The ancient Egyptians believed that all deeds resided in a person’s heart — the bad and the good. When you died, your heart was weighed against the feather of Maat (goddess of truth and justice). This process was called the weighing of the soul and it determined what sort of afterlife you could expect.
Ma’at – A Universe in Perfect Order
The goddess Ma’at was the daughter of Ra and married to Thoth, god of wisdom. But she was so much more than a simple goddess in the mythological hierarchy of Egypt. Ma’at was a primordial force that keep the world working. With Ma’at, the world had order because she kept everything in balance.
The ancient Egyptians believed the universe had an order to it, and it was Ma’at who kept everything in balance. Her name referred to the overarching concept of truth, order, and justice that she represented. The ancient Egyptians believed that the world was maintained through the principles of Ma’at, which included notions of truthfulness, moral integrity, and social harmony.
A Single Feather
The Feather of Ma’at, also known as the Feather of Truth, was a symbolic element in ancient Egyptian mythology and religious beliefs. After death, a person’s soul would enter the Hall of Ma’at in the underworld, where their heart would be weighed against the Feather of Ma’at on a set of scales.
If the heart was found to be lighter than the Feather of Ma’at, it symbolized that the person had led a virtuous and just life, adhering to the principles of truth and social harmony. The person was deemed worthy to proceed to the eternal paradise known as the “Field of Reeds.”
Should the scales tip unfavorably, signifying a heart burdened with the weight of wrongdoing, a dire fate awaited the soul. Ammit, a fearsome deity with the head of a crocodile, body of a lion, and hindquarters of a hippopotamus, stood ready to devour the heart. The soul of the deceased would then face eternal punishment or be denied access to the afterlife.
The emphasis on the balance between one’s actions and truth echoes the universal human pursuit of leading a morally upright life. The choices we make in life reverberate beyond our existence.