Truth, Justice, and the Ancient Egyptian Way

A series on Ancient Egyptian Religion (Part 3)

Ma’at. Image courtesy of the National Archaeological Museum, Florence

So! After the last two fairly involved posts, I wanted to leave you with one more important factor in the Egyptian religious landscape, but I wanted to keep it short and sweet. So, let’s have a brief overview on what is probably the most important ideal in Ancient Egyptian beliefs, and then call it a day.

It’s known as ma’at.

Perhaps in part due to the highly regular and seasonal rise and fall of the Nile (the predictability of which was a luxury that no other river-civilization had) the Ancient Egyptians placed a high value on natural order, harmony, and balance. This translated to a strong cultural emphasis on truth and justice.

These concepts came to be consolidated into a single word, ma’at, which came to be personified as a goddess, also called Ma’at. She was often seen as the daughter of Ra and the wife of Thoth (the Egyptian god of wisdom) but remember, Egyptian mythology was the Wild West of storytelling and your mileage may vary. Choose your own adventure, that sort of thing. Different sources have different explanations of her place in the mythology.

The Pharaoh and the Vizier (which was Joseph’s eventual position) were both seen as being the guardians of the characteristics of Ma’at – this put me in a very interesting position as someone trying to display Joseph’s devotion to the one God. That said, I don’t want to spoil too much about my story! Given that this discussion could reveal several plot points, I’ll leave it at that for now and move forward.

Ma’at’s role as a goddess was an interesting one. She was almost a concept rather than a personage in many cases. She had no cult centers and no real ranks of priests or priestesses. In the mythology, she had only one real role in direct relation to humanity, playing a key part in the judgment of the dead before the throne of Osiris by weighing their hearts with her feather of truth (you can see it on her head in the image above).

Yet the influence of her concepts permeated every part of Egyptian society and she was held responsible for crucial events such as the changing of seasons, the movement of the stars, and maintaining the natural order of the universe itself.

On that note, I’ll conclude here! I told you I’d keep this post short! 😉 Join me next week as we take a look at the Pharaoh’s critical role in Ancient Egyptian Religion.

(Do you have any questions you want me to answer? Topics you want me to cover? Comment below, and don’t forget to follow me on Facebook and Twitter @headdeskliz .)

Published by headdeskliz

Elizabeth Jacobson is the author of Not by Sight: a novel of the patriarchs. She lives and teaches in sunny California and loves fantasy, science fiction, and historically-based Christian fiction. She has multiple other titles in the works.

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