Seth: God of Chaos

What kind of God Seth is

Seth was an ancient Egyptian god who usually represents the forces of disturbance and confusion in the world. On the basis of archaeological evidence, his presence can be traced back to the protodynastic period. Seth is such type of god which represents both good and bad side.

seth-ancient-egyptian-god-of-chaos

Origin of Seth

Seth is considered as one of the nine major deities of the ‘Ennead of Heliopolis’. Heliopolitan mythology was a mythical philosophy about how everything was created. This mythology, a product of the then socio-political environment of ancient Egypt, was basically formed by the priests of Heliopolis with the aim to focus on the solar origin theory.

Seth Family Tree

According to the Heliopolitan mythology, Atum, the Sun god is considered as the creator of everything. Seth is known to be the son of Geb, the god of Earth and Nut, the goddess of the Sky; and also the great-grandson of the Sun god Atum.

He was the brother of Osiris, the god of underworld and death and Isis, the goddess of fertility and motherhood and the brother as well as the husband of Nephthys also. Although, in another version of mythology, Nephthys is known to be the wife of Osiris. Goddess Taweret, Astarte and Anat were also believed to be the consort of Seth.

Seth-family-tree

Iconography of Seth

Earlier, Seth is depicted as an animal with a curved head, tall square-topped ears and erect arrow-like tail. He is depicted both in sitting and standing posture. Later, he started to be represented in a semi-anthropomorphic form where he is depicted as a man with the head of the Seth animal. This later representation became common in the period of New Kingdom.

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He is generally depicted wearing the White Crown of Upper Egypt, known as Hedjet Crown. Sometimes also he is depicted wearing Double Crown of both Lower and Upper Egypt.

different-crowns-with-their-symbols

Seth could also be represented in the form of pig, goat, antelope, crocodile, donkey, hippopotamus etc because these animals were regarded as harmful animals to ancient Egyptians. He can also be depicted as a two-headed deity where he is fused with Horus, Egyptian’s national tutelary deity.

The Positive Side of Seth

While discussing the positive side of Seth, he is considered as the god of strength and protective power. His epithet ‘Great of Strenght’ indicates his positive nature. He was considered to be the defender of the Sun god against Apophis, the chaos serpent. According to one myth, the strength was used to save the goddess Astarte from the baleful sea god Yam.

Connection with Pharaohs

One of the positive power of Seth can be seen in his connection with Egyptian Pharaohs. According to Pyramid Texts, deceased pharaohs used to claim the strength of Seth. In many motifs, associated with kingship, Seth is represented. Such type of example is his representation on the thrones of statues of Senwosret I, presently located in the Egyptian museum in Cairo.

Lord of Metals

Iron was the hardest metal known to ancient Egyptians. Seth was considered as the lord of metal. Thus, Egyptian used to call iron- the ‘bones of Seth.

Remover of Unfavourable Conditions

Seth was also considered as a remover of unfavourable conditions in ancient Egypt. One honourable mention should be made here regarding this aspect. According to one ancient Egyptian text, Pharaoh Ramesses II married a Hittite princess. Thus, he worshipped Seth to make the journey of the Hittite princess to Egypt less painful by controlling the unfavourable weather.

Negative Side of Seth

In ancient Egyptian religious pantheon, the negative side of Seth is more highlighted. His negative side is represented by his association with chaos, violence, anger, rage, disturbance, confusion, disorder, storm, desert etc.

As the god of the desert, Seth was believed to threaten the vegetation. As a god of chaos, he was believed to oppose the harmony of truth. Violence and chaos as his main characteristics can be traced back to the myth of the origin of this deity where he is believed to tear himself from his mother at the time of his birth.

Killing of Osiris

Osiris myth is believed to be a popular myth in ancient Egyptian religious pantheon. The Osiris myth is all about the murder of Osiris and his resurrection. According to legend, Seth murdered Osiris in order to gain the kingship of Egypt.

This event indicates his rebellion nature towards the present political power. After this event, he got associated with a rivalry with Horus, son of Osiris. During this rivalry, the negative aspects of Seth expressed prominently.

The representative of Bad Weather

Seth was also considered as the representative of bad weather such as storms and other natural calamities etc. It was also believed that he represented raging sea.

Cult Centre of Seth

Seth had various cult centres in Upper Egypt particularly in 5th, 10th, 11th and 19th Upper Egyptian nomes. He was regarded as a patron deity of these regions. His earliest cult centre was located in ancient Nubt; Seth said to have been born here. In the Egyptian calendar, his birthday is regarded as an unlucky day. In the 14th nome of Lower Egypt also, he was worshipped with great respect.

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