The pivotal symbol of the whole painting are the scales: the left one with the feather of Maat, the right one with the heart. The mythology of Libra has first and foremost Egyptian roots. The concept of maat was central to the Egyptian philosophy. It signified Order. The following quotation comes from the book Arts and Humanities through the Eras: Ancient Egypt, edited by Bleiberg and others:
The Egyptian philosophical view of existence was based on the idea that all existence was either orderly or chaotic. Order was called maat while chaos was called isfet. Maat encompassed the physical world,political conditions, and ethical conduct. In the physical world maat meant that the sun rose and set in a regular pattern. Maat also meant that the Nile flooded Egypt on a regular schedule and provided fertility to agricultural fields. In politics, maat meant that the true king sat on the throne and ensured order within Egypt. In Egyptian thought, maat depended on correct personal conduct. In fact correct personal conduct ensured loyalty to the king, which, in turn, supported an orderly physical world. For individuals, maat also meant telling the truth, and dealing fairly with others in addition to obedience to authority. Ultimately an individual who supported maat through his actions could enter the afterlife as a reward.
…the Egyptians believed that the heart was the organ of thought. Yet Egyptian philosophers advised that the silent man who ignored his emotions and who thought before he acted was the ideal. The opposite of the silent man was the heated man, one who immediately submitted to his emotions without giving adequate thought to his actions. Much of Egyptian philosophy counseled against impulsive action without thought.
Justice, a tenet of any philosophical system, was also part of the right order that maat guaranteed. The prime minister, whose job included dispensing justice, was a priest of Maat…. Court decisions also found one party to be “the one who is performing maat,” and therefore the innocent party.
Maat dictated correct and proper behaviour in all social situations and also in relationships, which in astrology fall under the domain of Libra. Maat was especially integral to The Book of the Dead and it is this part of the myth that Johfra focuses on in his painting. The heart of the deceased is weighed against the symbol of maat (the feather denoted truth in Egyptian hieroglyphs). If the two were in balance, the dead were allowed to enter the afterlife. Maat also stood for cosmic order and celestial harmony. The feather as her symbol denotes spiritual lightness understood as the karma that weighs a person down. The ostrich feather was known for its symmetry and harmony of divine design. Having maat meant being attuned to both earthly and cosmic harmony, being free from negative karma, having the heart as light as the feather. Failing the test of Maat meant that the heart was thrown to be devoured by the monster Ammit – part lion, part hippopotamus and part crocodile. The results of judgement were recorded by Thoth.