Seth & the Elephant God

elephant

A collaborator with a shared interest in Egyptian & Indian memories suggested there might be some connection between Seth and Ganesh, the famous elephant headed deity of India.  Here are some thoughts …

Elephants in Egypt were hunted to extinction before the pharaonic era. But in predynastic times it was an animal of royal prestige, judging that is by the high status burial of a juvenile Elephant recently discovered at ancient Nekhen, or Hierakonpolis, the “citadel of the hawk”. When you look there are actually quite a few images of these elephants surviving from the predynastic period, mostly as rock art & as decoration of several cosmetic palettes, which obviously have some special ritual or religious significance. See example above. So if the elephant was a totem animal in archaic period, what kind of supernatural entity or deity might we speculate it to be?

I think it might well be another avatar of the god Seth. It was certainly hunted in the same way and would be considered a dangerous or Typhonian creature.

Another memory of the Elephant perhaps comes from the Biblical book of Job Chapter 40 which discusses Behemoth – a cthonic beast, usually envisioned as an elephant or in later times as anthropoid supernatural entity or deity with an elephant head. Some scholars say this could also be a Hippo, also as it happens, one of Seth’s avatars. The Book of Job also incidentally extends our view of gods like Seth because of the role played by the entity Shaitan or a Shaitan, as opposer of Job, a tasks he undertakes with the agreement of the all-father Yahweh.

The passages from Job reads thus:

“Behold, Be’hemoth,
which I made as I made you;
he eats grass like an ox.
[16] Behold, his strength in his loins,
and his power in the muscles of his belly.
[17] He makes his tail (or penis) stiff like a cedar;
the sinews of his [ testicles ] are knit together.
[18] His bones are tubes of bronze,
his limbs like bars of iron.
[19] “He is the first of the works of God;
let him who made him bring near his sword!
[20] For the mountains yield food for him
where all the wild beasts play.
[21] Under the lotus plants he lies,
in the covert of the reeds and in the marsh.
[22] For his shade the lotus trees cover him;
the willows of the brook surround him.
[23] Behold, if the river is turbulent he is not frightened;
he is confident though Jordan rushes against his mouth.
[24] Can one take him with hooks,
or pierce his nose with a snare?

The riverine imagery would fit with the Hippo although Elephants are also at home in water. The 2nd century BCE Book of Enoch says Behemoth is the primal unconquerable monster of the land, which would make an elephant more likely meant. If line 17 refers to its tail, then this bush ending would be more like an elephant. If an penis is meant, that this could be be either beast, but interestingly also fits with the sexually rampant god Seth.

 

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Predynastic Amratian 3600-3400bce Nagada I,
Petrie, Hu, tomb B 102  – current whereabouts unknown

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Fear of Flying ? “The Witch: a history of fear” Ronald Hutton (review)

Ancient Egypt certainly figures in the recent study of European Witches

“The Witch: A History of Fear, from Ancient Times to the Present” Ronald Hutton 376 pages Publisher: Yale University Press (1 Aug. 2017) Language: English ISBN-10: 0300229046, ISBN-13: 978-0300229042

 

“Fear of Flying” is of course the title of Erica Jong’s groundbreaking feminist novel. It seems appropriate here where Professor Ronald Hutton’s previous work has sometimes been seen as a debunking of a community’s treasured foundation myths but which nevertheless continues to lionized him, some sections of it at least. But he writes a good book although to my mind, he does like to bury the punchline at the end when sometimes it might be more important to have the thesis of each chapter at the beginning. Thus “The Witch” , in the sense discussed in this book, is, imo, essentially a victim of a false accusation of causing supernatural harm. RH takes an excursus through five other aspects of this, and doesn’t quite say it, but the survey of the data pretty much leads to the obvious conclusion.

 

The 5 other characteristics of the stereotype are:
1. Causes harm by uncanny means
2. Internal threat to a community
3. Witch works within a tradition
4. The witch is evil
5. The witch can be resisted
RH also rejects the useful concept “magical practitioner” in favour of the perhaps inelegant neologism “service magician” – a witch-doctor, ie offering remedies against witchcraft. One might wonder why the need for a neologism, does it serve to further eradicate the contemporary practitioner from the discourse? I also wondered why the author agonized about his choice of BC instead of BCE which is a new convention of our times that, among other things, signals a desire to avoid ethnocentric bias. If he has said nothing we might not have noticed but RH in this book says he made a choice in order to “”honour” Christianity.

It is interesting to see how the history/sociology of it looks when one views it without the old presupposition of a magic/religion split. Initially RH follows a modified, more nuanced version of this but actually, as the book progresses, he makes much of the absence of such a dichotomy within Egypt, where he has come to accept the consensus, which I’d say is a view long held by the contemporary practitioner, of that centrality of Egyptian magick. (Although RH doesn’t ever. as far as I can see, actually acknowledge any insights coming from that quarter). This is normal for academia of course, although I feel this is an untold story here.

 

RH’s survey of Egyptian “survivals” in Europe is very interesting and includes an example from the temple complex at Woodeaton in Oxfordshire, where a spell uses a Hebrew divine name in its invocation” in a manner that demonstrates the reach of the Greco-Egyptian magical papyri. “None of this” he says “proves that it was Egypt that developed & exported the tradition of complex ceremonial magic; but it does make it very likely” practitioner & academic views now at one on this.

Although he then says that the distinctive contribution of Christian Europe itself to magic is confined to the use of the circle, cardinality (directions) and the pentagram (p115) tho I think we’d have to say even here there is clear middle eastern influence – eg the pentagram is used magically in the magic of the 7 seals, an “interfaith” tradition, ie Christian, Jewish & Islamic, and was ubiquitous in medieval compendia such as those of Al Buni. Cardinality is also a thing in Egypt but perhaps more as a rectilinear space rather than circle.

“The Egyptians” He says “made no distinction between magic & religion, did not distinguish demons as a class of supernatural being (actually they did but) & had no concept of the witch figure”. As so often is the case, Egypt past and present provides an important counterpoint in to the European witch panics. One idea, advanced in this book is that a belief in the “evil eye” has a dampening effect on accusations of witchcraft, because it is seen as an involuntary trait best dealt with by counter measures. The notion of the “evil eye” is well known from the near east but it is actually fairly ubiquitous in Indo-European and Semitic worlds, as one of the key sources, quoted by RH makes abundantly clear: “All witches possess the evil eye … and this is the way they produce their maleficia … Germans look in suspicion on those with red eyes, often it is the red or glaring eye that is to be feared” A Dundes “The Evil Eye”

You have to wait until the penultimate chapter for this “dampening” hypothesis of RH’s to be fleshed out – comparing incidence of witch trials in the so-called “Celtic fringe” ie Gaelic speaking areas with those in more Norman/Protestant realms. With the assumption that belief in the evil eye and fairies is more prevalent in those same areas this might also account for a supposedly significant difference in the number and intensity of the accusations – and absence of idea of satanic witch. It’s an hypothesis with much data still to collect … Problematic is that RH also contends at the same time that fairy lore is a late medieval construct – and one for which one has to read backwards from 19th century accounts.
Shamanism, is another area RH examines in some details as a possibly source of the nocturnal flight of European witches. He has Carlo Ginzberg’s masterly thesis “Ecstasies: decoding the witches’ sabbath” which in the end RH hopes to have refuted, whilst at the same time being somewhat effusive in his affections for the rival scholar’s work.
Shamanism can be a vague term, perhaps we should distinguish Shamanism with a capital S with shamanism with a lower case s. Sometimes it is all about the magick of Siberia, whence the term originates but it has become generalized as a synonym for a particular kind of magic. I find it difficult to find any so-called “shamanic” practice that isn’t also a part of well known magical religions, if you dig down deep enough.
Nordic Seidr is a good case in point, as RH points out, its “shamanic” elements could be survivals from a prehistoric past, therefore native to the Norse but equally could be a result of direct contact with #Sami & #Finns.
Hosts of the Night
Turning now to origins of the witch stereotype in myths of the night demon – Although the “Margaret Murry thesis” that witches were worshipers of a pagan religion that has survived from antiquity is widely rejected, but… There is something in the mediaeval belief in bands of night roaming ancestors, the dead, led by a pagan goddess such as Diana could be regard as an ancient pre-christian religion, but how to prove? (p136). And of course there is also a relationship between these myths and the magical practitioners, what RH calls “service magicians”.
Could these be accounts of local cults that have been glossed by classically aware clerics? Carlo Ginzberg in his “Ecstasies deciphering the witches’ sabbath” a book much admired by RH, seems aware of the same issue in his research into visionary traditions in Italy. Although presumably even a local ecstatic cult might have some connection with Italy’s Roman past?
But in the end, despite his obvious admiration for Carlo Ginzberg’s work, RH tries to refute it, falling back on his standard thesis, that most pagan survivals are in fact Christian creations! Needless to say, I’m with Ginzberg on this
Chapters continue with the persistent attempt to refute Ginzberg “shamanistic elements” etc, with mixed results as the picture that emerges from, from what cannot be an exhaustive survey of a big territory, the whole of Europe, is that there are constant examples of clear survivals of pagan magick, eg the striges of Rome – Egyptian magick, the grimoires, PGM etc, etc. But this is separated from the supposedly illiterate victims/members of satanic witchcraft cults. The familiar distinction is made between witches and “service magicians” even when the examples show they are sometimes one and the same?
Thus “When Edward Bever” writes RH “considered C17th trial records of south west Germany, he acknowledged that the region abounded with traditions of a parallel spirit world, operating independently of the orthodox Christian one … ” Professor Hutton assures us that those the survival of pagan/pre-christian ontology is a common feature of witchcraft research, “it makes “remarkably little” appearance in actual trial cases”. Although it is this parallel ontology that collides & provides material for the Christian reconstruction of the idea of the “satanic cannibal witch” – the unique bogey of the witch panic?
A lot seems also to hinge on the issue of “shamanism” (with upper and lower case s) and whether some aspect of the witchcraft is derived from the practice, strictly understood as being from Siberia. I’m beginning to think there might be a category error here – “shamanism” looks to me like another variety of magick – albeit originally with some distinctively Siberian aspects. The book ranges wide across so many European cultures, Ukraine, Lithuanian, Poland, Hungary. But still the similarities keep popping up, the class characteristics, perhaps not those of Siberian Shamanism but still those of ancient paganism.
The Fairy faith
The thesis that got away? : “There is a slight possibility” writes RH “that it had existed earlier in popular culture while not making an impact on literature, but the tales about contacts between humans and magical beings recorded by writers 1100 and 1250 seem to reflect traditions and experiences which spanned the whole of contemporary society” p233. This is classic RH, present both arguments but make it obvious which one he expects you to accept. So according to RH, belief in fairies or similar is a “late medieval construct” (p 233& 242) here he must be judging by the surviving records. But it also seems to me this is likely a universal phenomenon, and quite unlikely that before it erupted into the written discourse, people had never really thought about anything like that. Somehow I think whatever you call it, such beliefs are as old as humanity?
“In the early 20th century it was more or less orthodoxy among scholars of medieval romance, that the fays that play such a major part in chivalric tales across western Europe are descended directly from … Irish and Welsh figures. It has how been abandoned by most experts in the field … because it seems impossible to prove.” (p259) I’d say don’t give up, maybe just change your methodology.
In one of the closing chapters on RH turns to the almost universal connection between Witches & Animals although he tells us that among British witches there was an unique characteristic and this lies in the idea of the animal familiar, that they were “assisted in their evil deeds by demons in the form of animals” (262) . Elsewhere in the world witches are connected with animals as vehicles or companions but the animal is still essentially an animal, not a demon or Djinn.
In conclusion Professor Hutton returns to this idea of “pagan survivals” (p287) which is a phenomena which figures more in this book than others of his other as I recall. And indeed the whole issue of the primacy of Egyptian magical techniques and ideas. It is almost as if he’s letting back in an argument he is supposed to have long vanquished. But perhaps the sources will no longer allow such an exclusion? He therefore seeks to finesse this by focusing on how Christians throughout the period hold competing belief systems, ontologies, some of which are obviously very ancient. But he finds no need to call this a pagan survival – he finds the old “dichotomy between Christians and pagans as inappropriate – he prefers to ascribe it to the “dynamism, creativity and mutability of medieval and early modern popular culture.” Well yes, you could do that. But you might be splitting hairs a bit – persistence of ancient magical-religious ideas over time is clearly what’s shown by the material in this book & others – whether those who held them even thought of themselves as pagan is another, and unlikely I agree.
You can tell I found this a stimulating read but I feel I must point out to the practitioner, I doubt you will find anything very much in this book that will tell you how to be a witch. It all made me think of the problem for any historian of religion, how to be a person of faith & still write the kind of history expected of a professional, especially with ubiquitous British positivist bias. Let’s let RH have the last word: “Overall this book is not designed to restore the fear and hatred but to annihilate it, by providing a better understanding of the roots of belief in such a figure as the satanic witch.” p 280
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Apophis: Mother of all Curses

Pagan Theologian Mogg Morgan discusses ancient Egyptian Magick – Apophis, an ancient chaos demon (two parts) illustrated

A version of this presentation was delivered to Museum of Witchcraft & Magick, Boscastle, Cornwall, conference on Curses –
29th/30th April 2017

 

 

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The Demonic double in Egypt, past & present. (A Magick Square to protect an Expectant Mother)

Contains a remarkable confluence of traditions, Islamic, Coptic, Biblical & Pharaonic. The charm is in effect a copy of an agreement between the queen of the Aqran (plural of Qarin) & King David.  Among the Upper Egyptian Fellahin, it is believed that one’s psyche is a multiple thing, that the soul (ruh) has several parts. The Qarin (female Qarinah) is the mirror image or double of the regular soul. Qarin is from a root meaning horns. The Qarin appears at birth and is comparable to concept known from many diverse cultures, current and historical. For instance it is very like ancient Egyptian Ka .

The reason this spell works is recounted in an accompanying story, the historiola: For it happened that, Long ago, King David saw the Queen of the Aqran unfasten her hair, and fire issuing from her mouth. She causes miscarriage but agrees, under threat of death, to spare those babies that carried the special kitab. The Queen of the Aqran, known elsewhere as  Lilith?

Translation (Collected by Winifred Blackman The Fellahin of Upper Egypt:

“In the name of God of Triune nature, He is the Mighty benefactor, Creator of all the powerful witches [evil women], Whom eye does not see and thought cannot conceive [mix with], Who knows what is before it is, before Whom the angels tremble with awe, and whom the devils fear for his Power. All things in Heaven and on earth worship Him, and He is Ruler over all things. O God, by They mighty Name and Powerful Arm and the Beneficent Light of Thy Face protect the bearer of this my charm – what is in her womb and who drinks [will drink] of her milk – from the devilish, cursed Qarinah by the power of this magic square and what of Thy Might name it contains.” P74

The probably meaning of the square in the illustration is, so I was told: “Make it your charge, O Gabriel, make it your charge, O Michail, make it your charge O Rafail, make it your charge O Suriyal, Make it your charge O Maniyal, by the power and might of the Mighty God, the Almighty, and His broad Throne, and His dazzling Light, to burn the cursed qaríneh and cast her into the fire.”

(continues)

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Afarit, Djinn & ancient Egyptian Akhw

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Small domestic statue of an ancestor or Akh, 8cm high, domestic context, from workers village at Deir el Medina. Egyptian New Kingdom 18th dyn

 

“Appease (sHtp) the Akh (AH), do what he likes and abstain from what he detests. May you be spared from his many evil deeds; his is (from him comes) all misfortune. Is there an animal taken away from the field? It is he who has done such a thing (lit: the like). Is there any damage on the threshing floor in the fields? It is the akh, they say again. Storm in the house? Hearts in discord? All this he has caused.”

 

afritAE02

This page of hieroglyphic text is from “Instructions of Any”, a New Kingdom Text circa 1300bce. It is often just omitted from published editions, for instance the well known series edited by Miriam Lichtheim Ancient Egyptian Literature. It describes offerings made to one’s Akh, which in this instance can be compared to an Afrit (‘afarit) or Djinn of later times. In my book Supernatural Assault in Ancient Egypt I also discuss this aspect of the Akh as a demon or troublesome ghost. Gerald Posener, who solved the riddle of the text, included with it, two 20th century accounts of djinn in Upper Egypt, which attracted the Egyptologist because they were so similar to the New Kingdom accounts.

Gerald Posener’s startling translation of this obscure passage has since been widely quoted in for instance Demaree “the Ah iqr en Ra stele, ancestor worship in Ae”, PhD thesis) and many other works.

Like many who have looked at the material, myself included, Posener finds a close parallel between the concept of the Akhw and surviving beliefs of the ‘Afarit or Djinn. He gives two examples from Winifred Blackman’s groundbreaking “The Fellahin of Upper Egypt”. She was an anthropologist working among the Egyptian Fellahin (peasants) in the 1930s:

“Young man in Upper Egypt became very angry with his wife one night while she was sitting in front of the fire cooking the evening meal. In his anger he took a pottery water bottle (a kulleh), and struck her with it. In doing that he broke the bottle, and the water and some of the pieces of pottery fell into the fire, extinguishing it. The next moment he heard a voice saying to him ‘you have broken the head of one of my children, so I will come into you (ie possess you).’ This man thereupon became mad and began to tear his own face, and strike all those who came near him. Some of relatives tied him up but he continued to rave for several months.

They visited a sheikh (magician) who had many books of incantations and charms – he asked for a piece of his garment, wrote some words on it and diagnosed an ‘afarit. He read the incantation but the madman still raved saying “you have an unclean woman (ie menstruating) in the house” . The house was cleared of bystanders.

The exorcism continued until the ‘afarit asked via what part of the man’s body he should make his exit – if through the eyes the man would become blind because he would still need to be punished for killing the ‘afarit child. The magician told him to exit via the man’s big toe & that the he would know he had done so when the kulleh was knocked over. The sheikh eventually saw blood on the man’s big toe and the kulleh was smashed. The man recovered from his madness and reported that he had been “among the ‘afarit.”

And another of this accounts collected by Winifred Blackman:
In upper Egypt a Coptic Sheikh (B) was said to be married to an ‘afrarit because he disappeared every night but his spirit wife and children were never seen. He was called to help another Coptic couple who had problems conceiving. During the magician’s visit, which was late in the evening, the husband, a clerk, stayed in his room obsessively reciting the psalms & refusing to stop, even though the Sheikh said it was disrupting the healing session.

Sheikh B then told him to stop as it was hurting his spirit children, who had come up “from under the earth” to accompany their father. The clerk eventually desisted and went to bed. But then he sensed strangers in his bedroom and felt himself levitating. He opened his eyes and saw four ‘afarit dressed in quaint coats and trousers of many colours and wearing tall peaked caps. Two held him by his arms and feet and only flew off when he said a pater noster.

Whether the couple’s problem starting a family was solved is not recorded. But the confluence of ideas here, from ancient and modern Egypt is quite remarkable.

(currently researching a book on “Zar & Egyptian Ghost Dancing” due some time in the future )


 

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The cost & scale of Kingship, even before the pyramid building began:

Establishing the Ideology of Egyptian Kings in the early dynasties required “massive amounts of labor appropriated from across the country. It is most staggeringly apparent in the First Dynasty mastabas of Saqqara, such as number 3504. At 49.5 m by 20 m in area, it is the largest structure of its time, with 68 internal storerooms containing around 2500 ceramic vessels (once full of thousands of liters of wine, beer, and other offerings), along with 1500 stone vessels in a wide array of materials (Emery 1954). Gold had been used extensively in the decoration of the burial chamber and the remains of other more perishable items of burial equipment were abundant even after extensive plundering. Outside of the tomb, a low bench wrapped around the exterior served as a platform for 300 pairs of real bull horns inserted into mud-shaped bucrania, while trenches around the mastaba’s perimeter held the bodies of 62 men, women, and children.”

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Predawn Sky (The Duat) Winter Solstice 2016

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Remarkable image from Stellarium, “clouds” are Milky Way “on its side” to birth sun via Cygnus stars, birth canal of goddess Nwt

 

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Gnostic Sethians & Sethian Gnostics

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I’ve been looking into any possible relationship between Seth, third son of Adam & Egyptian god Seth. On the face of it just the name suggests it, Seth is Greek transcription of the god’s name in Egyptian religion; Seth or Shith, the name of the revered prophet of several religions, including the Mandeans. The Gnostic Sethians, one of the seed or founding sects of the Gnostic tradition, claim him as their founder and mentor. I’ve not yet found any scholarly research that even discusses the possible connection between them. We know of the gnostic Sethians from the Nag Hammadi texts, so obviously they were based in Egypt and much of their ideas depend on Alexandrian Platonism. I’ve been looking at two books on them from which I couldn’t help but spot several important points of similarity.

Origen in Contra Celsum  6.32 says the names of last three Archons are based on magical sources.

(h)oraeus ὡραῖος in Origen (checked that although spelling is ὡραῖe, has an Ass’s head – which is another egyptian connection, given that they all have animal heads

Horos is in PGM IV 930-1114 – interesting spell for direct vision, ie a Phi-Ntr – A god’s arrival – Horos name occurs at line 985 – no doubt other examples

As bullet points

Prophet Seth

1.  Inventor of astronomy

2. Sethian gnostic also known as Ophites – “snake people”, who worshiped snakes

3. Patron of craftsman, especially horn combs

4. Sethian gnostics specifically sorcerers – as opposed to supposedly more high status Theurgists

5. Sealing = initiation, as in 7 seals or their 5 fold rite

6. Strong exorcism tradition, exorcism and initiation are related

6. Mithraism and ladder of initiation

7. Three Stele of Seth

8. Important of Ursa Major & Draco

9. The serpent of Genesis, a more positive analysis of its actions in recommending eating of tree of knowledge – the suggestion the Sethians were snake worshippers may be explicable in terms of many Biblical references to serpent, Moses etc. But may equally quote the Egyptian serpents on scepter of Thoth, Caduceus etc

10. Alexandrian Platonism

11. Corpus Hermetika & Chaldean Oracles

12.Origins of Kabbalah, Zohar etc

13. “Gnostic ascent” through seven gates to meet god – compare with Ancient Egyptian books of the otherworld such as “Book of Gates”

13. “Sons of Seth” made two pillars on which are recorded all pre-flood knowledge, astronomy, cosmology etc …

14. Archons are animal headed entities, the seventh ass headed – a well known avatar of Egyptian Seth

Sources
Paradise Reconsidered in Gnostic Myth, Tuomas Rosimus

Apocalyse of An Alien God, D Burns

Islamic State blew up Nabi Shiyt (Prophet Seth) shrine in Mosul

Seth also plays a role in Sufism see Ibn al-Arabi, The Bezels of Seth trans R. W. J. Austin

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Osiris: Sunken Cities, Egypt’s Lost World

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What better  month to visit the Sunken Cities expo in the British Museum than Khoiak, the ancient month dedicated to the god Osiris which just happens to coincide with our modern October. This  superb show has been touring the world, starting in underwater archaeologist Franck Goddio’s native France in January this year under the title Osiris: Mystères engloutis d’Égypte – Osiris: Egyptian sunken Mysteries; which I can’t help thinking is a more informative title, as so many of the discoveries are about the ancient cult of Osiris – confirming many details previously only known from classical sources.

It’s a huge show spread over several rooms, each one of which is full of treasures, so one needs to pace oneself for some of the revelations in the final rooms, which bring together all the new knowledge with material about the various processions that took place in this ancient sunken temple of the god Osiris.

My prime motive for visiting was to see the an object called the “Naos of the Decades” – which in itself is rather a startling discovery and the subject of books in its own right, being a magical shrine that was dedicated in one of the temple’s many rooms;  the earliest example of what one might call an astrological artifact, whose complex text is in effect a horoscope, drawn up by Egypt’s last native Pharaoh, Nectanebo II, with magical intent.

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The ancient city of  Thonis-Heracleion sunk beneath the waves 1800 years ago, taking with it all of its secrets. At this time Osiris was Egypt’s most popular god. The core ritual that emerges from various sources, began on the first day of the month with the preparation of a talismanic image of Osiris, a complex assemblage of 14 substances including barley seeds, which can sprout, the image springing to life by the fifteen day, just in time for the 1st procession from the temple on to waterways where various votive objects, including the germinating figures of Osiris can be offering into the water.

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[Another of the amazing photographs from the excavations, showing one of the small, votive images of Osiris beside one of the model boats, offered by devotees into the sacred waterway]

The mysteries culminate on the month’s final days with a second  procession. The picture shows some of the miniature votive offerings, many hundreds of which have this far been discovered on the submerged ritual waterway. Never before seen because mostly melted down as scrap over the years. These survived at the bottom of Aboukir bay. They tell us so much about the “mechanics” of the Osiris rituals, and how people, rich and poor, participated in the cult, aspects of personal piety.

 

 

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The Sethian Dilemma – two ways of viewing an ancient Seth

sethwinegod

(Image of Seth bringing wine from the Oasis, Opet Shrine attached to Temple of Khonsu at Kharnak. The building was the location for one of the many mystery cults of Egypt in late period. The fact that Seth often appears on Ptolemaic temples, is one of the reasons to doubt the old consensus that his cult had declined – an exploration of Egyptian mystery cults can be found in my book “Isis, goddess in Egypt & India”)

Seth is an ancient Egyptian deity, much maligned in popular, academic and theological Thought. Up until fairly recently the only thing one needed to know about Seth was that he was personification of evil and the prototype of the devil and Satan and all bad things in the world. He is the god who in one of the worlds most ubiquitous myths, kills another god, his own brother Osiris no less, then usurps his role as king, persecuting the orphaned Horus who only survives to manhood, due to the cunning of his sorcerer mother Isis. Horus then overpowers Seth and ensures he gets his just deserts.

Since the 1960s much more attention has been paid to Seth by academic researchers and, perhaps surprisingly by neo-pagans practitioners. As a consequence earlier views of Seth are being challenged in academia. And in the neo-pagan community the god has experienced something of a revival. This long article describes what brought about this radical sea change.

1960s San Francisco was the reputed heart of the counterculture. Yet it was also here that in 1966 a new form of counter cultural Satanism emerged. This organisation eschewed earlier literary conventions, and acquired a political dimension against liberalism[1], elitist,[2] pessimistic[3] and rightwing.[4] “Satanism is Americanism in its purest form.”[5] “Satan was a symbolic standard bearer for social criticism and affirmation of individual license (“indulgence instead of Abstinence”).[6] “Might is Right”.[7]

This organisation is the Church of Satan (COS). Nine years later in the summer of 1975 another new organisation emerged from or depending on your point of view, transmogrified from the Church of Satan after a series of internal conflicts. This was the Temple of Set (TOS), which adopted as its patron, the ancient Egyptian god Set, or to use the standard Egyptological transcription “Seth”.[8]

The late Kenneth Grant and his “Typhonian” interpretation of Aleister Crowley’s “Liber Al vel Legis”, is an early and important populariser of what we might call the Sethian mythos. Kenneth Grant published a series of monographs, that have become known as the Typhonian trilogies. The first of these The Magical Revival was published in 1972, and in it Grant equates Aiwass, the discarnate entity who supposedly dictated Liber Al vel legis, with Shaitan and Seth:

“The stele is a talisman of great power in Crowley’s system. It shows the goddess Nuit arched over the solar-phallic Fire of (shin), Spirit, the letter of Abrasax or Abrahadabra, the Word of the Aeon of which Aiwass is the current expression. Sin also the letter of Shaitan or Set, the Fire of Desire (Hadit) at the Heart of Matter (Nuit).” [9]

In things Egyptian, Kenneth Grant relied heavily on the works Gerald Massey (1828-1907), a Victorian Chartist, Theosophist, and amateur Egyptologist. Massey made good use of the leading academic authorities of his day, including Flinders Petrie, Wallace Budge and Heinrich Brugsch. Thus Grant’s theorizing reads very like many passages from Massey’s masterwork Ancient Egypt: Light of the World:

Read rest of article here
—————-

Notes

[1]                  Michael Aquino 2009 : 624 “A Grotto is an autocracy not a democracy”; also Michael Aquino “That Other Black Order” The Cloven Hoof IV-4 1972: 611sq “There is nothing in the Nazi philosophy that conflicts with the basic desires of the human personality.” I’ve used two principal sources Michael Aquino (2009) The Church of Satan, ebook http://www.xeper.org/maquino. Michael Aquino (2010) The Temple of Set, ebook http://www.xeper.org/maquino

[2]                      MA COS p102 and need to reserve secrets from initiated. But also essay: L Dale Seago “The Implications of Elitism”, Aquino 2010 appendix 38 “ “I seek my elect and none other, .. and I think not of those who think not of me” BOCFBN. “In dealings with those outside the temple it may at times require the will to be coldly and utterly ruthless.” “In the words of Set spoken at the first conclave, ‘Ye are alien to mankind”.

[3]                      MA TOS p298

[4]                      See Zeena La Vey preface to Anton LaVey, The Satanic Witch (formerly: The Compleate Witch) retitled, pii (Feral House 2002) “a guide to selective breeding, a manual of eugenics- the lost science of preserving the able-bodied and able-minded while controlling the surplus population of the weak and incompetent.”

[5]                      MA COS : 41

[6]                      MA COS : 28 “Indulgence instead of Abstinence” is from the opening manifesto of Anton La Vey (?) The Satanic Bible.

[7]                      MA COS fn p 99. claims that a large section of Anton LaVey’s Satanic Bible is lifted from an earlier political track entitled “Might Is Right”. The Loompanics reprint of this obscure text sported a new preface by La Vey and a controversial “Neo-Nazi” cover.

[8]                      H Te Velde (1967) Seth, God of Confusion: A study of his role in Egyptian Mythology and Religion, Brill. Page 3 for summary of available forms of the god’s name.

[9]               Kenneth Grant (1972) The Magical Revival, Muller, London : 47 & Glossary. American Edition Weisers (1973). Library of Congress also has a copy of the UK edition.

 

 

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