“Ma’at has not been disturbed since the Beginning. The source of all harmonious creation, she is neither diminished nor disfigured by the manifestation of that creation…The Rule of Ma’at is simultaneously the precision, the truth, the harmony and the coherence of the universe…it is crucial to ‘act Ma’at’ and ‘speak Ma’at.’ In the absence of Ma’at reign disorder, injustice, violence and the realm of darkness.” –The Wisdom of Ptah-Hotep
Living Ma’at: it is at the core of Kemeticism. First and foremost, before worshiping the Gods, before finding a Patron, before learning to do ritual or celebrate festivals and holidays, a Kemetic must focus on maintaining and living Ma’at. What does that entail, exactly? Well, as the above passage explains, Ma’at represents balance, order, kindness, truth, harmony, and the goodness of the world (the complexity of all those things, and more). In short, the opposite of isefet, or evil (disorder, corruption, etc). Ma’at is also a Goddess, as the above picture represents. Ma’at the concept is personified in the form of a beautiful winged woman. She is, basically, the Goddess of Truth. She is a consort of Djehuty, actually, my Patron, the God of Words (spoken and written), Magic, and Kindness (see, all of these things are deeply and inherently related).
A true Kemetic honors Ma’at the Goddess by living Ma’at in daily life: making good choices, being kind to others, repairing the world, taking care of the Earth, not lying, not stealing, etc. Ma’at is also the ultimate offering to the Gods – to Ra, especially, the Creator. Truth, justice, kindness, order…all of these things please the Gods beyond measure. And most importantly of all, living a life of Ma’at aids one after death: it is the Kemetic belief that you are judged when you die, and your heart (which the ancient Egyptians believed was the spiritual center of a person, where decisions are made and morality is born – the Egyptians coined the phrase/concept of “following one’s heart”) is weighed against the Feather of Ma’at…if it is lighter, then you are granted eternal peace, and may continue on to the afterlife…if it is heavier, however, your heart (and therefore your essence, or soul) is consumed by Amit, the destroyer – in short, a terrible monster. You cease to exist, and cannot continue on to the afterlife.
Because of this – the fact that we, as humans, essentially create our own afterlives (either peace or nothingness), by deciding how to live our lives (good or bad – with “light” hearts or “heavy” ones) – I find Kemeticism to be extremely rewarding, philosophically. It just makes sense. And it makes me feel better about the people out there doing terrible things – they will, after all, be ultimately punished after death, even if they aren’t punished enough now, in this life (due to flawed governments, judicial systems, etc). And they chose to be that way! After all, the Gods did give humans free will: we have the choice to live good lives, or bad ones, and we get to make that choice in the present, as we live – living the right way now is important, because it will shape our journeys after death. Those who choose true evil will end with true evil, and despite the repercussions of the upsetting things they may do in this life, that’s somehow ultimately reassuring.
Kemeticism also teaches, though, that living Ma’at not only rewards a person after death, but also throughout his or her life. We, essentially, above all else, are judging ourselves, every single day. And of course, everybody makes mistakes…and, because humans are naturally imperfect and the Gods are naturally forgiving (and also imperfect!), it is generally believed that the Feather of Ma’at is a lot heavier than one might expect…basically, you have to do some pretty bad stuff to end up with a heavy enough heart to tip the scales. This is no excuse not to live well and treat others nicely, etc., of course, which is why, if you do start to really focus on living Ma’at, you will begin to notice the small everyday rewards of doing so.
What do I mean by “small everyday rewards?” I will show you: two incidents happened to me recently that really proved to me that living Ma’at is important, and rewarding: not only for the afterlife, but for the right now (all of it is interconnected, really). The other week I spilled water on my computer keyboard – it was a stupid, and irresponsible thing to do, and 100% my fault. I knew going into it that water damage isn’t normally covered under Apple Computer’s warranty, but I took my computer to the Apple store anyway to get it fixed, and when I got there, I made a point of telling the repair guy the entire story. I told the truth about what happened, that I spilled water, and really above all else I just wanted to know if it could be fixed and for how much. I explained that I love my computer and really need it, and that I have learned my lesson about bringing ANY liquids even within five feet of it. And you know what the repair guy said? He told me he would fix it for free – what would normally cost $700 was going to cost me nothing! I asked why, and he said that so many people try to lie about water damage that Apple has started personally rewarding those who tell the truth, and save the company a lot of trouble by being upfront about water damage situations. He also said he could tell that I really loved my computer, would remain an Apple customer no matter what, and it was my first time needing a repair from Apple.
Basically – honesty and genuine love of a product got me a free computer repair. Better even was the sense of satisfaction I got from telling the truth. I began to wonder if this was what it felt like to truly live Ma’at…
And then, a second thing happened: the other day, I really needed a new binder to transfer my Book of Shadows into…I figured I could just take one from my work, since they have a million random office supplies lying around. I took one of the big black extra binders, but as soon as I got home from work that day I began to feel really bad about taking the binder. Even though nobody was using it, and it had just been sitting in the supply room untouched, I still felt bad about taking something that really wasn’t mine, and that I hadn’t asked for. I had bad dreams that night, and decided, waking up from the third nightmare of the evening, that I would take back the binder the next day. I took it back, and immediately upon doing so, felt a huge sense of relief. I went to get some chapstick out of my backpack and noticed, for the first time, a necklace of mine that I thought had been lost for months, just sitting in the front pocket. It may have been there for all the time I thought it was lost, but I just couldn’t understand why I had never found it there, in what appeared to me at that moment as such an obvious place. I realized that I was being rewarded for my decision to bring the binder back, as small a decision as it was: it was in accordance with Ma’at. Better than finding the necklace, of course, was the feeling of satisfaction that I got from the whole incident.
These things might seem small, and of course I have done minor things in that past that were perhaps not the best or most honest things to do, but the point is that, since beginning to study Kemeticism, and really focus on what it means to “live Ma’at,” I have begun to better understand what it means to, essentially, be a good person. Such small offenses bother me now, and I think it’s because I’m starting to get a sense of what Ma’at is all about – the small things add up. I can feel when something is a good decision or a bad decision, better than I have ever been able to before. I feel inspired to live a life of justice, truth, harmony, and honesty. I know that doing so will please my Gods, and aid me in the afterlife, but most of all, it’s what will make my life rewarding and beautiful right now.
For advice on how to truly live Ma’at, and for general information about ancient Egyptian theology, philosophy, and everyday living, please check out The Wisdom of Ptah-Hotep. I’ve really been enjoying reading it, and it provides an excellent guide on how to live Ma’at everyday. Even though it’s one of the oldest books in the world, it still applies today…the maxims of Ptah-Hotep the scholar are still applicable even for a modern person. It’s truly a helpful and great read.
Until next time!