©Joan Ann Lansberry, 4-26-08

"There is a fundamental notion, abstract yet vitally real, which colours all the myth, the morality and the life of the ancient Egyptians. This is Maât. Divine entities and human beings alike live by Maât, in Maât and for Maât.

"This single name expresses all notions of equilibrium and poise."..."The scales,and Maât's symbol, the feather, support a plumb line at the end of which hangs the plumb bob. Maât represents therefore accuracy, honesty, fairness, faithfulness, rectitude, and in this aspect becomes the emblem of the judge, who in the late period wore a small Maât of lapis lazuli on his breast. Maât is the symbol of Justice and Truth, of authenticity, legitimacy, integrity, legality.

"Maât is also the symbol of harmony, in the sense of accurate tones and perfect musical accords. In the New Kingdom (after1567 BC) harps are often decorated with a figure of Maât." (from _Egyptian Mysteries_, by Lucie Lamy, page 17)

Jan Assmann is an Egyptologist who has studied the meaning of Ma'at:

"Ma'at guarantees that what was valid yesterday will hold good today, that a person will stand by what he said and did yesterday, that he will respond to what others have said and done. Ma'at is, thus, a consistency of action beyond the limits of the day, a form of active remembrance that provides the basis of trust and successful accomplishment. 'All actions are interjoined,' says the Instructions for King Merikare."
(From _The Mind of Egypt: History and Meaning in the Time of the Pharoahs_, by Jan Assmann, page 129)

People will remember our actions, and they will respond accordingly. Furthermore, if we behave to the highest of our ethical understanding, we can take great pride in this. This pride give strength to all our future actions, whether magical or mundane.

Lucie Lamy goes on to explain:
Ma'at "is consciousness itself, and also the individual consciousness that each person carries in his heart, for she is both the motivating force and the goal of life. She is invoked on all occasions; she is omnipresent. Maât moves and directs existence, and Maât is its ultimate treasure." (from _Egyptian Mysteries_, by Lucie Lamy, page 17) Printable info about Maat is available.

This is the image that inspired this piece:

Ma'at in Nefertari's tomb, from _The Royal Tombs of Egypt: The Art of Thebes Revealed_, photos by Sandro Vannini, page 85

But I wanted to make my version more personal. I remembered with amusement Courbet's words on copying 'the past' directly, so I did not duplicate the hands as they are in the original. Perhaps there is some additional significance to the unrealistic hand positions, I should study the symbology books more. But I didn't want her hands like that. Also, I gave her a smile, and put my own name, along with 'Beloved of Set' in the cartouche:

I wanted some writing in the background as the original has, so I found some phrases:

"He shall come forth by day", from Budge's _The Egyptian Book of the Dead_

Hieroglyph for "night", _Gereh_

Interestingly enough, "In Underworld Books [Maat] is often shown standing close to Ra in both the Day and Night Boats of the sun." (Geraldine Pinch, _Egyptian Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Goddesses and Traditions of Ancient Egypt_, (Oxford 2002), page 160

I'd got the picture all drawn. I invited Julia to have a look. She exclaimed, "Oh, I wish you had called me over before you inked it in. The gender is all wrong! You should use the feminine!" So we found in another Budge book the gender determinatives:

The 'viper' is masculine determinative, the 'bolt' is feminine determinative...

I joked a bit, but then thought, well, I should have it right. But, oh, to redraw it! But I found a solution. Laura had bought a glass table for doing her cartoons. The light she used to aid tracing was still there, and still plugged in. That light illuminates so well, I can trace on thick bristol board from a sheet of thick bristol board underneath. I took advantage to make better placement of the figures overall, give Ma'at a nicer face, and elongate her too short waist:

Ma'at herself is making a hieroglyph for 'love' with her arm positions and the enclosure of the cartouche!

January 17, 2009
Sunlight on images of Set and Ma'at...