Greek Name: Seth
Egyptian Name: Set
Associated Animal: Set animal (Sha)
Main Cult Center: Ombos Naqada
Role: Chaos; infertility; desert; storms
As you can guess, Set plays a major role in the Descendants of Isis series. The god himself making an appearance in the final novel. But Set is a very complicated character, both in my series and in mythology.
Set is one of the most ancient gods of Egypt with the earliest representation of Set is carved on an ivory comb from the Amratian period. He’s associated with chaos, infertility, and the desert; and in certain geographical areas, such as the north-eastern Delta, he was highly honored. The ancient Egyptians recognizing that chaos had to be acknowledged in order for Ma ‘at to exist.
In anthropomorphic form, Set was depicted to have white skin and red hair. He was also represented by an animal widely known as the Set animal (Sha). A creature that might have belonged to species that now is extinct or a mythological beast associated with trouble and barrenness. The animal was identified having a long, curved snout, flat-topped ears, a canine body, and a forked tail.
Set was traditionally known to be dangerous and unpredictable. Even his entry into this world was a violent one, where he ripped himself from his mother’s womb. However, despite these beginnings, he was not always considered evil. In the Early Dynastic period, he was an important god of Upper Egypt, invoked for love spells and inscribed on amulets. He protected the dead, the oases of the desert, and the sun god, Ra. In the Osirian myth, he married his sister, Nephthys. But had other wives and concubines, including Taweret (goddess of childbirth), Anat (Syria-Palestinian goddess of war), and Astarte (Syrian goddess of war). He had no children of his own.
In some mythology, he was the defender of Ra’s barque as it sailed through Duat. Set and his wife fought off Apep, a serpent demon bent on swallowing the sun. Set often boasted about his conquests and claimed he was the only god that was brave enough to stand against Apep. After a direct threat, Ra tired of Set behavior and expelled him from the barque.
Later mythology depicted Set as the god who became jealous of his brother, Osiris, because Osiris was made pharaoh over Egypt. This, and his wife’s betrayal, eventually lead to Set’s decision to murder his brother. Thus, leading to the Contendings of Horus and Set. Some historians have debated that the battle between Set and Horus was a mythological representation of a real struggle to unite Egypt under one ruler. In some versions of the mythology, Set is killed rather than driven from the lands and into the desert. The true origin of why Set was transformed from a fairly-friendly (though egotistical) god to the enemy of order is unknown. All that is known is that from the New Kingdom on, he was regarded as a villain based on the Osirian myth. Still, he was considered beneficial at times, protecting the fertile lands of Egypt from dry winds and drought of the desert.
- Hill, J. (2010). Ancient Egypt Online. http://www.ancientegyptonline.co.uk
- Oakes, L., and Gahlin, L. (2003). Ancient Egypt: An illustrated reference to the myths, religions, pyramids and temples of the land of the pharaohs. New York, New York: Barnes & Noble, Inc.
- Mark, J (2016). Set. https://www.ancient.eu/Set_(Egyptian_God)/
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4 thoughts on “Set (Seth), God of the Desert and Chaos”
So intetesting. Thank you
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What a complex relationship Egyptians had with the desert… I guess it would be hard to really understand unless you lived there in that age…
The Multicolored Diary: Weird Things in Hungarian Folktales
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It’s always fascinating to me how in the some Mythologies the Gods are given such human qualities. More like humans with super powers. Nicely written, interesting article.
#AtoZChallenge – S:
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Your last paragraph is the stuff I was familiar with from school but I was glad to get a little more of the story as well. I’m a big fan of pantheons because it’s a way more interesting story to have all these powerful gods having to share the spotlight
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