Who or what is Ma’at?

          Ma’at is both the concept and the Goddess of “right order” — truth, justice, order, harmony with the Kosmos and with other human beings, and piety. She is the fundamental order of the Kosmos. Ma’at is not just one thing. The title of this book is “Doing Ma’at”, which refers to the fact Ma’at can also be an action. You are doing Ma’at when you speak the truth. You are doing Ma’at when you are generous to the less fortunate and respectful to your elders.

But intangible things are also Ma’at. Beauty and justice and harmony are all Ma’at. Ma’at is piety and reverence before the Gods and before holy things. H. Jeremiah Lewis,  the founder of Neos Alexandria and author of  “A Temple of Words” and “Balance of the Two Lands” adds that

 

It is Ma’at which the sun follows as it makes its circuit through the heavens, and which causes the moon and stars to light the earth at night. Ma’at is what makes the river to flood and recede and the seasons to come at their rightful times, one after the other. Ma’at makes the trees fruitful and the animals to bear their young. Ma’at is the strong walls that keep buildings standing for centuries. It is the canons of proportion and style that allow artists to make their beautiful images which please men and gods alike. Ma’at is the scale of notes which the musician employs and the mathematical principles upon which all the sciences are based … Ma’at is all this and much more besides – and all of these things, partaking of Ma’at, share a similar nature. Thus, it is merely a matter of convention which allows us to speak of piety and justice and beauty and order as separate things[1].

 

The Egyptian principle of Ma’at satisfies something deep within me, the need for a cosmic order and justice. Every small but righteous act we do causes Ma’at to increase and grow stronger, and Isfet, Her opposite, chaos and disorder, to decease. One cannot exist where the other thrives. It is our duty to do Ma’at, to act justly in our dealings with others and with the natural world. Through Ma’at we come to see ourselves as part of a larger system, a great community of men and Gods and all that is. Small actions add up, and have long-term consequences. These righteous actions are themselves offerings to the Gods, and through doing Ma’at we reach a more perfect state and draw closer to Them.

In Egyptian belief, when a person has passed on their ba, or soul, traveled to the Hall of Judgment. Once there, the soul will recite the 42 Declarations of Innocence before Ma’at, and the Declarations to the 42 Gods in attendance. (These pretty much say the same thing as the Declarations of Innocence in a different way, but I have included both for you to study.) Then Anubis weighs the heart of the individual against the Feather of Ma’at. If the heart is heavy with sin and guilt, then it is thrown to the monster Ammit, to be devoured and the soul extinguished. But if the person has lived a good and just life, then his heart will be as light as Ma’at’s feather, and he will be allowed in pass the Hall of Judgment and enter the Western Lands, the afterlife.

It is on Ma’at’s scale that we weighed, so remember Her always. Avoid hurting anyone whenever possible, and that includes yourself. Never make a promise you do not fully intend to keep, and once you have taken a vow, do everything you can to fulfill it. Do not speak ill of any God. Always do your best, and live your ideals. We are human, and we will sometimes stumble and fall short of our own expectations. But the important thing to do is to pick ourselves back up and try again. Only then can we truly say that we are living in Ma’at.

 

Suggested Links:

http://neosalexandria.org/the-pantheon/maat/

http://henadology.wordpress.com/theology/netjeru/maet/

http://www.crystalinks.com/maat.html

http://www.ancientegyptonline.co.uk/maat.html

http://www.touregypt.net/godsofegypt/maat2.htm

[1]Lewis, Jeremiah H. The Balance of Two Lands: Writings on Greco-Egyptian Polytheism. 2009.

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