The Sethian Dilemma – two ways of viewing an ancient Seth


(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


[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 Michael Aquino (2010) The Temple of Set, ebook

[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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