Exploring Universal Truths and the role of Judgement with Ma’at
The Wheel of the Year shifts this month, September, as we move into the transition of Mabon. Here we say our goodbyes to the light and turn our faces to the shadows; those outside of us and those within us. As we move with this transition, we travel back to magical Africa, to the ancient Pantheon of Egypt, where we greet the goddess Ma’at, the weigher of truth and justice. The one who judges our soul and sees through to our truest heart. The keeper of order and balance amongst the chaos of the world. It’s no coincidence that we turn to Ma’at now, during the month of the Autumnal Equinox, when the Earth will pause, for just a moment, in complete balance of darkness and light. Ma’at is the keeper of such cosmic balance and order.
Ma’at holds the scales of truth. She rules over the balance and order of the Universe. She is the human embodiment of morality, law, justice, and harmony. And, her 42 principles stand in striking similarity to the Ten Commandments of Christianity, though predating them by thousands of years. Ma’at maintains the momentum of the stars and planets, the changing seasons, and the balance between the worlds. This equilibrium is the natural state of being, but of course as in all things, there is a duality, and the opposite to Ma’at was known as Isfet, or the principle of chaos. Without one, the other could not exist, and so these forces are codependent on each other. So here we see again, in yet another tradition, the principle of Alchemy which states that all opposites are but opposite sides of the same coin, and thus they cannot exist without each other. So, Ma’at’s balance cannot exist without Isfet’s chaos. They are but one and the same. Thus we must honor and acknowledge both. In doing so, we will find our own balancing point. This is where we can invoke Ma’at. She can help us see the truth and realities of the world; our own inner truths which we can so often deny and repress (shadow!), as well as the outer truths, which we can also distort through perception. Allow Ma’at to help you see all things in balance as you prepare for the ever deepening darkness. Allow her to guide you to see the Universal Truth of all things.
One of my favorite aspects of Ma’at is her sacred ostrich feather. She is often depicted as a woman with her feather adoring her headdress. It was believed that Ma’at weighed the hearts of the dead in Duat, the Egyptian underworld. They believed that the physical human heart was the home of the soul. This is why the heart was often left in the Egyptian mummies while the other major organs were removed. Her weighing of each person’s heart was the tell tale sign of whether or not the person had lived a virtuous and light life or not. An unworthy heart was devoured by the goddess Ammit, while the worthy heart would go on to the paradise, Aaru. We can call on Ma’at to help us judge ourselves fairly as we look upon our deepest selves, the paces we often judge so harshly. Work with her to help you see your own truths with fairness, love, and justice. Call upon her to assist you to set free those emotions, behaviors, or events which weigh heavy on your heart.
Journal Prompts for Ma’at
Which Universal truths resonate with you? Are there any Universal truths that don’t resonate as deeply? Why do you think this is?
What do you feel the difference is between a “light” or a “heavy” heart? How does your heart weigh in right now? Where are you holding onto unnecessary energetic weight?
What role does Judgement play in your life? Do you find success or struggle with the concept of judgement? Where or with whom do you find yourself being the harshest judge?
Our September Theme: Embracing our shadow with Ma’at to find balance and truth
The name Ma´at is generally translated as ‘that which is straight’ or ‘truth’ but also implies ‘order’, ‘balance’ and ‘justice.’ I find it most interesting that Ma’at, although often depicted in human form, is more of a Universal idea; she is truth, balance, fairness, and order in human form. And while the Egyptians used her as an ideal, they also understood we could never be perfect, thus they strove for balance rather than perfection, as we are doing here.
So, as we peer into this collective web of balance and connection, work with Ma’at to see the truths interwoven throughout. It is here we see that we are but smaller versions of the same cosmic truths playing out all around us. As above, so below. The very forces at work across the great spans of the Universe are here working in and amongst us all. We forget though, as we live out our material/physical existences on Earth, that we are so much more. We get so weighed down and blocked by our human fears, insecurities, and emotional baggage that we deny our own truths. When we clear out all the excess weight, and we turn deep within our own depths to greet our shadows, we discover how truly Divine we are. So as we turn to the shadows, we can call on Ma’at to help us find our truth, and to help us see ourselves with this truth rather than through eyes filtered by years of harsh judgements by ourself and others.
So how does shadow work – the process of looking at the parts of you that are scary, repressed, socially unacceptable or norm-violating – begin? It’s simple. When we dig down to excavate our precious soul essence, which is buried under all that time and experience, we’re not just going to dig up happiness and flowers. We’re going to dig up some stuff you’d probably rather not revisit. Because it’s mixed into the very essence of you. It is you; this is where you rediscover you shadow. She’s there, and she influences us, even when she’s not activated. Shadow work is nothing more than the act of noticing and acknowledging her and what she looks like, what her behaviors are that got us ignoring her in the first place, what wounds she has experienced and scars she carries. The work is simply to notice.
In noticing, we turn on a light. In acknowledging, we set our shadow free. They can only haunt and scare us when we refuse to see, or we deny, their existence. Shadow is the ghost in the closet that can’t haunt you once the closet is open. The mind can make the dark depths scarier than they actually are. Ask Ma’at to guide you on this quest for truth and balance, for we cannot strike balance between light and dark come Mabon if we’re still denying our dark!
Now, is this work scary? Sure. It can be. But fall is the season and this is the time to do it. The Wheel of the Year is turning toward the darker half of the year, and next month we greet Samhain, when the Veil between worlds and the Veil between ourselves is thinnest. Shadow stuff comes up in the fall anyway, and who better to guide us deeper into the realms of shadow come October than Hecate herself.
Our journey into the alchemy, mystery, and the dark half of the year begins here, on Mabon. We shift now, we transition, and we’re beginning a new journey! We said, “YES!” to the journey with our hourglass. As your guide, I feel entrusted with your energy and take seriously the work we are about to do, together. I also want to encourage you to keep your sense of humor, and to know that shadow work – the ‘big bad’ shadow we’re all so scared to look at – is only part of what we shall explore this season.
We will begin to explore the concepts of alchemy and shadow, how they are related (to me), and where you can enter this space comfortably. Remember it’s all a process. The work we are doing this season is about your integration. There is no beginning and no ending in this space. You enter, you do work, and you leave where and when you are ready.
We’re not used to learning on such circuitous terms! So much of our learning as adults is linear. We begin at the beginning, right? We begin a book on page 1. We begin a course at week 1. I try to honor that linear thinking in the organization of THIS course too but even so, where we begin here is akin to the way ancient books were written – in medias res, in the middle of things. As we shared last night in class, my favorite line from Dante’s Inferno is the first line of Canto I, and it goes like this (much more beautiful in Italian, of course):
“Midway upon the journey of our lifeI found myself within a forest dark,For the straightforward pathway had been lost.Ah me! how hard a thing it is to say
What was this forest savage, rough, and stern,
Which in the very thought renews the fear.
So bitter is it, death is little more;
But of the good to treat, which there I found,
Speak will I of the things I saw there.
I cannot well repeat how there I entered,
So full was I of slumber at the moment
In which I had abandoned the true way.
But after I had reached a mountain’s foot,
At that point where the valley terminated,
Which had with consternation pierced my heart,
Upward I looked, and I beheld its shoulders,
Vested already with that planet’s rays
Which leadeth others right by every road.
Then was the fear a little quieted.”
Dante is speaking of the process at mid-life when we finally come to face our fears and mine our inner landscape for the gold buried in our bedrock because whatever straightforward path we’ve been on isn’t quite so straightfoward or simple anymore. So we start digging into layers and layers of time and wounds and experiences laced with precious metal waiting to be excavated. Our work this season is to get down in there and do the work of mining that gold and all the other metals within us that can be transformed, so we can begin a new path or return to the old path renewed. When I speak of mining our metals, I’m not speaking literally; in fact nothing about ancient alchemy WAS literal. It was a philosophical process of taking the parts of you that you feel are least valuable and fundamentally transforming them into your opus magnum or “great work.”
I want to encourage you to begin writing now, journaling as we prepare to enter the space of Primal Matter. Following are some journal prompts, though as always you are free to adopt, mold, or modify these to make them workable for you. Writing your feelings and experiences prevents them from becoming stuck in your psyche and consciousness. Remember that in magic, our goal is always the MOVEMENT of energy. Stagnant energy = stagnant spirit.
Writing moves the energies around.
JOURNAL PROMPTS FOR 1ST STAGE ALCHEMY: PRIMA MATERIA
1. Which of your five senses do you rely on the most in daily life? Which do you rely on least? If you were to enter a dark room, which would you most/least miss having access to?
2. What kinds of knowledge do you seek this season? If you could name the mysteries you wish to explore, what are they called?
3. What secrets are you keeping that you feel must be kept in the dark right now? Without naming them to others, can you articulate them here for yourself and shed a little light on their shadow?
4. Finish this sentence: In the darkness, I feel ______________________.
Because your great work is yet to be done. No matter how much great work you have already done. That is the secret at the heart of the greatest mysteries of all time. When our opus magnum is complete, you will take your last breath and leave your physical body behind. If you’re reading my words, that time has yet to come. We’ve all got so much more to do!