You want to find out who was Set, the Egyptian god of chaos? Learn more about the myths in which he appears?
We have concocted an article that should answer these two questions!
Set was the Egyptian god of chaos. 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 role of Set in the "myth of Ra"
- The other myths attached to Set
Let's get started without further delay!
1) Who is Set?
Set is the Egyptian god of chaos, desert, storms, and darkness.
Set 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 god-pharaoh.
2) The animal of Set
Set is always represented with an animal head with a long and pointed muzzle and long and square ears.
The animal who inspired the head of Set has long been called the "animal of Set" by the historians of Egypt, the 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 muzzle), or an okapi.
The most likely hypothesis, however, is that Set's animal is a Cape aardvark. Indeed, also called "ground pig," this animal is quite surprising:
- The Cape aardvark feeds exclusively on ants (he can devour up to 50,000 ants per hunt thanks to its sticky tongue measuring 30 to 45 cm).
- The Cape aardvark makes its burrow at the exit of the villages (which, in the Egyptian civilization, places it at the border of "the unknown and the known").
- The Cape aardvark leaps very high and utters a very high-pitched cry when it is frightened.
- The Cape aardvark runs in zigzag with regular breaks.
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 it their god of chaos!
3) Set and Apep
Whether Set was a good or evil god, the ancient Egyptians' admiration for his strength has never altered. Many myths are known about his martial prowess.
The best known of these is the role of Set in defending Ra's Sun boat. Indeed, each night, as the Sun Boat made its journey through the underworld, Set helped Ra in his fight against Apep (or Apophis). Apep is the serpent of chaos who, each night, wants to eat the Sun located on the head of Ra.
In this situation, Set is often portrayed as standing on the bow of the Sun Boat, from where he unleashes storms (as the god of storms) on Apep to allow Ra to illuminate the world tranquilly.
Good or bad, the Egyptians shared the belief that Set was immensely strong.
4) The ancient god of chaos
A. How did Set become the god of chaos?
Set is quickly associated with the cruel and bloody Hyksos invaders (coming from East Asia) who conquered a small part of the Nile Delta. 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 myth of Osiris
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) murdered him.
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 by the new pharaoh Horus.
Sad decay for Set, who has gone from being a god helping the dead to being infamous and diabolical.