Maat, in Egyptian language literally means ‘truth’. Maat is the Egyptian goddess of Truth and Justice. Besides truth and justice, she also represented law, order and a sense of balance. She was also credited by bringing a sense of stability to the universe, post creation. She was considered to be the opposite of Isfet who was credited to represent chaos, deceit and violence, all things that destroy the balance or equilibrium.
She has been depicted as a young woman with an ostrich feather as her headgear. She was considered to be the daughter of Sun-god, Ra and was the female counterpart of Thoth, who was the god of wisdom and learning. Together with Thoth, both represented divine wisdom and all aspects associated with it.
According to the Egyptian mythology, after death, Maat acts as the judge of morality. She would weigh the soul of the dead against her ostrich feather in a scale, and if the soul balances against the feather, then the soul reaches paradise. If it weighed heavier than the feather, a sign that it was a soul which harboured evil deeds, then it would be given to the crocodile headed goddess Ammut (some say she was lioness-headed), who would devour it and would be relegated to the underworld. This way the Egyptians believed that there would be balance, and just as the good would get rewarded, the evil would get punished. The concept of punishment after life is akin to many other cultures, including Hinduism. She was also said to regulate the movement of stars and the seasons, again leading to a sense of continuous change with balance at the core of all her activities.
The Pharaoh’s of the later day were often shown with the symbols of Maat, as they were seen as the upholders of the principles of Maat. Judges were also referred as ‘priests of Maat’. Many feel that Maat was less of a goddess and more of a concept. The concept of balance leading to equilibrium was passed on to the Greeks during the reign of the Greeks over Egypt. Many also feel that the present day image of the blind-folded Lady of Justice, holding the balance as the image of justice is a modern derivative of the Egyptian Maat.
Unfortunately, Egypt today is fighting for the same, balance and justice. The priest of Maat, who is sitting in judgement, has been sitting for too long now, and the children of Egypt feel that balance is tilted. The lack of equilibrium in today’s Egypt shows that the much needed concept of truth and justice is being thrown to the winds. Maat is much in need, and the sense of balance and justice and the resultant equilibrium needs to be restored soon.