Book review: Maat Revealed- Philosophy of Justice in Ancient Egypt

I purchased Maat Revealed after seeing it mentioned as a new acquisition by another LJ user, although I was never able to get her thoughts on the book. I don't know if she's even read it yet- but if she hasn't, then perhaps this review can serve as forewarning. Although the title sounds very promising, and the author is apparently now in possession of a PhD, the book itself does not deliver on any of that promise and appears as though it could very likely have been written by a particularly angsty 10 year old. Weighing in at 80 pages of text, 33 pages of footnotes, and 7 pages worth of works cited (which were apparently cited solely to decry the failings of modern egyptology), it displays many of the same traits as an uninspired grade school paper. Complete with slightly larger than usual print, double spaced lines, endless consecutive repetitions of the same assertions and phrases in slightly reworded versions (but with very little or incredibly shallow supportive reasoning), the author also regales us with that old, familiar last ditch effort of scholarly desperation: the use of the "Conclusion" paragraph as a means of rehashing the same tired complaint which made up much of the preceding chapter while slipping in some odd little deductions which seem to have little to do with the material already covered, but give you the illusion that you're actually progressing through a theory. As you can probably tell, I wasn't very impressed with the book.

Here's the main theme of Maat Revealed: modern people are so overly materialistic that we are blind to see the obvious truth embedded in the mystical symbols of the ancient papyri which are right before our very eyes. In fact, modern people- particularly scientists- have apparently done away with symbols altogether, and have no clue as to how they're used anymore. We need to rediscover our own dream language. Some people understand the dream language. Others do not understand the dream language. Many have no concept of the dream language. Particularly egyptologists. But the dream language is absolutely vital for understanding the symbols which egyptologists blatantly refuse to see because they are so thoroughly devoid of any capacity for recognizing the dream language.

Instead, they're distracted by the accompanying texts- which obviously have nothing to do with the illustrations- and that draws them away from the hidden truths of the SCENE (as the author likes to refer to the "weighing of the heart"). Egyptologists are particularly afflicted by this deplorable sense of rational study, and are way, way too literalistic and materialistic in their interpretations of this SCENE. Besides, how could anybody possibly think that the SCENE has anything to do with dead people when there are no corpses lying about in it? And a heart balancing on a scale with a feather? C'mon- muscle is much too heavy for that, so obviously the scale has nothing to do with any concept of "weighing." Those egyptologists are way too literal.

The author also claims that the ancient Egyptians were in no way religious, but entirely scientific- although she caveats that the ancient Egyptian concept of science was in no way the same as our own. She cites overtly religious overtones in temple rituals as signs of the corruption of the pure Egyptian scientific understanding of the rites (and points out that the priests in these time periods clearly had no idea what they were doing), dismisses immediately anything with magical significance, and then evidences the lack of any sort of energy exchange left in the rubble of her dissected ritual remains as "proof" that egyptian "religion" had suffered a complete break down.

And so it continues through about 53 pages of text before the author initiates us into her own concept of what maat is- which has something to do with solar energy and migrating birds. Admittedly a pretty analogy, but by that point she had so impressed me with her disgust for modern egyptological theories that I was expecting her own to be a little more insightful, or intelligible, or supported by contextual evidence, or at least something more than a rehash of the same concepts which many egyptologists have expressed in their own metaphors of the weighing of the heart.

Mancini does have some beautiful and poetic ideas about the expression of ma'at in ancient Egypt, and the nature of its flow through the human community. The first chapter presents an interesting history of our developing understandings in the concept of maat, and the last chapter proposes an equally interesting new theory for how maat is received and transmitted through human interaction. It is greatly unfortunate that what contribution this author may have made to the field is almost entirely drowned out in her tirade against scholars who have not come to the same conclusion as herself.

Rating was a tough decision here- I feel very strongly that it is a rare thing to find a book without any redeeming qualities, and to me that's what a one scribe rating really means. That being said, this one barely scraped by the two scribe mark. I advise skipping it- you won't miss much, and you're probably better off reading the Maxims of PtahHotep anyway.

Rating: Two scribes (Mostly unhelpful and bitter, but inexpensive with a few interesting concepts)

  • Mancini, Anna. Maat Revealed: Philosophy of Justice in Ancient Egypt. New York: Buenos Books America, 2004.

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  • ibis

    A question for the community

    edit- I'm taking some advice and have changed all comments to screened status. Should you choose to reply to this entry rather than using my email address, only you and I should be able to see your comments, so we should have confidentiality. I admit to not being very familiar with this feature, however, so your best bet is to write me privately- the address is given below. I have not deleted any comments- just screened them so that only I can see it- so if you've already replied, I still have your comments.^_^ Many thanks to all who have responded, and those who are about to do so!

    I have a request to make of the community- it may seem like an odd thing, but it's something which has become important to me right now.

    I want to know your impressions and opinions of the House of Netjer, a.k.a. HoN, KO, or the Kemetic Orthodox Faith.

    Right now, I'm trying to gather a sense for the general community's response to this expression of Kemetic religion, and that temple's relative position within the wider community. To that end, I want to know what you, specifically, think of them. I want to know if you think well of them, or if you don't, and- as much as you're comfortable in telling me- why. I want to know if you've ever had any experience with them, or what you think of their approach to the religion, their internal structure, their membership, their website, and/or their effect on the rest of the community. I want to know if you have no opinion of them either way, and I want to know if you've never heard of them before. If you've never heard of them before, and this inquiry prompts you to go check them out, I'd like to hear your first impressions.

    You don't have to answer all of these questions if you don't have time, or don't want to do so- just tell me whatever you think is most important. And you're free to change your mind later on, of course- I just want to know what you think right now. I will not try to convince you of my own views, either- that's not what I'm after.

    I want to hear from people of any, all, and no temple affiliations. I'd like to know whether you consider yourself Kemetic, and if you identify strongly with any particular group(s) within the community. But no matter what, I want to hear from you.

    In short, I want to know everything and anything you're willing to tell me about HoN and its relationship with the rest of the community- and just in case anyone has any concerns: I will swear on my life's blood, on the foundations of ma'at, and on the air which the ntjrw give me to breathe that I will never reveal any details of what any particular person has said to me regarding this interview. Nor will I ever reveal any trends of thought which I find within any Kemetic groups or organizations. I assure you that I am taking this quite seriously.

    I would be very grateful for your assistance in this matter, and you may send your comments to me privately at my yahoo mailing account. The address will be webenbanu@yahoo.com . If you'd feel better about posting your responses here, then please do so- but it would probably be better to do this privately through email.

    Thanks so much for your help, and I hope to hear from you soon! This request will be crossposted in a few places- and feel free to forward it on to anyone you know who might want to add their voice.


    PantheaCon 2006, The Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt

    Bright and early the next morning- or at least, at an hour which certainly seems bright and early when you're at an event like PantheaCon- we gathered in the Cedar ball room for the House of Netjer's panel on the gods and goddesses of ancient Egypt. There were several members of the House hosting the talk- I'm not going to try to name them all because I'm terrible with names and I don't want to leave anyone out, but the panel encompassed a pretty decent demographic spread in ages, length of time spent in the group, level of commitment, and deity affiliation. Their Nisut was also there, leading the talk. By and large they seemed to be a pretty wholesome lot- good people, sincere in their love of their gods and commitment to each other, and happy to answer questions from the people who came to see them.

    Gods and Goddesses of Ancient EgyptCollapse )

    It was an informative talk, all in all- I had some questions answered and came up with a few more, which I plan on taking up on their forums (when I finally get around to posting there^_^'). The next Kemetic event came later on that afternoon- the Bast Festival!

    PantheaCon 2006, The Skhmt Ritual

    I took some time just beforehand to change into my ritual robes, do a preliminary purification, and gather up the set of red scrubs, Skhmt amulet, my name tag, Healing incense, and a pair of ear rings which I often wore with the scrubs and amulet. I wasn't sure if it was a good idea to bring the earrings, actually, since they'd been an offering to Bast-Skhmt, Who isn't quite the same Lady as Skhmt. But I thought that this was a rare chance, and I do wear them at work, so I wanted as much of the ntjrt's presence, guidance, and protection to accompany me there as possible.^_^

    The CES Skhmt RitualCollapse )

    After the ritual, we went back to our room and prepared for the oracular Seidh- which is always an educational experience, and this year was no exception. But the next Kemetic event was the House of Netjer's panel on the Ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses, on the following morning.^_^

    PantheaCon 2006, experiences

    I'm back at home from the convention, and with a bit of rest and reflection I'm ready to delve into my experiences this past weekend. PantheaCon 2006 was, as usual, very busy and highly provocative on many levels! I feel like I grow a little bit each time I attend- certainly I tend to be presented each year with many valuable opportunities to learn and think about what I've been doing, where I'm headed, and why. It's a lot of fun, and very exhausting all at the same time- and there were certainly times this year when I wanted to just go back to my room and mull things over! But there's never enough time to do everything that I want when I'm there as it is, so it's important to take advantage of as much of it as possible! Achilles wants to go back already- but honestly, I don't think I can handle too much of this sort of thing all at once. I'm happy to wait out the year getting ready for the next visit- although there are rumors of the con becoming a biannual event.^_~

    So this might get a little bit long, and I'm thinking of posting these in multiple reports. I'd like to start off with the main reasons why I go to this convention, though- those events of a Kemetic nature. Then I'll fill in with the rest as I have time.^_^

    The Church of the Eternal SourceCollapse )

    As it turns out, the next event involving the ntjrw at the con was the Skhmt ritual- and as it was a public ritual, I'll give my account of what happened to the best of my memory.^_^ However, I'm still contemplating some aspects of what happened, and I'd like to review my write up a little bit more before I actually post it.

    Getting ready for PCon 2006

    I am so excited about PCon this year- this will be the first time in several years where I'm going to be able to afford to be there for the whole thing, and there is as rich an offering of Kemetic workshops as there ever has been! In fact, I've noticed a few more workshops in general on recon approaches to the various pantheons, as well as a couple of events centered around specific ancient sites and their historical relevance to specific cults (none of them Kemetic, unfortunately-_-).

    The PCon schedule is currently up on the Ancient Ways site, and can be found by following this link. In years past I've noticed that there are always some changes between the online schedule and the final version- and usually several last minute additions- but so far the most exciting things I see are the three (yes, three) Kemetic festivals, and two panels from two different sects on their views of the religion and pantheon. There will be the usual Bast Festival, of course- Her festival has been something of a PCon tradition, and the main reason that I go each year.^_^ There will also be a Wsyr and akhw honoring festival hosted by the House of Netjer, and a ritual in honor of Skhmt hosted by the Church of the Eternal Source (CES). The latter is a group which bubbahotep111 has often mentioned in his comments here, but they're a relatively new discovery for me and I'm looking forward to sitting in on the seminar which one of their members will be holding, discussing his view and approach to ancient Egyptian religion. HoN will also be holding a panel, with their spiritual leader, several priests, and devotees, discussing their experiences and views of our gods. I feel like a kid going to Disney World.^_^

    So far, the events which seem interesting are the following (bolded and underlined text are ones I am definitely attending, which unfortunately means I won't make the others listed for those times):

    List!Collapse )

    This year the schedule seems to have quite a few interesting things going on all at once, and a few stretches of time where there's nothing much of interest at all going on. But oh well- I guess that means that I might actually remember to eat this year?^_^ And there will probably be several new additions filling in those holes by the time that I actually get there- the only thing which I really regret is that the Skhmt Ritual and the seminar on diagnostics for energy healing both take the same slot. That was a really unfortunate bit of scheduling, as most of Skhmt's devotees are involved in healing in some way, and many of them would probably have wanted to go to the diagnostics seminar. But the way that I see it, I've seen fewer public Kemetic rituals than classes on energy healing- and Skhmt also gives guidance in healing work, as appropriate. So I'll go with the Skhmt ritual this year, and look for more diagnostics next year if possible.

    Anybody else going?^_^
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      excited excited

    New books! New calendar!

    I just picked up a couple of new books by Marshall Clagett- an historian of science who apparently went to his horizon on October 21st of this year. His most recent work was an exploration of ancient Egyptian science- when he died, he was working on Volume four of the series. I don't know how far along he was to completion, but I have the first two volumes now and the third is waiting for me back at the bookstore. It looks fairly promising- the first volume has the Chester Beatty dream book and the Harris Magical Papyrus, which were my main reasons for purchasing it. The second volume has quite a bit of information on calendars and the AE concepts of time and time keeping devices- it contains some translated ritual calendars, but the frustrating part is that Clagett had decided to leave out the appropriate offering lists for each calendar! The third volume is on AE mathematics, and I will be picking it up as soon as I can. I have no idea what he had planned for the fourth volume, or if it will ever be released to the public. Has anyone else heard of this scholar, and can you give me your opinion of his books? These will probably go up on my shelves for a while until I finish with the book that I am currently reading.^_^

    In other news, I finally got around to ordering my Kemetic Calendar from HoN. I'm hoping to improve my understanding of ancient Egyptian calendars this year- and with a treasure trove of information from my friend Diana Pierce, and this new book I'm off to a good start I think.^_^ I've been using the Per Ankh calendar, but in following their calendar I've come across a few errors which just keep getting more and more annoying each year.^_^' I'm thinking that it's time to study in depth the calendrical systems of the various temples, and patch up the Per Ankh one for my own use- or maybe even write up another re-creation.

    And I am sooo excited about PantheaCon coming up soon! Achilles, kefi, and I already have our room reserved and Achilles and my admissions are paid! I'm looking forward to the Bast festival once again!^_^
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      excited excited

    Me as a super hero

    My roommate's making a superhero character which is based on me! He's doing a great job, especially considering his source material- this character is pretty awesome, actually.^_^ In physical appearance, interests, personality, and fashion sense so far she pretty nearly resembles me. She's meant to be me, actually, in a fantasy world in which Achilles seems to want to play out some stories later on.

    Read more...Collapse )
    Her codename is Icon, after the sacred images of the gods and other spirits. In this story, I've progressed my studies of the Middle Egyptian language to the point where I've somehow stumbled upon the missing vowel sounds! Completing the words, I am now free to invoke their full power and can recite ancient Egyptian spells which transform my body into other beings (such spells can be found in the BoCFbD). I can change into anything for which I have an incantation- the broad collar has little compartments in it where I store scraps of papyrus with incantations written on them, along with whatever small physical relics/amulets are necessary to effect the change. With my newfound powers, I become a super hero who endeavors to preserve and support ma'at in the modern world. The costume is based on ancient Egyptian styles, but has a distinctly modern twist- it's gold because gold was traditionally considered to be the flesh of the gods; Icon takes her devotion and responsibility to the gods very seriously, and wears this gold in deference to Them. Also, many of the forms she takes on are of divine origin- due to the nature of the spells. Blue, in ancient Egypt, had a dual significance of the providence of the Nile waters and the waters of the Nun (from which creation emerged), and also the mystery hidden in their depths. Blue highlights in the costume reflect Icon's mysterious identity, and the gifts which she works to bring to her community.

    I like the way she's turning out, so far.^_^ The design has gone through a few stages already- this is only the most recent one. Each one just keeps getting better and better, and so I just had to post this somewhere. Achilles, you rock!
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      amused amused

    Because cruelty is not ma'at

    Please follow these links for an explanation of many tests which have been developed as effective alternatives to animal testing, and this list of companies who rely on these techniques to be cruelty-free. I also suggest looking through this list of products which are not cruelty-free, so that you can be on the look for alternatives if you notice one you're currently using. Please do your best to be conscious of what you buy, and help support the appropriate relationship between humans and the other inhabitants of this world which was created by and from the ntjrw!



    'glyph cat

    Kemetic goods and services?

    I'd love to see a "Kemetic Marketplace," where Kemetics can gather to offer supplies for the rest of the community. It's an idea which I've been considering for a while- I'd like to have such a resource for my own use, but I just never seemed to have enough Kemetic craftsfolk to make an appreciable list.

    If anyone in the community makes stuff which they would distribute to others, and would like to be included in the list I will be hosting here, please leave me a comment and a link to the page/post in your journal or other online site where you offer your services.

    My only requirement is that the artist/creator has dedicated him/herself to the ntjrw, and that you have a URL to which I can link. When I get enough of them, I'll put up a list and link to it from the journal contents column (on the right side of my journal home pages). I may eventually add a supplement of exceptionally good non-Kemetic merchants, but I would like to make the members of our own community the focus in this project.