Seth or Set, the black god of Egypt

SET, THE EGYPTIAN GOD OF CHAOS

Want to find out what place the god Set had in the Egyptian pantheon? Learn more about the physical characteristics of Egypt's evil god? Learn more about the myths in which he appears?

We have concocted an article that should answer all these questions!

Set is the god of chaos in ancient Egypt. Murderer of Osiris and eternal opponent of Horus, Set is also a god who maintains stability in the Egyptian world by fighting the serpent Apep alongside Ra.

In this article, you will discover:

  • The physical characteristics of the god Set
  • The Story of Set in the Myth of Ra
  • Other myths attached to Set

Let's go and discover all this without further delay.

 1) Set's characteristics

Set is the Egyptian god of chaos, desert, storms, and darkness.

He was originally thought to be a benevolent god who lived in the underworld and was responsible for helping the dead reach heaven.

He was later considered an evil god as opposed to Horus, the god of the air, whom he fought according to the story of the "Myth of Horus" to take the throne of Egypt after killing Osiris, the perfect pharaoh-god.

2) The great mystery of Set's animal

Set is always represented with an animal head with a long pointed muzzle and long, almost square ears.

This animal, unknown to the battalion, has long been called the "animal of Set" by Egyptian scholars, Egyptologists. The animal of Set has been described in turn as a fennec, an antelope, a donkey, a camel, a giraffe, a greyhound, a jackal, a jerboa (a mouse with a long snout), or an okapi!

The most likely hypothesis, however, is that Set's animal is a Cape aardvark. This animal, also called a ground pig, is quite surprising:

- It feeds exclusively on ants (this glutton can devour up to 50,000 ants per hunt thanks to its sticky tongue measuring 30 to 45 cm).

- It makes its burrow at the exit of the villages (which places it in the Egyptian civilization at the border of the unknown and the known).

- He leaps very high and utters a very high-pitched cry when he is frightened.

- He runs in zigzag with regular breaks.

Set's animal

Due to its unusual characteristics, our aardvark friend has acquired an indisputable popularity among the inhabitants of the Nile Valley. Fascinated, the latter have made him their god of chaos! 

3) Set, protector of the Sun

Whether Set was a good or evil god, the ancient Egyptians' admiration for his strength has never changed. Many myths are known about his martial prowess.

The best known of these is the role of Set in defending Ra's Sun boat. Each night, as the Sun boat made its journey through the underworld, Set helped Ra in his fight against Apep (or Apophis), the serpent of chaos, who each night wanted to eat the Sun. In this situation, Set is often portrayed as standing on the bow of the Sun boat, from where he unleashes storms of fire and lightning on Apep to repel him.

Set the old god

Good or bad, the Egyptians shared the belief that Set was immensely strong.

4) Set, benevolent or malevolent god?

A. How did Set gradually become the god of chaos?

Set is quickly associated with the cruel and bloody Hyksos invaders (coming from East Asia) who conquered the delta (the swampy area where a river flows into the sea) of the Nile. Consequently, in the Second Intermediate Period (2000-1500 BC), Set left his role as a particularly sympathetic deity helping the dead to become a malevolent deity: the god of chaos.

Another theory about Set's disgrace suggests that his appointment as a malevolent god of chaos was collateral damage to a conflict between two groups of Egyptian nobles. To discredit the other group, some nobles claimed to be "followers of Horus" and demonized their opponents' intentions by calling them "followers of Set," while at the same time creating a bad reputation for Set.

B. The role of Set in the Osirian myth

Since both theories are debatable, it was the popularization of the conflict between Set and Horus that ended Set's good name.

According to the creation myth of the Egyptian pantheon, Set was the son of Geb and Nut. His brothers and sisters were Osiris, Isis (later wife of Osiris), and Nephthys (later wife of Set). Osiris became the ruler of Egypt, and Set, jealous of his brother, plotted to murder him cunningly and treacherously.

Although Set succeeded in killing Osiris, Isis magically revived her husband for just one night, long enough for her to become pregnant with a son: Horus, the falcon god.

When Horus grew up, he was able to avenge his father by taking back the throne of Egypt from Set. He then became the new ruler of Egypt. At the end of the conflict between Set and Horus, the god of chaos was banished forever to his desert kingdom 🏜️.

Set of Cheops

Sad decay for Set, who has gone from being a god helping the dead to being infamous and diabolical.