Inv. SDD/se-95039

Display donated to the Surnateum by Professor Jacques Harmakhis, an Egyptologist who has long been associated with the Museum
Origin: Ancient and modern Egypt


Small set of common scales made of copper, Egyptian heart-shaped amulet (26th dynasty?), feather, small antique amulets of Anubis and the Eater of Souls.

Account and experiments by Professor Harmakhis

"Psychostasy - the weighing of souls - was a key theme in the theology and art of ancient Egypt. Symbolising god's judgement after death, psychostasy was carried out as follows:
In the middle is a set of scales. On one of the pans rests a cushion or urn holding the heart of the deceased, the heart being the symbol of his conscience. In the other pan lies an ostrich feather from the goddess Maat, the symbol of justice. On either side stand the god Thoth (in the form of an ibis) and the jackal-headed god Anubis.
At the feet of the deceased, the Eater of Souls (who has the head of a crocodile and the rear end of a hippopotamus) looks at Thoth, who will pronounce his verdict.
If the feather is heavier, then the deceased is saved; otherwise he is condemned.

Psychostasy symbolises judgement, or, at a deeper level, responsibility, as defined by Chevalier and Gheerbrant in their dictionary of symbols."

Professor Harmakhis, the eminent Egyptologist who spoke these words, smiled wryly and then turned to Steve:
"If you had to be judged right now, what would the verdict be?"

Steve gave him a tired smile that spoke volumes.
Reaching into his attaché case, Harmakhis removed a wooden box which he set on the table and opened. From it he removed the various parts of a beautiful set of copper scales which he assembled as we looked on.
Opening a small box, he removed an Egyptian 'heart' amulet reminiscent of a minute vase (about 15 mm tall) and a small feather. He gave Steve the heart to hold for a few seconds, then took it back and placed it on one of the pans of the scale. Naturally, the scales tipped to that side.

He placed the feather in the other pan. Nothing changed, which made sense since the stone heart was clearly heavier than the feather.

"With this result, you would fly right into the maw of the Eater of Souls," the Egyptologist told us with a half smile. "Let me purify your soul with this crystal."

He handed Steve a small translucent quartz crystal and asked him to hold it in his closed fist for 10 seconds. He then began a brief incantation, praying to Anubis to purify the soul of the recipient.

When Steve opened his hand the crystal was black. It had absorbed his negative energy.

Professor Harmakhis then placed the stone heart back on the scales. The two pans, one holding the feather of Maat, the other holding the heart, balanced perfectly. Steve could breathe again.