The Power of Ma'at
We as human beings been wonder about what is Law and Justice? To answer the question I have to lead you to one of the first conception of Law, Order, and Justice and Her name is the Goddess Ma'at
Although the Goddess was often personified, Ma´at is perhaps best understood as a conception, rather than a goddess, but she was central to the understanding of the universe, balance and divine order in Ancient Egypt. Her name Ma´at is generally translated as "that which is straight" or "truth" but also implies "order", "balance" and "justice". Thus Ma´at personified perfect order and harmony. She came into being when Sun God Ra rose from the waters of Nun (Chaos) and so she is the first child of Ra. She is sometimes married to Thoth because he is the God of Wisdom. This Goddess helped the Ra steer his boat across the sky each day, guiding his direction.
The ancient Egyptians believed that the universe was ordered and rational which they are right. The rising and setting of the sun, the flooding of the Nile and the predicable course of the stars in the sky reassured them that there was permanent existence which was central to the nature of all things. However, the forces of chaos were always present and threatened the balance of the Goddess Ma´at. Each person was duty bound to preserve and defend Ma´at and the Pharaoh was perceived as the guardian of Ma´at. Her priests, judges and law enforcement officers are her servants. Without Ma´at, Nun would reclaim the universe and chaos would reign supreme.
The Egyptians also had a strong sense of morality and justice. They felt that the good should prosper, and that the guilty would be punished. They praised those who defended the weak and the poor and placed a high value on loyalty especially to one’s family. However, they also understood that it was not possible to be perfect, just balanced. Ma´at transcended specific ethical rules (which differed according to different times and different peoples) and instead focused on the natural order of things. That being said, certain actions were clearly against Ma´at as they increased the effect of chaos and had a purely negative effect on the world.
The ancient Egyptian believe that a person's soul was judged in the Hall of Ma´at (depicted in the book of the dead and book five of the book of gates) when they died. Their heart (conscience) was weighed against the feather of Ma´at (an ostrich feather) on scales which represented balance and justice. If their heart was heavier than the feather because they had failed to live a balanced life by the principles of Ma´at their heart was either thrown into a lake of fire or devoured by a fearsome deity known as Ammit. If, however, the heart balanced with the feather of Ma´at they would pass the test and gain eternal life. At certain times it was Osiris, God of the Underworld, who sat as judge in the ritual, and many other deities were involved in the ceremony, but the scales always represented Ma´at.
The Ancient Egyptians also had a well developed legal system to ensure that Ma´at was preserved in daily life. It is thought that the Priests of Ma´at were involved in the justice system as well as tending to the needs of the goddess.
All rulers respected Ma´at, but Akhenaten in particular emphasized his devotion to Ma´at, despite (or perhaps because of) his rather unconventional approach to the gods. Hatshepsut also emphasized her reverence for Ma´at by taking the throne name Ma´atkare (justice is the soul of re), again possibly because as a female ruler she needed to show that her position was in line Ma´at. She also built a small temple to Ma´at within the precinct of Montu in Karnak.
Ma´at was depicted as a woman wearing a crown with a single ostrich feather protruding from it. She is occasionally depicted as a winged goddess. Her totem was a stone platform representing the stable foundation on which order was built and the primeval mound which first emerged from the waters of Nun (chaos).
I am starting a new blog called Criminal Justice Today. It will discuss the real problems in the criminal justice systems.