Gods & Monsters: Ammit

The highly-anticipated Lara Croft & the Temple of Osiris has finally hit the stores and those of you who’ve already played the game will already be familiar with the game’s key enemies and level bosses.

In the last edition of Gods & Monsters, we had a look at the evil snake demon, Apep, who can be found wreaking havoc in the Tomb of the Silversmith. This time around, we’ll be taking a look at the female demon Ammit, the “Devourer of Souls”, who’s hot on Lara’s trail at the start of the game.

Ammit, as seen in Lara Croft & the Temple of Osiris
Ammit as seen in Lara Croft & the Temple of Osiris (Image credit: Kelly M)

At first glance, Ammit looks like a giant crocodile but she’s actually a composite of three man-eating animals that were both worshipped and feared by the ancient Egyptians. She is depicted in Egyptian art with the head of a crocodile, the torso of a lion, and the hindquarters of a hippopotamus and was thought to reside in Duat, the Egyptian underworld and realm of the god Osiris. More specifically, she can usually be seen sitting next to or under a set of scales; I’ll come back to this shortly.

In Temple of Osiris, Isis warns Lara and Carter that Ammit will pursue them as long as they are marked for judgement and while the real Ammit didn’t hunt people down, she did play an decisive role in the fate of those who entered Duat.

The Egyptians believed that upon death, the deceased would have to make the difficult and often dangerous journey from the world of the living to the Hall of Two Truths in Duat. Once there, they would be led by the god Anubis to a pair of scales and their heart would be weighed against the feather of Ma’at, the goddess of truth and justice.

The concept of ma’at is tricky to pin down but it could be described as a framework of moral and social norms that formed the basis of ancient Egyptian law and civilization. All Egyptians, even the pharaohs themselves, were expected to live their lives according to these principles. Failure to do so could lead to personal misfortune, social unrest, and even imbalances on a cosmic scale. So it was in everyone’s best interest to lead a moral and virtuous life.

Ammit as seen on the Papyrus of Hunefer (Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Ammit as seen on the Papyrus of Hunefer. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Of course, not everyone lived their lives as honest, respectable citizens, so the gods deemed it important to weed out the evildoers once they had shuffled off their mortal coils. The deceased would be brought before Osiris and the other gods for judgement and their chances of resurrection in the afterlife would literally be hanging in the balance.

If a person had committed any crimes or injustices during their lifetime, their heart would be heavy with sin and thus weigh more than the feather of Ma’at. The heart would then be unceremoniously chucked in Ammit’s direction and she would devour the heart with gusto. Om nom nom. Game over. In gamer’s terms. the pure of heart would respawn in the lush, pleasant fields of the Egyptian afterlife and it was permadeath for those who had misbehaved.

And given Lara’s penchant for looting tombs, desecrating ancient sites, stealing precious artefacts, and killing endangered wildlife, perhaps she has more than one reason to fear the heart-devouring Ammit. 😉

Sources & Further Reading:

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About Kelly M

Kelly McGuire is a writer, part-time translator, and gamer who is passionate about archaeology, language learning, travel, and wildlife conservation. She tweets under the username @TRHorizons and is the admin and chief content creator for Tomb Raider Horizons.

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9 Comments on “Gods & Monsters: Ammit”

  1. I have plenty of roleplaying memories of the feather of Ma’at. One of the worst RPG campaigns I’ve ever played but at least the guy got his mythology down right!

    Fantastic article 🙂

  2. Why is the article dedicated to me based on a soul-devourer?! Only joking – I was always fascinated by Ammet as a child. I also assumed Egyptian Gods were cons, because to get into heaven, your heart had to be lighter than a feather. I didn’t really pick up on the symbolism of the whole scenario.