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Set /sɛt/ or Seth (/sɛθ/; also spelled Setesh, Sutekh, Setekh, or Suty) is a god of the desert, storms, disorder, violence, evil, chaos, war and foreigners in ancient Egyptian religion. In Ancient Greek, the god's name is given as Sēth (Σήθ). Set is not, however, a god to be ignored or avoided; he has a positive role where he is employed by Ra on his solar boat to repel Apep, the serpent of Chaos. Set had a vital role as a reconciled combatant. He was lord of the red (desert) land where he was the balance to Horus' role as lord of the black (soil) land.

In Egyptian mythology, Set is portrayed as the usurper who killed and mutilated his own brother Osiris. Osiris' wife Isis reassembled Osiris' corpse and resurrected him long enough to conceive his son and heir, Horus. Horus sought revenge upon Set, and the myths describe their conflicts. This Osiris myth is a prominent theme in Egyptian mythology.


Murder of Osiris

Set was most famous for the murder of his brother Osiris, specifically cutting him into pieces and tossing them into the Nile, before Osiris then awoke again.

Horus and Set

Horus and Set once had a feud with each other for the Throne of Egypt after the death of Osiris. The contest between them is violent but is also described as a legal judgment before the Ennead, an assembled group of Egyptian deities, to decide who should inherit the kingship. The judge in this trial may be Geb, who, as the father of Osiris and Set, held the throne before they did, or it may be the creator gods Ra or Atum, the originators of kingship. Other deities also take important roles: Thoth frequently acts as a conciliator in the dispute or as an assistant to the divine judge, and in "Contendings", Isis uses her cunning and magical power to aid her son.

During in one of the episodes of feud between Horus and Set, Set attempts to sexually abuse his nephew Horus. A sexual encounter between them two begins when Set asks to have sex with Horus, who agrees on the condition that Set will give Horus some of his strength. The encounter puts Horus in danger, because in Egyptian tradition semen is a potent and dangerous substance, akin to poison. According to some texts, Set's semen enters Horus's body and makes him ill. But in "Contendings", Horus thwarts Set by catching Set's semen in his hands. Isis was furious when she heard this and retaliates by putting Horus's semen on lettuce for Set to eat. Set's defeat becomes apparent when this semen appears on his forehead as a golden disk. He has been impregnated with his rival's seed and as a result "gives birth" to the disk. In "Contendings", Thoth takes the disk and places it on his own head; in earlier accounts, it is Thoth who is produced by this anomalous birth.

Another important episode concerns mutilations that the combatants inflict upon each other: Horus steals Set's testicles and Set damages or tears out one, or occasionally both, of Horus's eyes. Sometimes the eye is torn into pieces. Set's mutilation signifies a loss of virility and strength. The removal of Horus's eye is even more important, for this stolen eye of Horus represents a wide variety of concepts in Ancient Egyptian religion. One of Horus's major roles is as a sky deity, and for this reason his right eye was said to be the sun and his left eye the moon. The theft or destruction of the eye of Horus is therefore equated with the darkening of the moon in the course of its cycle of phases, or during eclipses. Horus may take back his lost Eye, or other deities, including Isis, Thoth, and Hathor retrieve or heal it for him.

In any case, the restoration of the eye of Horus to wholeness represents the return of the moon to full brightness, the return of the kingship to Horus, and many other aspects of maat. Meanwhile, as for Set he lost the Throne of Egypt to Horus and luckily for him, he was able to restore his testicles.

Symbols of Set

Set was the symbol of drought, perversity and famine. He was feared by most Egyptians, but was an image they had to come to terms with, seeing as some chaos will come around in one's life.


Preceded by:
Pharaoh of Egypt
Succeeded by