ancient egypt: history and culture
Ancient Egyptian deities: Maat, embodiment of the divine order

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Maat

Maat     Embodiment of the divine order, truth, and justice. Maat, absent from the chaos before the act of creation, was the base of all being. She was constantly under attack by the forces of chaos such as the Apepi snake trying to destroy Re on his course through the underworld, but also by more mundane human activities like people committing crimes. In the spiritual realm it was the gods fighting evil demons, who constantly restored order, in this world it was the pharaoh who upheld it, by dispensing justice, protecting the weak, and defending the land of the gods against lawless foreigners. As Seti I had it in his stela dedicated to Amen-Re:
Divine offspring, who has come forth from the body of the god in order to endow the temple and who established Egypt and raise mankind and made Maat take her place.
Alabaster stela of Seti I at Karnak [3]
    In the Pyramid Texts of Unas there is mention of Wish-of-the-Gods, who is in the bow of Re's bark [1], which has been interpreted to denote Maat. Later in the New Kingdom Book of the Dead she is referred to by name:
May Re raise you in the horizon of Maat who is in his bark!
pParis Louvre 3092 [2]
    In the course of history Maat came to be thought of as the daughter of Re, the creator god:
Mat, daughter of Re, presider over the palace, mistress of heaven, ruler of the gods. She gives myriads of years.
Tomb of the vizier Ramose, 18th dynasty
J. H. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, Part Two, § 939
    Maat's symbol is a feather. It is with the weight of this feather that the heart of the deceased is compared to during the Judgment of the Dead. Should the heart be weighed down with sin, should the magic of the heart scarab placed over it to prevent the heart from bearing witness against its owner be of no avail, and should the protestations of innocence not be believed, then the dead person's heart will be devoured by the demon Ammit and he will not have part in the eternal life.
 
Maat's counterpart is Isfet, which denotes all that is wrong and chaotic.


[1] M. Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, Vol.1 p.39
[2] After a transliteration and German translation on the Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae website: Totenbuchprojekt, Nordrhein-Westfälische Akademie der Wissenschaften => pParis Louvre 3092 + Frgm. Montpellier (pNeferubenef) => Tb 170
[3] After a transliteration and German translation on the Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae website: Altägyptisches Wörterbuch, Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften) => Historisch-rhetorische Königstexte (19.Dynastie)) => Karnak) => Alabaster-Stele Sethos I.) => Widmungsinschrift für Amun von Karnak, Jahr 1
 

 
© October 2005
Changes:
May 2010

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