In modern mythologies I'm noticing increasing reference to objects/substances that can tell or discern truth. Most famously, the use of truth serum as a trope in the spy genre in particular, and Wonder Woman's miraculous golden cord, newly rebranded as the Lariat of Hestia. The alethiometer (aka the golden compass) from Phillip Pullman's heavily mythological His Dark Materials is a more recent example.

Are there canonical precedents for this power of truth?

Pullman's alethiometer is clearly an oracle, but it is also a device, almost certainly modeled partly on the antikythera mechanism, so it can be understood as distinct from a oracular entity in that the possessor controls the device.

  • 2
    Fragarach is a sword from Celtic mythology, according to the Wikipedia page no one can move our lie with the sword at their throat. Jun 18, 2017 at 20:43
  • I'll upvote if you formally post an answer. The idea that Fragarach could "cut through any shield or wall, and had a piercing wound from which no man could recover" are pretty good metaphors for truth imo. [Wikipedia page needs a citation, but we could probably run that down in a separate question.]
    – DukeZhou
    Jun 18, 2017 at 20:58

1 Answer 1


Ma'at is the ancient Egyptian goddess of Truth, and is represented by a feather in the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead. The feather determines the truthfulness of the deceased.

The deceased is brought before Osiris and recites ritual declarations of his purity. But judgement is not rendered until the deceased's heart is weighed against the feather of Ma'at. If the heart and feather balance, then the deceased has been truthful and goes on to eternal life. If not, the Devourer Ammit takes him.

This jpeg from Wikipedia shows a scene, similar to a multi-panel comic strip from the sarcophagus of one Hunefer, a scribe who lived during the 19th Dynasty, about 1300 BCE.

In the middle panel, Hunefer's heart (on the left side of the scale) is being weighed against the feather (on the right side) with Osiris presiding and Anubis and Ammit looking on. On the right, Horus presents Hunefer (who has passed the test) to Osiris.

BD_Hunefer Jpeg source: Wikipedia: File:BD_Hunefer.jpg, Original on display in the British Museum

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.