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Hall of Two Truths: Ancient Egypt

Does anyone know what the proper ancient Egyptian name for the Hall of Truth, Hall of Two Truths, or Hall of Judgement is? This is the hall where a soul is weighed on a scale against the feather of Ma’at. I’ve tried several google searches to no avail. Ma’at means truth, and the words wADyt and iwynt both mean a specific type of columned hall. The word wpt means judgement. I am just uncertain of the order they would go in, or which one is historically accurate. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Mythology & Folklore Asked on August 29, 2021

2 Answers

2 Answers

It is "Hall of Two Truths", or "Dual Truth"

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Note that this hall is also sometimes called "Double Ma'at", inferring Isis and Nephtys.

Correct answer by Codosaur on August 29, 2021

To add to Codosaur's useful answer re the Egyptian words often written in English as Maat/Maaty, with apologies if you already know some of this. I have taken courses both in Hieroglyphics and Ancient Egyptian religion.

Maat does as you say mean 'truth' but to the Ancient Egyptians it was a wider concept. Depending on context it can also be translated 'order', 'justice' or occasionally 'harmony'. To us these words all represent different concepts but to the Egyptians they were one concept, of things being how they ought to be. It was an important word in their culture.

While in modern English we have only singular and plural forms of words, in Egyptian not all but some words have singular, dual and plural forms, in which the dual is used when there are two of something, so the plural means three or more. This is particularly found in words for things that that tend to come in pairs either in nature e.g. eyes (irwy) or in Egyptian culture e.g. lands, as one of their names for their country was 'the two lands' (tawy), which depending what book you read refers either to Upper and Lower Egypt (the Nile Valley and the Nile Delta) or the lands to the east and west of the Nile.

Maat in this case appears in its dual form 'maaty', meaning it refers to two Maats. Tomb illustrations show what these were. The deceased's 'akh spirit' (soul) is shown appearing before a court of gods and demigods presided over by Osiris, god of the dead. Here the deceased's heart is weighed (if it is too heavy that indicates it is weighed down by sins the deceased committed in life) and he is questioned as to whether he has acted virtuously in his life, whether he fed the hungry, let the thirsty drink, buried the dead, ferried the person who had no boat etc.

The court would then pronounce one of two 'maats', which although conventionally translated 'truths' I think in the context would be clearer to translate as 'verdicts'. Either the soul was judged worthy to enter the afterlife, or it was devoured by a monster that was half lion and half crocodile. In tomb paintings the monster is shown but generally portrayed as quite small and unscary looking, as the owner of the tomb wanted to believe that being eaten by the monster was not what was going to happen to him.

Finally, as you may or may not know, conventional modern pronunciations and transliterations of Egyptian words are not exactly how Egyptologists believe they were actually pronounced, for 2 reasons. First, subject to occasional exceptions for foreign names, the Egyptians only wrote the consonants, expecting the reader to know what the vowels would be. However, as we mostly don't know what the vowels would have been, to make it possible to pronounce the words there are various conventions that some characters can be read as vowels to make pronunciation easier. Also, Egyptian included characters representing sounds which we do not have in European alphabets, and it has become the convention to read some of these as though they represented a letter 'a'.

Hence the Egyptian word we represent as 'maat' they wrote as containing the following 4 consonants, which would have had vowel sounds in between them that are not recorded:

-M

  • a glottal stop (form the lips and tongue into the shape to make a sound but don't actually make one, like the Cockney pronunciation of the 't' in 'water')
  • a different sound made in the throat
  • T.

The two sounds in the middle for which we have no letters in our alphabet are each by convention treated as an 'a', hence Maat'.

Answered by Timothy on August 29, 2021

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