The Weighing of the Heart in the court of Osiris

One of the best-known vignettes in the Book of the Dead is that of the weighing of the heart (“psychostasia”) in the tribunal of the Double Truth, in the presence of Osiris and other gods of the netherworld. Chapter 125 of Book of Dead, Papyrus of Taysnakht, daughter of Taymes.

The heart of the deceased is placed on one pan of a pair of scales, a feather on the other pan. The feather symbolizes the goddess Maat, protector of justice and the cosmic order.

The Weighing of the Heart in the court of Osiris
The Weighing of the Heart in the court of Osiris

The Weighing of the Heart, also known as the Judgment of Osiris, was a significant event in ancient Egyptian mythology and beliefs regarding the afterlife.

According to the myth, after death, the deceased’s heart was weighed against the feather of Maat, the goddess of truth and justice, in the court of Osiris, the god of the afterlife.

This judgment determined whether the individual had led a virtuous life in accordance with Maat’s principles.

During the ceremony, the heart of the deceased was placed on one side of a scale, while the feather of Maat was placed on the other.

If the heart was lighter than the feather, it meant that the person had lived a righteous life and would be granted eternal life in the afterlife.

However, if the heart was heavier due to the burden of wrongdoing, it was believed that the individual would face punishment or even non-existence.

A light and pure heart will grant the deceased a happy passage into the netherworld and a serene eternal life in the Fields of Aaru; should the heart turn out to be heavy, that is, evil, the monster Ammit (the Devourer) will annihilate the soul for eternity.

While Egyptians may appear to be fascinated with death, it was in fact life that preoccupied their minds. They believed that, with proper preparation, a living person could become immortal following death.

And the Book of the Dead was developed as a means to cope with their mortality and ultimately their immortality.

The Weighing of the Heart was depicted in various funerary texts and artwork, emphasizing its importance in ancient Egyptian beliefs about the afterlife and the moral judgment of one’s actions.

Ptolemaic Period, ca. 305-30 BC. Dimensions: 35 x 865 cm. From Thebes. Drovetti collection, 1824. Now in the Egyptian Museum of Turin. Cat. 1833, Sala 12 Cornice 04

Follow Egypt Museum on Facebook to get latest posts and updates.