I get a lot of questions about the Negative Confessions or the 42 Laws of Ma'at or the Laws of a Balanced Heart or whichever name you prefer for them. More or less these are the moral and ethical codes for the Kemetic faith. You can think of them sort of like the Egyptian 10.. make that 42 commandments except with some twists. I thought I would take some time to discuss the Negative Confessions. (This is the term I prefer and I will get into the reason soon.)
The Negative Confessions are the Laws of Ma'at, goddess of truth and justice. These laws were written in the Book of Thoth and read aloud to man so he might know how to bring about order, unity, harmony and truth in the world. The Negative Confessions are spoken to the 42 assessors who take part in the proceedings in the Halls of Two Truths
The Negative Confessions are the 42 claims a soul makes about what they have not done in life. Unlike many ethic/moral codes the gods do not tell man what he has to do... rather man tells the gods what he has not done in his life. Despite being called Laws they are not laws as the modern mind might define the word. Instead Law is more of a moral guideline to set our compasses to, so to speak.
The most notable place to find the Negative Confessions is in the Book of the Dead. In Egyptian, rw nw prt m hrw (pronounced approximately... Roo Noo Peret Mah-Herwah) The Book of Coming Forth By Day
Mythologically speaking, when is in the Halls of Two Truths. Before the weighing of the heart the deceased stands before the assessors claiming to each a different thing he has not done in his life.
Historically speaking, the earliest complete copy of the Negative Confessions that has been discovered thus far is from the very early time of the New Kingdom. (approximately 1550 BC) However, the mythology of the underworld existed in a very similar manner much earlier so Egyptologists believe that earlier examples could be found.
This is an interesting question. The why is something we will cover in further discussion. For now, it can be seen as a fact of most religions that some moral code exists as part of the faith.
Another quick thing to add... there isn't one specific list for the Negative Confessions. Over time the list is modified slightly. Some things are omitted and others are added though the number still remains at 42. I will endeavor while discussing them to stick to the most common confessions.