You are on page 1of 4


The divine of order, truth, and justice. Maat, absent from the chaos before
the act of creation, was the base of all being, constantly under attack by the
forces of chaos such as the Apepi snake trying to destroy Re on his course
through the underworld. 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.
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 by some to denote
Maat. In the course of history Maat became the daughter of Re. 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.

Isfet was the personification of chaos, evil and injustice. It was the
opposite of Maat, and it was the task of the pharaohs to defend Maat and
defeat Isfet.
Isfet was the primordial Chaos, consisting of the waters of Nun. Order
came into being with the act of creation, the self-impregnation of Atem in
the Heliopolitan tradition and the birth of Shu and Tefnut.
Isfet continued to be part of the cosmos. At first only Egypt was exempted
from it, but later adjoining, and finally far-off countries became part of the
ordered world as well.
Isfet was also the evil in a person's heart, and anybody interested in taking
part in the afterlife had to make sure, not to be burdened with it. In the
Papyrus of Nu there is a charm for becoming a great one of the
(otherworldly) court of justice:
The word maat can mean truth, justice, righteousness, order,
balance, and cosmic law. The goddess Maat was the beloved
daughter of Ra, the creator sun god. She traveled with him in
the sun barque, delighting his heart and giving life to his
nostrils. The primary duty of an Egyptian king was to be the
champion of maat. In the afterlife, the dead were judged on
whether they had done and spoken maat.
From the Old Kingdom onward, Maats presence was thought
to be vital to the daily regeneration of the sun god. In
Underworld Books she is often shown standing close to Ra in
both the Day and Night Boats of the sun. This, or the dual
nature of Egypt as two kingdoms, may explain why Maat can
appear as two identical goddesses.

Maat shares her feather emblem with the air god Shu. She
was sometimes equated with Shus sister, Tefnut. The gods
were said to live on maat, and the goddess was identified
with the basics of life: air to breathe, bread to eat, and beer
to drink. From the fourteenth century BCE onward, Maat was
often shown as a winged goddess.
Like Isis, she could revive the dead with the air generated
by her beating wings. Another emblem of Maat was a plinth
sign that was used in the writing of her name. Such plinths
are shown below the thrones of deities who act as divine
judges. This depiction has been interpreted as a symbol that
maat was the base on which Egyptian society was built.

Kings were frequently shown offering a miniature figure of

Maat to the chief deity of a temple. All the daily rituals and
sacrifices would be deemed meaningless unless the king and
his people were living righteous lives. Judges and high
officials wore images of the goddess to signify that they were
enforcing her laws.
Maat was often linked with Thoth, the impartial judge, who
was said to have put the laws of maat into writing. This gave
a divine precedent for the many works of Egyptian literature
that teach or debate how to live in maat in the real world.
Egyptian myths of a golden age included a period when Maat
was ruler of earth. She was sometimes said to have
withdrawn to the heavens because she was grieved by the
wicked behavior of humanity. Maat could still be thought of
as living with an individual like his or her good angel and
accompanying that person into the afterlife. Eventually
joining Maat became a euphemism for dying.
In the Book of the Dead, the Hall of the Two Truths (or the
Double Maat)
is the place where the souls of the dead come to be judged.
The hearts of the
dead were weighed against the feather of Maat, and her
image sometimes surmounts the scales. If, like Ra, the dead
person had Maat in his or her heart, the scales would
balance and the deceased would be declared true of voice
or justified (see Figure 7).
A hymn from the time when Egypt was occupied by the
Persians evokes the beautiful face of Maat shining from the
heart of Ra. The goddess is urged to reside in the tongue and
the head of the Persian king, so that he will do maat. During
the Greco-Roman Period, Maat seems to have lost her
central place in Egyptian religion, and some of her functions
were taken over by Isis.