Scales of Ma’at “Symbol of Balance” The Scales of Ma’at is a very famous symbol that represents balance, justice, and truth in ancient Egyptian religion and mythology as it was used as the main instrument in the judgment process. Ma’at was the goddess of truth, order, and balance, and her scales were used to weigh the hearts of the deceased in the afterlife. The Scales of Ma’at have often depicted in ancient Egyptian art, with Ma’at herself standing beside the scales, wearing a feather in her hair, and holding a scepter representing her divine authority. They remain a popular symbol in modern culture, often used to represent justice, balance, and fairness as they can be seen in the modern-day hands of lady justice. The image of the scales has been used in everything from jewelry and tattoos to logos and branding for companies and organizations that value these ideals.

Weighing of the Heart

The heart of Hunefer weighed against the feather of Maat.

In the Duat, the Egyptian underworld, the hearts of the dead were said to be weighed against her single “Feather of Maat”, symbolically representing the concept of Maat, in the Hall of Two Truths. This is why hearts were left in Egyptian mummies while their other organs were removed, as the heart (called “ib”) was seen as part of the Egyptian soul. If the heart was found to be lighter or equal in weight to the feather of Maat, the deceased had led a virtuous life and would go on to Aaru. Osiris came to be seen as the guardian of the gates of Aaru after he became part of the Egyptian pantheon and displaced Anubis in the Ogdoad tradition. A heart which was unworthy was devoured by the goddess Ammit and its owner condemned to remain in the Duat. The weighing of the heart, as typically pictured on papyrus in the Book of the Dead, or in tomb scenes, shows Anubis overseeing the weighing and Ammit seated awaiting the results to consume those who failed. The image contains a balancing scale with an upright heart standing on one side and the Shu-feather standing on the other. Other traditions hold that Anubis brought the soul before the posthumous Osiris who performed the weighing. While the heart was weighed the deceased recited the 42 Negative Confessions as the Assessors of Maat looked on.