Gnostic Sethians & Sethian Gnostics


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

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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