04 August, 2012

Maat And The 42 Principles Of Life And Death

Maat and The Egyptian Book of the Dead
Weighing of the Heart After Death
It's interesting that way before the Bible's 10 Commandments came the ancient Egyptian's version, commonly known as Maat.

Maat was the Egyptian concept of truth, balance, order, law, morality, and justice and - as was their want - was represented by a goddess of the same name. She was the personification of truth and justice. The ostrich feather worn on her head was to represent truth.

There are various versions or translations of the 42 Principles or Commandments. Here is one version:

01 Thou shalt not kill, nor bid anyone kill.
01 Thou shalt not commit adultery or rape.
03 Thou shalt not avenge thyself nor burn with rage.
04 Thou shalt not cause terror.
05 Thou shalt not assault anyone nor cause anyone pain.
06 Thou shalt not cause misery.
07 Thou shalt not do any harm to man or to animals.
08 Thou shalt not cause the shedding of tears.
09 Thou shalt not wrong the people nor bear them any evil intent.
10 Thou shalt not steal nor take that which does not belong to you.
11 Thou shalt not take more than thy fair share of food.
12 Thou shalt not damage the crops, the fields, or the trees.
13 Thou shalt not deprive anyone of what is rightfully theirs.
14 Thou shalt not bear false witness, nor support false allegations.
15 Thou shalt not lie, nor speak falsely to the hurt of another.
16 Thou shalt not use fiery words nor stir up any strife.
17 Thou shalt not speak or act deceitfully to the hurt of another.
18 Thou shalt not speak scornfully against others.
19 Thou shalt not eavesdrop.
20 Thou shalt not ignore the truth or words of righteousness.
21 Thou shalt not judge anyone hastily or harshly.
22 Thou shalt not disrespect sacred places.
23 Thou shalt cause no wrong to be done to any workers or prisoners.
24 Thou shalt not be angry without good reason.
25 Thou shalt not hinder the flow of running water.
26 Thou shalt not waste the running water.
27 Thou shalt not pollute the water or the land.
28 Thou shalt not take God’s name in vain.
29 Thou shalt not despise nor anger God.
30 Thou shalt not steal from God.
31 Thou shalt not give excessive offerings nor less than what is due.
32 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods.
33 Thou shalt not steal from nor disrespect the dead.
34 Thou shalt remember and observe the appointed holy days.
35 Thou shalt not hold back the offerings due God.
36 Thou shalt not interfere with sacred rites.
37 Thou shalt not slaughter with evil intent any sacred animals.
38 Thou shalt not act with guile or insolence.
39 Thou shalt not be unduly proud nor act with arrogance.
40 Thou shalt not magnify your condition beyond what is appropriate.
41 Thou shalt do no less than your daily obligations require.
42 Thou shalt obey the law and commit no treason.

The concept of maat, and the importance of living a just life was central to the Egyptians beliefs about judgement after death. This was when the dead person's heart was 'weighed' in the balance against maat (image at top of post), symbolised by the feather worn on the head of the goddess.

There are also '42 Negative Confessions' as shown below. These are taken from public domain translations made by E. A. Wallis Budge. Something similar, perhaps, to a daily repetition or check list to ensure that the person is staying on track.

Forty-Two Declarations of Purity or the Negative Confessions.

01 I have not committed sin.
02 I have not committed robbery with violence.
03 I have not stolen.
04 I have not slain men and women.
05 I have not stolen grain.
06 I have not purloined offerings.
07 I have not stolen the property of the god.
08 I have not uttered lies.
09 I have not carried away food.
10 I have not uttered curses.
11 I have not committed adultery, I have not lain with men.
12 I have made none to weep.
13 I have not eaten the heart [i.e I have not grieved uselessly, or felt remorse].
14 I have not attacked any man.
15 I am not a man of deceit.
16 I have not stolen cultivated land.
17 I have not been an eavesdropper.
18 I have slandered [no man].
19 I have not been angry without just cause.
20 I have not debauched the wife of any man.
21 I have not debauched the wife of [any] man. (repeats the previous affirmation but addressed to a different god).
22 I have not polluted myself.
23 I have terrorised none.
24 I have not transgressed [the Law].
25 I have not been wroth.
26 I have not shut my ears to the words of truth.
27 I have not blasphemed.
28 I am not a man of violence.
29 I am not a stirrer up of strife (or a disturber of the peace).
30 I have not acted (or judged) with undue haste.
31 I have not pried into matters.
32 I have not multiplied my words in speaking.
33 I have wronged none, I have done no evil.
34 I have not worked witchcraft against the King (or blasphemed against the King).
35 I have never stopped [the flow of] water.
36 I have never raised my voice (spoken arrogantly, or in anger).
37 I have not cursed (or blasphemed) God.
38 I have not acted with evil rage.
39 I have not stolen the bread of the gods.
40 I have not carried away the khenfu cakes from the Spirits of the dead.
41 I have not snatched away the bread of the child, nor treated with contempt the god of my city.
42 I have not slain the cattle belonging to the god.

So we have 42 Principles and Declarations from the Egyptians. Perhaps this is how the number has moved into popular culture as The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, for example. There are many other examples where 42 has been used, but I'll leave it there for today.

Other Eyptian Posts On 67 Not Out include:
How The Ancient Egyptians Sent Letters To The Dead
Ancient Egyptians And Their World Of Dreams
The Curse Of The Pharaohs

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  1. Hmm... so the answer to life, the universe and everything is 42... right. And we'll need a bigger computer to tell/interpret what 42 means?

    I'll make a guess. 42= 4+2=6. 6 is the symbol of mankind. Therefore life, the universe, and everything has to do with the perception(?) of man?

    Just when I thought 10 was a bunch to remember!

    1. You didn't need that big computer after all - summed up nicely!

  2. Also to observe a rainbow the angle has to be one of 42 degrees from the direction opposite the Sun.


    There was also speculation that the word Mason was really a corrupted version of the word Maat-son,or a son of Maat.

    1. Hadn't heard that bit about the Mason's name - interesting!

  3. Okay, then, 42 is the key to everything! Interesting fact, Daz. Didn't know that. Now today, I suspect this number will crop up all over the place. Fascinating post.

    1. Daz is sometimes a fountain of knowledge ...

    2. Some would say urinal of knowledge .-)

  4. Anyone interested in the 42 subject might want to listen to this pod-cast by Kevin Halcott who talks about his observation with the number 42,rainbows and rabbits,about half way through the pod-cast.