Ma’at is the ancient Egyptian concept that cannot be literally translated into English; roughly, it means rightness, balance, truth, and stability, with a side of justice, fairness, and wholeness. It is not white light, “good” vs. evil, or pure peace. The only concept ma’at is opposed to is isfet, which is (again only roughly translated) uncreation—not evil, not chaos, but the literal destruction of creation and all within it.
Capital-m-Ma’at is also the goddess Who personifies the lowercase-m-ma’at. She is associated with white ostrich feathers and usually depicted with winged arms. In modern Kemeticism, I have seen Her most often invoked to resolve massively unjust, imbalanced situations, especially those where isfet has a foothold. She is not a passive figurehead for unattainable perfection; She is the embodiment of the glue that holds all of creation together, Who works tirelessly to restore what has been unraveled.
Ma’at is my compass of choice. In a process more instinctual than verbal, I can usually determine in which direction the path of greatest ma’at lies. It feels like internal radar searching for that key blip or a compass needle spinning until it locks on magnetic north.
Sometimes, in certain situations, there are multiple choices that are neither within nor without ma’at—going northeast or northwest is still the same amount of “northwards.” Sometimes, it is just a human decision that will not contribute to isfet in the world and will not particularly strengthen ma’at. If I wear grey or blue, if I take this road or that one to work, if I join my friends in an evening out or stay home with my own projects—these are neutral. To put it bluntly, Ma’at doesn’t care about those things. Sometimes there are no blips on my internal radar to offer a direction, especially in true east-or-west scenarios.
But most of the time, ma’at is a northerly tug, and I can feel myself striving to align with that direction. Like magnetic north, ma’at shifts slightly, accommodating the balancing point of an evolving reality and a dynamic universe; it is not an unchanging fixed point like true north. Even with the fluctuations, though, my heart knows the direction in which She walks. I can, of course, exercise my free will at any point; I don’t have to walk in a straight line after Her. I can go off on tangents and right angles. I can even choose to go directly against Her grain, which contributes to isfet if I go far enough.
But I choose to acknowledge the pull of Her magnetism and walk towards the center of Her gravity, even if my way is a little winding at times. I am an infinitely better person for it.
This post was inspired by a few challenging days in the workplace, during which I had to choose, moment-to-moment, again and again, to follow Her composed example and not fritter away my time and energy in chasing my directional tail. I will not say it’s easy to keep choosing ma’at, nor will I say I chose it every single time, but 80% is a lot better than nothing.