Positive Progress Through The Benevolent Use Of Knowledge

Wednesday, April 21, 2010



The ancient Egyptians believed that the heart recorded all of the good and bad deeds of a person's life, and was needed for judgment in the afterlife. After a person died, the heart was weighed against the feather of Maat (goddess of truth and justice).

The scales were watched by Anubis (the jackal-headed god of embalming) and the results recorded by Thoth (the ibis-headed god of writing). If a person had led a decent life, the heart balanced with the feather and the person was rendered worthy to live forever in paradise with Osiris.


In the later version of the judgment, when the divine tribunal determines whether the deceased individual is worthy of eternal life, death marks the moment determining the immortality of the individual.

People are now considered either pure or evil, with the evil dying a second death to become mt, or damned. But the good become transfigured as akh or spirit. This divine judgment is expressed figuratively by the use of scales which were used by accounting scribes to weigh precious metals with objective calculation in treasury accounts.

At death, each individual becomes Osiris if declared justified or "true of voice", resuscitated into new life, as Isis did when she magically revived Osiris, and like Horus, who was declared as "telling the truth" in his physical and legal battles with Set over the inheritance of the kingship from Osiris.

The gods Osiris, Anubis, and Horus, from a tomb painting.


Unambiguous references to scales of reckoning occur in the Coffin Texts, such as CT spell 335 and CT spell 452, the latter referring to "that balance of Ra on which Ma’at is raised,"; four coffins of the 12th Dynasty bear a text of CT spell 338in which the dead are polarized as good and evil.

This text refers to various divine tribunals, and asks that the deceased be vindicated against his foes just as the god Thoth vindicated Osiris against his own foes. One line reads, "the tribunal which is in Abydos on that night of counting the dead and the blessed spirits."

Ra (at center) travels through the underworld in his barque, accompanied by other gods

In spell 125, the deceased is first led into the broad court of the Two Maats or Two Truths, to declare innocence of wrongs before the great god, and before the full tribunal of forty-two divine assessors, including Osiris and Ra.

Some of the denials reflect the precepts of the Instruction genre of Egyptian literature, whereby the father instructs a son or apprentice in the correct way to behave. Others are related to the priestly oaths of purity taken at the moment of entering priestly service. The style of the declarations are in the form of "I have not done X."

The illustrations, or vignettes, of the "weighing of the heart" often include the four sons of Horus as protectors of the internal organs of the deceased after mummification.

These were represented by the canopic jars. They were named Imseti, who was human-headed and guarded the liver, Hapi, who was baboon-headed, guarding the lungs, Dua-mutef, jackal-headed, guarding the stomach, and Qebeh-senuef, falcon-headed, for the intestines.

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