Isis-Ma’at, Lady of Truth
Posted by: Isidora | April 6, 2014
As I am sure you know, Ma’at is the Egyptian Goddess of Truth, Universal Order, and Right. The ideas related to Her form the core of the ancient Egyptian conception of the way things should be. Ma’at was considered to be the very food of the Goddesses and Gods. Ma’at explained the relationships between humanity and the Divine. Ma’at was natural law and social law. Ma’at was not only justice, but also fairness and even kindness toward one another. Ideally, the king who ruled Egypt, the viziers who advised the king, the judges who made decisions that affected the people, and the people themselves all operated under the laws of Ma’at. If they did, peace and plenty and Divine favor would reign in the land.
Isis, too, is associated with these ideals and sometimes Ma’at is assimilated with Isis. The Osirian Hall of Judgment is also known as the Hall of the Two Truths. Twin Goddesses, the Ma’ati (the Two Truths), presided over it. Very often, the Ma’ati were specifically identified as Isis and Nephthys. (As an aside, I have always found the idea of the Judgment Hall being the place of Two Truths to be a particularly wise concept; there are always at least two sides to any story and both are likely to be true—from the perspective of each participant.)The quintessential symbol of Ma’at is the shut, the ostrich plume that represents the “lightness” and all-pervading, airy nature of Truth and Right. It is against the Feather of Truth that the heart of the deceased is weighed during the post mortum judgment before Osiris. The 42 Assessors Who witness the judgment each hold a Ma’at feather. Following a successful judgment, and as an attestation of her truthfulness, the deceased was sometimes shown wearing Ma’at feathers upon her head and suspended from her wrists and arms.
Without Her twin, Isis was identified with Ma’at’s singular form. The Coffin Texts tell us that Isis comes before the deceased as Ma’at. An inscription at Denderah says that Isis the Great is not only Mother of the God, but also Ma’at in Denderah. Plutarch records a tradition that points to an identification of Isis with Ma’at (“Justice”) in Hermopolis. He writes, “that is why they call the leader of the muses in the city of Hermes at once Isis and Justice, since she is wise…” One scholar has suggested that this Hermopolitan ennead of Muses might have consisted of Isis-Ma’at, Isis-Hathor, and the Seven Hathors.
Isis has always been considered a wise Goddess. A Turin papyrus tells us, “Isis was a woman wise in speech, her heart more cunning than the millions of men, her utterance was more excellent than the millions of gods, she was more perceptive than millions of glorified spirits. She was not ignorant of anything in heaven or earth.” In this aspect, Isis is called Rekhiet, “the Wise Woman.” One of the titles of Isis of the star, Isis-Sothis, is Rekhit, “Knowledge.” This easily led to Isis’ later identification with Sophia (Gk. “Wisdom”). From his Egyptian studies, Plutarch concluded that Isis is a Goddess “exceptionally wise and a lover of wisdom.”
As time passed, Isis’ reputation as a Goddess of Truth, Rightness, Justice, Wisdom, and Law incresed. The hymns to Isis at Her temple in the Faiyum oasis say that Isis, “taught customs that justice might in some measure prevail” and that She is “a judge with the immortal gods.” The hymn’s author, Isidorus, writes to his Goddess, “You are directing the world of men, looking down on the manifold deeds of the wicked and gazing down on those of the just” and “You witness individual virtue.” Like Demeter, Isis was called Thesmophoros, “Lawgiver.” A number of Greek inscriptions from Delos and one from Athens calls Her Dikaiosyne, “Righteousness” or “Lawfulness.” Others call Her Nemesis, a Greek justice-bringing Goddess. The ancient historian, Diodorus Siculus, records that “Isis also established laws, they say, in accordance with which the people regularly dispense justice to one another and are led to refrain, through fear of punishment, from illegal violence and insolence…”
In almost all of the surviving Isis aretalogies (self-statements), the Goddess affirms Her connection with Ma’at. In the aretalogy from Kyme, Turkey, Isis says of Herself, “I made the right to be stronger than gold or silver. I ordained that the true should be thought good. I devised marriage contracts. I ordained that nothing should be more feared than an oath. I have delivered the plotter of evil against other men into the hands of the one he plotted against. I established penalties for those who practice injustice. I decreed mercy to suppliants. I protect righteous guards. With me the right prevails.” Similar statements are included in other aretalogies including one from Maronea in Greece, which says that Isis “established justice, so that each one of us, just as he by nature endures equal death, may also be able to live in conditions of equality.” In the late Hermetic texts, both Isis an Osiris are known as lawgivers. One such text, the Kore Kosmou, tells us that Isis and Osiris learned the secrets of lawgiving from God and so became lawgivers for humankind.
The words of the Lady of Words of Power are not only words of magic, but also words of Truth and Justice.
P.S. What inspired me for this post was an interesting article by Christopher Faraone and Emily Teeter that opines that the Greek Wisdom Goddess Metis (Who Zeus married then ate (!!!) because He can be a rather jealous God and Metis was destined to bear Him a daughter (again, !!!) Who would be as powerful as Zeus and as wise as Metis, and a son Who would be king of the Gods, and Zeus couldn’t have that) was either directly or indirectly derived from the Egyptian Goddess Ma’at. They argue that 1.) both Metis and Ma’at were understood as concepts and personified Goddesses; 2.) The fact of Zeus “gulping down” Metis may derive from the Egyptian idea that the Deities “lived on” and “ate” Truth (Ma’at); 3.) Both Metis and Ma’at legitimate the kingship; 4.) Just as Egyptian kings had Ma’at names among their coronation names, so Zeus has a number of epithets that include Metis. Interesting, isn’t it?
Please note that all material on this blog is copyright M. Isidora Forrest. Excerpts from Isis Magic, first edition, are copyright 2001, and from Isis Magic, second edition, copyright 2013 by M. Isidora Forrest. Excerpts from Offering to Isis are copyright 2005, M. Isidora Forrest.
M. Isidora Forrest has been devoted to Isis ever since the Goddess told her, in no uncertain terms, that she was not yet ready to be Her priestess. (Isidora respects a Goddess Who doesn’t coddle.) More than twenty years—and a lot of research, ritual, agony and ecstasy—later, Isidora has earned the title of Prophetess in the House of Isis. She is also a priestess of the international Fellowship of Isis, a Hermetic adept, a maenad for Dionysos, and a founder of the Hermetic Fellowship, a non-profit religious organization devoted to spiritual development through ritual and education in the Western Esoteric Tradition. In addition to Isis Magic, she is the author of Offering to Isis: Knowing the Goddess through Her Sacred Symbols, and a contributor to the Golden Dawn Journal series of books edited by Chic and Tabatha Cicero. Isidora lives and works in the not-at-all-Egypt-like climate of Portland, Oregon with her husband Adam Forrest, a fierce black cat name Korê, and both a Temple of Isis and a grape arbor sacred to Dionysos in the backyard.
Related Isis Posts:
42 Laws of Maat, or 42 Negative Confessions, or 42 Admonition to Goddess Maat, or 42 Declarations of Innocence or Admonitions of Maát, 42 Laws of Maat of Ancient Egypt, or the Laws of the Goddess Maat
Low relief hieroglyph of Goddess Maat iconography ie feather of truth – Shu or Shut – on top of her head and Ankh ie life
The purpose of ma’at (law/justice/truth) among the Kemet (Kmt Khemet) people of ancient Upper and Lower Egypt was to divert chaos (Isfet).
The originating blog maatlaws describes the judging of the heart.
Written by Vanessa Cross, J.D., LL.M. [CC 2012]
It is also the source of photos for my blog post.
The sun-god Ra came from the primaeval mound of creation only after he set his daughter Maat in place of Isfet (chaos).
To the Egyptian mind, Maat bound all things together in an indestructible unity: the universe, the natural world, the state, and the individual were all seen as parts of the wider order generated by Maat.
Third Intermediate Period, ca. 800–700 BCE From Khartoum, Sudan Gold and lapis lazuli The Egyptian Museum, Cairo
Written at least 2,000 years before the Ten Commandments of Moses, the 42 Principles of Ma’at are one of Africa’s, and the world’s, oldest sources of moral and spiritual instruction. Ma’at, the Ancient Egyptian divine Principle of Truth, Justice, and Righteousness, is the foundation of natural and social order and unity. Ancient Africans developed a humane system of thought and conduct which has been recorded in volumes of African wisdom literature, such as, these declarations from the Book of Coming Forth By Day (the so-called Book of the Dead), The Teachings of Ptah-Hotep, the writings of Ani, Amenemope, Merikare, and others.
One aspect of ancient Egyptian funerary literature which often is mistaken for a codified ethic of Ma’at is Chapter 125 of the Book of the Dead, often called the 42 Declarations of Purity or the Negative Confession. These declarations varied somewhat from tomb to tomb, and so can not be considered a canonical definition of Ma’at. Rather, they appear to express each tomb owner’s individual conception of Ma’at, as well as working as a magical absolution (misdeeds or mistakes made by the tomb owner in life could be declared as not having been done, and through the power of the written word, wipe that particular misdeed from the afterlife record of the deceased).
Many of the lines are similar, however, and they can help to give the student a “flavor” for the sorts of things which Ma’at governed—essentially everything from the most formal to the most mundane aspect of life.
Many versions are given on-line, unfortunately seldom do they note the tomb from which they came or, whether they are a collection from various different tombs.
Moses, if he existed, (there is no undisputed historical/archaeological evidence that he did), was an Egyptian. According to stories, he was adopted by an Egyptian royal family. If that were true he would have been familiar with these principles. If there was no historical Moses, then others most likely borrowed a few if the Principles of Maat when composing the Ten Commandments.
THE 42 COMMANDMENTS OF ANCIENT EGYPT
I. Thou shalt not kill, nor bid anyone kill.
II. Thou shalt not commit adultery or rape.
X. Thou shalt not steal nor take that which does not belong to you.
XXVIII. Thou shalt not take God’s name in vain.
XXXII. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods.
XXXIV. Thou shalt remember and observe the appointed holy days.
But more importantly, under Mosaic Law, violation of any of the Ten Commandments was punishable by death.
When the Ten Commandments are compared with the principles by which the ancient Egyptians governed their lives, the laws of the Judaeo-Christian-Moslem world are barbaric and meaningless. The principle that governs the “True Egyptian” is Maat which is a religious principle that is more than justice, it is Divine-Justice, personified in the Goddess, (NTRT) Maat, who exemplifies the eternal laws of the universe as, Right and Truth.
In the weighing of the wrongs man does in this life against the intent of his heart, Maat makes a distinction between transgressions and violations of the laws of the Gods and Goddesses, that is, laws that pertain to the ordinances and requirements which the Gods and Goddesses have given for their worship. This also extends to the commitment one makes to the Neters or Gods and the respect one holds for their gifts.
Transgressions on the other hand, are offenses against our fellow mortals, their possessions, or the earth–or that portion of the earth on which we live. Thus, one violates the Laws of a God or Goddess, but one transgresses against mortals.
All transgressions may be forgiven by the priestesses of The Goddess, but not all violations of the Laws of the Goddesses. As one progresses in knowledge in the religion of The Goddess, one is taught the principles of Maat. The further one progresses, the more he or she is expected to incorporate those principles into his or her life.
It should be obvious that the Forty-two Affirmations of Right and Truth are far more inclusive than the so-called Ten Commandments. Even when the rest of the Jewish laws are considered, they pale in the light of the Pagan Egyptian Law. Punishment for the Personal Transgressions was reserved for the judgment of the Gods–not in this life, but in the judgment of Maat.
The punishment for violations of The Laws of Goddesses in ancient Egypt was banishment from the religion–which in Egypt usually meant banishment from the community where the Goddess was worshiped. That could mean banishment from the nation, depending on the Goddess against whom the sin was committed.
As for the Transgressions against mortals, the punishment was exacted to fit the crime. In ancient Egypt, the death penalty was seldom used, and then only under unusual circumstances. Periods as long as 150 years went by without a single execution. Yet Egypt, for the most part, was without crime.
goddess Maat by Dylan Meconis
MAAT – Right and Truth
Transgressions Against Mankind
1. I have not committed murder, neither have I bid any man to slay on my behalf;
2. I have not committed rape, neither have I forced any woman to commit fornication;
3. I have not avenged myself, nor have I burned with rage;
4. I have not caused terror, nor have I worked affliction;
5. I have caused none to feel pain, nor have I worked grief;
6. I have done neither harm nor ill, nor I have caused misery;
7. I have done no hurt to man, nor have I wrought harm to beasts;
8. I have made none to weep;
9. I have had no knowledge of evil, neither have I acted wickedly, nor have I wronged the people;
10. I have not stolen, neither have I taken that which does not belong to me, nor that which belongs to another, nor have I taken from the orchards, nor snatched the milk from the mouth of the babe;
11. I have not defrauded, neither I have added to the weight of the balance, nor have I made light the weight in the scales;
12. I have not laid waste the plowed land, nor trampled down the fields;
Transgressions Against Living In Maat During Life
13. I have not driven the cattle from their pastures, nor have I deprived any of that which was rightfully theirs;
14. I have accused no man falsely, nor have I supported any false accusation;
15. I have spoken no lies, neither have I spoken falsely to the hurt of another;
16. I have never uttered fiery words, nor have I stirred up strife;
17. I have not acted guilefully, neither have I dealt deceitfully, nor spoken to deceive to the hurt another;
18. I have not spoken scornfully, nor have I set my lips in motion against any man;
19. I have not been an eavesdropper;
20. I have not stopped my ears against the words of Right and Truth;
21. I have not judged hastily, nor have I judged harshly;
22. I have committed no crime in the place of Right and Truth;
23. I have caused no wrong to be done to the servant by his master;
24. I have not been angry without cause;
25. I have not turned back water at its springtide, nor stemmed the flow of running water;
26. I have not broken the channel of a running water;
27. I have never fouled the water, nor have I polluted the land;
Transgressions Against The Gods
28. I have not cursed nor despised The Gods, nor have I done that which The Gods abominate;
29. I have not vexed or angered The Gods;
30. I have not robbed The God, nor have I filched that which has been offered in the temples;
31. I have not added unto nor have I diminished the offerings which are due;
32. I have not purloined the cakes of The Gods;
33. I have not carried away the offerings made unto the blessed dead;
34. I have not disregarded the season for the offerings which are appointed;
35. I have not turned away the cattle set apart for sacrifice;
36. I have not thwarted the processions of The Gods;
37. I have not slaughtered with evil intent the cattle of The Gods;
38. I have not acted guile fully nor have I acted in insolence;
39. I have not been overly proud, nor have I behaved myself with arrogance;
40. I have never magnified my condition beyond what was fitting;
41. Each day have I labored more than was required of me;
42. My name has not come forth to the boat of the Prince;
Copyright 1986, 1990, 1997, 2012, 2015 by Sabrina Aset. All rights reserved.
I have just purchased this vintage sterling silver charm of the Egyptian goddess Maat