding a scepter with outstretched wings, to represent her power.
The Goddess is intended to embody the idea of balance. Egyptian god’s and goddesses would have an opposite or have multiple attributes to represent the idea of unity and balance. Ma’at wears the color red in her robes that may be an indication of her relation to Ra. Red symbolized life as well as rage for the Egyptians. This balance was intended to imply that Ma’at was both vengeful in her pursuit of justice, but also calm and fair to those that were pure in serving her. Purity was determined by ones morality. Those that lie, refuse to stay active, or show jealousy could be subject to the wrath of Ma’at.
Ma’at Rose from Nun when Ra came out from the waters of chaos in the beginning. Nun included the gods and goddesses of chaos as a body of water. Ra was described as the father of Ma’at as she rose up with him, even though Ra technically never fathered Ma’at in the creation story. The husband of the Goddess was Thoth the moon god. Thoth ruled over writing and scribes. He revealed the will or word of Ma’at as her consort.
Ma’at is not quite like other gods and goddesses. She was given a human-like image, but is basically symbolic of the idea of order and the law of the land. Since Ma’at is a representation of an idea and the judge of humanity, she is above the material world and its inhabitant. Cultures may change their laws from one city to the next, but Ma’at stays true to the divine order of the universe. The goddess of order existed from the beginning. She is and always has been. To deny Ma’at is to deny truth. If the goddess did not exist, chaos, known as Nun, would return to take over our world.
The goddess’ primary role was to judge humanity which she accomplished by weighing their actions in life against her feather. The soul of the dead was thought to be embodied in the heart. The heart would be placed on the scale to find out if it was lighter than the feather of Ma’at. If the heart was lighter, the soul was good. If the heart was heavier than the feather, a horrible beast, called Ammit, would eat the souls of the dead as their punishment. Ammit was shown by the Egyptians to be a creature with the rear of a hippopotamus, the front section of a lion, and the head of an alligator.
As a part of this fable, Egyptians created carvings of Ma’at as a set of scales. The scales would have the head of a woman on top, who was wearing a feather on her head. The scales also show the heart on one side and a feather on the other. In life, worshipers could practice the negative confessions to determine if they had gone against Ma’at. This list of actions included: lying, deception, laziness, etc. This could be done, in order to forgive crimes against Ma’at in life. Any crimes could be forgiven in this manner to protect the soul from harsh judgment from the goddess.
Within the legal system of the Egyptians, judges were the priests of Ma’at. The would represent the goddess and swear to be balanced in their decisions as they spoke for the goddess. One way the priests prepared for making judgments was to paint a green feather on their tongues. This was thought to protect their words, so that Ma’at would only allow them to speak the truth. After all, the judgment of the goddess is final and merciless.