Family[ edit ] Set's siblings are Osiris, Isis, and Nephthys. He married Nephthys and fathered Anubis ; and in some accounts he had relationships with the foreign goddesses Anat, and Astarte. Set animal In art , Set is usually depicted as an enigmatic creature referred to by Egyptologists as the Set animal , a beast resembling no known creature, although it could be seen as a composite of an aardvark , an ass, a jackal or a fennec fox. The animal has a curved snout , long rectangular ears, a thin forked tail and canine body, with sprouted fur tufts in an inverted arrow shape; sometimes, Set is depicted as a human with the distinctive head.
Some early Egyptologists proposed that it was a stylised representation of the giraffe , owing to the large flat-topped "horns" which correspond to a giraffe's ossicones.
The Egyptians themselves, however, made a distinction between the giraffe and the Set animal. During the Late Period, Set is depicted as a donkey or as having a donkey's head. If these are ruled out, then the earliest Set animal appears on a mace head of the King Scorpion , a ruler of the Protodynastic Period. The head and the forked tail of the Set animal are clearly present. The contest between them is often 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. 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. Both perspectives appear as early as the Pyramid Texts, the earliest source of the myth.
In some spells from these texts, Horus is the son of Osiris and nephew of Set, and the murder of Osiris is the major impetus for the conflict. The other tradition depicts Horus and Set as brothers. In this account, Horus repeatedly defeats Set and is supported by most of the other deities. At one point Isis attempts to harpoon Set as he is locked in combat with her son, but she strikes Horus instead, who then cuts off her head in a fit of rage.
Set's violation is partly meant to degrade his rival, but it also involves homosexual desire, in keeping with one of Set's major characteristics, his forceful, potent, and indiscriminate sexuality. 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 retaliates by putting Horus's semen on lettuce-leaves that Set eats.
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. Horus injures or 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. 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, may retrieve or heal it for him. If so, the episodes of mutilation and sexual abuse would form a single story, in which Set assaults Horus and loses semen to him, Horus retaliates and impregnates Set, and Set comes into possession of Horus's Eye when it appears on Set's head. Because Thoth is a moon deity in addition to his other functions, it would make sense, according to te Velde, for Thoth to emerge in the form of the Eye and step in to mediate between the feuding deities.
Set was depicted standing on the prow of Ra 's barge defeating the dark serpent Apep. In some Late Period representations, such as in the Persian Period Temple of Hibis at Khargah , Set was represented in this role with a falcon 's head, taking on the guise of Horus. In the Amduat Set is described as having a key role in overcoming Apep. During the Second Intermediate Period — 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. Set then became worshiped as the chief god once again. The Hyksos King Apophis is recorded as worshiping Set exclusively , as described in the following passage: He did not worship any other deity in the whole land except Seth.
The Set cult at Avaris flourished, nevertheless, 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 after the god, most notably Seti I literally, "man of Set" and Setnakht literally, "Set is strong".
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, like Seth, was a storm god. 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.
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 would later associate Set with Typhon , a monstrous and evil force of raging nature.
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. More specifically, Set was worshipped in the relatively large metropolitan yet provincial locale of Sepermeru , especially during the Ramesside Period. One of the epithets of this town was "gateway to the desert", which fits well with Set's role as a deity of the frontier regions of ancient Egypt.
In the text of Papyrus Bologna, the harried Pra'em-hab laments undue taxation for his own temple The House of Seth and goes on to lament that he is also saddled with responsibility for: Meanwhile, Nephthys was also venerated as "Mistress" in the Osirian temples of these districts, as part of the specifically Osirian college. Further study of the enormously important role of Seth in ancient Egyptian religion particularly after the Twentieth Dynasty is imperative.
In modern religion[ edit ].