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Maat

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Maat
Maat

Maat is the goddess of Justice, Truth, Order, Balance, and Judgment. She is rightly-ordered Creation and the ideal of right behavior within it. Maat is represented as a woman (sometimes winged) with a single ostrich feather in her headband. Later Greek writers report that magistrates wore small images of Maat as signs of their judicial responsibility. Her symbols are the feather and also a sloped-front plinth that represents the primordial Mound of Creation. This plinth is the hieroglyph for ‘true’ and forms a part of her name. It emphasizes her nature as the basis of Creation itself and also is commonly represented as the platform upon which gods and thrones stand. The dead are judged by weighing their actions (their hearts) against the Feather of Maat.

Gods, kings, and ordinary people “speak Maat” or “do Maat” as ideals and these claims are common as epithets of gods and kings and on numerous funerary monuments – “I spoke truly, I did Maat. I spoke good and repeated good… I rescued the weak from one stronger than he as much as was in my power. I gave bread to the hungry and clothes (to the naked). I brought the boat-less to dry land…” While Maat is represented by a goddess, it would be more accurate to see her as a force, as the balance and harmony of the cosmos as perpetuated by human action and divine intervention.

The order and balance of creation had to be constantly maintained. Each day a small image of Maat was offered as part of temple ritual (especially for creator gods like Amun, Ra, and Ptah). This rite –“Presenting Maat to the Lord of Maat” - emphasizes the King’s responsibility to govern by the sacred principles of Truth and Justice embodied by Maat herself. Some of the epithets used in the worship of Maat are “Mistress of the Beautiful West”, “She On Whom the Gods Live”, “Lady of Kindness”, “Foremost in the Hall of Judgement”, and “She for Whom Bias is Hateful”. Many religious ceremonies and rites performed by the king or his priests were for the purpose of maintaining Maat which ensure the continuation of creation. Through these rites and ceremonies, the actions of human beings were shown to be essential in the overall balance of life and the universe.

Maat may be petitioned for help in court cases, instances of injustice and for causing others to say or do ‘the right thing’.

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