Attributes: Goddess of harmony, justice and truth
Symbols: Ostrich feather
Also known as Mayet, she is the daughter of Ra and wife of Thoth. This Goddess represents the principle of morality and ethics that every Egyptian should follow daily, always acting with honor and truth when the situation involves family, community, nation, environment and the Gods.
The force opposite to her is called Isfet, or chaos itself. The ancient inhabitants of Egypt considered that everything beyond the Nile was chaotic, while in the area around them the order prevailed. Together, these two forces brought balance to the world in which the people lived, being important parts of their daily lives. The term Isfet represents the dualism in which Egyptian life was so strongly based.
In addition to her role in the balance of the universe, she has the responsibility of “weighing” souls (or “weighing” the heart) in the underworld, known as Duat. Her feather was used as the measure of whether the souls of the dead would reach paradise in the afterlife or not.
This Goddess is usually depicted in the form of a woman standing or sitting, with wings coming out of her arms, just like Goddess Isis. Sometimes she can be seen holding a scepter in one hand and an ankh (symbol of eternal life) in another but always with the ostrich feather on her head. In fact, in less frequent representations, she had no head, only the feather would be in its place. This apparatus is the symbol of her whole being, the representation of order and balance, and also a hieroglyph for “truth.”
The ancient law
Maat was associated with justice and law in ancient Egypt. From the 5th dynasty (about 2510-2370 BCE), the counselor responsible for trials was called the Priest of Maat, and also carried the feather in his head as a sign of judicial authority, symbolizing that his judgment had truth and justice.
He also had the feather drawing drawn on his tongue with green paint, so he would only speak the truth. The Priest decided all earthly judgment according to the nature of the law that had been violated, with punishments ranging from corporal to capital punishment.
Crimes such as cases of envy, dishonesty, greed, unfairness, laziness and ingratitude were considered crimes against Maat and the Egyptian guilty of the crime was considered to violate the spirit of the Goddess requiring another judgment in the underworld during the weighing ceremony in the Hall of the Two Truths.