Some thoughts on what several of Set’s names mean to me personally.
Set is a very complex deity with more names than anyone can count. We can’t even be 100% sure of how the name Set itself was originally pronounced. (All we know for certain is that it contains the consonants S-T; we don’t know which vowels might have been used.) The following is my attempt at explaining what some of Big Red’s names actually mean (or at the very least, what they mean to me personally). However, we must always remember the fact that in Egyptology, new discoveries are made every day, and sometimes an accepted theory will need to be updated or even discarded. For this reason, nothing I write here about Set’s names should be considered “definitive” or taken as “gospel.” This is just one Setian’s perspective on these various voces magicae, so take from it what you will.
As an additional note, this is not an exhaustive list of Set’s names by any stretch of the imagination. There are far too many of them for me to count, and quite a few seem impossible to translate. The following list is limited to those names and titles I actually understand and use.
The most basic and well-known name for Set. It is rendered into English as sts, sth, s(w)th, s(w)t(y), st(y), or st. Its variants are clearly determinative to various Egyptian words for storms, violence, and upheaval. The Greek writer Plutarch suggested that it might mean “the overmastering” or “overpowering.” This is the most popular form of the deity’s name among contemporary Pagans.
The Hellenized version of Set; very helpful for finding quality sources about the deity in academic literature searches. (Try searching for the name Set and you’ll get results on everything from the actual god to random kitchenware.) It also happens to be homonyms with the name of the third son of Adam and Eve in the Bible (who is a totally unrelated figure). So Seth is really best used in conjunction with the additional name Typhon to clarify when one is actually referring to Set (and not the biblical Seth).
Pronounced “SOO-tek.” This variation of Set’s name was popular in the Nile Delta region of Lower Egypt. As Sutekh, He was equated with the Hyksos’ chief deity, the thunder god Ba’al Hadad. This led Set’s cult to adopt many non-Egyptian elements, including the Edfu tale of how He rescued Ishtar from the sea monster
Yamm. I refer to Set as Sutekh most often when I pray to Him alone.
Pronounced “SOO-tee.” This is probably the closest to how Set’s name was originally spoken in Upper Egypt during predynastic times (prior to 3200 BCE). I don’t see or hear people use this variant very often, but I sometimes use it during prayers, especially in times of great need. I feel like calling Set by this name is like calling someone by an intimate pet-name they don’t want anyone else to know about (“Pookie”), which I would only suggest doing if you are already on good terms with Big Red.
“Lord of the Waters,” a name that is given to Set in the Demotic Leiden Papyrus, and which likely refers to His power over the forces of chaos. Strangely, Set shares this name with Jesus Christ, for whom it is also used in the Pistis Sophia. I believe this name represents a point of intersection and dialogue between Setianism and Christianity, and it always makes me think of the Alexamenos graffito.
Pronounced “OSH.” The name of a Libyan desert god who was identified with the holy Sha animal of Set, and who was believed to guide travelers to oases. There seem to be two different theories about Ash: (1) that he is an entity distinct from Set (and possibly a gay consort), or (2) that he is an alternate form or aspect of Set Himself. It could be that the two gods are separate divinities, but that Set will also answer to the name Ash if it is ever used for Him. Either way, I can’t help but think of Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell), the protagonist in the Evil Dead movies, whenever I see or hear this name.
Pronounced “Buh-ALL.” An ancient Semitic title that means “Lord,” and which was used for many different storm gods throughout Mesopotamia. It was inherited by Set when He was identified with the Hyksos deity, Ba’al Hadad. I sometimes refer to the Big Guy as “Ba’al Sutekh” or even just “my Ba’al” when I pray, but it must be understood that Set is not synonymous with all the other divinities who answer to this name. (And just in case anyone would like to know, the female equivalent is Ba’alat.)
Pronounced “YOW SAH-BAH-YOTH.” A Greek corruption of the Hebrew Iah (from Yahweh) and tsebha’oth (“armies”), which together mean “Lord of Hosts.” The name is used in several invocations to Set in the Greek magical papyri. For me, it represents Set’s fondness of donkeys, His sympathy for the Jewish people in Late Antiquity, and His eternal vigilance against the Chaos Serpent.
Pronounced “NOOB-tee.” Meaning “Golden One,” this name was used for Set in the predynastic Naqada civilization. It refers to the prominence of His worship in Nubt (“Gold Town”), a gold-mining desert town in Upper Egypt that later became known as Ombos. I think this name represents Set as a god of life on the frontier, who helps His people find prosperity in the wilderness.
Pronounced “TIE-fohn.” Meaning “Whirlwind,” this name was given to Set in Late Antiquity. It belonged to a monster in Hellenic mythology, and its association with Set was originally an error; but an entire magical system was developed in which Set is identified by this name (i.e., the Greek magical papyri), and the system happens to work. Typhon also sits well with Set’s aquatic aspect, complimenting His role as a desert god. I especially like to use this name while praying to Big Red by the seashore.
The Great Longhorn
Set as the Celestial Bull. In this form, He crushed Osiris beneath His thigh, which was later amputated by Horus. Set’s thigh was then chained to the pole star, whereupon it became the Big Dipper (or as the Egyptians called it, “the Bull’s Thigh”). This aspect of Set always reminds me of the Bull of Heaven in the Epic of Gilgamesh, which also had one of its legs removed and converted into a stellar object.
Great of Strength
Set as the one god who is strong enough to put other gods in their place, as well as to fight the Chaos Serpent face-to-face. I associate this title with Set’s linear immortality (i.e., the fact that He neither dies nor rises again), which distinguishes Him from the rest of His pantheon.
He Before Whom the Sky Shakes
Set as the god of thunder and storms. I think it represents Him as this incredibly destructive force that could potentially destroy the entire cosmos at any time, but which decides to protect the world from monsters instead. Set is the single most frightening entity in existence, and yet He is on our side.
He of the Two Faces
A reference to the Secret of the Two Partners, or the idea that Set and Horus are really two aspects of the same god. This concept is depicted in Egyptian art as a humanoid figure with both the head of Horus and the head of Set, which I regard as the Egyptian precursor to the Tao. Naturally, the Secret of the Two Partners works both ways, and “He of the Two Faces” can also be used as a name for Horus.
Lord of the Red Lands
Set as the Lord of Deserts. Just as the deserts surrounding Egypt provided a “buffer” that protected the country from the rest of the world, so too does Set provide a “buffer” between our created universe and the primordial chaos. A shorter version of this title is “Red Lord,” which I use all the time.
Lord of Twofold Strength
This title reminds me of Set’s dual nature as a both an instigator of change (as seen in the Osirian drama) and a defender of the cosmic order (as seen in the execration of
Master of the Imperishable Ones
Set as the Lord of the circumpolar stars. The Egyptians considered these stars to be ancestral spirits who have achieved the same linear deathlessness that Set experiences. (Hence the term, “Imperishable Ones.”) These stars never descend beneath the horizon (unlike the Sun, the Moon, and the planets of our solar system), but are always located at the center of the sky (for those of us living in the northern hemisphere, at least). This reveals the stellar and nocturnal origins of Set’s worship.
Champion of Ra
Set as the hero who protects and defends Ra from the Chaos Serpent each night. Ra dies and rises again each day, and they are attacked by the monster while undergoing their regenerative process. If the Serpent ever succeeds in swallowing Ra, all things—including the rest of the gods—will cease to exist. When Thoth negotiated his truce between Horus and Set, part of the bargain was that Set would become Ra’s personal bodyguard. He has served Ra in this capacity ever since, and the fact that our universe continues to exist is a testament to His ultimate benevolence. This title is very important to me because it’s an important aspect of Set that most people don’t know or think about.
Son of Nut
While He isn’t the only son of Nut (Osiris being the other one), Set is the god who is most often identified by this title. This is due to the circumstances of His birth; for while Osiris, Isis, and Nephthys were all born in the natural way, Set clawed right out of the sky goddess’ womb. This couldn’t have been pleasant for Nut, but it gives Set the distinction of being the only god aside from Ra to have willed Himself into existence (according to the Heliopolitan cosmogony, at least).
An affectionate abbreviation of “Red Lord” or “Lord of the Red Lands” that many of Set’s people use for Him all over the world (myself included).
A term for the Christian devil that’s inspired by his association with goats. Cloven-hoofed critters are members of the order Artiodactyla, which happens to include most of Set’s sacred animals (including antelope, hippopotami, oryx, pigs, etc.). If Christians can demonize Set and incorporate Him into their version of the devil, then it’s only fair for Setians to reclaim so-called “satanic terminology” for Set. So I will sometimes call Big Red “the Cloven Hoof” in reference to His sacred animals.
A humorous title for Set that we coined right here in the LV-426 Tradition. It refers to both Set’s affinity for donkeys and the fact that He’s a hellraiser.
Prince of Darkness
Another term traditionally used for the Christian devil; it was reclaimed for Set by members of the Temple of Set in the 1970s. It might sound lurid, but it does make a certain amount of sense; Set is a prince, after all, and He does rule the northern sky and the nighttime world. I don’t use this title very much in public, but I do sometimes use it for Set when I pray to Him alone.