The Egyptian Ceremony of the the Weighing of the Heart

Heart and Soul

The ancient Egyptians believed that the soul resided inside the heart. This organ’s exact bodily functions were not fully understood by the ancient Egyptians, who believed that the heart was central to most functions in the human body. The centrality of the heart is also confirmed by the many heart shaped amulets recovered in Egypt. Besides being worn in life, the amulets were also employed during mummification and put in between the wrappings, in order to further protect the dead during their journey in the underworld.

Beaded Mummy Mask

Mummification Process

Therefore, during the mummification process, the brain was removed through the nose, whereas the heart was left inside the body, as it would have been needed by the deceased once he or she entered the Duat, the realm of the dead ruled by Osiris. Here, a ceremony to determine the fate of the soul of each deceased was celebrated. Once they had terminated their journey though the underworld, they arrived at the Hall of Maat, where the ceremony of the weighing of the heart took place.

Anubis, Thoth and Maat

The first part of the ritual consisted in the deceased addressing each of the forty-two judges, or Ren, by their name and reciting all of the sins that he or she had not committed in their life. After this stage, needed to confirm their purity and freedom of sin, the deceased presented their heart to the balance where various gods performed the ceremony. Anubis was usually involved administering the test, whilst Thoth recorded the result. The heart was weighed against the feather of Maat, the goddess who represented truth, balance, justice and harmony.

Exquisite Lapis Lazuli Ma’at Amulet

The Feather of Maat

If the heart successfully balanced with the feather, the deceased was presented to Osiris and granted access to the Sekhet-Aaru, or the Field of Reeds, the heavenly paradise where the souls would live eternally. Contrarily, if the heart was heavier than the feather, meaning the deceased was impure and a sinner, it would have been devoured by the demonic goddess Ammit, hence destroying the soul forever and condemning the deceased to eternal restlessness and agony in the Duat.

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