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Ma'at

Ma'at

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Published by res49293

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Published by: res49293 on Sep 15, 2009
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Ma'at
.
 The goddess Ma'at
Maat
or
Mayet
, thought to have been pronounced as
*Muʔʕat
(Muh-aht),
was theAncient Egyptian concept of truth, balance, order, law,morality, and justice. Maat was also personified as agoddess  regulating the stars, seasons, and the actions of both mortals and the deities, who set the order of theuniverse from chaosat the moment of creation.  The earliest surviving records indicating Maat is the norm for nature and society, in this world and thenext, is recorded during theOld Kingdomin pyramid texts (c. 2780-2250 BCE).
Later, as a goddess in other traditions of theEgyptian pantheon,where most goddesses were paired with a male aspect, her masculine counterpart was Thoth and their attributes are the same. After the rise of Ra they were depicted together in theSolar Barque.As Thoth has been seen to represent theLogos of Plato
 ,so Maat has been viewed as an expression of Divine Wisdom.
After her role in creation and continuously preventing the universe from returning to chaos, her primaryrole inEgyptian mythologydealt with the weighing of souls that took place in the underworld,Duat.
Herfeather was the measure that determined whether the souls (considered to reside in the heart) of thedeparted would reach the paradise of afterlife successfully.Pharaohsare often depicted with the emblems of Maat to emphasise their role in upholding the laws of theCreator.
Ma'at as a principle
 
Maat wearing feather of truthMa'at as a principle was formed to meet the complex needs of the emergent Egyptian state that embraceddiverse peoples with conflicting interests. The development of such rules sought to avertchaosand itbecame the basis of Egyptian law. From an early period the King would describe himself as the "Lord of Maat" who decreed with his mouth the Maat he conceived in his heart. The significance of Maat developed to the point that it embraced all aspects of existence, including thebasic equilibrium of the universe, the relationship between constituent parts, the cycle of the seasons,heavenly movements, religious observations and fair dealings, honesty and truthfulness in socialinteractions.
 The Ancient Egyptians had a deep conviction of an underlying holiness and unity within the universe.Cosmic harmony was achieved by correct public and ritual life. Any disturbance in cosmic harmony couldhave consequences for the individual as well as the state. An impious King could bring about famine orblasphemy blindness to an individual.
The opposite of the right order expressed in the principle of Maat is
"Isfet"
: chaos, lies and violence.
In addition to the importance of the Ma'at, several other principles within Ancient Egyptian law wereessential, including an adherence to tradition as opposed to change, the importance of rhetorical skill, andthe significance of achieving impartiality, and social justice. In oneMiddle Kingdom(2062 to c. 1664 BCE)text the Creator declares "
I made every man like his fellow
". Maat called the rich to help the less fortunaterather than exploit them, echoed in tomb declarations: "
I have given bread to the hungry and clothed thenaked 
" and "
I was a husband to the widow and father to the orphan
".
 To the Egyptian mind, Ma'at bound all things together in an indestructible unity: the universe, the naturalworld, the state, and the individual were all seen as parts of the wider order generated by Ma'at. The underlying concepts of   TaoismandConfucianismresemble Ma'at at times.
Many of these conceptswere codified into laws, and many of the concepts often were discussed by ancient Egyptian philosophersand officials who referred to the spiritual text known as theBook of the Dead.
Maat and the law
 There is little surviving literature that describes the practice of Ancient Egyptian law. Maat was the spirit inwhich justice was applied rather than a detailed legalistic exposition of rules as in Jewish law. Maat was thenorm and basic values that formed the backdrop for the application of justice that had to be carried out inthe spirit of truth and fairness. From the 5th dynasty (c. 2510-2370 BCE) onwards theVizierresponsible for justice was called the "
Priest of Maat 
" and in later periods judges wore images of Maat.
 
Later scholars and philosophers also would embody concepts from thewisdom literature, or Sebayt.
 These spiritual texts dealt with common social or professional situations and how each was best to beresolved or addressed in the spirit of Ma'at- it was very practical advice, and highly case-based, so that fewspecific and general rules could be derived from them.During the Greek period in Egyptian history, Greek law existed alongside Egyptian law. The Egyptian lawpreserved the rights of women who were allowed to act independently of men and own substantialpersonal property and in time this influenced the more restrictive conventions of the Greeks andRomans.
When the Romans took control of Egypt, the Roman legal system which existed throughout theRoman empire was imposed in Egypt.
Maat and scribes
Scribes held prestigious positions in Ancient Egyptian society in view of their importance in thetransmission of religious, political and commercial information.
 Thoth was the patron of scribes who is described as the one "
who reveals Maat and reckons Maat. Wholoves Maat and gives Maat to the doer of Maat 
".
In texts such as theInstruction of Amenemopethescribe is urged to follow the precepts of Maat in his private life as well as his work.
  The exhortations tolive according to Maat are such that these kind of instructional texts have been described as "
Maat Literature
".
Ma'at as a goddess
 
GoddessMa'at
 
orororororororMa'at was the goddess of harmony, order, and truth represented as a young woman,
sitting or standing,holding a scepterin one hand and anankhin the other. Sometimes she is depicted with wings on each arm or as a woman with an ostrich feather on her head.
Depictions of Maat as a goddess are recorded fromas early as the middle of the Old Kingdom(c. 2680 to 2190 BCE).
 The sun-godRacame from the primaeval mound of creation only after he set his daughter Maat in place of chaos.Kings inherited the duty to ensure Maat remained in place and they with Ra are said to "live on

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