Benjamin Linus, more commonly known as Ben, was a long-time resident of the Island and a former leader of the Others. His mother, Emily, died giving birth to him. At the age of eight Ben came to the Island with his father Roger, who was assigned the job of “workman” or janitor for the DHARMA Initiative. After being educated on the Island, Ben became enchanted with the Hostiles after a chance encounter with Richard in the jungle. At the age of twelve, Ben attempted to join them, but was shot by a time-traveling Sayid, who had hoped to kill him and thus, change the future. This event led to Ben being healed in the Temple, having been taken there by Richard Alpert, at which point his “innocence” was taken from him. Richard mentioned, Ben won’t remember anything, as such it was unclear if he remembered Sayid having met him in the future. Years later he became a workman for the Dharma Initiative, while actually being allied with the Hostiles and their leader Charles Widmore. At some point after the destruction of the Initiative on the Island in the Purge, Ben engineered the ousting of Charles Widmore and became the new leader of the Others. Years later he developed a tumor on his spine and worried what this meant since people were usually free of diseases on the Island.
In 2004, after Oceanic Flight 815 crashed on the Island, the survivors came face-to-face with Ben and the Others on many occasions. He was captured and held prisoner by the survivors for six days under the alias Henry Gale. His story proved to be false but he was freed by Michael, who had made a deal with the Others. With Jack, Kate, and Sawyer being held prisoner, he persuaded Jack to remove his tumor. Ben also met face-to-face with John Locke, manipulating him and later being threatened by him when Locke claimed to have heard Jacob, leading him to try and kill Locke. Ben later tried to stop the survivors from contacting a nearby freighter for rescue, knowing the people on the boat were sent by Charles Widmore to capture him and, he claimed, kill everyone else. He ordered the Others to the Temple for safety, but failed in his attempt to stop Jack from calling the boat and became a captive of John Locke’s group on the Island. After the mercenaries from the freighter attacked the Barracks and killed his daughter, Ben and Locke went to Jacob’s cabin, where they were told how to protect the Island. Ben went to the Orchid station and moved the Island, sacrificing his presence there and his leadership over the Others, leaving Locke as his successor.
Ben was transported to the Sahara desert ten months into the future, and soon discovered that several of the crash survivors had also left the Island. He enlisted the help of Sayid in his war against Widmore, and vowed to kill Widmore’s daughter, Penelope, in revenge for the death of his own, but ultimately failed. Discovering that Locke was off the Island, Ben killed him and used his body, and the Oceanic Six, to return to the Island aboard Ajira Flight 316. Once back on the Island, he was judged by the Monster for the death of Alex and was then used by the Man in Black, who was posing as a resurrected John Locke, to kill Jacob. After stabbing Jacob, Ben was touched by Jacob. Later, he joined Ilana’s group when they traveled to the Temple (burying John Locke on their way). Miles read the ashes of Jacob and confirmed to Ilana that it was Ben who killed him. Ilana forced Ben to dig his own grave, but Ben apologized and was accepted into the group. After Ilana’s death, Ben went with Richard and Miles to the Barracks to find explosives to blow up the Ajira plane to stop the Man in Black from leaving the Island. Once he reached the Barracks, Ben discovered that Widmore had returned to the Island and was finally able to kill him after the Man in Black promised that he would have the Island all to himself. When Ben learned that the Man in Black was going to destroy the island, Ben sided with the survivors and was willing to go down with it. After Jack did his job relighting the Source, Hurley was the new protector and made Ben his advisor.
In the flash-sideways, Ben was the teacher of his previous ‘daughter’, Alex. As his acquaintances from the Island moved on, he chose to stay behind, feeling guilty for everything he had done to them on the island.
Off the Island
3×20 – The Man Behind the Curtain
Ben Linus was born on December 19, 1964, early in his mother, Emily’s, third trimester. Roger and Emily Linus were hiking in a forest 32 miles outside Portland, Oregon (Official Lost Podcast/September 21, 2007) when she went into early labor. The birth went badly for Emily, and Roger carried her out to a roadway, flagging down Horace and Olivia, (relationship unknown) some passers by, for help. Ben lived, but Emily died. Emily’s last words were a request that Roger name the child Benjamin. Ben regularly lied to other people and his own followers about the fact that he wasn’t born on the Island.
With the DHARMA Initiative
In 1973, when Ben was eight years old, he came to the Island with his father Roger, who had gotten a job thanks to Horace, a DHARMA mathematician and their leader on the Island. Ben’s father was an alcoholic who paid little attention to Ben during his childhood and routinely forgot his birthday.
Ben witnessed an attack on the Initiative by the Hostiles while attending school. The night after the attack, Ben saw his mother outside his window looking in.
On the Island, he met and befriended a young girl named Annie. Annie gave Ben a handmade gift for his birthday: a doll carved in a crude likeness of herself. She also carved a doll representing Ben, and kept it while Ben kept the Annie doll, saying that now they would never be far from each other. Ben kept the doll and was seen looking at it on his birthday in 2004.
That night, Ben returned to Roger Linus’s quarters. Roger had drunk himself to sleep. Ben started to take off his father’s shoes, waking him. Roger saw Annie’s gift box, and started rambling about Ben having killed his mother on his birthday. Ben watched his father in tears while the man settled back and sardonically wished him a happy birthday.
Ben ran off and went to the sonar fence, where he saw his mother again. She said nothing until Ben started toward the fence. Then she told him that it was not yet time for him to come, and walked back into the jungle. Ben later packed his belongings (including his doll of Annie) and left the Barracks. He exited through the sonar fence using a rabbit to make sure the fence was disabled. In the jungle, he heard whispers and met Richard Alpert, who asked him if he was lost and encouraged him to return home to his people. Ben told him that he was looking for his mother, even though she was dead and Richard became more interested in Ben after hearing that she died off the island. Ben further told him that he hated living with the DHARMA Initiative and wanted to join the Hostiles. Richard said that it might be possible for him to do so, but that he would have to be very patient. (“The Man Behind the Curtain”)
5×09 – Namaste
In 1977, young Ben met Sayid (who had traveled back in time during the crash of Ajira Flight 316), in the jail cell at the Security station. He gave Sayid a sandwich as a welcoming gesture, and asked if he was a Hostile, to which Sayid responded, “Do you think I am?” He asked for Sayid’s name, and then introduced himself. (“Namaste”)
5×10 – He’s Our You
Later, Ben took another sandwich to Sayid, along with a book, A Separate Reality by Carlos Castaneda, asking if Richard had sent him. He referred to his previous encounter with Alpert, and said that if Sayid was patient, Ben could help him. Eventually, Ben stepped in on his father and Sayid talking. Roger scolded him for bringing another sandwich, slamming him against the cell wall, then sent him home. Ben, thinking Sayid to be one of the Others, decided to help him escape in exchange for being brought to them. He set fire to a DHARMA van in the Barracks as a distraction, then went to free Sayid. While they were running away, they were encountered by Jin driving a DHARMA van. Sayid knocked Jin unconscious and took his gun. Then he told Ben: “You were right. I am a killer” (in reference to a conversation they would have thirty years later), and shot him in the chest, leaving him to die in the jungle. (“He’s Our You”)
5×11 – Whatever Happened, Happened
Ben somehow survived the shot. Jin woke up from being knocked out and drove him back to the barracks, where he was received by his frantic father and by Juliet, who operated on him. However, Ben had lost too much blood to live. Kate, believing she had to save his life, donated blood to him. Juliet soon realized that DHARMA did not have the kind of care necessary to keep Ben alive, so Kate, soon joined by Sawyer, decided to take him to the Others to see if they could help. The Others brought them to Richard Alpert. Alpert said that he could save Ben, but at a cost: he would lose his innocence, never be the same again, forget the whole event, and “always be one of us”. Kate and Sawyer agreed that it was worth it to save Ben’s life. Richard took the unconscious Ben to the Temple. (“Whatever Happened, Happened”)
With DHARMA and the Others
5×12 – Dead Is Dead
After being brought to the Temple, Ben was healed under unknown circumstances and brought to the Others’ camp where he met Charles Widmore, the Others’ apparent leader, for the first time. Upon learning that he would be returned to the DHARMA Initiative, Ben frantically told him that he didn’t want to go back and wanted to be one of them. Charles, however, stated that just because Ben wasn’t among the Others, that didn’t mean he wasn’t one of them. (“Dead Is Dead”)
In July 1977, shortly after Ben was healed, Pierre Chang organized the evacuation of all the DHARMA women and children from the Island, in preparation for the coming Incident. (“Follow the Leader”) Presumably this evacuation should have included Ben, however it is more likely Ben was still at the Temple where he was being healed after being shot by Sayid. If he was in this evacuation, then he subsequently returned to the Island.
After 1977, Ben continued to live in the DHARMA Initiative while continuing to have an unknown amount of contact with the Others as well, perhaps living part-time with both of them.
In 1989, Ben was assigned to kill Danielle Rousseau by Widmore; however after seeing Rousseau had a baby, Ben changed his mind and took the baby instead, sparing Rousseau’s life. When Ben brought Alex to Widmore, they argued about whether or not to kill the baby. Ben wanted to keep her, saying it would be wrong to kill her and asked Widmore if he’d be the one to kill her. After considering for a few moments, Widmore sourly gave in and let Ben keep Alex as his daughter. (“Dead Is Dead”)
After secretly joining the Others, Ben also continued to work the DHARMA Initiative and served as a workman like his father. While Ben went back to perform his duties as a workman for the Initiative, it can be assumed that the Others looked after Alex whenever he was away.
With the Others
3×20 – The Man Behind the Curtain
On December 19, 1992, an adult Ben accompanied Roger on a supply run to the Pearl. Ben reminded him that it was his 28th birthday and Roger, having forgotten again, suggested they have a beer together at the Mesa afterward. Here, Ben questioned if Roger really did blame him for his mother’s death, to which he said “What do I know?”. Then, at 4:00 pm, Ben told Roger that he missed his mother too, but that for as long as he could remember he had had to put up with Roger, and that it had required a “tremendous amount of patience”. Then, he put on a gas mask and opened a canister, releasing a gas which killed Roger.
He then returned to the Barracks, where the staff of the Initiative had now been killed in the Purge. He went to Horace Goodspeed’s body, slumped on a bench, and closed his eyes. Then Richard Alpert and the Others entered. Richard asked if they should get Roger’s body, but Ben said to leave it. (“The Man Behind the Curtain”)
5×12 – Dead Is Dead
Ben assumed a leadership role with the Others and supposedly established communication with Jacob. The Others were formed from a combination of the Hostiles, former DHARMA Initiative staff who, like Ben, had turned on the organization, and new people recruited from the outside world. Some time after the Purge, Ben was pushing Alex on a swingset in the Barracks, when Richard approached him and informed him that the submarine was leaving in order to exile Widmore. Widmore had broken the rules for fathering a child with an ‘outsider’ and had regularly been taking trips to and from the Island. Widmore, claiming Ben had only come to the dock to gloat, told Ben that it was inevitable that Alex would die, whether or not it was his intention or the Island’s. (“Dead Is Dead”)
4×02 – Confirmed Dead
At some point Ben began taking trips off the Island. During one such trip, he was photographed by an unknown person, and this photo eventually ended up in the hands of Miles Straume. (“Confirmed Dead”)
4×03 – The Economist
Sayid later discovered Ben had a secret room in his house where he stored many types of currency, as well as passports from various countries. The extent of and motivation behind Ben’s off-Island activity remain a mystery. (“The Economist”)
3×07 – Not in Portland
He continued to raise Alex from infancy, telling her that her mother was dead. He was very protective of Alex. As she got older, she became involved with Karl, seemingly the only Other on the Island her age. Ben disapproved of the relationship because of the danger of Alex becoming pregnant. He eventually imprisoned and attempted to brainwash Karl to end the relationship. (“Not in Portland”)
4×06 – The Other Woman
It is unknown whether Ben has ever been married or romantically involved with anyone. At one point, Harper Stanhope, the Others’ therapist, referred to an unnamed “her” who may have been in a relationship with Ben in the past. Although Harper’s statement was somewhat ambiguous, Juliet bore a similar appearance to Ben’s mother, indicating that Harper was referring to Ben’s mum. (“The Other Woman”)
3×16 – One of Us | 4×06 – The Other Woman
Roughly three years before the crash of Oceanic Flight 815, Ben brought Juliet to the Island to help solve the Others’ pregnancy problems. When she was unsuccessful and asked to be sent home, Ben convinced her to stay by telling her that her sister’s cancer had returned and that Jacob would heal it if she agreed to stay. Later on, it became increasingly clear that Ben was interested in more than just Juliet’s medical expertise, and Juliet herself began to suspect that he had feelings for her. In fact, Ben was in love with Juliet and his attraction to her was one of his reasons for keeping her on the Island. When Ben realized that Juliet was having an affair with Goodwin, he became extremely jealous, so much so that Harper, who was Goodwin’s wife, began to fear for Goodwin’s safety. (“One of Us”) (“The Other Woman”)
Shortly before the crash of Flight 815, Ben began having pain in his back. Juliet took X-rays and discovered a tumor on his spine. Ben was very troubled because people on the Island were usually free of disease. Juliet was upset because she believed Ben had lied about curing her sister of cancer. (“One of Us”)
After the crash
3×01 – A Tale of Two Cities
On September 22nd, 2004 on what should have been an ordinary day, Ben did not attend the book club hosted by Juliet due to their altercation. However, he was summoned outside when a small tremor was felt in the Barracks. He left his house, glancing left and right for a few moments before looking to the sky. As the Others join Ben in looking to the sky, they hear a load roar and shriek as they witness the crash of Oceanic Flight 815. (“A Tale of Two Cities”)
3×16 – One of Us | 4×06 – The Other Woman
Immediately taking action, he ordered Ethan and Goodwin to the mid-section and tail-section crash sites respectively. During this time Juliet, Goodwin and Harper shared nervous eye contact all knowing that this was Ben’s way of punishing Goodwin for his romance with Juliet. He hoped that he would die on the dangerous mission ahead of him. He told them to act as shocked survivors, to listen, learn and not get involved, requested lists to be presented in three days and sent the two men away. In this midst of all the chaos, he still approached Juliet and nonchalant guessed that he was out of the book club. He then asked Juliet to follow him. (“One of Us”) (“The Other Woman”)
3×16 – One of Us
Ben took Juliet on a walk to the Flame station where they met Mikhail who was watching feed of news reports of Oceanic Flight 815 and creating the in-depth files on the survivors. He asked Mikhail to uplink him to Richard in Acadia Park. Telling Juliet he was hurt when she called him a liar, he asked her to note the date of the newspaper on the screen, 22nd September. The camera then showed Rachel and her infant son playing in the park, showing that he didn’t lie and she was alive and well. A teary Juliet gripped the screen with joy, but Ben coldly turned off the screen telling Richard to return soon. Juliet began to beg once more for Ben to allow her to return home but he refused, saying she still hadn’t concluded his work. When Juliet pleaded that her work was becoming impossible, Ben refused to listen, saying there might even be a mother on the plane. (“One of Us”)
4×06 – The Other Woman
Three weeks after, Ben invited Juliet to a dinner party under the pretense that it would be a group dinner, but it turned out to be a private date between the two. Ben thanked her for being so good with Zach and Emma and Juliet questioned whether they should be with them, and not with their mother in Los Angeles, but Ben replied that they were on the list “and who are we to question who is on the list.” The idyllic evening was broken when Juliet mentioned Goodwin, wondering when he would be returning. In a bid to make her jealous, he reported that Goodwin couldn’t return just yet and that he was making a case for a woman named Ana Lucia to join their society – hinting of an inappropriate relationship between the two. Ben finished with “there is no reason for him to hurry back, but his assignment will be over soon.”
Later, Ben came to see Juliet in her lab where she was reading Jack’s file provided to her by Mikhail. Ben had something on his mind, and didn’t seem overjoyed when Juliet told him of Jack’s surgical skills, especially against tumors. Telling her that Tom and Pickett had been tracking the tail-section survivors movements, he told her that they found something. Ben then showed her Goodwin’s dead body, still impaled on the stick that killed him and told her there were no witnesses when she asked him what had happened. Tearful, Juliet asked Ben if he sent Goodwin away to die after Ben revealed that he knew of the affair. When Juliet asked why he showed her this, he replied, “After everything I did to get you here, after everything I’ve done to keep you here, how can you possibly not understand… that you’re mine?” Those last words filled Juliet with hate and fear. He allowed her as much time as she needed to grieve her lost lover. (“The Other Woman”)
Mobisode x06 – Room 23
44 days after the crash, Walt Lloyd was kidnapped from his father’s raft and taken to the Hydra Island where he was kept in Room 23 after Jacob’s instruction to do so. Sometime during his stay there he caused an alarm to ring and Ben, flustered, arrived to find Juliet outside. He then learned that none of his people wanted to go inside and they all feared Walt. When Ben said that he was just a child, Juliet took him outside and, to disprove his point, showed him a variety of dead birds by the boarded window. (“Room 23”)
3×14 – Exposé
Sometime later, around 49 days after the crash, while Paulo was hiding the diamonds in the Pearl station, Ben and Juliet entered, forcing him to hide in the toilet. Unaware of Paulo’s presence, Ben had the monitors switch to a feed from the Swan station where he showed Juliet ‘Shephard’ for the first time. By this time, their relationship seemed very distant and hardly the same from the day they first met. Juliet questioned how they were going to get Jack to do the surgery, and Ben replied that they would exploit what he was emotionally invested in and they’d use ‘Ford’ and ‘Austen’ to do just that, and they’d have Michael lead them to the Others. They left unaware Paulo had heard the whole exchange, but nonetheless he did not tell anyone what he had heard. (“Exposé”)
Associated LOST Themes
Associated DHARMA Location & Station
Decoded Family Members
Decoded Season 1 Characters
Decoded Season 2 Characters
Decoded Season 3 Characters
Decoded Season 4 Characters
Decoded Season 5 Characters
Decoded Season 6 Characters
Key Episode(s) to Decoding the Character
During his childhood on the Island
Typhon, also Typhoeus, Typhaon or Typhos is the final son of Gaia, fathered by Tartarus, and is the most deadly monster of Greek mythology. Typhon attempts to destroy Zeus at the will of Gaia, because Zeus had imprisoned the Titans.
Typhon was known as the Father of all monsters; his wife Echidna was likewise the Mother of all monsters.
Typhon was described in pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheke, as one of the largest and most fearsome of all creatures. His human upper half reached as high as the stars. His hands reached east and west and had a hundred dragon heads on each. He was feared even by the mighty gods. His bottom half was gigantic viper coils that could reach the top of his head when stretched out and made a hissing noise. His whole body was covered in wings, and fire flashed from his eyes.
Typhon was defeated by Zeus, who trapped him underneath Mount Etna.
Hesiod narrates Typhon’s birth in this poem:
But when Zeus had driven the Titans from Olympus, mother Earth bare her youngest child Typhoeus of the love of Tartarus, by the aid of golden Aphrodite.
—Hesiod, Theogony 820-822.
In the alternative account of the origin of Typhon (Typhoeus), the Homeric Hymn to Apollo makes the monster Typhaon at Delphi a son of archaic Hera in her Minoan form, produced out of herself, like a monstrous version of Hephaestus, and whelped in a cave in Cilicia and confined there in the enigmatic Arima, or land of the Arimoi, en Arimois (Iliad, ii. 781-783). It was in Cilicia that Zeus battled with the ancient monster and overcame him, in a more complicated story: It was not an easy battle, and Typhon temporarily overcame Zeus, cut the “sinews” from him and left him in the “leather sack”, the korukos that is the etymological origin of the korukion andron, the Korykian or Corycian Cave in which Zeus suffers temporary eclipse as if in the Land of the Dead. The region of Cilicia in southeastern Anatolia had many opportunities for coastal Hellenes’ connection with the Hittites to the north. From its first reappearance, the Hittite myth of Illuyankas has been seen as a prototype of the battle of Zeus and Typhon. Walter Burkert and Calvert Watkins each note the close agreements. Watkins’ How to Kill a Dragon: Aspects of Indo-European Poetics (Oxford University Press) 1995, reconstructs in disciplined detail the flexible Indo-European poetic formula that underlies myth, epic and magical charm texts of the lashing and binding of Typhon.
Typhon was the last child of Gaia. After the defeat of his brothers, the Gigantes, Gaia urged him to avenge them, as well as his other brothers, the Titans.
Typhon fathered several children by his niece, Echidna, daughter of Phorcys and Ceto, including the multiheaded hounds Cerberus and Orthrus.
The Sphinx was sent by Hera to plague the city of Thebes. She was the most brilliant of Typhon’s children, and would slay anyone who could not answer her riddles (possibly by strangling them). When Oedipus finally answered her riddle, she threw herself into the ocean in a fit of fury and drowned.
The Nemean Lion was a gigantic lion with impenetrable skin. Selene, the moon goddess, adored the beast. Heracles was commanded to slay the Lion as the first of his Twelve Labors. First, he attempted to shoot arrows at it, then he used his great club, and was eventually forced to strangle the beast. He would then use the Lion’s own claws to skin it, whereupon he wore its invulnerable hide as armor.
Cerberus, another one of Typhon’s sons was a three-headed dog that was employed by Hades as the guardian of the passage way to and from the Underworld. According to Hesiod, he was the son of Orthrus and Echidna.
Orthrus, a fearsome, two-headed hound. According to Hesiod, he mated with his mother, Echidna, to sire Cerberus, the Nemean Lion, the Lernean Hydra, the Sphinx and the Chimera. Orthrus, and his master, Eurytion, son of Ares and the Hesperid Erytheia, guarded the fabulous red cattle of Geryon. Both were slain, along with Geryon, when Heracles stole the red cattle.
Ladon was a serpentine dragon. According to Hesiod, Ladon was the son of Phorcys and Ceto, instead of Typhon and Echidna. Regardless of his parentage, Ladon entwined himself around the tree in the Garden of the Hesperides at the behest of Hera, who appointed him the garden’s guardian. He was eventually killed by Heracles.
The Lernaean Hydra, another one of Typhon’s daughters, terrorized a spring at the lake of Lerna, near Argos, slaying anyone and anything that approached her lair with her noxious venom, save for a monstrous crab that was her companion. She and her crab were slain by Heracles as the second of his Twelve Labors (the crab being accidentally crushed underneath Heracles’ heel).
Typhon’s last child was his daughter, Chimera. Chimera resembled a tremendous, fire-breathing lioness with a goat’s head emerging from the middle of her back, and had a snake for a tail. She roamed the ancient kingdom of Lycia, particularly around Mount Chimaera (possibly near Yanartaş), bringing bad omens and destruction in her wake, until she was slain by Bellerophon and Pegasus at the behest of Iobates.
Battle with Zeus
Typhon started destroying cities and hurling mountains in a fit of rage. All of the gods of Olympus fled to their home. Only Zeus stood firm, and the battle raged, ending when Zeus threw Mount Etna on top of Typhon, trapping him.
The inveterate enemy of the Olympian gods is described in detail by Hesiod as a vast grisly monster with a hundred serpent heads “with dark flickering tongues” flashing fire from their eyes and a din of voices and a hundred serpents legs, a feature shared by many primal monsters of Greek myth that extend in serpentine or scaly coils from the waist down. The titanic struggle created earthquakes and tsunamis. Once conquered by Zeus’ thunderbolts, Typhon was cast into Tartarus, the common destiny of many such archaic adversaries, or he was confined beneath Mount Aetna (Pindar, Pythian Ode 1.19 – 20; Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 370), where “his bed scratches and goads the whole length of his back stretched out against it,” or in other volcanic regions, where he is the cause of eruptions.
Typhon is thus the chthonic figuration of volcanic forces, as Hephaestus (Roman Vulcan) is their “civilized” Olympian manifestation. Amongst his children by Echidna are the three headed Cerberus, the serpent-like Lernaean Hydra, the Chimera, the hundred-headed dragon Ladon, the half-woman half-lion Sphinx, the two-headed wolf Orthrus, and the Nemean Lion.
Typhon is also the father of hot dangerous storm winds which issue forth from the stormy pit of Tartarus, according to Hesiod. Likewise, the rumblings of Typhon emitted from deepest Tartarus could be clearly heard within the underground torrent near Seleuceia, now in Turkey, until his presence was neutralized by the building of a Byzantine church nearby.
Origin of name
Typhon may be derived from the Greek τύφειν (typhein), to smoke, hence it is considered to be a possible etymology for the word typhoon, supposedly borrowed by the Persians (as طوفان Tufân) and Arabs to describe the cyclonic storms of the Indian Ocean. The Greeks also frequently represented him as a storm-daemon, especially in the version where he stole Zeus’s thunderbolts and wrecked the earth with storms (cf. Hesiod, Theogony; Nonnus, Dionysiaca).
Related concepts and myths
Since Herodotus, Typhon has been identified with the Egyptian Set (interpretatio Graeca). In the Orphic tradition, Typhon leads the Titans when they attack and kill Dionysus, just as Set is responsible for the murder of Osiris. Furthermore, the slaying of Typhon by Zeus bears similarities to the killing of Vritra by Indra (a deity also associated with lightning and storms), and possibly the two stories are ultimately derived from a common Indo-European source. Similarities can be found in the battle between Thor and Jormungand from Norse myths; mythologist Joseph Campbell also makes parallels to the slaying of Leviathan by YHWH, about which YHWH boasts to Job.
Mythological Family Members & Associated Deities
After being saved by The Others
(Set, Suty, Sutekh) Son of Geb and Nut, Seth is a God of physical vigor and voracious sexual appetite in open conflict with social order and emotional bonds. While there are important contexts in which Seth’s activity is positive, most notably in his defense of the boat of Re against the attacks of Apophis, the great symbol of entropy, he is most well known as the murderer of his brother Osiris and for unsuccessfully vying for worldly sovereignty against Horus, the son of Isis and Osiris and the embodiment of legitimacy and civilization. In the conflict with Horus, Seth represents the principle that might makes right, as well as all the wild elements of human nature that resist civilization. Especially in his animal guises, or as the God of storms, Seth embodies the points at which nature itself comes into conflict with the human world, resisting domestication, or the points at which humans seek justification for their exploitation of nature, as in myths which sanctify the use of animal flesh in sacred contexts by identifying the animals in question with Seth or his followers. Seth’s positive aspects come to be expressed less and less over the course of Egyptian history, especially after the 20th dynasty, when a reaction against the foreign Hyksos dynasty who had taken Seth as their patron seems to have caused a precipitous decline in Seth’s cult. Whatever role contingent historical factors may have played in this fall from favor, it is also clearly to be attributed to the increasing centrality of the Osirian mythos in Egyptian culture, and perhaps as well as to the smaller accomodation afforded the wild, undisciplined aspects of life in an increasingly orderly and legalistic society. At his most positive, Seth represents vigor and strength, but in a form which would ruthlessly displace the weaker were it not kept in check. This force is constructive when channeled against either entropy itself (Apophis) or some other brute elemental force like the sea, subdued by Seth in a fragmentary myth. A candid recognition of Seth’s change in status can be seen in the so-called ‘Memphite Theology’, in which it is recounted that Geb, judging between Horus and Seth, initially resolves their conflict by dividing the nation, making Seth king of Upper (Southern) Egypt, “the place in which he was born,” and Horus king of Lower (Northern) Egypt, “the place in which his father was drowned,” but, as the text goes on to explain, “then it seemed wrong to Geb that the portion of Horus was like the portion of Seth. So Geb gave to Horus his [Horus’] inheritance, for he [Horus] is the son of the firstborn son,” (Lichtheim vol. 1, 52) thus awarding Horus sovereignty over the totality of a unified Egypt. Seth is a God to whom Egyptians, whether kings or commoners, had recourse, however, in war or in illness, life-or-death struggles where physical strength and combat prowess would be decisive. He occurs as well in certain images of balance and totality, such as in images of coronation or of the sma tawy, the ‘uniting of the (two) lands’, in which Seth represents Upper Egypt and Horus represents Lower Egypt, although there is a tendency later to replace Seth with Thoth in these contexts as Seth falls into disfavor.
Seth is especially associated with a type of animal known in Egyptian as a sha, the identification of which remains controversial, and was probably unknown even in Egypt in the late period. If the sha was not a creature of fantasy, the most convincing identification of it is as a type of extinct wild pig, the so-called ‘Irish greyhound pig’, as argued by Newberry 1928. The sha-animal, which was also associated with the God Ash, has a body resembling a greyhound, with rectangular ears that stand up, a slightly drooping snout, and an upturned tail with a fork at the end (perhaps a stylized tuft). Detailed images show that the animal has lighter stripes on its back, the body being predominantly dark in color. Seth is depicted either as a sha or as a man with a sha‘s head. In addition, the was-scepter carried by so many Egyptian Gods appears to be a stylized sha; appropriately, the scepter’s name means ‘strength’. In later texts Seth is commonly characterized as a red ass or red dog, being associated with the color red from an early period. Red symbolizes in Egyptian thought the red land of the desert, as opposed to the black land rendered fertile by the Nile’s annual inundation, which gave its name to the Egyptian term for their own nation, Kemit, ‘the black land’. Seth and the sha-animal are strongly associated with the desert. Seth is also depicted frequently as a hippopotamus; he transforms into a hippopotamus at 13, 2-11 of the Conflict of Horus and Seth, although Horus is prevented by Isis from harpooning him. He is also associated with, although not necessarily depicted as, the crocodile, the oryx and the ostrich.
Seth has Nephthys as his consort in addition to the foreign Goddesses Anat and Astarte, but has no divine offspring. Maga, a malevolent crocodile deity, is an exception, referred to often as ‘son of Seth’, but is not an object of cult. Seth has no posterity perhaps because he embodies a principle already taken to its extreme; because of his association with the unfertile ‘red land’ and with acts of violence; and also because he is associated with sexual activity expressing a purely physical urge, rather than as a bond which would be symbolically represented as fruitful. One might assume Seth’s lack of divine offspring to be attributable to the injury Horus inflicts upon Seth’s testicles complementary to that inflicted by Seth upon the eye of Horus; but Seth’s injury is healed just like that of Horus. In PT utterance 215, the king is urged to “spit on the face of Horus for him, that you may remove the injury which is on him”—saliva being thought of as a healing substance—”and pick up the testicles of Seth, that you may remove his [Seth’s] mutilation.” Injuries suffered by the Gods seem generally in Egyptian theology to afford an opportunity for mortals to be inserted into the mythic organization; accordingly we find the testicles of Seth represented in ritual by two sceptres, that is, as a form of divine power which can be symbolically appropriated by humans (Ramesseum Dramatic Papyrus 83-86 and scene 17, pl. 18; Griffiths 35).
Seth is punished in a variety of ways for his act of violence against Osiris. He is forced to carry Osiris on his back, exalting the value of the mortal being, represented by Osiris, within the natural order which sweeps it remorselessly away: “Horus has laid hold of Seth and has set him under you [Osiris/the deceased] on your behalf so that he may lift you up and quake beneath you as the earth quakes, you being holier than he in your name of ‘Sacred Land’,” (PT utterance 356). Seth is sometimes represented as a ship when this is ritually enacted (Griffiths 11 n. 1, 48), which is significant since the cult statues of Egyptian Gods are always carried in boats when taken on procession. The forces embodied by Seth thus become the vehicle of divinities upholding a providential ordering of the cosmos. The punishments inflicted upon Seth in the Jumilhac Papyrus, by comparison, seem to legitimize the use by humans of various animal products such as leather. The violence inherent to these products, or to the consumption of meat, or to the obtaining of luxury products such as ostrich plumes, is theologically justified by symbolically identifying these animals with Seth. In this fashion, anything that mortals require (or are perceived to require) which incorporates an element of injustice or disorder in its production is referred back to the founding injustice of the mortal condition of which each individual, as mortal, is always already the victim.
An important incident in the Conflict of Horus and Seth is Seth’s sexual molestation of Horus. Seth attempts to argue on the basis of this incident that Horus is unsuited for the sovereignty, probably because it is supposed to imply that Horus is young and naïve, or not strong enough to have fought off Seth’s advances. Isis, however, by getting Horus to deposit some semen on lettuce in Seth’s garden (Seth, like Min, has an appetite for lettuce, an aphrodisiac in Egyptian lore) is able to summon the seed of Horus from within Seth’s body, making of him the passive partner as well. It comes forth from Seth’s forehead in the form of a golden solar disc (12, 12) which is appropriated by Thoth. Since the disc Thoth bears over his head is a lunar, rather than a solar disc, the incident perhaps accounts for the origin of the moon. Sometimes Thoth is himself said to have been conceived through this encounter (Griffiths 43). Another etiological divine injury occurs in the course of this myth, when the hands of Horus, in which he caught Seth’s semen, are cut off by Isis and thrown into the water, whereupon they transform into fish (CT spell 158/BD spell 113). The hands of Horus are replaced by Isis, the point being not the mutilation of the divine but the insertion of the human exploitation of a natural resource into a circuit of symbolic meaning.
In some contexts a reciprocity or rapprochement between Horus and Seth is particularly emphasized. For instance, in a spell (no. 25 in Borghouts) to conjure a particular type of demon, the magical potency invoked is characterized as “the protection [sau] of Horus that protects Seth and vice versa.” A spell against headache (no. 42 in Borghouts), which involves attaching a strip of fabric with seven knots in it to the patient’s big toe, says “The boy Horus spends the day lying on a cushion of nedj-fabric [the fabric which is knotted and attached to the patient’s toe]. His brother Seth kept watch over him, because he lay stretched out, his task being to keep the lower parts healthy.” References to Seth as the ‘brother’ of Horus do not contradict his status as his uncle, since ‘brother’ is simply sen, ‘two’, in Egyptian, and can refer to anyone who is in some sense the ‘double’ or complement of another, such as opponents in a lawsuit. In another spell (no. 115 in Borghouts) which is labelled a “protection of Horus,” (i.e. a protection furnished by Horus) the operator affirms that “Seth is on my right, Horus on my left,” while a “conjuration against a scorpion” (no. 117) says “Horus is behind me, Seth is next to my shoulder … Do not attack me! See, a great God [Seth] is the one who is at my side.” An exorcism (no. 119) includes the charm, “When Horus had looked behind him he found Seth following him and vice versa.” Sometimes Horus and Seth even appear fused, their two heads on one body, bearing the name Antywy (Antaios in Greek sources).
An interesting spell (no. 102 in Borghouts) treats of an episode in which Seth has apparently been bitten or stung by something and requires the assistance of Horus, who is travelling with him. Echoing the famous myth involving Isis and Re (no. 84 in Borghouts), Horus states that Seth must tell him his (true) name in order to be healed. Seth offers a series of names to Horus, each of which Horus rejects as being not his true name. The names Seth offers for himself and which are rejected by Horus are: ‘yesterday, today, and tomorrow which has not yet come’; ‘a quiver full of arrows, a pot full of unrest’; ‘a man of an infinite number of cubits whose appearance is not known’; ‘a threshing floor as strong as bronze, which no cow has ever trodden’; ‘a jug of milk milked from the udder of Bastet’. The final name Seth offers, which is accepted and brings about his healing, is “a man of an infinite number of cubits, whose name is ‘Evil Day’. As for the day of giving birth and becoming pregnant—there is no giving of birth and sycamores will not bear figs.” This latter remark sounds very much like the entry for an unlucky day from a typical Egyptian calendar. According to this spell, therefore, while each of the other names Seth volunteers undoubtedly reflect valid aspects of his nature, the most adequate description of Seth is as an unlimited being who is a source of bad luck, specifically lack of fruitfulness.
A distinctive characteristic of Seth in addition to his strength and sexual appetite is his loud voice, which contrasts sharply with the Egyptian ideal of the person who is at once soft-spoken and laconic, exhibiting self-control and forethought. It is significant therefore that it is specifically Seth’s voice—perhaps a metaphor for thunder—that subdues the sea (spell no. 77 in Borghouts). The power of Seth’s voice is appropriated by the magician in a “conjuration against scorpions” (no. 120 in Borghouts) which states “The voice of the conjurer is loud while calling for the poison,” i.e., calling for the poison to exit the patient’s body, “like the voice of Seth while wrestling with the poison,” which, since the word for ‘poison’ and for ‘semen’ is the same in Egyptian, may be a reference to the Conflict myth, in which Seth is tricked into ingesting the semen of Horus. Another association of Seth’s which may relate to storms is iron, which was for the Egyptians paradigmatically meteoritic in origin. Hence in PT utterance 21, the iron of which the instrument used in the Opening of the Mouth ritual is said to be “the iron which issued from Seth,” and millennia later Plutarch reports the Egyptian tradition that the lodestone (magnetic oxide of iron) is “the bone of Horus” and iron is “the bone of Typhon,” i.e. Seth, in the Hellenistic syncretism (On Isis and Osiris 62, 376b).
In PT utterance 570 and 571, the deceased king affirms his immortality by stating “I escape my day of death just as Seth escaped his day of death,” repeating the formula with the units of “half-months of death,” “months of death,” and “year of death.” It seems in this fashion that Seth was susceptible to mortality like Osiris. Seth’s mortality is also enacted in the Pyramid Texts, however, in his identification with the sacrificial ox of PT utterance 580. The constellation Ursa Major was identified as the foreleg of Seth in the form of the sacrificial ox, and the adze used in the Opening of the Mouth ritual, the key moment in the ceremonies of resurrection, is also identified with this foreleg (te Velde 1967, 86-89).
The name of Seth (whose oldest form in Egyptian seems to have been closer to Sutekh or Setekh) may be related to words in Egyptian such as tekhi, ‘to be drunk’, tekhtekh, ‘disorder’, tesh, ‘to smash/crush’, while the Seth-animal is used as determiner for a variety of words having to do with misfortune, violence, confusion and storms (complete list in te Velde 1967, 22-23).
Other Names: Seth, Sutekh
Patron of: winds, storms, chaos, evil, darkness, strength, war, conflict, Upper Egypt.
Appearance: A man with the head of a jackal-like animal. In depictions of his battle with Horus he is often shown as a black pig or hippopotamus. Sometimes he is shown as a crocodile, perhaps a combination of him and the original god of evil, Apep. He is also shown as a man with red hair and eyes, or wearing a red mantle, the Egyptians believing that bright red was a color of evil.
Description: In early times Set was worshipped as the god of wind and the desert storms, and prayed to that he would grant the strength of the storms to his followers. Although he was always a dark and moody god, he was believed to be the ally of his brother and sister, Osiris and Isis, the counterpart to his sister-wife Nephthys, and the defender of their father, Ra.
But somewhere along the line the view of Set changed. He became a god of evil, in eternal conflict with the gods of light, and especially with Horus, the son of Osiris. Set became identified with his former enemy, the serpent Apep. By the XXVI Dynasty, Set was the major antagonist and embodiment of evil to the Egyptians. Why this change came about is unknown, but it is thought that some time after the unification of Egypt, the religion of Set fell into disfavor with the state religion, the worship of Ra and Osiris. It may be that there was open rebellion against the pharaoh Narmer (Menes) who unified Egypt under his rule, the rebellion failed and their beliefs were effectively quashed. Victors are known to rewrite history, it may be that they also rewrote the religion. It is an interesting idea to think that the struggle for the control of Egypt might have found its way into their core beliefs.
In the Legend of Osiris, Set kills Osiris and scatters his body, then claims the throne of the gods for his own. He is later struck down by Horus, the son of Osiris, who restores order to the world and sets up the pharaohs as the guardians of Maat. Set and Horus continue to battle for control of the world, setting up an epic conflict of good versus evil.
Worship: Not really worshipped after becoming a god of evil, but his religion was the major one for Upper Egypt until after the unification.
Lord of Upper Egypt
An older form of Set in which he is seen to be a companion and ally to Osiris and Isis. He is depicted defending the Sun Boat from demons and revered as the patron of Upper Egypt. In this form Horus is his brother and is the patron of Lower Egypt.
In Ancient Egyptian mythology, Set (also spelled Seth, Sheth, Sutekh, Setan or Seteh) is an ancient god, who was originally the god of the desert, storms, darkness, and chaos. In Ancient Greek, the god’s name is given as Σήθ (Seth).
Origins of name
The exact meaning of the name Set is unknown, but is usually considered to be either (one who) dazzles or pillar of stability, one connected to the desert, and the other tending to indicate the institution of monarchy. It is reconstructed to have been originally pronounced *Sūtaḫ based on the occurrence of his name in Egyptian hieroglyphics (swtḫ), and his later mention in the Coptic documents with the name Sēt. Set had a brother called Osiris and two sisters called Isis and Nepthys. His Mother was the sky goddess Nut and his father was the earth god Geb.
In art, Set was mostly depicted as a mysterious and unknown creature, referred to by Egyptologists as the Set animal or Typhonic beast, known as a Typhon, with a curved snout, square ears, forked tail, and canine body, or sometimes as a human with only the head of the Set animal. It has no complete resemblance to any known creature, although it does resemble a composite of an aardvark, a donkey, a jackal. It is also possible that Set is a representation of the giraffe due to the large flat-topped ‘horns’ which correspond to a giraffe’s ossicones. The main species of aardvark present in ancient Egypt additionally had a reddish appearance (due to thin fur, which shows the skin beneath it). In some descriptions he has the head of a greyhound. The earliest known representation of Set comes from a tomb dating to the Naqada I phase of the Predynastic Period (circa 4000 BC–3500 BC), and the Set-animal is even found on a mace-head of the Scorpion King, a Protodynastic ruler.
Was (“power”) scepters represent the Set-animal. Was scepters were carried by gods, pharaohs, and priests, as a symbol of power, and in later use, control over the force of chaos (Set). The head and forked tail of the Set-animal are clearly present. Was scepters are often depicted in paintings, drawings, and carvings of gods, and remnants of real Was scepters have been found constructed of faience or wood.
Conflict between Horus and Set
The myth of Set’s conflict with Horus, Osiris, and Isis appears in many Egyptian sources, including the Pyramid Texts, the Coffin Texts, the Shabaka Stone, inscriptions on the walls of the temple of Horus at Edfu, and various papyrus sources. The Chester Beatty Papyrus No. 1 contains the legend known as The Contention of Horus and Set. Classical authors also recorded the story, notably Plutarch’s De Iside et Osiride.
These myths generally portray Osiris as a wise lord, king, and bringer of civilization, happily married to his sister, Isis. Set was envious of his younger brother, and he killed and dismembered Osiris. Isis reassembled Osiris’ corpse and another god (in some myths Thoth and in others Anubis) embalmed him. As the archetypal mummy, Osiris reigned over the Afterworld as a king among deserving spirits of the dead.
Osiris’ son Horus was conceived by Isis with Osiris’ corpse, or in some versions, only with pieces of his corpse. Horus naturally became the enemy of Set, and many myths describe their conflicts.
The myth incorporated moral lessons for relationships between fathers and sons, older and younger brothers, and husbands and wives.
Set poked out Horus’s left eye so Horus cut off Set’s testicles, making him sometimes known as the god of infertility.
It has also been suggested that the myth may reflect historical events. According to the Shabaka Stone, Geb divided Egypt into two halves, giving Upper Egypt (the desert south) to Set and Lower Egypt (the region of the delta in the north) to Horus, in order to end their feud. However, according to the stone, in a later judgment Geb gave all Egypt to Horus. Interpreting this myth as a historical record would lead one to believe that Lower Egypt (Horus’ land) conquered Upper Egypt (Set’s land); but, in fact Upper Egypt conquered Lower Egypt. So the myth cannot be simply interpreted. Several theories exist to explain the discrepancy. For instance, since both Horus and Set were worshiped in Upper Egypt prior to unification, perhaps the myth reflects a struggle within Upper Egypt prior to unification, in which a Horus-worshiping group subjugated a Set-worshiping group. What is known is that during the Second Dynasty, there was a period in which the King Peribsen’s name or Serekh — which had been surmounted by a Horus falcon in the First Dynasty — was for a time surmounted by a Set animal, suggesting some kind of religious struggle. It was ended at the end of the Dynasty by Khasekhemwy, who surmounted his Serekh with both a falcon of Horus and a Set animal, indicating some kind of compromise had been reached.
Regardless, once the two lands were united, Set and Horus were often shown together crowning the new pharaohs, as a symbol of their power over both Lower and Upper Egypt. Queens of the 1st Dynasty bore the title “She Who Sees Horus and Set.” The Pyramid Texts present the pharaoh as a fusion of the two deities. Evidently, pharaohs believed that they balanced and reconciled competing cosmic principles. Eventually the dual-god Horus-Set appeared, combining features of both deities (as was common in Egyptian theology, the most familiar example being Amun–Re).
Later Egyptians interpreted the myth of the conflict between Set and Osiris/Horus as an analogy for the struggle between the desert (represented by Set) and the fertilizing floods of the Nile (Osiris/Horus).
Savior of Ra
As the Ogdoad system became more assimilated with the Ennead one, as a result of creeping increase of the identification of Atum as Ra, itself a result of the joining of Upper and Lower Egypt, Set’s position in this became considered. With Horus as Ra’s heir on Earth, Set, previously the chief god, for Lower Egypt, required an appropriate role as well, and so was identified as Ra’s main hero, who fought Apep each night, during Ra’s journey (as sun god) across the underworld.
He was thus often depicted standing on the prow of Ra’s night barque spearing Apep in the form of a serpent, turtle, or other dangerous water animals. Surprisingly, in some Late Period representations, such as in the Persian Period temple at Hibis in the Khargah Oasis, Set was represented in this role with a falcon’s head, taking on the guise of Horus, despite the fact that Set was usually considered in quite a different position with regard to heroism.
This assimilation also led to Anubis being displaced, in areas where he was worshipped, as ruler of the underworld, with his situation being explained by his being the son of Osiris. As Isis represented life, Anubis’ mother was identified instead as Nephthys. This led to an explanation in which Nephthys, frustrated by Set’s lack of sexual interest in her, disguised herself as Isis, but failed to gain Set’s attention because he was infertile. Osiris mistook Nephthys for Isis and they had conceived Anubis resulting in Anubis’ birth. In some later texts, after Set lost the connection to the desert, and thus infertility, Anubis was identified as Seth’s son, as Set is Nephthys’ husband.
In the mythology, Set has a great many wives, including some foreign Goddesses, and several children. Some of the most notable wives (beyond Nephthys/Nebet Het) are Neith (with whom he is said to have fathered Sobek), Amtcheret (by whom he is said to have fathered Upuat – though Upuat is also said to be a son of Anubis or Osiris), Tawaret, Hetepsabet (one of the Hours, a feminine was-beast headed goddess who is variously described as wife or daughter of Set), and the two Canaanite deities Anat and Astarte, both of whom are equally skilled in love and war – two things which Set himself was famous for.
Set in the Second Intermediate and Ramesside Periods
During the Second Intermediate Period, a group of Asiatic foreign chiefs known as the Hyksos (literally, “rulers of foreigns lands”) gained the rulership of Egypt, and ruled the Nile Delta, from Avaris. They chose Set, originally Lower Egypt’s chief god, the god of foreigners and the god they found most similar to their own chief god, as their patron, and so Set became worshiped as the chief god once again.
The Hyksos King Apophis is recorded as worshiping Set in a monolatric way: “[He] chose for his Lord the god Seth. He didn’t worship any other deity in the whole land except Seth.” 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, 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 at Avaris.
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.
Demonization of Set
Set was one of the earliest deities, with a strong following in Upper Egypt. Originally highly regarded throughout Egypt as the god of the desert, a political faction inspired an initial disparaging of Set’s name and reputation. Egypt was originally split into two kingdoms: Upper ruled by Horus (and later Ra), Lower by Set. Set’s followers resisted a unification of the Upper and Lower kingdoms of Egypt by the followers of Horus/Ra (with the followers of Osiris and Isis). This political split was echoed in the Osiris & Isis myth, and subsequent battle with Horus. The followers of Horus thus denigrated Set as chaotic and evil. By the 22nd Dynasty, Set was equated with his old enemy, Apep, and his images on temples were replaced with those of Sobek or Thoth. Most modern popular misconceptions of Set come from Plutarch’s secondary source interpretations of Set (via the writings of Herodotus et al.), long after Set’s demonization (circa 100 A.D., Roman Period in Egypt).
Set was further demonized immediately after the Hyksos Period. The evidence from the Nineteenth Dynasty proves that this is a more complex picture.
Most scholars date the demonization of Set to after Egypt’s conquest by the Persian ruler Cambyses II. Set, who had traditionally been the god of foreigners, thus also became associated with foreign oppressors, including the Achaemenid Persians, Ptolemaic dynasty, and Romans. Indeed, it was during the 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 in the Myth of Osiris and Isis, having hacked Osiris’ body into pieces and dispersed it so that he could not be resurrected. If Set’s ears are fins, as some have interpreted, the head of the Set-animal resembles the Oxyrhynchus fish, and so it was said that as a final precaution, an Oxyrhynchus fish ate Osiris’ penis. In addition, Set was often depicted as one of the creatures that the Egyptians most feared, crocodiles, and hippopotamodes.
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 was worshipped at the temples of Ombos (Nubt near Naqada) and Ombos (Nubt near Kom Ombo), at Oxyrhynchus in upper Egypt, and also in part of the Fayyum area.
More specifically, Set was worshipped in the relatively large metropolitan (yet provincial) locale of Sepermeru, especially during the Rammeside Period. There, Seth was honored with an important temple called the “House of Seth, Lord of Sepermeru.” 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. At Sepermeru, Set’s temple-enclosure included a small secondary shrine called “The House of Seth, Powerful-Is-His-Mighty-Arm,” and Ramesses II himself built (or modified) a second land-owning temple for Nephthys, called “The House of Nephthys of Ramesses-Meriamun.”. There is no question, however, that the two temples of Seth and Nephthys in Sepermeru were under separate administration, each with its own holdings and prophets. Moreover, another moderately sized temple of Seth is noted for the nearby town of Pi-Wayna. The close association of Seth temples with temples of Nephthys in key outskirt-towns of this milieu is also reflected in the likelihood that there existed another “House of Seth” and another “House of Nephthys” in the town of Su, at the entrance to the Fayyum.
Perhaps most intriguing in terms of the pre-Dynasty XX connections between temples of Set and nearby temples of his consort Nephthys is the evidence of Papyrus Bologna, which preserves a most irritable complaint lodged by one Pra’em-hab, Prophet of the “House of Seth” in the now-lost town of Punodjem (“The Sweet Place”). 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: “the ship, and I am likewise also responsible for the House of Nephthys, along with the remaining heap of district temples”.
It is unfortunate, perhaps, that we have no means of knowing the particular theologies of the closely connected Set and Nephthys temples in these districts—it would be interesting to learn, for example, the religious tone of temples of Nephthys located in such proximity to those of Seth, especially given the seemingly contrary Osirian loyalties of Seth’s consort-goddess. When, by Dynasty XX, the “demonization” of Seth was ostensibly inaugurated, Seth was either eradicated or increasingly pushed to the outskirts, Nephthys flourished as part of the usual Osirian pantheon throughout Egypt, even obtaining a Late Period status as tutelary goddess of her own Nome (UU Nome VII, “Hwt-Sekhem”/Diospolis Parva) and as the chief goddess of the Mansion of the Sistrum in that district.
Yet, it is perhaps most telling that Seth’s cultus persisted with astonishing potency even into the latter days of ancient Egyptian religion, in outlying (but important) places like Kharga, Dakhlah, Deir el-Hagar, Mut, Kellis, etc. Indeed, in these places, Seth was considered “Lord of the Oasis/Town” and Nephthys was likewise venerated as “Mistress of the Oasis” at Seth’s side, in his temples (esp. the dedication of a Nephthys-cult statue). Meanwhile, Nephthys was also venerated as “Mistress” in the Osirian temples of these districts, as part of the specifically Osirian college. It would appear that the ancient Egyptians in these locales had little problem with the paradoxical dualities inherent in venerating Seth and Nephthys as juxtaposed against Osiris, Isis & Nephthys. Further study of the enormously important role of Seth in ancient Egyptian religion (particularly after Dynasty XX) is imperative.
The power of Seth’s cult in the mighty (yet outlying) city of Avaris from the Second Intermediate Period through the Ramesside Period cannot be denied. There he reigned supreme as a deity both at odds and in league with threatening foreign powers, and in this case, his chief consort-goddesses were the Phoenicians Anat and Astarte, with Nephthys merely one of the harem.
Mythological Family Members & Associated Deities
3×20 – The Man Behind the Curtain
The Wizard of Oz, known during his reign as The Great and Powerful Oz, is the epithet of Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkel Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs, a fictional character in the Land of Oz, created by American author L. Frank Baum.
The character was further popularized by the classic 1939 movie, where his real name is never revealed.
The classic books
The Wizard is one of the characters in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Unseen for most of the novel, he is the ruler of the Land of Oz and highly venerated by his subjects. Believing he is the only man capable of solving their problems, Dorothy Gale and her friends travel to the Emerald City, the capital of Oz, to meet him. Oz is very reluctant to meet them, but eventually they are granted an audience. Every time the Wizard appears in a different form, once as a giant head, once as a beautiful fairy, once as ball of fire, and once as a horrible monster.
Eventually, it is revealed that Oz is actually none of these things, but rather a kind, ordinary, man from Omaha, Nebraska, who has been using a lot of elaborate magic tricks and props to make himself seem “great and powerful.” Working as a magician for a circus, he wrote OZ on the side of his hot air balloon for promotional purposes. One day his balloon sailed into the Land of Oz, and found himself worshipped as a great sorcerer. As Oz had no leadership at the time, he became Supreme Ruler of the kingdom, and did his best to sustain the myth.
4×06 – The Other Woman
Prospero was the rightful Duke of Milan, who (with his infant daughter, Miranda) was put to sea on “a rotten carcass of a butt (boat)” to die by his usurping brother, Antonio, twelve years before the play begins. Prospero and Miranda survived, and found exile on a small island. He had learned sorcery (referred to as his “Art” in the play), and uses it while on the island to protect Miranda and control the other characters. On the island, he became the master of the monster Caliban (the son of Sycorax, a malevolent witch), and Ariel, an elemental who has become enslaved by Prospero after he is freed from his prison inside a tree.
However, at the end of the play, Prospero intends to drown his books and renounce magic. In the view of the audience, this may have been required to make the ending unambiguously happy, as magic smacked too much of diabolical works; he will drown his books for the same reason that Doctor Faust, in an earlier play by Christopher Marlowe, futilely promised to burn his books.