|Maat was the rule of law and moral justice among the ancient Kemet people, and the divine cosmological order within their mythology, astronomy, and astrophysical studies.|
Kemet is the name the native African people of the country now known as Egypt called themselves in their surviving writings. Many scholars refer to the people as "kmt" or Kemet. The surviving artifacts of the Kemet viziers and scribes evidence that Kemet rule of law was “Maat,” contained at least in part in observing the 42 Laws of Maat.
The Goddess Maat as the Cosmological Origin of Kemet Rule of Law
Heliopolis-era creation stories from the Kemet people report that in the beginning Atum emerged from the Isfet (chaos) of Nu (primordial waters). Atum created the god Shu (personification of air/cool dryness) and goddess Tefnut (personification of moisture) from Nu. Shu is depicted in the Kemet iconography as an ostrich feather.
Under Kemet cosmology, Maat is designed to avert chaos (Isfet) and maintain truth (Maat). The symbol for truth, justice, balance, and order is the Goddess Maat. The iconography for Maat in the hieroglyphs depict the single ostrich feather (Shu), worn atop Goddess Maat’s head.
During the reign of Pharaoh Menes, around 2925 B.C.E., after the unification of upper and lower Kemet, archaeological finds evidence administration of the 42 Laws of Maat among the Kemet people as deduced from Kemet coffin texts or funerary papyri dating from this period.
The Duat, the Hall of Two Truths, and the Weighing the Ka (Heart)
|Photo: Plate 3 of the Papyrus of Ani. 42 Laws of Maat, or 42 Negative Confessions, or 42 Admonition to Goddess Maat|
The duat (underworld as the place for judgment) is where the popular Kemet funerary scene of the Hall of Two Truths is depicted in the various versions of the “Egyptian Book of the Dead: The Papyrus of Ani,” edited by E.A. Wallis Budge. A closer interpretation of the title from the Kemet language is said to be “Book of Coming Forth by Day.” The Budge translation was a funerary text written for the "coming forth" of Kemet scribe Ani.
In Chapter 30B of The Papyrus of Ani entitled “Chapter for Not Letting Ani’s Heart Create Opposition Against Him, in the Gods’ Domain,” we see the deceased scribe standing before his own heart/soul (ka) on the scale of Maat. On the opposite scale is the Goddess Maat’s feather of truth (Shu). The head of the Goddess Maat is depicted atop the scales of justice. Thoth, also known by other names such as Tehuti, stands holding a tablet and a writing tool to record the results from the scales. The ibis-headed Thoth is the patron saint of Maat scribes and priests.
Petitioner Announces the 42 Divine Principles of the Maat
In Chapter 125 of The Papyrus of Ani, we find the petitioner led by Anubis into duat and pronouncing his/her 42 affirmative declarations, listed below from Budge’s public domain translation of the 42 Divine Principles of Maat:
- I have not committed sin.
- I have not committed robbery with violence.
- I have not stolen.
- I have not slain men or women.
- I have not stolen food.
- I have not swindled offerings.
- I have not stolen from God/Goddess.
- I have not told lies.
- I have not carried away food.
- I have not cursed.
- I have not closed my ears to truth.
- I have not committed adultery.
- I have not made anyone cry.
- I have not felt sorrow without reason.
- I have not assaulted anyone.
- I am not deceitful.
- I have not stolen anyone’s land.
- I have not been an eavesdropper.
- I have not falsely accused anyone.
- I have not been angry without reason.
- I have not seduced anyone’s wife.
- I have not polluted myself.
- I have not terrorized anyone.
- I have not disobeyed the Law.
- I have not been exclusively angry.
- I have not cursed God/Goddess.
- I have not behaved with violence.
- I have not caused disruption of peace.
- I have not acted hastily or without thought.
- I have not overstepped my boundaries of concern.
- I have not exaggerated my words when speaking.
- I have not worked evil.
- I have not used evil thoughts, words or deeds.
- I have not polluted the water.
- I have not spoken angrily or arrogantly.
- I have not cursed anyone in thought, word or deeds.
- I have not placed myself on a pedestal.
- I have not stolen what belongs to God/Goddess.
- I have not stolen from or disrespected the deceased.
- I have not taken food from a child.
- I have not acted with insolence.
- I have not destroyed property belonging to God/Goddess.
- by Vanessa Cross, J.D., LL.M.References:
- "Maat the Moral Ideal in Ancient Egypt," by Maulana Karenga (Sankore Publisher, 2006).
- "The Book of the Dead," edited by E.A. Wallis Budge (Gramercy Publisher, 1995).
- “Maxims of Good Discourse” writings of the notable Kemet vizier and scribe Ptah-Hotep (accounting of some procedural laws under Maat).