The weighing of the heart was a ceremony that ancient Egyptians believed took place after you had past away.
Ancient Egyptians believed that there was an afterlife and that they would be judged once they passed away. This is common amongst a lot of cultures to this day.
However, the way that ancient Egyptians believed they’d be judged after passing is unlike any other. This is also a cause for a lot of the unique traditions that we know and love ancient Egypt for.
The weighing of the heart ceremony was part of this judgement.
That’s what this post is about!
When someone wealthy died in ancient Egypt, there would still be a long journey ahead of them. Nowadays you are buried or cremated, but in Egypt, they used to perform a vast array of different activities before you were laid to rest.
The weighing of the heart was part of the journey after you have already been laid to rest… More on that in a bit.
Side note: In later ancient Egypt, it was thought that all people could reach the afterlife and would need to attend the weighing of the heart.
The ceremony that would take part before you were laid to rest would include a lot of different things and could take up a vast amount of time. There were two main things that needed to be taken care of before you could start the trials and tribulations in the afterlife.
These two things that needed to be taken care of in the physical world were preserving the body and writing down their name. Mummification was the process that ancient Egyptians used to preserve their body’s after they had died.
It was especially important to preserve your heart, and you’ll find out why in a moment…
You needed your body and tomb to store your soul, as it was believed that every day after your death, your soul would split into two. One part would keep watch over your family and the other would enjoy the afterlife.
If your name wasn’t written down and your body wasn’t preserved, then your soul would get lost. This meant that you would never be able to watch over your family again, or enjoy the afterlife!
Journey through the underworld
But, after you were mummified and you were finally laid to rest, your journey wasn’t over…
Once your body was at rest, you’d start the journey through the underworld (called Duat).
On your journey through the underworld, there would be various trials and challenges for you to face. We won’t go into the other challenges for now, we’ll write another blog post on them in the near future.
However, once these trials were completed successfully, the weighing of the heart ceremony could commence. We’re going to go into more detail about the weighing of the heart now.
We’ll try to keep it simple and accessible, and not get too caught up in the complicated names and details.
There are many great sources like Wikipedia that already deal with this subject in a dry manner. We’re here to keep it light and provide an easy-to-understand resource!
THE WEIGHING OF THE HEART CEREMONY
The weighing of the heart ceremony took place in the hall of two truths. If you’d pass the ceremony, you’d go to Osiris and enter into the afterlife. If not, then you’d be locked out of the afterlife forever!
Needless to say, reaching the afterlife was an important goal for all ancient Egyptians.
In the weighing of the heart ceremony, your heart would be weighed on a scale (go figure!). It would be weighed against the feather of Maat (Yes, a feather…!). Maat was the goddess of cosmic order and is often pictured wearing the feather on her head.
Other gods are also often pictured attending the ceremony of the weighing of the heart on various artifacts. For example, there was a jackal-headed god named Anubis and a rather strange looking one named Thoth with a pointy beak. (Not to be confused with Ra, the sun god, who had a birds head.)
Thoth was the moon god and he invented language. He was tasked with writing down the results of the ceremony.
Anubis was the one tasked with actually placing the heart on the scale and weighing it.
Without a heart, you couldn’t reach the afterlife. Should your heart be heavier than the feather, then it was to be devoured by the daemon, Ammit.
Ammit was part lion, part hippopotamus, and part crocodile. It’s thought that this was because these were the three largest “man-eaters” around at that time. These must have been animals the struck fear in everyone at that time… They still do today!
Ancient Egyptians even believed that if you did something really bad during your life on earth, Ammit (also spelled Amut) would appear out of nowhere and eat you!
Fact: Did you know that most organs were removed from your body in ancient Egypt during the mummification process? The heart was left in because it was seen as a part of the soul!
Your heart grew lighter by doing good deeds and heavier by doing bad ones. This is why a lot of ancient Egyptians were focussed on doing good.
Should you pass the test, you would be led to Osiris and there would be a place for you in the afterlife.
Fail, and the daemon Ammit would eat your heart and there would be no chance of you reaching the afterlife.
After the ceremony
Once the ceremony was over, you were either taken to the afterlife by Osiris, or you/your heart was eaten by Ammit.
The more good you had done, the lighter your heart would be and the more chance you would have to reach the afterlife.
The afterlife, also called the land of two fields, was considered a heavenly place by the ancient Egyptians.
It’s thought that both the positive and negative reinforcement kept crime to a minimum in ancient Egypt! This is one of the reasons why it’s believed that ancient Egypt was a relatively peaceful place to live compared to other regions in that time.
Hopefully, you found this short article about the weighing of the heart an interesting read. We hope to be posting a lot more articles on ancient Egypt, as well as other interesting cultures you can take in on your travels in the near future.
If there’s anything you feel we’ve missed about the weighing of the heart ceremony, the afterlife or the gods involved, please shoot us a message! We’re always looking to improve our recourses.
Until next time!