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 no doubt be familiar with at least some of 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 havok 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.
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 really 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, he or she would be led by the god Anubis to a pair of scales and his/her heart would be weighed against the feather of Ma’at (the goddess of truth and justice). The concept of ma’at is quite 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, at the very worst, imbalances on a cosmic scale. So it was in everyone’s best interest to lead a moral and virtuous life.
Of course, not everyone lived their lives as honest, respectable citizens and so, at death, the gods deemed it important to weed out the evildoers. The deceased would be brought before Osiris and the other gods for judgement and his or her chances of resurrection in the afterlife would literally be hanging in the balance. If a person had committed any crimes or injustices in 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, where 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’d 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:
- Ammit (Ancient Egypt Online)
- Ammit (Encylopedia Mythica)
- Ammit (Wikipedia)
- Ammit the Devourer (MinuteMyth)
- Ammit, the Devourer of the Dead (Egyptian Gods)
- Ammut, Great of Death, Eater of Hearts, The Devourer (Tour Egypt)
- Ancient Egyptian Religion (Wikipedia)
- Duat (Wikipedia)
- Tuat/Duat the Egyptian Underworld (Ancient Egyptian Mythology)
- Weighing the Heart (British Museum)