20 April, 2017 04:03

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Set (deity)

God of storms, desert, evil, chaos and war
Major cult center Ombos
Symbol Was-sceptre, Set animal
Consort Nephthys, Anat, Astarte, Tawaret
Parents Geb, Nut
Siblings Osiris, Isis, Nephthys, Haroeris
Offspring Anubis
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in hieroglyphs

Set /sɛt/ or Seth (/sɛθ/; also spelled Setesh, Sutekh,[1]Setekh, or Suty) is a god of the desert, storms, disorder, violence, and foreigners in ancient Egyptian religion.[2] In Ancient Greek, the god’s name is given as Sēth (Σήθ). Set is not, however, a god to be ignored or avoided; he has a positive role where he is employed by Ra on his solar boat to repel Apep, the serpent of Chaos.[2] Set had a vital role as a reconciled combatant.[2] He was lord of the red (desert) land where he was the balance to Horus‘ role as lord of the black (soil) land.[2]

In Egyptian mythology, Set is portrayed as the usurper who killed and mutilated his own brother Osiris. Osiris’ wife Isis reassembled Osiris’ corpse and resurrected him long enough to conceive his son and heir Horus. Horus sought revenge upon Set, and the myths describe their conflicts. This Osiris myth is a prominent theme in Egyptian mythology.


Set’s siblings are Osiris, Isis, and Nephthys. He married Nephthys and fathered Anubis; and in some accounts he had relationships with the foreign goddesses Anat, and Astarte.[3]


The meaning of the name Seth is unknown, thought to have been originally pronounced *Sūtaḫ based on the occurrence of his name in Egyptian hieroglyphs (swtḫ), and his later mention in the Coptic documents with the name ⲥⲏⲧ Sēt.[4][5]

Set animalEdit

Main article: Set animal

In art, Set is usually depicted as an enigmatic creature referred to by Egyptologists as the Set animal, a beast resembling no known creature, although it could be seen as a composite of an aardvark, a donkey, a jackal or a fennec fox. The animal has a curved snout, long rectangular ears, a thin forked tail and canine body, with sprouted fur tufts in an inverted arrow shape; sometimes, Set is depicted as a human with the distinctive head. Some early Egyptologists proposed that it was a stylised representation of the giraffe, owing to the large flat-topped "horns" which correspond to a giraffe’s ossicones. The Egyptians themselves, however, made a distinction between the giraffe and the Set animal. During the Late Period, Set is depicted as a donkey or as having a donkey’s head.[6]

The earliest representations of what might be the Set animal comes from a tomb dating to the Naqada I phase of the Predynastic Period (3790 BC–3500 BC), though this identification is uncertain. If these are ruled out, then the earliest Set animal appears on a mace head of the King Scorpion, a ruler of the Protodynastic Period. The head and the forked tail of the Set animal are clearly present.[7]

Conflict between Horus and SetEdit

In the mythology of Heliopolis, Set was born of the sky goddess Nut and the earth god Geb. Set’s sister and wife was Nephthys. Nut and Geb also produced another two children who became husband and wife: the divine Osiris and Isis, whose son was Horus. The myth of Set’s conflict with Horus, Osiris, and Isis appears in many Egyptian sources, including the Pyramid Texts, the Coffin Texts, the Shabaka Stone, inscriptions on the walls of the temple of Horus at Edfu, and various papyrus sources. The Chester Beatty Papyrus No. 1 contains the legend known as The Contendings of Horus and Set. Classical authors also recorded the story, notably Plutarch‘s De Iside et Osiride.[8]

These myths generally portray Osiris as a wise lord, king, and bringer of civilization, happily married to his sister, Isis. Set was envious of his brother, and he killed and dismembered Osiris. Isis reassembled Osiris’ corpse and embalmed him. As the archetypalmummy, Osiris reigned over the afterworld as a king among deserving spirits of the dead. Osiris’ son Horus was conceived by Isis with Osiris’ corpse. Horus naturally became the enemy of Set, and had many battles against Set for the kingship of Egypt. During these battles, Set was associated with Upper Egypt while Horus became Lower Egypt’s patron.

According to Papyrus Chester-Beatty I, Set is depicted as trying to prove his dominance by seducing Horus and then having intercourse with him. However, Horus places his hand between his thighs and catches Set’s semen, then subsequently throws it in the river, so that he may not be said to have been inseminated by Set. Horus then deliberately spreads his own semen on some lettuce, which was Set’s favorite food. After Set had eaten the lettuce, they went to the gods to try to settle the argument over the rule of Egypt. The gods first listened to Set’s claim of dominance over Horus, and call his semen forth, but it answered from the river, invalidating his claim. Then, the gods listened to Horus’ claim of having dominated Set, and call his semen forth, and it answered from inside Set.[9][10]However, Set still refused to relent, and the other gods were getting tired from over eighty years of fighting and challenges. Horus and Set challenged each other to a boat race, where they each raced in a boat made of stone. Horus and Set agreed, and the race started. But Horus had an edge: his boat was made of wood painted to resemble stone, rather than true stone. Set’s boat, being made of heavy stone, sank, but Horus’s did not. Horus then won the race, and Set stepped down and officially gave Horus the throne of Egypt.[11] But after the New Kingdom, Set still was considered Lord of the desert and its oases.[12] The same myth was also described in the prognosis texts of the Calendar of Lucky and Unlucky Days of papyrus Cairo 86637, where the actions of Set were connected to the phases of the Moon. [13]

It has been suggested that the myth may reflect historical events. According to the Shabaka Stone, Geb divided Egypt into two halves, giving Upper Egypt (the desert south) to Set and Lower Egypt (the region of the delta in the north) to Horus, in order to end their feud. However, according to the stone, in a later judgment Geb gave all Egypt to Horus. Interpreting this myth as a historical record would lead one to believe that Lower Egypt (Horus’ land) conquered Upper Egypt (Set’s land); but, in fact Upper Egypt conquered Lower Egypt. So the myth cannot be simply interpreted.

Several theories exist to explain the discrepancy. For instance, since both Horus and Set were worshipped in Upper Egypt prior to unification, perhaps the myth reflects a struggle within Upper Egypt prior to unification, in which a Horus-worshipping group subjugated a Set-worshipping group. What is known is that during the Second Dynasty, there was a period in which the King Peribsen‘s name or Serekh — which had been surmounted by a Horus falcon in the First Dynasty — was for a time surmounted by a Set animal, suggesting some kind of religious struggle. It was ended at the end of the dynasty by Khasekhemwy, who surmounted his Serekh with both a falcon of Horus and a Set animal, indicating some kind of compromise had been reached.

Regardless, once the two lands were united, Set and Horus were often shown together crowning the new pharaohs, as a symbol of their power over both Lower and Upper Egypt. Queens of the First Dynasty bore the title "She Who Sees Horus and Set." The Pyramid Texts present the pharaoh as a fusion of the two deities. Evidently, pharaohs believed that they balanced and reconciled competing cosmic principles. Eventually the dual-god Horus-Set appeared, combining features of both deities (as was common in Egyptian theology, the most familiar example being Amun-Ra).

Later Egyptians interpreted the myth of the conflict between Set and Osiris/Horus as an analogy for the struggle between the desert (represented by Set) and the fertilizing floods of the Nile (Osiris/Horus).

Protector of Ra

Set in the Second Intermediate and Ramesside Periods

Demonization of Set


In modern religion

In popular culture



External links

Last edited 1 day ago by Got2Bthere



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20 April, 2017 04:03

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