Tuesday, November 10, 2015
Set or Seth (also spelled Setesh, Sutekh, Setekh, or Suty) is a god of the desert, storms, disorder, violence and foreigners in ancient Egyptian religion. In Ancient Greek, the god's name is given as Sēth. 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 the serpent of Chaos Apep. 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.
During the Second Intermediate Period (1650–1550 BC), a group of Asiatic foreign chiefs known as the Hyksos (literally, "rulers of foreign lands") gained the rulership of Egypt, and ruled the Nile Delta, from Avaris. They chose Set, originally Upper Egypt's chief god, the god of foreigners and the god they found most similar to their own chief god, as their patron, and then Set became worshiped as the chief god once again.
Jan Assmann argues that because the Ancient Egyptians could never conceive of a "lonely" god lacking personality, Seth the desert god, who was worshiped exclusively, represented a manifestation of evil.
When Ahmose I overthrew the Hyksos and expelled them from Egypt (c. 1522 BC), Egyptian attitudes towards Asiatic foreigners became xenophobic, and royal propaganda discredited the period of Hyksos rule. Nonetheless, the Set cult at Avaris flourished, and the Egyptian garrison of Ahmose stationed there became part of the priesthood of Set.
The founder of the Nineteenth Dynasty, Ramesses I came from a military family from Avaris with strong ties to the priesthood of Set. Several of the Ramesside kings were named for Set, most notably Seti I (literally, "man of Set") and Setnakht (literally, "Set is strong"). In addition, one of the garrisons of Ramesses II held Set as its patron deity, and Ramesses II erected the so-called Four Hundred Years' Stele at Pi-Ramesses, commemorating the 400 year anniversary of the Set cult in the Delta.
Set also became associated with foreign gods during the New Kingdom, particularly in the Delta. Set was also identified by the Egyptians with the Hittite deity Teshub, who was a storm god like Set.
According to Herman te Velde, the demonization of Set took place after Egypt's conquest by several foreign nations in the Third Intermediate and Late Periods. Set, who had traditionally been the god of foreigners, thus also became associated with foreign oppressors, including the Assyrian and Persian empires. It was during this time that Set was particularly vilified, and his defeat by Horus widely celebrated.
Set's negative aspects were emphasized during this period. Set was the killer of Osiris, having hacked Osiris' body into pieces and dispersed it so that he could not be resurrected. The Greeks later linked Set with Typhon because both were evil forces, storm deities, and sons of the Earth that attacked the main gods.
Nevertheless, throughout this period, in some outlying regions of Egypt Set was still regarded as the heroic chief deity.
Set has also been classed as a Trickster deity who, as a god of disorder, resorts to deception to achieve bad ends.