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Set (mythology)

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Set (also Setekh, Seth, etc) was originally a god of strength, violence, hostility, evil, war, storms, foreign lands and deserts in Egyptian mythology. He protected desert caravans but also caused sandstorms. He was one of the Ennead and a son of Nuit and either Seb or Re. He was usually the husband of Astarte or Anat[?] (Semitic mythology[?]) or the Egyptian goddess Nephthys (with whom he was the father of Anubis). He was closely associated with Ash.

One of the more common epithets was that he was 'great of strength'. In one of the Pyramid Texts[?] it states that the kings strength is that of Set. The Pharaoh himself was the heir to the two 'brothers' and united the offices of Horus and Set or of Upper and Lower Egypt.

Later when Osiris became a much more important god, Set gradually became the evil one who eventually murdered his brother, Osiris (see Legend of Osiris and Isis).

Set was seen as the opposite of Osiris the god of vegetation and so he became lord of the desert, but also he was the cruel sea compared to the life-giving calm of the Osririan Nile.

He was also in contrast to Horus who was a god of the sky, so his breath was responsible for the worms and metal ore was called the "bones of Set" because they came from the ground. In the 3rd millennium BC, Seth (replacing Horus) became the patron god of the pharaohs, but as the story of Set's murder of his brother became popular, Horus was switched back. A war between Set and Horus ensued, lasting for eighty years. Horus tore off one leg and the testicles of Set, who in turn took out Horus' left eye. Horus won the war (with the support of Neith) and became the ruler of Lower and Upper Egypt. Seth was castrated or killed or moved in with Re and became the voice of thunder.

As a god of the underworld, Seth protected the sun (Re) as he journeys through the land of the dead during the night. He also fought and killed Apep.

In art, Set is thought of as being a jackal-headed god, though this is misleading. His head is not obviously a jackal, and many believe it is, in fact, an aardvark; sometimes he was entirely animal, appearing as a greyhound. He had square ears, a forked tail and a curved snout. In addition to the dog, aardvark and jackal, Set was associated gazelles, donkeys, crocodiles, pigs and hippopotami.

See also: Legend of Osiris and Isis; Temple of Set.

Alternative: Seth, Setekh, Setesh, Seti, Sutekh, Setech, Sutech, Tabeh, Typhon



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