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                              The God Set 
                              by Setnakt

The best English study of Set is Te Velde's _Set, God of
Confusion_ Brill 1977. If this particular text is unavailable through
your library, I recommend a a short cheap and very reliable book by
George Hart: _A Dictionary of Egyptian Gods and Goddesses_, Routledge &
Kegan Paul, 1986. This very ambiguous god was alternately deified
and demonized depending on the cultural/political currents running
through Egypt. Allow me to present here a brief history of Set.

Predynastically: Set was an important deity appearing in the art of the
Hamitic peoples living in the Ombos and Naquada regions. Interestingly,
his was the only god-figure not composed of parts from recognizable
Earth animals.

(The Hamitic speakers donated most of the terms to religious philosophy
to the Egyptian langauge that seperate it from other Semitic languages
including ba, ka, neter, etc. If somebody really wants to find the roots
of the Egyptian religion, they should go up the Nile and do some serious
anthropology among Hamitic speaking native cultures-- the roots of the
Nile may hold keys to Egyptian thought that mute stones do not).

Archaic Egypt: Set generally occupies a secondary role to his enemy
Horus, champion of the people of the North (except in the 2nd dynasty
when one pharaoh took a "Set" name rather than a Horus name.) Set is
intimately connected with teaching astronomy,the methods of agriculture,
medicine, and above all magic. He is said to have opened the mouth of
the other gods, and is the patron of the sem ritual. His cult titles
include "Great of Magic" and "Eternal". There is indeed evidence that
Set is set apart from other gods to die (Bonnet's commentaries on the
Pyramid texts).

The astronomical cult, which placed the afterlife in the region of the
Northern heavens -- particularly in and around the constellation of the
Great Bear was replaced in the Fourth dynasty by a growing sun cult
centering on Re and Horus. The great stellar monument that Imhotep
designed were replaced by the solar pyramids of the Fourth and Fifth
dynasty's.  (Notably Cheops took no chances in the great Pyramid's
design -- although outwardly a solar monument he had a hole bored
through the stones aligned with the position of Alpha Draconis (a star
in the Great Bear called Thuban = "the Subtle One" a Set cult
title?) just in case that was where his ka was heading. 

During the next few dynasties (4 - 17), Set is generally
ignored. His functions are absorbed into other gods. Thoth picks up the
attributes of magic, Osiris picks up the attributes of Mysterious time
_djet_ as opposed to exoteric time _neheh_. Set keeps his attributes a
storm and stellar god, and gradually comes to be associated with all
night fears -- nightmares, desert fiends, and bad animals such as the
hippo and the jaguar of the South. He is mentioned in a famous 12th
dynasty writing called _The Discourse of a man with his ba_ in which his
solar aspect IAA is referred to. Bikka Reed has a great translations of
this text.

In the 18th dynasty a remarkable Pharoah Hatshepsut reintroduced the
worship of Set by building a Temple dedicated to him and Horus the Elder
at Ombos. This marked a strong interest in Set's eternal nature, for

example in Hatshepsut is the prophecy (which she had placed in her tomb
at Der el-Medina) that "She will not only enjoy the days of Horus, but
the days of Set will be added to her span."

She was also interested in the antinomian nature of the Set cult -- in
fact she preformed one of the most scandalous acts available to a woman
-- she acted as a man. This early feminist clearly found Set, a great
archetype to Work with. Set was popular among her family until the
Kingship of Akhenaton (may he be reborn forever drowning in the jaws of
Sobek the crocodile god).

The very militaristic pharaohs of the Nineteenth dynasty, who were
probably descended form a family of Set priests at Tanis, delighted in
Set both in his militaristic role and as God of Foreign places. Ramses
II for example called himself the Son of Set. The Set cult too was very
popular with foreigners coming to live in Egypt. His worship has always
been connected with the outsider.

The Twentieth Dynasty began by looking very favorably on this god, as is
shown in the name of its founder Setnakt, "Set is Mighty." There is also
considerable evidence that the set cult was favored among artisans of
the time (see Romer's _Ancient Lives_, Henry Holt, 1984, and if you've
got as copy of Stephen Quirk's _Ancient Egyptian Religion_ check out the
beautiful Stella of Aapehty -- probably the most beautiful surviving
example of Setian art).

By the end of the Twentieth Dynasty, as the funerary cult of Osiris
became the dominate force in popular Egyptian religion,more and more,
Set as the murderer of Osiris became the Evil One. In fact by the Twenty
Sixth dynasty it was a common practice to disfigure any representations
of Set. He became --for all practical purposes the Christian devil. Some
scholars have even derived the name Satan from Set-Hen, a cult title
meaning the Majesty of Set, but I am dubious of this particular

However Set was not down for the count. During the Ptolemaic period Set,
merged with the Greek titan Typhon, became the figure for the _goes_ or
sorcerer to use. After Hermes the most often invoked god in the Magical
papyri is Set-Typhon. This entity was used to bring spirit helpers (
bird would fly down and announce that the magician was now under the
protection of a god -- a popular Typhonic practice outside of Egypt as
well see Morton Smith's _Jesus the Magician_). Set was also the god to
invoke to send dreams, perform healings on the head or spinal column,
and to cause enmity between enemies.

There seems to be a few common threads running through the Set cult: the
quest for immortality, antinomianism, and the practice of magic. Perhaps
this is why Michael Aquino's current Temple of Set finds this figure so
appealing as an archetype for the Left Hand Path. Like Hatshepsut before
Aquino has Opened the Mouth of this ancient god, and the articulation of
the Principle of Isolate Intelligence is available to us today.


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