In the ancient world, myths were used as a means to understand the inexplicable, as a way to make sense of the great wonders and mysteries of the earth and to give meaning to humanity. Inspired by the cycles of nature, the mythology of ancient Egypt still holds our imaginations in its sway today. Ancient Egyptians saw time in the present as a repetition of the linear events of their myths; to them, this mirroring served to renew ma’at (or mayet), the fundamental order of all existence.
Myths were a way of passing down behavioral expectations, codes of conduct, and moral obligation. They were reminders that the actions we take today create the context for tomorrow. Today’s decisions are the gifts and curses we bestow upon our descendants.
Ma’at was the Egyptian concept of truth, balance, and order. Ma’at was personified as the goddess of the stars; it was she who conducted cosmic harmony out of the chaos of creation, she who maintained the equilibrium of the universe ~ the setting of the sun, the rising of the tides. She was justice and she was reason.
Ma’at was the central principle of Egyptian cosmology and ethics, and so the primary duty of an Egyptian king was to be the champion of ma’at. All the daily rituals and sacrifices would be deemed meaningless unless the king and his people were living righteous, balanced lives. The word itself indicated ‘that which is real’, and so for the ancient Egyptians, ma’at came to imply anything that was true, genuine or harmonious.