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  • Writer's pictureThe AlcheMystic

The Feather of Truth

The sign of Libra asks us to take measure of our life, like the human heart that is weighed upon the scales of the Egyptian goddess Ma'at, who sits in judgement of the soul upon the death of the body. The person who would seek passage to the afterlife first stands before Ma'at and places their heart upon her scale. Ma'at weighs the person's heart against her sacred feather. If the person's heart is not lighter than her feather, they are not allowed to pass on to the next life.

As the Egyptian goddess of justice, Ma'at was more than just a mythological figure.

Ma’at was a philosophical idea of peace and harmony in life and death. In Egyptian society, Ma’at represented the personification of justice, propriety, harmony, reciprocity, truth, balance, and order. These concepts became known as the Seven Principles of Ma’at, and all Egyptians, including pharaohs and priests, were expected to hold these principles close to their heart.

Ma’at stood against that of chaos, and Egyptians were expected to pursue the Principles of Ma’at to hold off chaos. Each principle held its own meaning and understanding, and it was imperative that an Egyptian lead their lives in accordance with them:

Justice – equity for its citizens and creatures of the kingdom. True justice existed when the people lived in peace through contributing to societal progress, the opportunity to have their basic needs met, and the good of the whole was met.

Propriety – the moral responsibility to do what was right according to the idea that all creatures had a spiritual aspect and had a right to exist. People were expected to behave honorably to one another and to do no egregious harm.

Harmony – the teaching that expressions of creation were designed to move together in ways that created beauty and alignment. To act out of alignment was to invite chaos and disorder.

Reciprocity – like the eastern concept of karma, Egyptians believed that there was a cause-and-effect relationship in the spiritual realm. All of creation swam with a motion and a rhythm, and what comes around, goes around again.

Truth – the concept of truth was defined as knowing the difference between what was real and what was not real. If it could be defined for the greater good – that all creation was sacred and deserving of respect – then it was real. Anything that operated out of disorder was false and should be judged accordingly.

Balance – achieved when an environment (including the individual) was brought into alignment with the ways of Ma’at. When opposites met, such as positive and negative forces, this was a creation point which generated new life. After this genesis, balance was achieved by moving to the principles of the goddess Ma’at.

Order – the state of non-clutter, meaning aligned simply and free of complicated accoutrement. This concept found its way into archaeological design, writing, law making, and relationships.

The Seven Principles of Ma’at were the guiding values of Egyptian culture, demonstrating how a person was to find union with the gods and the ideals of the universe, taught from birth to death, and even through the afterlife. They were part of a person’s life training, as they were to the benefit of not just an individual’s development, but that of the empire. Maat’s principles were designed to not just show on the outside but were to be embodied internally.

As the daughter of the sun god Ra, and the symbol for truth and balance, the goddess Ma’at represented sacred female energy that rose up from the primordial chaos providing order and stability. Usually shown as a young woman, Ma’at is often pictured standing or sitting on a stone platform, often holding a scepter in one hand and an ankh in the other. In some drawings and hieroglyphs, Ma’at is simply represented by a feather or her scale. Because of this, the feather came to be equated with order, harmony, and truth, the scales with righteousness and balance.

Ma’at served to balance any chaos that was brought into the world by wielding righteousness and justice. She spent much of her energies helping pharaohs and leaders rule in harmony with natural and supernatural laws. As part of the function of establishing order, Ma’at helped to judge souls in the afterlife, so that evil would not be permitted to hold sway through eternity. Every Egyptian sought to honor Ma’at in some way. To do otherwise was to invite chaos and disharmony into the universe.

After an Egyptian died, it was believed that their soul immediately went to the underworld Hall of Ma’at, where their judgment would be rendered through a ceremony called the Judgment of Osiris. It was here that Ma’at would render her verdict upon the righteous and unrighteous in order to maintain order and prevent the continuance of chaos.

When a soul came before Ma’at for judgment, she would balance the heart of the person upon the Scale of Ma’at against her feather of truth. If the heart weighed less than the feather, or balanced the scale, then the dearly departed was free to traverse the underworld and meet Osiris in the afterlife. However, if the heart was heavy, burdened with violations of the seven principles, and weighed more than the feather, the deceased was immediately consumed by Babi, the devourer of souls.

In ancient Egypt, Ma’at was more than just a goddess who controlled the entrance to the underworld. Ma’at was emblematic and symbolic of the Egyptian way of life. Ma’at stood for order over chaos, truth over falsity, and harmony over disunity. In the mind of ancient Egypt, Ma’at was the guidepost, the light in which all things were balanced against. More than just a winged goddess, Ma’at was an ideal, a concept, a way of living in harmony with the universe. Ma’at was a way of life for the citizens of one of the most powerful and long-lasting empires the world has ever known.

The sign of Libra represents alignment and balance in life, relationships, and the principles of truth and justice. The scales of Libra teach us to foster love, beauty, and equanimity in all our relationships: to self, to partners, to friends, to colleagues, to our community, and to the world. Libra initiates thought and conversation, takes action that is aligned with truth and equality, and thinks about the decisions we are making and how they affect other people in our life, and how they are aligned with our greater sense of truth. We learn to stand up for truth and be in alignment with higher calling and equanimity.

May your heart be light as a feather as you take measure of your own life during the balancing act of this Libra season.

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