How were the dead judged by Ma’at in Egyptian mythology?
The Egyptian goddess Ma’at was regarded as the goddess of justice, balance, truth, and order. She was the child of Ra and Thoth, and she was an important figure in Egyptian culture and religion. She was usually depicted wearing a white feather on her head.
The goddess Ma’at was a principle that ruled the world and humanity. She represented the stability and harmony that can be achieved by following the rules and values that she had embodied. Unlike the violent and chaotic god Seth, she was not associated with disorder, injustice, or violence.
Ma’at played a significant role in the afterlife of ancient Egyptians. As the arbiter of the souls of the dead, she decides their fate within the realm of Osiris, which is the god of the underworld, known as the weighing of the heart.
The Journey to the Hall of Ma’at
The ancient Egyptians believed that after death, the soul (ba) would leave the body (khat) and travel to the underworld (Duat). There, it would face many dangers and obstacles before reaching the Hall of Ma’at, where it would be judged by Ma’at and a tribunal of 42 gods called the Assessors of Ma’at.
To ensure that their souls and bodies are protected and preserved, the Egyptians performed various rituals and customs. They kept their bodies mummified to prevent decay, and they filled their tombs with offerings and objects that they would need to enter the afterlife. They prayed and recited prayers using funerary texts that provided instructions on navigating the underworld.
Besides their souls and bodies, the Egyptians believed that they had other vital parts of themselves. These include their personality, their name, their shadow, their life force, and their heart. The heart was regarded as the most important part of an individual’s body, and it was believed that it held a record of all the good and bad deeds that an individual had done throughout their life.
The Weighing of the Heart
The soul was taken to the Hall of Ma’at by Anubis, a jackal-headed god who was known for mummifying and embalming. He would guide the soul to a large portion where he would place a feather of the goddess on one side and the heart on the other.
The soul would then have to declare its innocence before Ma’at and the 42 Assessors by reciting a list of negative confessions or declarations of innocence. These were statements that denied committing any of 42 sins or offenses against Ma’at’s laws. The 42 Assessors would listen to these confessions and verify their truthfulness. They would also examine the heart for any signs of guilt or corruption
If the heart is lighter than the feather, it means that the soul has already lived a righteous life following Ma’at’s standards. After it has been welcomed by Osiris, it will be placed in his paradise known as Aaru. There, it will have a peaceful and happy life similar to what it had been living on Earth.
The weight of the heart would determine whether the soul has lived a righteous life or one that was full of violations and sins against the laws of Ma’at. It would then be condemned and eaten by Osiris, who was a powerful creature with a crocodile’s head, a hippopotamu’s tail, and a lion’s head. This would be the worst outcome that the ancient Egyptians could ever experience.
The Significance of Ma’at’s Judgment
The ancient Egyptians revered Ma’at as a goddess and a way of life. She encouraged them to be kind to one another, and she taught them to strive for perfection in everything that they did. Ma’at was also the ultimate arbiter of souls and guide them in the future.
Ma’at’s judgment was a mythological event that reflected the values and worldview of the ancient Egyptians. It showed how they believed that following Ma’at’s rules would lead to a good life. It also highlighted how they valued justice, balance, and truth.