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Ancient Gods and Goddesses: Who is Set?
Posted In: Ancient Civilizations  8/26/07
By: Yona Williams

In regards to ancient Egyptian mythology and religious belief, Set played an important role, as he was known as the patron of the winds, storms, chaos, darkness, strength, war, evil, and conflict. He was also the god associated with looking after Upper Egypt. In various texts, Set is also referred to as Seth or Sutekh. In this article, you will learn a little bit more about this god that is attached to so many unpleasant things.


If you were to see Set today, he would appear as a man with one striking difference – he possessed the head of a jackal-like animal. When scanning the depictions of his battle against Horus, he is sometimes interpreted as a hippo or a black pig. Other times, Set appears as a crocodile and in more scary times – he is seen as a combination of himself and Apep (the initial god of evil). The Egyptians also believed that bright red was the color of evil, which is the shade Set would appear as when he was shown in a full manly form – red hair and eyes.


During the early times of Egypt, Set was worshipped as the god of wind, as well as the storms that took place in the desert. The people would pray to him that he would give them the same strength that the storms possessed. Despite gaining the reputation as a dark god with many mood swings, he was thought to have been the ally of his brother and sister (Osiris and Isis), the counterpart to his sister/wife Nephthys, as well as the defender of Ra (his father). As time passed, the view regarding Set would take a drastic turn.


He became known as the god of evil and was often portrayed as having a great conflict within himself when it came to the gods of light (especially Horus – another son of Osiris). Soon, Set was associated with the likes of his former enemy Apep (the serpent). By the time the XXVI Dynasty arrived, Set had become a notable antagonist and the ancient Egyptians saw him as the epitome of evil. No one knows why this change came to be, but many believe that the unification of Egypt had something to do with the shift. It seems that the religion of Set became unfavorable in regards to the state religion, which worshipped Ra and Osiris. Some feel an open rebellion occurred against the pharaoh Narmer (Menes) and the winners of this are thought to have rewritten history, which also entailed a rewriting of the religion.


A story dealing with Set includes the Legend of Osiris, where Set succeeds in killing Osiris, whose body was then scattered about. Set claims the throne of the gods as his own, but is later punished by Horus, who is the son of Osiris. In the end, Horus restores the order of the world and established pharaohs as the protectors of Maat. Set and Horus would continue to battle for who would control the world, which is the basis of many good vs. evil stories.



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