Tag Archives: ma;at

Ma’at and Ethics

The Negative Confession that is in the Papyrus of Ani, is often referred to as the “42 Laws of Ma’at”. While this part of the Pert Em Hrw or Book of Coming Forth by Day (aka the Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead) Spell or Chapter 125. Though it is a moral ideal in ancient Kemetic culture, it is erroneous to consider that these are “Laws” in the way that our written rules of law or even the Ten Commandments that YHWH gave to Moses. The 42 points of the Negative Confession serve as a way that your heart will not, in essence, “rat you out” to Anubis when it is weighed against the ostrich feather of Ma’at. If it is found heavier than the feather, then ultimately, your heart will be fed to the Ammit. This is the ever-dreaded “Second Death” that is spoken of in ancient Egyptian literature. If one suffers the Second Death, then it is as if you never were. To the ancient Kemetic people, that was a fate far worse than even the First Death.

What the 42 points of the Negative Confession are not is a sort of Ten Commandments Plus, or an “In Your Face, We Were Here First” bit of text to grant bragging rights to Kemetics in answer to more mainstream faiths. Unfortunately, however, this is precisely what some sites would have us believe about this important piece of extant funerary, if not liturgical text. The negative confession is a set of ideals that serve as a moral compass for Kemetics. Ideals are not laws, they are not rules. They serve as a guideline to help a person navigate and become complete and whole themselves, as well as viable members of a society or the world at large. Dr. Mulana Karenga said in his book on Ma’at:

“Maat insists on a holistic view of the moral ideal, one that gives rightful and adequate attention to self, society and the world as component parts of an interrelated order of rightness. The ongoing quest then is to maintain, renew, repair and enhance this order as self-conscious creators and bringers of the good in the world in a process and practice called srudj ta – restoring, repairing and renewing the world. Such a world encompassing concept of moral practice invites us to move beyond the narrow notions of self, national and even species interest and understand and assert ourselves as members of an interrelated order of existence in the world.”

This is, I firmly believe, the core of what Ma’at is, and who we as Kemetics are. Dr. Karanga’s definition cuts to the heart of what most of us look for in our spiritual and day to day practices.
This the fundamental mission statement for each of us, regardless of what sect of Kemetic belief we personally espouse. These ethics, these guidelines or ideals are something that don’t need to figuratively or literally be carved into stone, but rather something that is written upon our ka’s.. To do these things feeds those ka’s or spirits. Na’at being upheld and lived via these ideals goes beyond class, gender, sexual orientation, geography, nationality or even species. Karenga very astutely goes on to state:

“…At this juncture, Maatian discourse offers a contribution to modern moral deliberation about human fragmentation and the ongoing quest to return to an integrity and wholeness of human life that ends division of the social and natural world, mind and body, the past, present and future. And what is important here is not the assumed validity of the varying positions within these deliberations, but the value of the different modes of questioning and how they demonstrate the diversity, strength and weakness of ways to engage the issues.“

This leaves we in the Kemetic Community as well as those outside of it to examine on a nearly constant basis what it is we are doing, why we are doing it and how it effects the greater whole. I cannot believe that we as human beings are so self-involved, greedy or thoughtless as to not for the mostpart be concerned about these things. Careful consideration of Ma’at and what Ma’at represents or is enacted is something that is an obligation that we have to ourselves and to our world. The profundity of free will and conscious consideration toward a set of ideals that is represented in Ma’at and the symbolism behind both the Goddess and the ideal that accompanies her cannot be understated. This is what almost every piece of liturgical text and piece of wisdom literature focuses upon and it is the cornerstone of our respective Faiths. This is something that is very important, I believe, and in order for us to move forward if our vision of a viable, strong Kemetic community, we need to have dialogue about it. I know that we can do it. I fully expect that such a vision will come to pass and that each of us will strive in accordance as closely as possible with Ma’at.

I am therefore inviting the membership of the Kemetic Community and those outside of it to consider the negative confession, the ideals that it represents and how we can further that in re-establishing them for ourselves and as a community and fellow inhabitants of this world. Comments can be left here or you may email me directly at maatpublishing at gmail dot com.

Resources:

Dr. Maulana Karenga,“Maat: The Moral Ideal in Ancient Egypt, A study in Classical African Ethics”, p. 408
Image of Ma’at by Jeff Dahl, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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Words and Symbolism

In the beginning there was the Word. Communications, writing especially, is the ultimate priesthood. Within it we can heal, we can harm, we can convey the very contents of our souls, our dreams and aspirations. We can create, we can destroy – and they can live beyond us. The Word creates the world.

That is why the sacredness of words is so central to the Ancient Egyptian or Kemetic belief system. The ancient Egyptians held that the word was sacred. They believed that uttering the true name or ren of something or someone could either create or destroy them. You could, make or unmake if something was uttered absolutely correctly. If not, and something is misspoken? Well, we Kemtics have a saying that “the Mysteries protect themselves.” In my experience, that has been very true. The chances of disaster striking is less likely because unordered words were not and are not effective.

Behind this notion is the power of the Word. This concept, which is also a Goddess in her own right, is Ma’at. Ma’at is the right order of things, the balance of the sum total of everything. Ma’at is the moral ideal, and that which judges us in the end. There is Universal Ma’at, but there is also personal ma’at and only we can determine what that is or is not for us. Through our words and our deeds, ma’at is that which we are responsible for, each of us every moment of our lives. Every contract we sign, every promise or vow we make holds us into account for what we have done, and ultimately feeds into who we are as a person. Either we are trustworthy or untrustworthy, balanced or out of balance. It is something that is with us for every moment of our lives. As Sir Lawrence Olivier once said about life and livelihood: “Everything we do is autobiographical.”

The Goddess Maa't

This Ma’at through our words is all stored within the heart. And it is that which is, at the time of our death and in the Halls of Double Ma’ati in Amenta or the Underworld, weighed against the feather of Ma’at. This is the purpose that the Negative Confession, often mistranslated as being the 42 “Laws” of Ma’at, provides. The “confession” served a purpose. In the litany of denials of all the things we have not done to disturb not only universal ma’at but our ow. The Negative Confession was used so that your own heart would not rat you out or betray you. In antiquity, this meant the difference between joining Wasir (Osiris) and the rest of the gods in the Field of Reeds or ending up as a snack for the Ammit, and dying the second death, from which there was no return. If anything, this negative confession gives us pause to think before we act or before we speak.

It also underscores the idea that whenever we know something in our heart, we can feel it. This feeling is right in that undeniable spot. When we are stricken to our core, it is in that place where we feel it most profoundly. From there it spreads out to the rest of the body and in some extreme cases, can even strike us down where we stand. It can keep us up many a sleepless night and dog our every step during the day. We may try to drown it in drink, alcohol, drugs or any other external pleasure or inner escapism, but still it waits for the moment where it can niggle at our innards and we essentially eat ourselves via that reminding voice.

Immortality lies within our words. That is why writing is so vital for those of us who call ourselves writers. Some, like me, cling to this notion. We tear into it ravenously upon waking or even before sleeping because we know that ultimately it is what is at the very core of us. Getting those words out, whether it is by telling stories that are inside of us via fiction, non fiction, film or by some other means, it is as important to us as breathing. We do not feel right with the world or ourselves if we sit on the words that are inside of us.

In the beginning was the Word…

My own mouth came to me, and Magic was my name.

The Ancient Egyptians understood something that we moderns quite often forget. Within the pictographs of the language was also housed a deeper, unseen meaning. There are literal and symbolic meanings. Most indigenous cultures still tap into this symbolist’s viewpoint. Symbolism often can bridge the gap between literacy and illiteracy. Though literacy, as we know it today, was not as widespread in antiquity as it is now, there is always something that resonates through the world of the symbolic ‘word’ to the world of form. It is not just a primitive and simplistic superstition. It is a reality. Look at the symbol for the word life – the ankh. Ankh This has been incorporated into so much of what we know today. You don’t even have to know how to spell the word, ankh, the symbol by itself conveys several thousand years of the idea behind it. Ancient mirrors were shaped like an ankh because they reflected life. The same is true of so many other symbols. Another symbol, the eye – the window of the soul, what you serve, what sees, what bears witness, what punishes us for the wrongdoing, what protects us in the end from enemies that might wish to do us harm.

This is why, to my mind, the works of R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz, his wife, Isha, and his stepdaughter, Lucie Lamy had it right. Recent offerings from Jeremy Naydler and Richard Reidy also tap into this idea using ancient symbolism along with what we know archaeologically and egyptologically. Somewhere between the ridiculous offerings of new age hucksters and the staunch, unwavering scientific certainty of liturgy that has been “proven” is something else. Between those two extremes is a middle ground where our words are felt by instinct. Of course, modern language is not nearly as complex as that of the ancients. Their words, comprised of hundreds of symbols could have as many as seventeen tenses and double and triple entandres in addition to the symbolic meaning. No wonder so few were scribes or even literate!

But all of this aside. Study and absorption are all a constant for each of us. Writing is part of that process and if we are alive and conscious, especially within this social media driven world, some of us have become determined to prattle less, write more. Within that resolution, came the newest nighttime behaviour: less awakened by nightmares, I have been awakened by insights rather than nightmares of ruin and destruction. These insights are the very things that I have hoped for. It’s the feverent wish to be given a small clue, realization or insight that are needed. As I write this, there is a small gold statue of Djehuty (Thoth), the god of Wisdom and writing watching over me. I think sometimes he must somehow just blink ant my unordered thoughts!

To my mind, I have been sitting on my words for too long. I have endless reams of what I have written either on Livejournal, PanHistoria, Dreamwidth and my various blogs. The hardest part for me is organizing it and perhaps that is where my use of Scrivener comes in. It allows me to do what needs to be done and pass it between PCs in smaller files that are more easily arranged. It’s long since time to actually do something with it.

We are surrounded by words on a nearly constant basis. We are rarely able to escape from them for any length of time and we are immersed in them to such a degree that we barely have time for our own thoughts. But perhaps thinking about the words that we write or that we utter, we can come to an understanding about how and why words were considered sacred. This is especially needed in a world where our words will undoubtedly outlive us.

BD Hunefer cropped 1

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Filed under fiction, indigenous, kemetic, Pan Historia, writing