Honoring Maat

Honoring Maat September 20, 2013

With the beginning of fall, we enter the zodiac sign of Libra, the sign of the scales, the balance. Libra is an air sign, the element associated with the mind and intellect. Fall is a time when cooler weather means that the mind begins to wake up. It is a time that stimulates us to want to learn, to study, and to find new insights.

What many non-Pagans notice first about Paganism are its festival and rituals. Rituals are important for creating community; but much of the time, Paganism is solitary, rather than communal. The challenge for many of us can be how to integrate into everyday living the inspiration, insight, energy and sense of connectedness that we can experience through intense ritual activity.  If we are to live as Pagans, then we need to engage with our spirituality on an inner as well as an outer level. Paganism is what we, and how we live our lives from minute-to-minute; as much as what we do when we create a sacred ritual space.

Finding balance and harmony

Balance and harmony are at the heart of the astrological sign of Libra. Balance is inherent in the symbol of the scales. Harmony is inherent in Libra’s ruling planet of Venus. The values of balance and harmony transcend cultures and historical periods and are found in the wisdom texts of ancient civilizations from China to Rome, and in the oral traditions of indigenous peoples.

Maat wearing feather of truth - Image via Wikimedia Commons, public comain
Maat wearing feather of truth

Linked to harmony and balance is an inner spiritual state which we could call a sense of propriety, fitness or appropriateness. This is found in ancient Egyptian tradition in the Goddess Maat. Maat is depicted in Egyptian temple art as a Goddess with a feather in her hair; but for those of us who are less theistic, Maat can be thought of as an abstract principle of what is right and fitting. Maat’s name can be translated as ‘Truth’; but it could just as easily be harmony, fitness, right thinking, and other words that convey something being as it should be.

In Irish tradition, the sense of ‘fitness’, ‘rightness’, ‘trueness’ as a way of being is found the Tecosca Cormaic (The Instructions of King Cormaic Mac Air),  High King of Ireland around the 3rd century CE.

I was a listener in the woods,
I was a gazer at the stars,
I was blind where secrets were concerned,
I was silent in a wilderness,
I was talkative among many, …
I did not deride the old, though I was young,
I was not boastful, though I was a good fighter,
I would not speak ill of any in their absence,
I would not reproach, but I would praise,
I would not ask, but I would give…

Cormaic is describing  how he behaved as a young prince. The ideal is to behave in a way that is appropriate to the time, place and people involved, and to avoid extremes. From the courtly words of an Irish High King to the workings of a Wiccan coven may seem a great leap of time and place, but the ideas that Cormaic expresses are akin to those of the Great Mother Charge in Wicca, ‘… let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence within you.’

Turning inwards

These ideas and ideals can guide us today; but in order to create balance and harmony within our lives, we need to be able to step out for a short time each day from the relentless pressure of the daily grind. Many of us who are Pagan dedicate vast amounts of our time and energy to our Paganism. We support other Pagans through our face-to-face and virtual interactions. We support Pagan groups, festivals and ritual events. But it can be more difficult to take time out each day to spend on personal practice.

As we enter the sign of Libra and the energy of nature turns inwards and withdraws into the dormant earth, it is a natural time for our personal energy to turn inwards towards its core. For Buddhists, mindfulness is one of the eightfold paths. For Wiccans, the eightfold paths have another meaning, but in Wicca too we find that one of those paths is meditation. Meditation can take many forms. It can be visualization, working with images, pathworking, or concentrative meditation on a symbol or object. Or it can be the openness  of mindfulness ,when we are aware of and accepting of the stimuli around us but are at a place of peace within them. Mindfulness implies letting go of the thoughts and feelings that  distort our perceptions, and being aware of and accepting of reality as it truly is.

The eightfold path

The challenge then as we enter Libra is to set aside time when we can stand aside, as it were, and pace ourselves at the point of balance, the fulcrum. This is the place that is between the worlds, neither inward nor outward, but resting between them; where we can find our true authentic selves. Can we become Pagan meditators, following our own eightfold path, and come to the point of balance and harmony, the place of the fifth element of ether at the centre of the sacred circle? This is not only the external sacred space of ritual, but the sacred space that we must create within our own psyches if we are to grown our Paganism in a spiritually meaningful way.

So let us try to find time each day to say something to ourselves that enriches us and frees us. Perhaps something like this:

I am now in meditative awareness,
where all I see is correct and balanced
in accordance with the doctrine of Maat, 
Goddess of the scales of harmony and justice.

James Bennett & Vivianne Crowley (2001).
Magic and mysteries of ancient Egypt. New York: Sterling, p. 40.

Breathe slowly and gently. You are in control and aware, while feeling relaxed and empowered. Allow your mind to open itself to the free flow of image, thoughts and feelings that reveal themselves to you. There is nothing to fear, there is no shame. All that is within you, you can accept. Open yourself to Maat, Goddess of your Inner Truth.

Blessed Be She.

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