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Set (Sutekh)
A
Winged set worshiped as the "Bull of Nubt" in Ombos
Hieroglyphics: Suk
Title God
Role God of storms, wind, evil and chaos
Cult Center Ombos as the "Bull of Nubt"
Consort Nephthys
Family Geb, Nut (parents), Set, Nephthys, Osiris, Isis (Siblings), Anubis (Son)
Enemies Osiris, Horus
Symbols Scepter of Was


In Egyptian mythology, Set (also spelt Sutekh, Setesh, Seteh) is an ancient God, who was originally the god of the desert, one of the two main biomes that constitutes Egypt, the other being the small fertile area on either side of the Nile. Due to developments in the Egyptian language over the 3,000 years that Set was worshiped, by the Greek period, the t in Set was pronounced so indistinguishably from th that the Greeks spelled it as Seth.

Origins of name

The exact translation of Set is unknown for certain, but is usually considered to be either (one who) dazzles or pillar of stability, one connected to the desert, and the other more to the institution of monarchy. It is reconstructed to have been originally pronounced *{{Unicode|Sū[[taḫ}} based on the occurance of his name in Hieroglyphics (swtḫ) and his later mention in the Coptic documents with the name Sēt.

Desert god

Egypt.Mythology.Set

Set represented in the tomb of Thutmose III (KV34)

Set-

As he was the god of the desert, Set was associated with sandstorms, and desert caravans. Due to the extreme hostility of the desert environment, Set was viewed as immensely powerful, and was regarded consequently as the chief god. One of the more common epithets was that he was great of strength, and in one of the Pyramid Texts it states that the king's strength is that of Set. As chief god, he was patron of Upper Egypt where he was worshiped, most notably at Ombos. The alternate form of his name, spelt Setesh (stš).

Set formed part of the Ennead of Heliopolis, as a son of the earth (Geb) and sky (Nut), husband to the fertile land around the Nile (Nephthys), and brother to death (Ausare/Osiris), and life (Isis).

The word for desert in Egyptian, was Tesherit, which is very similar to the word for red, Tesher (in fact, it has the appearance of a feminine form of the word for red). Consequently, Set became associated with things that were red, including people with red hair, which is not an attribute that Egyptians generally had, and so he became considered to also be a god of foreigners.

Set's attributes as desert god lead to him also being associated with gazelle, and donkeys, both creatures living on the desert edge. Since sandstorms were said to be under his control as lord of the desert, and were the main form of storm in the dry climate of Egypt, during the Ramesside Period, Set was identified as various Canaanite storm deities, including Baal.

The Set animal

In art, Set was mostly depicted as a mysterious and unknown creature, referred to by Egyptologists as the Set animal or Typhonic beast, with a curved snout, square ears, forked tail, and canine body, or sometimes as a human with only the head of the Set animal. It has no complete resemblance to any known creature, although it does resemble a composite of an aardvark, and a jackal, both of which are desert creatures, and the main species of aardvark present in ancient Egypt additionally had a reddish appearance (due to thin fur, which shows the skin beneath it). The earliest known representation of Set comes from a tomb dating to the Naqada I phase of the Predynastic Period (circa 4000 BC-3500 BC), and the Set-animal is even found on a mace-head of the King Scorpion, a Protodynastic ruler.

A new theory has it that the head of the Set animal is a representation of Mormyrus kannamae (Nile Mormyrid), which resides in the waters near Kom Ombo, one of the sites of a temple of Set, with the two square fins being what are normally interpreted as ears. However, it may be that part or all of the Set animal was based on the Salawa, a similarly mysterious canine creature, with forked tail and square ears, one member of which was claimed to have been found and killed in 1996 by the local population of a region of Upper Egypt. It may even be the case that Set was originally neither of these, but later became associated with one or both of them due to their similar appearance.

Conflict between Horus and Set

After Lower Egypt and Upper Egypt were unified through the conquest of the lower half by the Upper, a representation of this conflict arose in mythology. Horus, who was the chief god of Upper Egypt, was depicted as having fought long and hard against Set in the struggle for the crown. In the fight it is said that Set gouged out one of Horus's eyes, thus explaining why the moon isn't as bright as the Sun.


Savior of Ra

As the Ogdoad system became more assimilated with the Ennead one, as a result of creeping increase of the identification of Atum as Ra, itself a result of the joining of Upper and Lower Egypt, Set's position in this became considered. With Horus as Ra's heir on Earth, Set, previously the chief god, for Lower Egypt, required an appropriate role as well, and so was identified as Ra's main hero, who fought Apep each night, during Ra's journey (as sun god) across the underworld.

he was thus often depicted standing on the prow of Ra's night barque spearing Apep in the form of a serpent, turtle, or other dangerous water animals. Surprisingly, in some Late Period representations, such as in the Persian Period temple at Hibis in the Khargah Oasis, Set was represented in this role with a falcon's head, taking on the guise of Horus, despite the fact that Set was usually considered in quite a different position with regard to heroism.

This assimilation also led to Anubis being displaced, in areas where he was worshiped, as ruler of the underworld, with his situation being explained by his being the son of Osiris. As Isis represented life, Anubis' mother was identified instead as Nephthys. This led to an explanation in which Nephthys, frustrated by Set's lack of sexual interest in her, disguised herself as the more attractive Isis, but failed to gain Set's attention because he was Infertile. Osiris mistook Nephthys for Isis and they had sex, resulting in Anubis' birth. In some later texts, after Set lost the connection to the desert, and thus infertility, Anubis was identified as Set's son, as Set  Nephthys' husband.

As far as is sexuality and potancy, if one looks in the mythology, Set has a great many wives, including some foreign Goddesses, and several children. Some of the most notable wives (beyond Nephthys/Nebet Het)are Neith (with whom he is said to have fathered Sobek), Amtcheret (who he is said to have fathered Upuat with- though Upuat is also said to be a son of Aser/Osiris in some places), Tuaweret is also sometimes said to be one of his wives, Hetepsabet (one of the Hours) is a feminine was-beast headed Goddess who is variously described as wife or daughter of Set, Anat and Astarte (two "import" Goddesses from Mesopotamia. Both are equally skilled in love and war- two things which Set himself was famous for).

  • Besides being the "Lord of Strength", a dangerous warrior and sometimes protective deity, Set was also invoked as a God of love and pleasure. One particular spell asks that a man's phallus remain hard so he can pleasure his woman all night long just as Set's remained hard for his brides. [citation needed]

God of evil

Naturally, when, during the Second Intermediate Period the mysterious foreign Hyksos gained the rulership of Egypt, and ruled the Nile Delta, from Avaris, they chose Set, originally Lower Egypt's chief god, as their patron, and so Set became worshipped as the chief god once again. However, following this invasion, Egyptian attitudes towards foreigners could be best described as xenophobic, and eventually the Hyksos were deposed. During this period, Set (previously a hero), as the Hyksos' patron, came to embody all that the Egyptians disliked about the foreign rulers, and so he gradually absorbed the identities of all the previous evil gods, particularly Apep.

When the Legend of Osiris and Isis grew up, Set was consequently identified as the killer of Osiris in it, having hacked Osiris' body into pieces, dispersing them, so that he could not be resurrected. Interpreting the ears as fins, the head of the Set-animal resembles the Oxyrhynchus fish, and so it was said that as a final precaution, an Oxyrhynchus fish ate Osiris' penis.

Now that he had become the embodiment of evil, Set was consequently sometimes depicted as one of the creatures that the Egyptians most feared, crocodiles, and hippopotamus, and by the time of the New Kingdom, he was often associated with the villainous gods of other rising empires. One such case was Baal, an identification in which Set was described as being the consort of ‘Ashtart or ‘Anat, wife of Baal. Set was also identified by the Egyptians with the Hittite deity Teshub, who was a vicious storm god, as was Set.

The Greeks later linked Set with Typhon because both were evil forces, storm deities and sons of the Earth that attacked the main gods.

Some scholars hold that after Egypt's conquest by the Persian ruler Cambyses II, Set also became associated with foreign oppressors, including the Achaemenid Persians, Ptolemaic Dynasty, and Romans. Indeed, it was during the time that Set was particularly vilified, and his defeat by Horus widely celebrated. Nevertheless, throughout this period, in some distant locations he was still regarded as the heroic chief deity; for example, there was a temple dedicated to Set in the village of Mut al-Kharab, in the akhlah Oasis.

Trivia

Name

  • Setekh: "the one of the wrappings"
  • Sutekh: "the one from the South"
  • the ending "tekh" has the word meaning "to drink too much". This has caused numerous assumptions and (historic) gibes.

Divine symbols

  • No particular attribute in addition to the traditional was scepter.
  • Ankh

Colors

  • Red, turquoise or sometimes other colors.

Temples

  • Seth was worshipped at the temple of Kom Ombo at Ombos (formerly Nubt), and Oxyrhynchus in upper Egypt, and also in part of the Faiyum area.
  • The Seth oracle was consulted in the oases of Kharga and Dakhla in the south west of the country.

Use in fiction

  • In the fantasy stories of Robert E. Howard about Conan the Barbarian, Set is the name of a serpent god worshipped in Stygia. Though Howard clearly took the name Set from the Egyptian deity, they are likely not the same god, as they have no similarities beyond their names. Still, many fans and authors attempt to identify one with the other.
  • Sutekh (Set) appears as the villain in the Doctor Who serial Pyramids of Mars. It builds on the Seth as the enemy of Horus mythology.
  • Seth appears as a Goa'uld rebel villain who was the basis for the Set mythology on Earth in the Stargate TV series.[1]
  • In the Marvel Universe, Seth was responsible for imprisoning the rest of the Egyptian gods since the death of Cleopatra, and became a major enemy of the Asgardians.
  • Also in the Marvel Universe, Set was one of the aliases given to En Sabah Nur, who is also called Apocalypse.
  • A fictional clan of vampires called the Followers of Set, said to be founded by the Egyptian god Set, appear in White Wolf Game Studio's role-playing games Vampire: The Dark Ages and Vampire: The Masquerade.
  • In one episode of the animated series Samurai Jack, Jack is pursued by three demons called "The Minions of Set", while he seeks out a magic scarab talisman. The Minions strongly resemble the classic representation of Set, featuring elongated snouts and square ears.
  • In Otherland by Tad Williams, Set is one of the avatars of an entity known as "The Other," an intelligence enslaved to be the master operating system of a very advanced virtual reality.
  • Set is one of the main characters in the Roger Zelazny novel Creatures of Light and Darkness.
  • The name of Seto Kaiba, a rival of the protagonist Yugi Mutou in the anime Yu-Gi-Oh!, is the Japanese phonetic equivalent of Set.
  • Set was the villain in the game Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation
  • Set was one of the bosses in the Sega Saturn/PlayStation/Personal computer game "Powerslave".
  • In the fictional world of the Forgotten Realms, Set is a member of the Mulhorandi pantheon, a group of gods who strongly resemble ancient Egyptian deities. He seeks to overthrow the rule of Horus-Ra.
  • In the cartoon Tutenstein on Discovery Kids, Set appears as the villain who is trying to steal the Scepter of Was from the back-from-the-dead mummy of a young pharaoh.
  • In 2 videogames developed by Atlus - Persona 2: Eternal Punishment and Digital Devil Saga: Avatar Tuner 2, Set is categorized into tarot class Tower and demon clan Death God.
  • In the roguelike video game nethack, Set is a deity worshipped by chaotic humans, belonging to either the character class of Barbarian or Priest.
  • Set, and several other Egyptian gods, were minions of the villain Scarab in the short-lived TV show Mummies Alive!
  • In the Japanese anime Hellsing, Incognito invokes Set, who appears as a snake-like entity shrouded in light, in order to destroy The Hellsing Orginazation and England.
  • In the Learning Company game, The ClueFinders 4th Grade Adventures: The Puzzle of Pyramids, an archaeologist was going to use a magic ring to make the Set come out.
  • Set is a playable god in the PC game Age of Mythology.
  • There are two Petpets called Seti and Faerie Seti, they resembling the Set animal, at Neopets.
  • There is a female Set animal named Verona, the persona of her creator.

References

  • Kaper, Olaf Ernst. 1997. Temples and Gods in Roman Dakhlah: Studies in the Indigenous Cults of an Egyptian Oasis. Doctoral dissertation; Groningen: Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, Faculteit der Letteren.
  • Kaper, Olaf Ernst. 1997. "The Statue of Penbast: On the Cult of Seth in the Dakhlah Oasis". In Egyptological Memoirs, Essays on ancient Egypt in Honour of Herman Te Velde, edited by Jacobus van Dijk. Egyptological Memoirs 1. Groningen: Styx Publications. 231–241, ISBN 90-5693-014-1.
  • Osing, Jürgen. 1985. "Seth in Dachla und Charga." Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, Abteilung Kairo 41:229–233.
  • Quirke, Stephen G. J. 1992. Ancient Egyptian Religion. New York: Dover Publications, inc., ISBN 0-486-27427-6 (1993 reprint)
  • te Velde, Herman. 1977. Seth, God of Confusion: A Study of His Role in Egyptian Mythology and Religion. 2nd ed. Probleme der Ägyptologie 6. Leiden: E. J. Brill, ISBN 90-04-05402-2
  • HACHETTE, GODS OF ANCIENT EGYPT 9, SETH, ISSN 1741-2293 (includes a scientific SETH figurina)

See also

External links

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