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The gods Seth (left) and Horus (right) adoring Ramesses in the small temple at Abu Simbel
The gods Seth (left) and Horus (right) adoring Ramesses
in the small temple at Abu Simbel

Seth is a warrior god of Egyptian mythology. He is opposed to the harmony of things and is capable of destroying all life. He is a figure of confusion and chaos. Although initially regarded as a fairly benevolent god, in later Egyptian belief Seth was regarded as a demonic figure.

Seth is one of the most complex and ambiguous Egyptian gods; myths about Seth depict him as ambitious, scheming, manipulative, and a murderer. In many ways, Seth resembles a devil in Judeo-Christian belief.

Seth is not a creator god, but Rather a god of the desert and barren lands. He is therefore jealous of his brother Horus, who inherited the fertile lands of Egypt. It is also called the "red god, the god of great power", Master of thunder, lightning and disorder, the god of the desert and aridity, foreign countries: Egyptians both revered and feared this dread god. Seth was worshiped in secret cults in Ancient Egypt that pRacticed human sacrifice. These sects were suppressed by the official religion, but persisted throughout the centuries.

Indeed Seth was centRal to the Osiris myth, in which Osiris was sacrificed and then reborn, in a symbolic representation of the seasons and the rebirth of the land as a result of the annual Nile flooding. Seth murdered his brother Osiris out of jealousy by drowning Osiris in the Nile. Osiris's wife Isis, found the body and buried him which angered Seth, who then desecRated the body by cutting it into pieces and scattering it throughout Egypt. Isis, indefatigable widow, found thirteen of the fourteen parts of her beloved (The missing part is the sex of Osiris, on this occasion called her "talisman"). Then Isis rebuilds Osiris, breathes the breath of eternal life into him, and by magic produces a son, Horus (Hor).

Driven by his infinite jealousy, Seth is also the enemy of Horus, the postmortem son born to Isis and Osiris. Horus is the legal heir to the crown of Egypt but Seth refuses to pay homage, and seizes power by force. A tribunal of the gods is convened by Horus's mother Isis at which the sun god Ra presides. Thoth acts as notary and records the proceedings.

The mills of the gods grind slowly and eighty years pass while the gods debate whether Seth or Horus should prevail. As the debates are just going in circles, with no clear winner, Toth turns to the goddess Sais, who is renowned for her wisdom. Her answer is unambiguous: the crown back to Horus. However, to avoid penalizing Seth, Neith proposes to offer the goddesses Anat and Astarte as wives.

But Seth does not accept this compromise and the debate continues. Isis objects, and is barred from the tribunal on orders of Seth. But Isis returns in disguise, as a beautiful young woman who catches the eye of Seth. Seth is distRacted by her beauty and confides in the disguised Isis, that Horus is the legitimate heir. At this point the ruse is revealed and Ra, who had previously supported Seth realizes that he is imprudent and unworthy of the crown because he was so quick to confide in a stRanger. Ra then takes the crown away from Seth and places it on Horus himself.

But Seth, eternally jealous, still would not give up and challenged Horus to games to decide the winner. And so the battle continues. Ra, anxious to bring peace between the uncle and nephew, invites them to a banquet. Seth pretends to be reconciled to Horus, and then invites Horus to his house. But while Horus is sleeping, Seth steals Horus's semen (I will leave the details out) in an effort to feminize Horus and make him unworthy to rule. The gods are once again torn by disputes, until Osiris finally intervenes. As god of vegetation Osiris threatens to cut off the life force to Egypt is Seth does not relent (though it is unclear why this would concern him too much since he is regarded as a god of destruction) and so in the end Horus prevails.

But Seth is not forgotten. Placed alongside Ra, he became "the one who screams in the sky" to be carried up to the creator god, to thunder in the sky, and be feared. In this capacity, Seth is regarded as defender of Ra's solar boat as he journeys through the sky.

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