It’s Okay To Have Demons

Expecting people to be John Rambo—including Setians—is unrealistic.

It’s fucked up how the behaviors we develop to survive as kids can bite us in the ass when we are grownups.

As a kid, I was conditioned to believe that asserting myself is bad, wrong, mean, and selfish. I was taught that if I love someone, I should just keep my mouth shut whenever they do anything that disappoints me or hurts me. If I speak up about it, I am being an asshole and I don’t deserve to be loved.

How insidious it is that such conditioning can affect us even as adults. I recently lost a good friend who occasionally did things that disappointed me. I kept silent about my feelings for so long that when I finally tried to express myself, it destroyed the friendship. Then I started hating myself for even trying to talk with this person about my misgivings at all. “If I just hadn’t said anything, we would still be friends,” my brain keeps telling me. “I ruined this friendship, and it’s all my fault.”

This kind of childhood conditioning can even affect your professional life. If I land a better job and my current employer gets upset that I am leaving, I feel like a horrible person. I feel like I’m an ungrateful prick. I feel like I’m being mean and something bad is going to happen to me, as a “punishment.” Even when my logical mind knows I am doing something good for myself, even when I remember that other people hire into better jobs all the time; I still feel like I am bad.

Well the reality is that NONE of these things is true. The voice that whispers these awful things to me inside my brain is not my own voice, but the voice of my childhood trauma. When I blame myself for ruining that friendship, or when I hate on myself for doing something that’s good for my own professional development, it is not really me that’s speaking; it’s my male parental unit. It’s the man who bullied me and manipulated me when I was little; the man who was never impressed by anything I tried to do; the man who delighted in making me feel powerless, trapped, and afraid.

I resonate with Set because He refuses to control or be controlled. Like Him, I chafe at the thought of anyone telling me who or what I can or cannot be. And like Him, I absolutely detest the idea of trying to control anyone else’s life. When I came to Set at age 14, it drove my male progenitor nuts. Here was something he couldn’t take away from me, no matter how much he hit me or tried to shame me. He could burn all my books and break all my sacred objects, but he could never remove Set from my heart. And this gave me the resilience I needed to truly start defining myself apart from the toxicity in which I was raised.

But even though I started on this quest all those years ago, the journey is still in progress. I am still learning how things in my childhood are affecting my adult life. I am still learning how to not hate myself when I do things that are good for me. I am still learning how to love myself and not listen to that ugly voice in my mind that expects me to fail. I am still learning how to determine myself and to not let anyone else define me.

So take it from a Setian who has been walking with Big Red for over 24 years… Ain’t NONE of us here are “Nietzschean supermen.” It’s totally OK if you are still fighting demons from your childhood. Nobody, least of all Set, expects you to be John Rambo. (And even if Rambo were real, he’d be suffering from PTSD too, just like all the rest of us.) If you struggle with hating yourself because of traumatic things that happened to you, you are not alone by any stretch of the imagination. And it’s absolutely OK. Just try to remember that when you get to feeling that way, it’s your trauma talking; it is NOT reality. And try to remember too that talking about your feelings is a STRENGTH, not a weakness. Listening to others talk about their feelings, and helping them feel comfortable enough to share them, is a strength as well.

+2

It’s Setian, Not “Satanic”

Christians and Satanists might hate each other’s deities, but Setians can honor Set and Osiris at the same time. 

One of the more annoying misconceptions against Setianism is this idea that Set is the “Egyptian devil” or “god of evil,” and that we His followers are all a bunch of raving psychopaths who thrive on chaos and violence. Another annoying assumption is the idea that if you ever attract Set’s attention to yourself, your house will burn down and your entire family will drop dead. (Or something like that.)

People who describe Set as “evil” have no business pontificating on Him (or any other Netjer or Egyptian deity, for that matter). He is really not comparable to the Christian devil at all. He is not a “fallen angel” who tries to drag people down into hell with him. He is a full-blown GOD in His own right. He is a SAVIOR who wards off the monsters of chaos.

Yes, Set has some drama with certain other members of the Egyptian pantheon; but this is not at all relatable to the “God versus Satan” dynamic of Christianity. The antagonism between Set and Osiris, for example, is not about some moral dichotomy of “good versus evil”; it is instead a theological metaphor for how ecosystems and agricultural cycles work. Christians and Satanists might hate each other’s deities, but it is not unusual for Kemetic polytheists to honor Set and Osiris together at the same shrine. This is because we know BOTH gods are really necessary and good, and that BOTH deserve to be loved and appreciated. That’s just how polytheism works.

And I have never met a single Setian who resembled a real-life Mad Max character, gleefully running from one explosion to the next. Every Setian I know is a regular everyday person who values consistency, security, and safety. We get PTSD when bad things happen to us, just like everyone else. Many of us also seem to work in fields relating to public health, helping other people achieve a better quality of life. I am actually super fucking impressed with the number of Setians I personally know who work as counselors, caregivers, educators, and other similar roles. I think this alone demonstrates that our God is neither as “chaotic” nor as “destructive” as certain people like to think.

As for the idea that reaching out to Set will cause a bunch of chaotic shit to happen in your life… Well I’ve been worshiping Him for more than 24 years now, and it has never caused my life to fall apart. In fact, my life has only become more *organized* and *secure* since I first met Him at age 14. Besides, chaotic things will happen to us no matter WHAT we do. They will happen whether we pray to Set or not. They will even happen if we pray to someone else, or if we pray to no one at all. Worshiping Set does not increase anyone’s chances of having chaotic things happen to them; it also doesn’t PREVENT such things from happening, either. But let me tell you, it sure does help to have the Red Lord in your corner during a crisis. Setians do not thrive on chaos; we thrive on SET, who helps us PERSEVERE against chaos. 

One other idea I find super annoying is this notion that Setians are supposed to be having intense paranormal experiences all the time, like on a near-daily basis or something. Ghosts, visions, and prophetic dreams are actually just as rare for me as they are for most other people. I suspect this is true of most other Setians, as well. 

You don’t have to be a psychic or a ghosthunter to be Setian. Hell, some people don’t even need rituals. Maybe you just don’t “feel right” going through the motions for whatever reason. Maybe you feel more comfortable just meditating, or trying something different. As long as you have Set in your heart, you’re Setian enough by my standards. If people can still be Christian without going to church every Sunday, you can still be Setian without keeping any shrines or casting any spells. We each get to walk with Big Red in our own way.

+4

My Religious Taxonomy

The LV-426 Tradition of Setianism is a fusion of Kemetic polytheist theology with (Setianized) Western occult practices.

 

Recently a good friend of mine asked me, “What name do you call what you practice, if it fits into any one religion that has a name?”

The simplest and most direct answer to this question is that I identify as a Setian, a person who reveres and works to emulate Set. Given that Set is central to my entire spiritual life, I am Setian in the same way that Christ followers are Christians, or that Shiva devotees are Shaivites. I therefore think of what I do as a type of Setianism. (For more information on Setianism in general, check out Episode #1 of this series.)

But like the words “Christian” or “Shaivite,” there are some contexts in which the word Setian requires further explanation. Not all Christians or Shaivites believe or practice the same things, and neither do all Setians. I think it’s probably fair to say we are mostly divided into two major groups:

  • Setians who are Kemetic polytheists, a term taken from Kemet or “Black Land” (the indigenous name for ancient Egypt). People in this category are more likely to believe Set is actually a real, living force of nature; that He is not “the Egyptian devil”; and that He deserves to be worshiped as a personal deity.
  • Setians who are Western occultists, which means they take more of their inspiration from 20th century sources like Aleister Crowley. People in this category are more likely to think Set is somehow “separate from nature”; that He is “completely 100% opposed to Christianity”; and/or that “true” Setians bow to no gods, not even Set.

And then you have people like me who blur the lines between these categories in certain ways. In my case, my theology and values are very much Kemetic; I treat the Netjeru (the Egyptian gods) as literal beings, and I consider ancient Egyptian literature on Set to be more important than anything Kenneth Grant or Michael Aquino ever wrote about Him. Plus, my entire spirituality is aimed at actually revering and making offerings to Set, not on becoming some kind of “black magician.”

But at the same time, my ritual style—the way I specifically express my reverence for Set in ceremony and prayer—is very much influenced by Western occult sources. I was not yet aware of the Kemetic community when I first came to Set; I was only aware of His occultist followers at the time, and their ritual templates were the first to which I was exposed. I found such examples helpful, but could never quite buy into the claims that “worshiping Set is un-Setian” (!) or that “Set is a force ‘against’ nature” (?) or whatever. (This contradicted the fact that Setians in ancient Egypt very clearly did not believe EITHER of those things.) So in 1997, I started xeroxing all the rituals by Crowley and other occult writers I could find at my local library; then I would go home and repurpose these litanies to suit my devotional intentions.

The Sigil of the LV-426 Tradition

A few years later, my friend the Tonester came to Set and asked for my help in learning how to worship. I showed him how I had been doing things up to that point, and we bonded because neither of us was impressed with the occult community in general. No one we knew who was into this stuff was really interested in worshiping anything but themselves. Many of these same individuals were also manipulative egomaniacs with absolutely zero regard for other people’s mental or emotional well-being. Seeking help or support from anyone was always treated as a “spiritual weakness”—like if you can’t just shake off all that depression or anxiety you’re living with, you can’t be a “real” Setian or something like that. So the Tonester and I both said, “FUCK dem apples; we’ll just start our OWN outfit.” And such is more or less how the LV-426 Tradition of Setianism began, back in 2003.

An LV-426 Walpurgisnacht postcard!

It wasn’t until sometime in the mid-2000s that I met any Kemetic polytheists or became aware of modern reconstructionist groups like the House of Netjer and the Church of the Eternal Source. Learning of this community really blew my mind; here were all these people who actually believed in worshiping the Egyptian gods, and I hadn’t known about them this whole time! And I was impressed by the sheer amount of empathy that Kemetics just seem to feel for each other in general. Things might be different now than they were in the early 2000s; but back then, to speak of having suicidal feelings in a group of left-hand path occultists was to invite them to shame you into “just feeling better,” “getting up and doing something about it,” and/or “leaving if you can’t take the heat.” But to this day, I still see Kemetics supporting each other emotionally through such terrible struggles—something that anyone who claims to love the Gods of Egypt SHOULD be doing (YES, even if your patron Netjer is SET!). Despite any differences in my ritual style, I would much rather hang out with a bunch of Kemetics for an informal Moomas party than attend something like one of the Temple of Set’s annual conclaves.

In summary, the simplest term for my faith is Setianism; but if we want to get really taxonomical about it, my particular kind of Setianism (LV-426) is a unique fusion of Kemetic polytheist theology with (Setianized) Western occult ritual practices. We do not claim to be following “the one true way” of Set or anything like that; this is just OUR way, and others can take it or leave it. But one thing we LV-426ers will NOT tolerate is being told by any Social Darwinist occultniks that THEIR ways of “being Setian” are somehow more “accurate” or “legitimate” than ours. In absolutely any situation where this ignorant claim might arise, we will be sure to correct people accordingly (and mercilessly).

(To paraphrase Ozzy Osbourne: “Tell me I’m a phony? I got news for you: I spoke to Set this evening, and HE DON’T LIKE YOU!”)

As a final note, the LV-426 Tradition is a private fellowship, and membership is by invitation only. This is not because we want to be a “secret society”; it’s because we treat each other as family, and that is not a dynamic people can just develop by sending us a check and applying to join. It usually takes several years for someone we know personally to even realize they are one of us; then we have to all agree with each other before the candidate can be initiated. Sometimes when you’ve had a really bad week, it feels damn good to sob uncontrollably in the presence of Sutekh and your siblings in Him during one of our Sabbats. And this kind of atmosphere is most successful when there aren’t any “might is right” crotchgoblins around, trying to shame people for having problems and needing support.

But while we are extremely protective of whom we allow into our personal lives, we want to share the magic we’ve worked together so that others may benefit from it too. You don’t even have to join us or pay us to learn how we do things; hell, just read this damn website and take notes! If other Setians find our material useful but would like to make changes, I encourage them to do the same thing I did with Crowley or whomever and tinker with the work as they see fit. While I am in no hurry to expand my own coven, I do hope to hear of more like-minded Setian groups popping up across the globe some day.

+3

Polytheism Is Not “Idolatry”

Yes Virginia, some people still believe in many gods today, and it’s every bit as legitimate as believing in just one.

 

Anthropomorphism is the act of characterizing something that isn’t human (whether animal, vegetable, or mineral) with human qualities, feelings, and motivations. Bugs Bunny, for instance, speaks English, stands on two legs, and is generally a smartass. We all know real rabbits don’t do either of these things, so Bugs is what we call an anthropomorphized rabbit (and a damn funny one, too).

It’s impossible to practice any sort of theistic religion without anthropomorphizing the god or pantheon that’s involved to some extent at least, even when it comes to monotheism. Polytheists are only the most obvious example, given that we actually invoke our gods into cultic images. Usually these icons are at least somewhat humanoid, even if they have animal heads (like the Egyptian pantheon) or multiple appendages (like the Hindu pantheon). Even when these images are completely zoomorphic, polytheists tend to be animists as well, believing that animals have souls just as humans do (as well as trees, rivers, stars, planets, etc.). So polytheism actively encourages us to anthropomorphize the entire cosmos.

Monotheists condemn this practice as “idolatry,” which is extremely offensive to polytheists for several reasons. First, it demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of what we believe and do. For some reason, monotheists always think we are cavepeople who think the icons we create and use for worship are actually alive and can move around or something like that. But not even ancient polytheists were that naïve. Our gods are not the man-made images themselves, but the cosmic forces these images are designed to signify. The statue of a god is merely a tool for worship, not the actual object of worship itself.

Just consider this story from biblical folklore:

Abram tried to convince his father, Terach, of the folly of idol worship. One day, when Abram was left alone to mind the store, he took a hammer and smashed all of the idols except the largest one. He placed the hammer in the hand of the largest idol. When his father returned and asked what happened, Abram said, “The idols got into a fight, and the big one smashed all the other ones.” His father said, “Don’t be ridiculous. These idols have no life or power. They can’t do anything.” Abram replied, “Then why do you worship them?”

While I understand this story is allegorical, it is still dehumanizing and insulting to polytheists. Personally, I hope Abram’s father replied, “I don’t worship the idols; I worship THE GODS, whom the idols REPRESENT!” (And then I hope he grounded the little ingrate, since that little stunt probably cost their entire family several meals!)

When I invoke Set into one of His sacred images that I keep in my home, I treat the image as if it were a living, breathing entity. I kiss it, share offerings with it, or even blast some heavy metal and headbang with it. However, I am not naïve enough to think the image really IS Set. Gods are powerful, invisible cosmic forces that we’ve never been able to completely understand; we can see them working through natural phenomena, but we can’t actually see them directly. (And even if we could, it would probably make our brains explode and leak right out of our ears!) By anthropomorphizing the gods and inviting them into humanized images that we have created for them, we can demonstrate our love and respect for them just like we do for all the people and animals we love. When I kiss an image of Set, I know I am really only kissing an image; but the act of kissing that image is itself a powerful symbolic act. So while we can’t see or hear or touch the gods like we can see or hear or touch each other, this is the next best thing.

I fail to see how this is any different from how Roman Catholics treat their images of Jesus, the saints, and the Virgin Mary. They light candles in front of these statues and talk to them while they pray, but none of them are daft enough to think the statues are actually Jesus, Mary, or the saints themselves. At the same time, most Christians (including non-Catholics) would consider it blasphemous to step on a crucifix or tear up a Bible, both of which are powerful iconic images. And when people think about the Christian god, they visualize him as a white-bearded patriarch sitting on a throne in the clouds. Part of the entire point to Jesus, in fact, is that he’s supposed to be Yahweh himself in human form—and it doesn’t get any more anthropomorphic than that! In other words, Christianity anthropomorphizes its god and is every bit as “idolatrous” as Paganism is; but for some reason, it’s only “bad” or “evil” when non-Christians do these things.

This image wasn’t invented by Seth McFarlane; it goes all the way back to the Canaanite god, El.

Despite what anyone else might say, anthropomorphism is not a “bad” thing at all. It is also not entirely removed from reality. For example, we now know that willow, poplar, and sugar maple trees will actually warn each other about impending insect attacks; that bees possess cognition and an extremely complicated language; and that beavers are basically hydraulic engineers, creating dams to make ponds and build houses for the families. Trees, bees, and beavers might not think, feel, or communicate the same way human beings do, but they DO in fact think, feel, and communicate. And when ancient peoples anthropomorphized these and other aspects of nature, it was their way of living in balance with the rest of the universe. Even atheists can’t help projecting human thoughts and emotions onto their beloved pets, and it’s really a good thing that human beings do this. Anthropomorphism encourages us to empathize with nature, rather than treating it like some soulless, alien thing that only exists for us to exploit. The earth would not be burning out of control like it is right now if more people anthropomorphized nature today.

Polytheists are also stigmatized for offering gifts, especially of food and drink, to images of our gods. People assume we think the images will actually move and eat the food, or that we think our gods will “starve” if we don’t “feed” them. In all my years of identifying as a polytheist, I have never met a single person who ever believed either of these claims—not even once. If you have trouble understanding why anyone would want to offer food to a god, all you really need to grasp is the historical importance of sharing meals. Food is just as important today as it was in ancient times, and having enough of it is often a struggle for many people. Hence why sharing your food with someone else is considered a HUGE sign of compassion and respect in virtually every culture across the globe. Even today, inviting people to breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner is still a prominent form of social bonding. And that right there is the true purpose of offering food to deities: to bond with them socially. By invoking gods into images and offering them food, polytheists are inviting these cosmic forces over to dinner and treating them as distinguished houseguests. This is not just some wacky superstition, but a deeply affectionate form of religious worship that is every bit as authentic, legitimate, and passionate as anything that Christians, Muslims, or Jews practice.

Different polytheists make offerings in different ways. The Egyptians ingested their offerings, believing their gods would consume the spiritual energy of the food while the worshipers consumed its physical substance. I have always liked this way of doing it best, because it feels more like one is sharing with the deity than simply giving them things. When we treat people to dinner, we don’t just pay for them to eat and not eat anything ourselves; we eat with them. And if the gods truly consume anything during this process, it is the love and good will we express to them through such demonstrations of faith. But food and drink are not the only things we can offer; we can also offer actions, like helping a deity’s sacred animals, or writing literature and/or creating art for the god(s). We can participate in our communities in ways that honor them, like donating to a library for Thoth, picking up trash in a park for Geb, or visiting a dairy farm and feeding the baby milk cows for Hathor. There are all kinds of things we can offer to the gods and share with them and others that will make our souls and spirits glow with love and good vibes.

Another stigma against polytheists is the belief that we commit human sacrifices. It is true that certain civilizations engaged in this practice, but the Egyptians do not seem to have done so for any theological purpose. In those cases where a Pharaoh’s servants were ceremonially killed and buried with the deceased king, it was to appease the king, not the gods. As a polytheist, I think killing anyone except in self-defense is a barbaric offense against the gods, and most other polytheists will tell you the same. If a person kills someone in the name of a polytheist god, they are in the exact same category as monotheists who bomb abortion clinics or fly airplanes into skyscrapers because “God told me to.”

As for animal sacrifice, most polytheists do not engage in this practice today, but those who do usually live in rural areas and are accustomed to killing their own food. They are not cat-slashing sociopaths, but regular hunters or farmers; all that’s different is that they dedicate the animals to their gods and thank the animals for their lives before killing them and eating them. It’s not that different in principle from butchers preparing kosher or halal meat products. Suffice it to say that polytheists who live in urban or suburban areas have no reason to kill any animals, since we are just as accustomed to buying our food from local supermarkets as everyone else. Many of us are also vegetarians, vegans, and/or animal rights activists, so the idea that we run around bathing ourselves in goat’s blood is total bullshit.

+2