It’s okay to be angry or upset with the gods, and it’s okay for us to tell Them so as well.
A very good friend of mine occasionally becomes profoundly angry with Set and/or the other Netjeru for not saving them from the horrific things they endured as a child. When this happens, they put away every religious icon they own. When they are especially upset, they might even smash these holy images in a fit of blind rage. Then they feel guilty and anxious afterwards, fearing the Netjeru will punish them for being so disrespectful.
(I will not go into details, but I do wish to be extra super double sure I’m making myself absolutely clear on this point: these behaviors are coming from a place of pain and fear, not from a place of pride or insolence. Any comments that assume otherwise will be removed. Thank you.)
When my friend confides in me about these occasions, I do what I always do. I gently remind them that no, they are not bad for feeling anger, and no, they are not bad for expressing their anger to the gods.
The ancient Egyptians got angry with the Netjeru all the time, even threatening to withhold offerings from Them if They failed to answer certain prayers in times of great need. Here, the god-and-worshiper relationship is symbiotic and reciprocal. We must give to the gods, but the gods must also give to us. If the gods give and we do not, They can condemn or abandon us; and if we give and the gods do not, we can condemn or abandon Them.
Mind you, the Netjeru are not mere genies who exist just to grant our wishes. It is unreasonable to condemn or abandon Them for not solving all of our problems for us. But it is at least reasonable for devotees to expect some kind of benefit from worshiping Them. We deserve to at least feel guided or supported by our gods somehow; and if a deity can’t even seem to deliver that much for whatever reason, it is only natural for a person to stop worshiping Them.
The idea that we are obligated to continue worshiping a particular god no matter what They do or don’t do for (or to) us is profoundly un-Setian. I would argue it is even un-Kemetic, since each of the Netjeru can potentially receive angry tirades or threats of abandonment from Their followers. Besides, even if you scream obscenities at a Netjer, you are still communicating with Them in a heartfelt manner. You are still engaging Them in a kind of prayer. You are just praying a prayer of grievance rather than gratitude, if you will.
So I tell my friend it’s absolutely okay for them to put away their religious icons whenever they feel upset with the gods. It’s even okay for them to smash said images when they are especially distressed (provided, of course, that they actually own the icons they smash, and no person or animal gets hurt in the process, including themselves).
Learning about the Netjeru turned out to be very helpful for my friend; yet they are still trying to reconcile their past with the idea that there are actually gods out there who care about them. If this is true, they ask me, why then did the gods allow them to be harmed as children?
There is very little anyone can say to answer such a question that is actually helpful (or even truthful, in my opinion at least). All I know is, if the gods are truly gods, They are big and tough enough to take our anger, especially if it’s coming from someone who is confused and hurting very deeply.
I also don’t believe for one second that the gods hold it against anyone for being traumatized and needing help. I think Set would actually prefer that my friend curse and smash His icons to having them traumatize any of the other people in their life. No matter what they might do to His icons, my friend can at least be sure they won’t hurt Set Himself; the same cannot be said for their loved ones.
There aren’t any easy answers for when bad things happen to good people. But if you happen to find yourself in a situation similar to that of my friend, I just want someone to have told you it’s okay. Set is not going to smite anyone just for being traumatized and crying out to Him for help—not even if the only way they are currently able to seek help is combative or confrontational. (He can always smite us for other reasons, of course; but Big Red is big enough to handle our feelings, even the really bad ones.)
Coming November 1, 2021 to gbmarian.bandcamp.com
Our Lady of Thrones is the follow-up to last year’s His Nocturnal Majesty (2020). Both stories revolve around the appearance of a monster called “the Ungod” in the sky. But while His Nocturnal Majesty concerns one group of characters and their efforts to repel this monster back to the Other Side, Our Lady of Thrones concerns a very different group of characters and their efforts to rebuild human civilization. It is also a double album, with Disc One taking place prior to His Nocturnal Majesty, and Disc Two taking place afterwards.
(For more detailed character biographies, check out His Nocturnal Majesty & Our Lady of Thrones – Cast of Characters.)
The Whole Story:
Sorceress (The Prophecy)
When the Sorceress was a girl, Lady Isis spoke to her in dreams, showing her the end of the world. “You must gather as many of your sisters in humanity as you can,” the Goddess advised. “Together, go forth and build the city of New Sennebytos. Those who follow My guidance will survive to heal this world from the horror that is soon to come.”
No one knew the Witchfinder’s true name or origin, but he could hear thoughts. He knew when other people had similiar abilities to his own. He killed as many such “witches” as he could, one by one, by any means necessary. No matter what was done to stop him, the “God” that commanded him to kill would not let him die. And the Sorceress, still a young girl, was next on his list…
The Church of Many Mothers
The Sorceress traveled far and wide, bringing women together in spirit from across the continent. Caregivers, educators, public servants…all became sisters in Lady Isis, and all pooled their resources to buy land in the West. Together, they built the community of New Sennebytos and made preparations to survive the coming disaster.
When Rae first learned of the Church of Many Mothers, she thought they were just another doomsday cult. But it soon became clear the Sorceress was no false prophet. And when Rae saw for herself how safe, happy, and powerful these women were together…she began to realize she was one of them at heart.
The Reverend President
He was a televangelist. He hypnotized the masses into swallowing his toxic brand of Christianity. He advised several American presidents on both foreign and domestic policy. Then the people voted him into the White House, and the Church of Many Mothers became Public Enemy Number One.
Satanic Panic (Disciple of the Worm)
The Reverend President enlisted the aid of the Warlock, who engineered a spell to possess thousands of viewers through their television sets. Like flicking a switch, the evil magicians drove entire communities to commit acts of mass violence and terror. This horror was then blamed on “cults” like the Church of Many Mothers, and the world descended into madness.
Go With The Goddess
It was time for New Sennebytos to retreat underground, but the Sorceress refused to abandon those members of her church who had not yet escaped to the city. She sent her best warriors to rescue as many of their sisters from across the country as they could. One sister chosen for this quest was Rae, who had since taken a wife named Autumn. The lovers feared they might never see each other again.
Escape to New Sennebytos
Along with a warrior named Adrienne, Rae was assigned to rescue those Isians who were trapped in Atlanta. While there, the women were pursued by the Witchfinder. Rae sacrificed herself so that Adrienne and the other women could escape. It broke poor Autumn’s heart when her wife did not return home; but there was nothing to be done. For the end was about to begin…
The Screaming Sky
As civilization decayed, Ma’at began to unravel. Then the Ungod appeared in the sky, just as the Warlock had secretly planned. The monster’s countless tongues slithered down from its gigantic mouth to slowly encircle and devour the entire world. Most everyone who witnessed this immediately went insane. Our planet would never be the same again…
The Shieldmaiden’s Daughter (Part I)
While the Church of Many Mothers remained hidden beneath New Sennebytos, the Shieldmaiden of Set fought to survive above. One day, the Shieldmaiden found an orphaned baby girl, whom she adopted as her own. Whenever mother and daughter both felt hopeless at night, Lord Sutekh appeared and gave them comfort. “You are My Shieldmaidens,” He explained, “and the Ungod will tremble when you are near.”
After the End
After the elder Shieldmaiden of Set repelled the Ungod back to the Other Side, the earth slowly returned to life. The Church of Many Mothers returned to the surface and began to rebuild civilization. They welcomed refugees into their society, and they helped neighboring communities rebuild themselves too. The women of New Sennebytos then became legendary defenders of civility and peace.
Sentinels of Sekhmet
Meanwhile, the Reverend President and the Witchfinder had both survived as well. Together, they transformed Atlanta into a theocratic totalitarian empire: the Kingdom Guard. In time, the Church of Many Mothers sent a special taskforce—the Sentinels of Sekhmet—to infiltrate the Kingdom Guard and help those of its citizens who were trying to escape. Autumn was chosen to lead this quest. She believed her wife Rae might still be alive in Atlanta, and she was desperate to find out.
The Kingdom Guard
The Sentinels of Sekhmet infiltrated Atlanta, searching for citizens who sought refuge. While there, they witnessed just how horrible things within the Kingdom Guard really were. They were soon captured and imprisoned, whereupon they found a tortured and beaten Rae, near death. Sobbing, Autumn embraced her wife and gave thanks to Lady Isis.
The Shieldmaiden’s Daughter (Part II)
Just when the Sentinels of Sekhmet thought they were done for, the second Shieldmaiden of Set appeared, now fully grown. She helped the women break free, and she battled the Witchfinder as they made their escape. All of the women, including the Shieldmaiden, safely returned to New Sennebytos…But not in time for Rae’s life to be saved.
Back in New Sennebytos, Autumn begged the Sorceress to use her magic and restore life to Rae. The Sorceress agreed, but explained that her magic could only resurrect Rae for a limited time. Once that time was up, Rae would have to return to the Other Side with all the rest of the dead. The Sorceress performed the ceremony, and Autumn and Rae were able to spend one last night together after all.
Autumn and Rae spent their last night together in each other’s arms. Rae promised to do whatever she could as a ghost on the Other Side to help Autumn in her battles. Autumn swore she would never take another wife so long as she lived.
Warlocked (Disciple of the Worm)
Before she left this world, Rae told Autumn what she had seen as a prisoner of the Kingdom Guard. Even the Sorceress was surprised to learn the Reverend President was actually long dead, and that his corpse was but a rotting puppet. The Warlock had been the true mastermind all along, manipulating the entire Kingdom Guard for his own purposes. Now he sought to facilitate the Ungod’s return…by destroying New Sennebytos.
The Sorceress and the Witchfinder faced each other on the battlefield. The Sorceress was mighty, but even she could not phase her opponent. Then she shouted a word only the Witchfinder could hear. It was a name no one else understood. When the Witchfinder heard this, he froze like a statue…and he never moved again. Exhausted from her injuries, the Sorceress smiled…and then she died.
Defy the Ungod
The women of New Sennebytos launched their final assault against the Warlock’s hordes. They were joined in battle by the Shieldmaiden of Set, who had just returned from reuniting the Knights in Sutekh’s Service. When these mighty Setian warriors joined their Isian sisters on the battlefield, the Kingdom Guard soon dissolved into chaos.
Long Live the Queen
After defeating the Kingdom Guard, the Church of Many Mothers and the Knights in Sutekh’s Service returned to New Sennebytos. All who fell during the battle, including the Sorceress, were given the most beautiful funerals anyone had ever seen. Autumn was then coronated Pharaoh, and with their new Queen, the women of New Sennebytos went forth to continue rebuilding our world.
I have been asked before: “Why don’t you start your own church?” Here are some reasons why this is not only unnecessary for Setians, but probably undesirable as well.
The question has been raised before: why not start a new Setian church—one that speaks to those of us who actually revere and venerate Set, and which honors Him above all other gods?
It is certainly true that some things are easier to accomplish in groups, and that there are limits to what any one individual can do alone. But what exactly do we need to “do” for Set in large crowds? He does not demand to be worshiped by the masses. He is a hunter god who is always on the prowl, and who is much more concerned with saving all our butts from crazy hellbeasts than He is with micromanaging our lives. Divinities like Set are loners who tend to prefer the company of other loners, if They desire any company at all.
It will be pointed out, of course, that His Nocturnal Majesty was worshiped in certain ancient Egyptian temples. This is quite true, but Egyptian temples worked very differently than modern churches do. Their innermost sanctuaries were closed to the public, and the priestly rituals for a temple’s god(s) were generally private. Though public piety existed, the Egyptians had no concept of “going to church” as such; they more often honored their ancestors and/or the god(s) of their choice at home, or at neighborhood shrines that technically weren’t on temple grounds. Along with just being good neighbors and citizens, this was the basic template for religion in ancient Kemet; there were no dogmatic litmus tests for “membership,” and there was no real concern for what individuals might or might not believe theologically. I think it’s probably fair to say most Setians, Kemetics, and polytheists in general are already living this way by default, and we clearly don’t need a church to continue doing so.
It’s also worth noting that our Western model of religious affiliation appears to be slowly going extinct. The most vocal and visible churches continue to deny science and harbor known evildoers among their leadership. Such institutions have consistently raped, murdered, or otherwise oppressed countless innocents throughout history. The masses have grown tired of their bullshit, and church attendance is now at an all-time low. So perhaps starting a church in today’s environment would not be the wisest investment of anyone’s time and resources. Again, our god doesn’t necessarily want to be worshiped by large crowds of people anyway; nor does He want us to waste our energy fighting each other, which we are much more likely to do when we gather in large numbers. Virtually every organized religion has been fragmented by its own rival sects over time; it is human nature for groups of people to quarrel and eventually schism. I therefore see little point in trying to coordinate such a project, only to have it eventually fall apart or become corrupt.
Church corruption is most blatant when it comes to our tax exemption laws, which are meant to help them invest as much of their funding into charity as possible. This seems perfectly legit—money that is used to help others ought not to be taxed. But the problem is that most church spending around the world does not actually go into charity. Most of that spending goes into building lavish cathedrals, lobbying for (usually conservative or right-wing) political causes, and acquiring more converts (i.e., donors). In some cases, the money just goes straight into the leadership’s pockets. The truth is that churches are really more like businesses than anyone wants to admit. Time and time again, the government has given stimulus money to corporations so they can pay better wages to their employees, only for the employers to predictably keep all that money for themselves. Churches function in much the same way, except they don’t have to pay any of what they keep back to the rest of society, and the government bails them out every fucking year.
The saddest part of all this is that if we DID tax churches, we would have MORE than enough money in the national budget to shelter all of our homeless citizens, improve all of our schools, and finance other badly needed social initiatives—things churches are supposed to do with all their money, but don’t. It seems clear to me at least that organized, institutionalized religion holds us back from evolving and growing into a truly advanced society; it always has, and it always will.
I realize I must sound like an atheist to some people. I am not. My faith in Set and other divinities, though unique, is considerably devout. I did not say religion is the problem—I said that organized, institutionalized religion is the problem. We are taught in this culture to think of faith as something that must always be standardized and static, never being allowed to change. But once upon a time, religion was much more personal and fluid for the vast majority of believers across the globe. Some of us, including yours truly, still adhere to this perspective today, and it may very well become the norm again quite soon.
It is true that churches can provide avenues of critical social support for their members; yet there are safer and more sensible alternatives today. If Sally Setian needs money for an operation, we can launch a Kickstarter drive for her, and all the money donated to her will actually go to her bank account; it won’t be divided up (or outright stolen) to pay for some pastor’s new limousine. I enjoy sending donations to random people I know online who really need it whenever I can; but I would not enjoy being pressured to donate money to a church at regular intervals (upon fear of being considered “un-Setian” if I don’t).
Yet there is another, deeper reason why starting a Setian church doesn’t seem too worthwhile. We do not need to “serve” Set by “bringing more people” to Him. He neither expects nor even wants us to actively seek converts. If what we do helps others to find Him, it is a blessing and a work of great magic; but to try and aggressively expand our numbers is antithetical to the Setian disposition. It also suggests that Set needs us to go around convincing people to believe in Him, when He is perfectly capable of doing this Himself. If it is important enough to Him that someone should believe in Him for whatever reason, it is for Him and that person to decide together, and no one else. So most of us who are drawn to Set deplore proselytism, and would find the idea of “winning souls” for Him quaint at best.
I propose an alternative to all of this church nonsense: simple social networking. We are already talking to each other, collaborating with each other, and helping each other right here on the various social media we all frequent. And each of us is already doing and contributing about as much to our scene as we probably would if we were all in a church together (or in rival churches, bickering and quarreling with each other). I think this is more or less how walking with Set is meant to be. Our faith is not a dogma but an art, and our god is not a micromanager but a muse. Must artists join organized groups with rules and regulations to be artists? No, that isn’t how art works; and it isn’t how Setianism works either. We are not a congregation in need of a church; we’re more like a bunch of individual artists who just network with each other as needed or desired.
As a final note, some readers and listeners have referred to the LV-426 Tradition as a “church.” Just to be clear: we are not and have never claimed to be any such thing. LV-426 currently consists of only four people who grew up knowing each other; so I would sooner describe us as “a very small coven” at best.
I am sincerely grateful to Setken, Siobhan Welch, and several other beloved friends and family for their generous help in preparing this sermon for the public, and for encouraging me to preach again. Thank you all, and thank Set for each of you.
Forget what you think you “learned” from The Exorcist (1973) about Pazuzu, and join this mighty deity as He quests against both human and spiritual cruelty.
The last several months of my life have been quite painful, and I imagine I am not alone in this respect. Yet the gods are merciful and good, and one of them in particular saw fit to help me just recently, even though I have never specifically reached out to Him before.
Pazuzu is another ancient god who, like Set, has an extremely bad reputation today, thanks largely to William Peter Blatty and his novel, The Exorcist (i.e., the source material for the 1973 movie). It is interesting that Blatty would choose an explicitly Pagan deity for his novel’s antagonist, rather than one of the fallen angels from his own religious lore.
Far from possessing little girls and making them vomit pea soup or spider-walk up and down staircases, Pazuzu was commonly invoked in ancient times to protect pregnant mothers and newborn children from horrific monsters, most especially the night demon Lamashtu. Sure, He’s creepy and He’s kooky (again, much like Set), and He ain’t much for sunshine and rainbows. But no matter how “evil” people think Pazuzu might be, He clearly hates bullies who harm the defenseless; and though the identity of His mother in Assyro-Babylonian mythology seems unclear, I get a strong feeling that Pazuzu loves His mother very much indeed.
Last week, Pazuzu “possessed” me to record a new album in His honor (ha ha). I could barely sleep or even take any breaks while I put this puppy together. It HAD to be finished last week for some reason; imagine my surprise when I suddenly remembered that Friday was Walpurgis Night!
Anyway, this is my attempt at setting the record straight about Pazuzu, and at providing something good and helpful for His worshipers who live today. Working on this has been an incredibly healing experience; I pray that Pazuzu enjoys it, and that others will too.
One time in the 2000s, the Tonester and I were invited to participate in a Pagan meetup down in central Texas. We were so excited, we stayed up all night the previous evening to bake a shit-ton of chocolate chip cookies. Then we put on our best black duds and went to the meetup.
When we arrived, we found we were two of the only three men present, and that everyone else at the meetup was a Wiccan. They took one look at our black clothes and our horned pentagram necklaces and thought we were bad news. And they were really weirded out by the fact that we had made so many chocolate chip cookies. They were like, “Who the hell are these devil worshipers, and why did they bring cookies?”
We tried to make friends and explain what we were all about; but things didn’t go well. As soon as we mentioned Set’s name, we received the standard response: “Isn’t He the bad guy of the Egyptian pantheon? Why would you worship the bad guy?” And when we attempted to explain, we were chastised for “not being Pagan enough.” Everything we told them about Ma’at, isfet, and Set’s war against
Apep sounded “too Christian” to them. They seemed to think we had simply taken Christianity and replaced Jesus with an Egyptian devil-god. They didn’t believe that anything we were talking about had actually originated from Egypt.
After a while, it became clear that we just weren’t welcome (despite the fact that everyone seemed to enjoy our cookies). So we left and went home. We put so much energy into this event, and we really tried our best to be cordial and make friends. But we were treated like creeps, and it was demoralizing. We never went to another Pagan meetup again after that.
The word Pagan comes from the Latin paganus, which means “country dweller.” When the Roman Empire adopted Christianity as its official state religion, pagan was applied to virtually anyone who refused to convert—with the insinuation being that non-Christians were primitive, backward yokels. No one in history ever referred to themselves as a Pagan until after the Industrial Revolution, when artists of the Romantic movement started incorporating ancient polytheist ideas into their work. Since then, Pagan has become a “catch-all” term for various new religious movements that each take their inspiration from nature and ancient mythology in some way (e.g., Wicca, Druidism, Heathenry, Kemeticism, etc.). It does not actually denote any particular theology, philosophy, or creed; it is simply a collective “safe space” for several religious communities that just don’t feel welcome anywhere else.
So when Pagans alienate other Pagans from this “safe space,” it is especially hypocritical. Even Wiccans know what it is like to have people call Child Protection Services on you simply for identifying as a “witch.” You would think, therefore, that they would be a little more sympathetic to other Pagans who struggle with similar prejudices. But in my experience, people generally deal with persecution by trying to shift it on to somebody else. This ugly tendency is every bit as true of Pagans as it is of other religious communities.
Sometimes when people ask about my religion, they get confused because of all the different terms that can be applied to it. I prefer to identify as a Setian, but I can also be described as a Kemetic polytheist. And of course, I include myself beneath the Pagan umbrella (even though certain other Pagans would prefer that I didn’t). But really, Pagan is my least favorite self-label. It can be very useful for networking purposes; but apart from that, it is practically meaningless.
When I was 14 years old, I had an experience that convinced me the Egyptian god Set is real. That was the moment I first became a Setian. But over the years, I would experience several crises of faith. I alternated between thinking Set is actually real and thinking I am just imagining things.
It didn’t help that there were people in my life who were obsessed with “proving me wrong” about my beliefs. The Christians I knew were most obvious, assaulting me with their apologetics and their conversion tactics. I never minded them that much, because none of their arguments were ever based on logic. They were rooted instead in emotions (“Don’t you want to go to heaven with the rest of your family?”), and they all hinged on biblical scriptures. These people didn’t understand that the Bible has no bearing on my life at all. It’s like trying to convince a Star Trek fan they are “wrong” by quoting Star Wars at them; it’s just NOT going to work.
But the people who really succeeded in shaking my faith at times were the militant atheists I knew. They would laugh at me for believing in Egyptian gods, claiming this is somehow “even sillier” than being a Christian. They constantly asked me things like, “What proof do you have for your beliefs? Why should I believe any of this?” Few of them understood that I am not interested in “proving” my beliefs to other people; nor am I interested in “converting” anyone. But they all seemed to take great relish in putting me on the spot, embarrassing me, and making me feel humiliated.
Whenever I started to think that maybe the atheists were right and maybe I really was just imagining things, it made me terribly depressed. My walk with Set is the one thing that truly helped me determine myself in my life, and to think that it might simply be a “delusion” was very upsetting to me indeed. There were other experiences that contributed to such crises of faith, as well, including a suicidal depression in high school and some truly terrible experiences I had while meeting up with other esotericists during my twenties. Such experiences were cited as “proof” by my tormentors that my spiritual interests were simply a recipe for madness, saying I should “get wise” and resign myself to atheism.
In 2007, I made a pilgrimage to Malvern, Pennsylvania, which is where I was living when Set first exploded into my life back in 1997. I needed to see my old stomping grounds and visit all the woodsy areas I used to frequent. There is one area in the woods by Malvern where I always used to pray and worship back in the early days. This area is called Duffy’s Cut, and much to my surprise, they uncovered a mass grave of Irish railroad workers there at some point after I moved to Texas. So when I returned to Malvern and visited Duffy’s Cut, I thanked the ancestors who had been buried there for letting me use their place of rest for my rituals.
Just being there, in that place where Set and I first met, re-awakened something truly powerful in me. And when I returned from that pilgrimage to Duffy’s Cut, I no longer cared what my atheist colleagues said to me. None of their attacks on my faith bothered me anymore. They were completely missing the point, and they had succeeded in making me miss the point as well. But no more.
The point is that it really doesn’t matter if Set (or any other god) is actually “real” or not. Even if the atheists are right and it IS all just make-believe, this still would not negate the efficacy of my spiritual work. Just believing in Set and working to emulate Him throughout my life has saved me from self-annihilation time and time again. Even if Set is just a fictional character, praying to Him and making offerings to Him has had a profoundly positive impact on my life. This does not “prove” that He is real by any means; but it does indicate that He is real enough, and that Setianism is a powerful tool regardless of whether “the supernatural” actually exists or not.
And no one has any business busting my chops for utilizing a tool that helps me to improve myself (especially if THEY are in need of some serious self-improvement, themselves!).
I have not had any crises of faith since I made this realization in 2007. This is not to say that everything has been all peaches and cream. There are times when I actually don’t find this stuff very useful, and I have to put it away and take a break for a while. This has nothing to do with losing faith; it is simply a matter of needing to rest my brain or focus on something else for the time being. Setianism does not work like Christianity, where there is all this pressure to absolutely “buy into” the belief system all the time. This stuff is always here when we need it, and we can also put it away whenever we don’t.
Furthermore, Setians should never feel guilty about needing to take breaks from their quests. Set does not expect any of us to be Terminators. He doesn’t expect us to put Him before ourselves all the time. He also doesn’t judge or condemn anyone for lapsing in their faith or their practice. Set wants His children to be fully autonomous and self-determined, and sometimes this means doing things without Him if you need to for any reason. He is not bothered by this at all; nor does He consider it any kind of “sin” or “offense.” He understands these issues better than most any other deity, and He is always there waiting for us when we need Him again.
For personal reasons, I don’t feel comfortable recording sermons for my podcast at present. I will likely get back to that eventually, as I do not intend to stop producing In the Desert of Set.
But since the holidays, I have only felt comfortable expressing myself in pictures. I would like to try expressing myself in words again, but I need to regain my footing with electronic print before I can feel comfortable with public speaking again.
I’m not prepared to produce the kind of in-depth content I have been writing for the podcast up until recently, or at least not yet. So I will be focusing on writing shorter offerings; hence this new Updates page featured on my website.
It may be some time before I return to producing the podcast; but Set has Opened my Mouth, and I must speak no matter what. If pictures and brief blurbs are the only way I can do so right now, then so be it.
Set’s Will be done.
O Dazzling One!
You who were made desolate,
But who never dies!
You who were rejected,
But who always saves the dawn!
Straighten my spine!
Make strong my limbs!
Open my mouth!
You are what makes me to STAND!
You are what makes me to FIGHT!
You are what makes me to SPEAK!
The Serpent strikes me every day,
But I will NOT be stopped!
I will NOT be rendered powerless!
I will NOT be kept silent!
Holy Outlaw! Divine Rebel!
You who lay tyrants to waste!
Put me to Your holy work!
Do not let me stop
Until MA’AT HERSELF
Decrees my descent!
May I never EVER stop
Bringing joy to loved ones
And strangers alike!
May the Serpent TREMBLE
Whenever I pass near!
SO MOTE IT BE!
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.
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.
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.
A Setian midnight mass performed and recorded for an imaginary AM radio station.
For tonight’s episode of “In the Desert of Set,” we are brought to you live from the First Typhonian Anabaptist Church of Grover’s Mill, Pennsylvania by Hem Sutekh Radio, WZLP AM 770.
We now give you Reverend G.B. Marian, Priest of Set in the LV-426 Tradition, who will now lead tonight’s Midnight Mass.
Happy Holidays from LV-426!
Thoughts on Nehebukau, the holy Snake God, and the concept of Snake People, with an analysis of their appropriation by modern pop culture and conspiracy theorists.
It’s important to understand that snakes are not a universal symbol of “evil” in Kemetic or ancient Egyptian lore. Actually they are more like angels, a special class of preternatural being. There are good snakes like Wadjet and Meretseger who serve Atum-Ra the Creator; and there are also bad snakes that serve
Apep and who seek to disintegrate all things. One story of Nehebukau is that He was originally one of the bad snakes; but this was only because of a pinched nerve in His spine that was hurting Him real bad, making Him terribly grouchy. Eventually, Ra healed Nehebukau by touching His back and fixing that nerve, and the latter has been a good and holy snake ever since, working Ma’at and assisting sentient beings through their various kheperu or transformations in life and the afterlife (what might be called a “shedding of skins”). In this way, Nehebukau fits right in with some of the other gods I hold most dear. Like Set and Taweret, He’s kind of like a monster that learned to be better, and who is in a very unique position to empathize with humans in our struggles against isfet.
To be clear: when I refer to “the Snake God,” I am referring to Nehebukau, and not to the monster
Apep. When I refer to “the Chaos Serpent,” the situation is reversed. The distinction here is that Nehebukau is a proper god or Netjer, while Apep is more like an “ungod.” If it confuses anyone that I would use “snake” and “serpent” in different ways like this, just remember the comparison to angels above. Nehebukau is no mere angel (and neither is Apep for that matter), but one might say Nehebukau is a Snake God in the same way that Gabriel is a “holy angel,” while Apep is a Chaos Serpent in the same way that Satan is a “fallen angel.” There are additional good male snake gods among the Netjeru as well (e.g., Geb, Mehen, etc.); but as I have not personally interacted with any of them myself, Nehebukau is the particular Netjer I mean to invoke when I write “Snake God” in capital letters.
Prior to collaborating with Setken on Hymn To The Soul Serpent (Hymn To Nehebukau), I don’t recall actually being that cognizant of Nehebukau before. I recall seeing Him in Egyptian art in His winged, double-headed serpent form from time to time; but it wasn’t until my exposure to Setken’s artistry that I remember seeing the Snake God depicted in a humanoid form (as exemplified in Setken’s Study For The Netjeru!: Nehebukau). Apart from just being really fucking beautiful, Setken’s paintings spoke to something buried deep within the furthest regions of my memory. It was not until we were almost ready to release Hymn to the Soul Serpent that I suddenly realized just what these sacred icons were actually reminding me of.
(When Setken first proposed the Hymn to the Soul Serpent project to me, I mistook him for saying “Nekhebet,” and I immediately started studying footage of vultures for inspiration. When I realized my mistake, I apologized to to Nehebukau profusely, even though I am reasonably certain He wasn’t actually offended. But perhaps some kind of project for Nekhebet might be on the horizon!)
This is probably going to get me into trouble (more on this later), but I’ve had a fascination with the idea of reptile people for as long as I can remember. I think my first exposure to this was from watching He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. I also collected the dolls (or “action figures,” if it really bothers other men so much), and my absolute favorites were the Snake Men. King Hiss looked like a normal dude, but his entire torso came apart to reveal his true form as a writhing mass of vipers. Tung Lashor had a super-long poison tongue that came rocketing out of his mouth when you operated the button on his back. And Rattlor’s neck could extend with quite some force, rendering him somewhat hazardous around children’s eyeballs. These characters were not featured in the He-Man cartoons, but the dolls came with miniature comic books that explained their background stories and such.
According to the comic that came with King Hiss, the Snake Men are native to He-Man’s homeworld, Eternia, and they controlled a powerful empire long before the reign of King Randor. They were banished to some alternate dimension, but the evil wizard Skeletor found a way to bring them back. Thanks to He-Man, Skeletor only succeeded in facilitating the return of three Snake Men: King Hiss, Tung Lashor, and Rattlor. The Snake Men then launched a campaign to return the rest of their kind to Eternia, so they could invade and enslave humanity once more.
Is any of this starting to sound familiar to you yet? In Episode #10 of this series, I discuss one of my least favorite anti-Setian tropes in popular culture: the theme of an “evil snake god” called “Set” who was banished to an alternate dimension, who has legions of “Serpent Men” under his command, and who seeks to return and invade the world of human beings. This theme originates from the short fantasy fiction of Robert E. Howard (creator of Conan the Cimmerian and Kull the Conqueror), and it gained even more traction when Marvel Comics was licensed to adapt Howard’s fiction into its own fictional universe in the 1970s. Since then, the “Set and His evil Serpent Men” trope has emerged in countless cartoons, movies, role-playing games, and science fiction TV shows. He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, with its Snake Men and their tyrannical King Hiss, just happens to be the most obvious example of this trend.
One thing I disliked about He-Man was the fact that these Snake Men were bad guys. I have always loved snakes, especially the non-lethal ones like garter snakes, and I always thought it would be neat if these characters could have been heroes instead. I remember imagining my own Saturday morning cartoon shows where the heroes were all benevolent Snake People (with badass edgy names like Queen Hissteria and Big Bad Mamba), and the bad guys were just normal-looking humans. Curiously, the animated He-Man series does feature another race of snake people, the Reptons, who are peaceful and kind. (One of them, Kobra Khan, is one of Skeletor’s goons; but the show makes it clear that Khan is just a bad egg, and the rest of the Reptons are cool.) But when it comes to stories that add a little more dimension to this concept than what I usually expect, my life changed forever when I saw Doctor Who.
No, I’m not talking about the newer Who series that’s been in production since 2005. I speak to you of those lost long days when the only way you could catch Doctor Who here in the States was by watching PBS and sitting through all those passive aggressive pledge drives they used to do, where they’d threaten us with no Doctor Who ever again if we didn’t call in to buy that nifty coffee mug with the disappearing TARDIS. During the Jon Pertwee years, there were two serials that dealt with the theme of reptile people specifically: The Silurians and The Sea Devils, written by Malcolm Hulke. In the first of these adventures, the Doctor (who is currently stuck on earth with an inoperative TARDIS) learns there was another intelligent species that ruled this planet long before humans evolved from apes. These reptile people are not aliens, but native to earth. They went into hibernation deep underground when their advanced astronomy detected the incoming comet that eventually wiped out the dinosaurs. Their machines were supposed to awaken them shortly after the disaster, but a malfunction caused them to remain in suspended animation until they were accidentally revived by human nuclear testing during the 1970s.
Having resurfaced, the reptile people are understandably distressed to find their planet invaded by ultraviolent hairless apes. Some of them are willing to try and co-exist with us peacefully, and the Doctor tries his best to facilitate an arrangement to this effect. But racists on both the human and reptilian sides of this dispute eventually stifle this hope, with the reptiles unleashing their biological warfare upon us, and the humans bombing all the rest of their hibernation chambers. In the second of these serials, the Doctor encounters another tribe of reptile people who belong to an aquatic subspecies, and the whole thing starts all over again. (Things are made even worse this time by the Master, played by Roger Delgado, who actively seeks to escalate the conflict between humans and reptilians.) Doctor Who lore is curiously divided as to how the reptilian characters in these stories are to be identified, but when I was a kid at least, I always went by the Malcolm Hulke novelizations, which refer to the land-dwelling reptilians as Silurians and their oceanic cousins as Sea Devils.
I remember CRYING a lot whenever I watched these episodes of Doctor Who, to the point that my parents were concerned I was actually scared and would have nightmares. But while I did find this stuff disturbing, it wasn’t because it was scary; it was because it was sad. I thought the Silurians and the Sea Devils were cool, and I wanted things to work out so that everybody can share this planet together and get along. I will admit that I was very young at the time, and I didn’t yet grasp that this was all just make-believe. But I also remember that when I got a little older and I first learned about some of the colonialist atrocities that have been (and still are) perpetuated against Native Americans, my initial reaction was to reflect back on Malcolm Hulke’s stories and the profound emotional reactions they invoked in me. The difference, though, is that THIS WAS FUCKING REAL, it ACTUALLY HAPPENED, it is most certainly NOT make-believe. And learning THAT horrible truth (in addition to others) has kept me awake at night far more than any scary TV show ever could. (Somehow, I sense that if I could ask Malcolm Hulke about this today, he would tell me this was exactly his point in writing these awesome stories.)
Incidentally, the Silurians and Sea Devils return in a few later Doctor Who adventures, but Malcolm Hulke had nothing to do with these serials, and I am not really a fan. In the 1983 episode Warriors of the Deep, the Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison) ends up wiping out two combined tribes of terrestrial and aquatic reptilians all at once. Sure, Davison makes a fantastic Doctor, and he clearly doesn’t WANT to commit genocide against the reptilians; but he does it anyway, and it’s gross, and there is no text or subtext about colonialism anywhere to be seen. It’s just “We gotta kill the people with animal heads so the humans can live.” This leaves the whole story feeling way too hollow and mean-spirited for my tastes.
Decades later, the new Doctor Who series re-introduced the Silurians during the Matt Smith era. These episodes deal with Malcolm Hulke’s creations much more respectfully, and I really enjoy the idea of a badass lady Silurian living in Victorian England and kicking hiney to help the Doctor save the world and stuff. I believe they even wrote it that at some point in Earth’s future history, humans and reptilians really do learn to co-exist. This is definitely a major victory as far as my inner child is concerned; but I just can’t stand the new makeup design for the Silurians. Old Silurians (and Sea Devils) actually look like people with reptile heads, much like the Serpent Men from Conan and the Snake Men from Masters of the Universe. The new versions are really just people with reptile skin, and they don’t resemble the beloved creatures from my childhood enough to resonate. Still, I do enjoy the fact that Doctor Who‘s reptile people have at least been vindicated in terms of their collective story arc after all these years.
Another show in which Robert E. Howard’s Serpent Men resurface is Hasbro’s G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero. In the 1987 animated film adaptation of the popular cartoon series, it is revealed that the international terrorist organization Cobra is really just a front for an ancient civilization called Cobra-La, which of course was populated by Snake People. These reptilians naturally seek to reclaim what they perceive to be their stolen earth, and the entire history of Cobra as a human totalitarian human regime is really just one more phase in their long game.
I don’t remember owning any G.I. Joe dolls, but I remember really enjoying the cartoon and its huge ensemble of diverse and fairly well-developed characters (especially my first true love, the Baroness Anastasia Cisarovna). But imagine my surprise when I learned that Cobra wasn’t actually created by Hasbro, which launched the toyline. Rather, it was “invented” by Marvel Comics, which was commissioned to write a story for Hasbro when it re-launched its catalogue in the 1980s. The writers at Marvel pointed out that the heroes needed some villains to fight if there were going to be any story worth telling; and for lack of any better alternative, they more or less cloned the concept of Hydra—the terrorist organization battled by superhero teams like the Avengers—and re-named it “Cobra.”
Like Cobra, Hydra was originally founded by ancient reptilians, who later infiltrated human governments for their own purposes, including that of Nazi Germany. Then there’s the fact that many of Hydra’s most infamous members are named after snakes in one way or another, including Viper/Madame Hydra, Gorgon, Anaconda, etc. But there’s an extra layer here: the Serpent Men who founded Hydra turn out to be the very same Serpent Men who serve the “evil snake god” Set in Howard’s Kull and Conan tales. This bastardization of Set has even appeared throughout Marvel Comics as an actual character for superheroes like the Avengers to fight. This is ironic given that the real Egyptian god Set also makes a personal appearance in an episode of G.I. Joe; but as discussed in Episode #10, G.I. Joe was much much closer to the mark! Its version of Set doesn’t appear to be involved with the civilization of Cobra-La, either.
Now I must return to my earlier point about how writing about all of this will probably get me into some trouble with some people. (It’s okay, I don’t really care—this is all for Nehebukau, to whom I shall return in just a moment!) I am sure readers in the know are already chomping at the bit for me to touch on reptilian humanoid conspiracy theories and the bizarre subcultures they have bred in real life. I’m referring of course to the belief some people have that there are actual reptilians living among us here on earth. These people mostly take their cue from the exact same source: David Icke, a pseudoscientist and total huckster. Since the late 1990’s, Icke has popularized this belief that reptilians from a planet orbiting Alpha Draconis invaded our planet way back in ancient times. They were mistakenly worshiped as “gods” by “wayward” people like the ancient Egyptians, and they continue to infiltrate modern human governments (including the entire Bush family, no less). Furthermore, this ancient alien reptile conspiracy is supposed to kidnap little children and drain them of their spinal fluid so it can be fed to Hillary Clinton, who is herself alleged to be a reptilian warlord in disguise. (Icke even manages to tie his evil reptilians together with Nazi Germany somehow, which explains the trope of Adolf Hitler secretly floating around the Arctic in submarines with reptile people.)
There are so many things wrong with David Icke’s bullshit, it’s impossible for me to address each particular grievance in today’s sermon. But my most immediate critiques are that Icke’s take on ancient civilizations is hopelessly racist; his encouragement of secularized Satanic Panic nonsense is absolutely deporable; and worst of all, domestic terrorists have adopted his anti-reptilian routine, trying to assassinate politicians they believe are reptilians. Yet there is something else wrong with all of this that should hopefully be CRYSTAL fucking clear by this point, given everything I have already explained above:
It’s ALL fiction, and NONE of it is original.
Robert E. Howard made a lot of this crap up back in the 1920s. Then Marvel Comics came along and made up some more in the 1970s. Then a bunch of Saturday morning cartoons boosted the signal for it during the 1980s. And of course there have been countless other science fiction authors and media properties that have played around with the concept in one way or another. David Icke never wrote any of his conspiracy theory bullshit until the late 1990s, by which point the meme had already been well established in popular culture. So it’s pretty fucking clear that he plagiarized his entire routine from a bunch of cartoons and comic books. And the assholes who are willing to kill people over this shit are really doing it for nothing.
Here’s the thing: I do not actively believe there are any reptilian humanoids living on this earth, or at least not in the sense of “ancient aliens” (more on this below). I’m not saying it isn’t possible; I just haven’t found any evidence to substantiate such an idea. But even if I did, I would quicker assume such entities are just as native to this world as we are, and that they have just as much right to be here as we do. I don’t believe any of this nonsense about aliens controlling human governments; human beings are the single most dangerous creatures on this planet, we don’t need extraterrestrials to make us any better at wreaking havoc. If there ARE any Snake People around, they’re probably HIDING from us because they’re fucking SCARED TO DEATH of us!
And to assume that an entire sentient race would be inherently evil simply because it evolved from reptiles is, to call a spade a spade, racist. WE evolved from motherfucking APES, and apes do some pretty fucked-up shit you know. Maybe it’s just because I grew up learning important lessons about these things from Captain Jean-Luc Picard; but I see no reason to assume a civilized reptilian people would be any worse at respecting Ma’at or fighting isfet than civilized simian peoples apparently are. (I can already read the emails from Icke’s zombie followers, skewering me for being some dumb, deluded PR boy for the Visitors who want to eat me and my family!)
The thing is, there are other people who believe in real reptilians so to speak, and who hold more sensible views about them than anything offered by David Icke. The most prevalent example of this would be Hindu, Buddhist, and other Asian religious belief systems that acknowledge the Nagas. These semi-divine creatures can appear as snakes, people, or any variety of human/serpentine hybrid. They are believed to have pre-existed humans, and while they can be good or evil just like us, most of them appear to be dutiful servants of the Devas (the Hindu gods). They enjoy living in rivers, lakes, oceans and raindrops, and they guard all kinds of ancient knowledge and treasures. Though they are not necessarily gods, the Nagas are often venerated with offerings, which helps to attract good fortune. Much of this is echoed in Chinese folk beliefs about dragons, as well. Lóng or Chinese dragons are also shapeshifters who can appear human and who bring good luck to those who show them the proper gratitude and respect.
I first learned about the Nagas not from a textbook or a cartoon show, but from my best friend in second grade, a boy named Pawan. Pawan and his family were Indian American immigrants and deeply observant Hindus. I remember seeing various images of the Devas whenever I visited their apartment. I do not recall which sect or tradition Pawan and his family might have followed (and being only eight years old or so, I lacked the head space to even formulate such a question at the time). But I remember asking Pawan’s mother to tell me about the Nagas, and she seemed really happy to share some stories with me. It must have been crazy to have this weird little white boy from next door take such a genuine interest in her family’s culture and heritage!
But then I would go home and tell my parents about this stuff. For some reason, they were only okay with such beliefs as long as it was Pawan and his family practicing them. I received every indication that it is only acceptable for white people to be Christians and believe in one god, even though neither of my parents has ever been a committed religious believer of any kind. Much later I would meet some of David Icke’s followers (most of whom are white), who insisted to me that both Naga and Lóng veneration is really just another part of the evil reptilian plot to murder children and keep the world hypnotized. When these people claim that Asians are actually venerating evil demons or aliens—or if they suggest that such religious traditions are “beneath” white people for any reason—they are blatantly endorsing Christian white supremacism; full stop.
Furthermore, neither the Nagas nor the Lóng are space aliens that ride around in spaceships. There are no tales about them eating people or operating any nefarious shadow governments. They are nature spirits and religious figures, not science fiction monsters. The same is true of other Snake People who are acknowledged in other cultures too, including African Mami Wata spirits and Native American horned serpents. This begs the question: could the ancient Egyptians have believed in something similar? There doesn’t appear to be any specific term in Egyptian for “serpent man” or “snake person” (or at least not that I have found just yet); but perhaps this would have been redundant. The Egyptians appear to have regarded normal, everyday snakes as sentient creatures with magical powers. How else could serpents be held accountable to Ma’at, with the good snakes serving Ra and the evil snakes following
Apep? This distinction makes little sense, at least to me, unless we stop to consider that maybe snakes are actually people too!
Which helps me circle back to the Netjeru. It is curious that I never felt drawn to any particular Egyptian snake deities until Setken first proposed that we collaborate on his Hymn to the Soul Serpent project together. Only then did it occur to me that everything I ever needed to justify my enthusiasm for snakes (whether as animals, sentient beings, or magical anthropoids) is already included in the belief system I already follow. And when I laid eyes on Setken’s humanoid portrayals of Nehebukau, I was taken back to those far-off days when I would play with my Snake Men dolls; when I would weep over the Silurians and the Sea Devils; when I secretly rooted for Cobra or Hydra as reptilian freedom fighters; and when I listened to Pawan’s mother explain to me about the Nagas. Could it be that Nehebukau was looking in on me even back then, thinking, “This is the kid I want to co-write a song for Me someday”? Could it have been His double-headed wisdom that helped me see through all of David Icke’s bullshit when it was first presented to me? Hell; I reckon Set and Nehebukau probably both had all of this arranged somehow before I was even born!
Writing one song isn’t all I think I am meant to do, either. I think Nehebukau has probably put all of this stuff into my brain for some kind of purpose, and I mean to put it to use somehow. This very likely means another album will soon be in the works. I always wanted to make movies when I grew up; and failing that, I enjoy adapting some of my old story pitches from childhood into “soundtracks” for films that don’t exist (as with Summer’s End and His Nocturnal Majesty, with which I am very happy). I’ve successfully introduced the crimefighting mummy Het-Sem-Peckinpah to the world, as well as the mysterious Knights In Sutekh’s Service. Now that my Halloween and apocalypse “movies” have been taken care of, so to speak, perhaps it is time to revisit my old sword-and-sorcery “movie” pitch as well. It could be that Queen Hissteria, Big Bad Mamba, and other Saurian Warriors of Basilisk Basilica will soon be making an appearance…
One Setian’s take on ancient Egyptian concepts of the self—including our bodies, souls, spirits, hearts, shadows, names, and the hope for unification of these features into a multidimensional whole after death.
The way I read the Heliopolitan cosmogony at least, human beings are not creations or playthings of the Netjeru (gods); we are their younger and less powerful relatives, a race of living demigods. As discussed in Episode #19, every sentient being can be considered an avatar or incarnation of Atum-Ra, the Creator. This is evident from the fact that people can use heka (magic or spirituality) to work Ma’at (truth, balance, order, and interconnectedness) against isfet (falsehood, toxicity, injustice, and disintegration), just as the gods do. But while the gods work Ma’at together up at their higher, more cosmic levels of existence, it is our responsibility to work Ma’at here on earth as their mortal counterparts. In this way, the war between the Netjeru and
Apep or other powers of isfet is reflected in even the most mundane human struggles against evil, no matter how small or mundane they might seem.
Given this, it is important to understand what it actually means to be the Great He-She incarnate. It is not a license to just do whatever we want; for even the gods aren’t perfect, and any mistakes they make could have cataclysmic consequences for everyone (including themselves). The same is equally true of people, who run around wasting natural resources, splitting atoms, and unleashing terrible pollution and plagues upon this world. We have such remarkable power and potential, but we have so little patience for delay of gratification that we have fucked up the planet and each other well beyond measure. If we do not want our world to fall apart, we must each take responsibility like the gods do by upholding Ma’at and abjuring isfet. This is not just a call to behave ethically, but a real spiritual battle, a lifelong magical quest. Both here and in Duat (the Spirit World), the best way to help ourselves is by helping others, and the best way to destroy ourselves is by destroying others.
The ancient Egyptians believed the human self consists of several multidimensional components. The following is neither an exhaustive list nor a definitive explanation of what these components actually are; it is simply how I conceptualize them personally, at least at present. While I like to think I know my stuff when it comes to Set, I really can’t claim to be an “expert” on Kemetic Soul Anatomy. I therefore reserve the right to adjust my opinions on these topics as I acquire more knowledge over time.
I should also clarify that I am not a Kemetic reconstructionist exactly. My walk with Set is definitely influenced by Kemetic sources, but I have also been deeply influenced by Western occultism, which has been known to take some mighty big liberties with Egyptian thought. (Just look at Thelema.) LV-426 Setians like me are probably every bit as eclectic in our approach to the Other Side as most Western occultists are; but we also pride ourselves on being crystal clear about what is actually “Kemetic” and what is not. That being said, I am not prepared to claim that what I have written about the Egyptian concept of the self below is 100% authentically Kemetic; these are just my own thoughts on the matter (such as they may be), so take from them what you will.
The most obvious component of the self is the physical body, which the Egyptians called the khat. Images are magical windows to alternate universes, and there is no greater image for the self than one’s very own material form. In the West we tend to dissociate ourselves from our bodies all the time, but this ontological dualism does not exist so much in Kemetic belief. To me at least, it is more a matter of the body being a “seed” in which our incorporeal aspects are fundamentally rooted. We aren’t souls born into bodies; we are bodies from whence souls sprout! So essential is the khat to the self’s existence that its preservation was deemed absolutely critical to having a pleasant afterlife; hence the tradition of mummification. For those whose corpses are lost or destroyed, new images can be created to serve as magical surrogates (statues, drawings, etc.).
I think even the Netjeru have khatu or physical bodies; it’s just that their blood and bones are in plants, animals, the elements, and other natural phenomena. When we see their actual flesh, we think we are just observing weather patterns, seasonal changes, or astronomical events; but our ecosystem is just as alive with soul and spirit as we are. It is when we grasp this principle that we can actually peek beyond the Veil and into Duat. There are also tales of the Netjeru having lived right here on earth with literal bodies as we understand them (and with flesh made of gold and bones made of silver, to boot). There is a point in Egyptian mythology where the history of the world transitions from being linear to becoming cyclical. When the gods still walked this earth, time was linear, with events unfolding between the Netjeru from beginning to middle to end; but when the gods ascended to the heavens, nature switched to following cyclical time. What were once linear events for the gods are now cyclical events that we experience here on earth over and over again as the seasons, the human reproductive cycle, etc.
In our Western vernacular, little distinction is ever made between the concepts of “soul” and “spirit.” These terms are used interchangeably in any number of different contexts, but I prefer to differentiate between the two as carefully as I can. The Egyptians distinguished between the ba and the ka, which I use as my benchmarks on this matter. The ba, represented as a human-headed bird, was conceived as the innermost personality of a sentient being, which is how I tend to conceptualize “the soul.” The ka, represented as a doppelganger that follows a person throughout their entire life, is more like a secondary, invisible body that individual can use to interact with things in Duat. This is more or less what I mean when I refer to “the spirit.” So your soul is like the part of you that consistently stays the same, no matter how much you might kheper or transform over time. Your spirit is more like the part of you that can touch or be touched by gods and other spirits (living or discarnate).
There is also a story about the god Khnum sculpting the bodies and spirits of unborn children on his potter’s wheel, then placing them within the wombs of expectant mothers. This is such a powerful image; it evokes how the ka is like a twin version of yourself that occupies the exact same points in time and space that you do, but in a slightly different dimension you might say. Heka or magic is the art of learning to use your ka or spirit to create change, as opposed to implementing more conventional physical methods. For example, the logic behind a healing spell (as I see it at least) is that you are basically sending regenerative vibes to the recipient’s spirit from your own, which will hopefully heighten the recipient’s chances for a speedy recovery. Even a thoughtful “Get Well” card can be an incredibly magical act in this regard, for it is literally a matter of trying to “lift” the other person’s spirit.
This applies to when we have spiritual experiences with gods or ancestors, too. Whenever I have a vision of Set, for example, I think of it as a matter of Set’s spirit interacting with mine, not of me actually seeing a literal Sha-headed man with my physical eyes. We physically observe Set with the eyes of our khatu all the time whenever we observe thunderstorms, donkeys, the Big Dipper, or even people with red hair. But when we bear witness to Set in ways that most people would call “supernatural,” we are actually seeing one or more of the kau or spiritual bodies of the god—and we are seeing these kau with the eyes of our own kau as well.
Each of the holy Netjeru has multiple bau or souls as well. The way I read it, this speaks to how there are really multiple universes, infinite timelines brought forth from the Big Bang, that moment when the First Netjer awakened and determined themself. In some realities, that Netjer determined themself as Atum-Ra; in others, they determined themself as Ptah, Amun, Neith, etc. (There might even be a universe where Set is the Creator!) There is probably some other dimension where I’m gay and married to one of my best male friends. Or maybe I’m a woman who lives alone in the woods somewhere with a passel of cats. Maybe I’m a hip crime fighter in one world, and a devious supervillain in another. Whomever and whatever I might be in whichever reality we care to consider, I think of these alternate personalities as my various bau or souls; they may be different versions of me, but they are all still me. (Just like Doctor Who is still the Doctor, whether they are being played by Jon Pertwee or Jodie Whittaker.)
Another core component of the self in Kemetic thought is the ib or “heart,” by which the Egyptians meant the literal bodily organ (as opposed to a purely figurative concept of “heart,” like in Captain Planet or something). Advanced as they were, the ancient Egyptians didn’t realize the brain is the body part that enables us to think; they identified the heart as serving this function instead. It was considered to be the seat of a person’s consciousness, as well as the part of their body where their khat and their ka are connected.
When a person’s ib or heart stopped, the khat, ba, and ka were all separated. The spirit would remain with the corpse while the soul was guided by Anubis or another psychopomp to the Hall of Judgment in Duat. There the soul underwent the Weighing of the Heart, which meant the person was judged for all of their deeds and misdeeds in life—a thing for which only sentient beings with hearts (or in our culture, brains) can be held responsible for. If the person’s heart was too heavy with isfet, they were deemed unfit for the afterlife and fed to the daemon Ammut or cast into a lake of fire. Back on earth, the spirit withered away and died; or it could become restless and terrorize the living as an evil ghost. But if a person’s heart was more or less in good standing with Ma’at, their ba and their ka were reunited by the gods, transforming the deceased into an Akh or Imperishable One.
An Akh is also united with what the Egyptians called the shut or khaibit (the “shadow”). The “shadow” in this context is literal, referring to those black shapes our bodies cast on walls or the ground whenever we stand in the light. Our shadows are not just apparitions, but living parts of ourselves; we create them without even thinking about it, and a part of us exists in them and is reflected in them. In the exact same way, a person can exist in other things they intentionally create as well, like songs, paintings, photographs, works of literature, etc. This is exactly why the Egyptians built so many monuments and wrote down so much of their knowledge and history. To preserve their culture in so meticulous a manner has not only been a benefit for modern archaeologists in piecing together the Kemetic worldview; it has also helped the ancient Egyptians live on and continue influencing people today. This applies to when we look at photos or read letters from our departed loved ones, as well; art and literature do in fact help us live on after death, and I think it is our shutu or shadows that probably benefit from such creative work specifically.
Names, or renu in ancient Egyptian, are also significant dimensions of the self. This includes not only our birth names, but any titles, nicknames, and other names we might be given or choose for ourselves as well. Each of the gods has various names by which they are known, and the same is true of us. Names are living extensions of ourselves that carry a real, lasting power of their own; for though they are long dead, we still speak the names of Hatshepsut, Joan of Arc, Princess Diana, and other blessed ancestors in regular conversation today. Doing so helps to keep this aspect of the self alive after death. There is also a story in which the goddess Isis tricks Atum-Ra into giving her their true secret name, which only Ra had known up to that point. By learning the true unknown name of Ra, Isis becomes the most powerful goddess, magician, and woman of all time.
Conversely, the Egyptians defaced or erased the names of people and things they wanted to write out of history and existence. This is what happened to the Heretic King, Akhenaten (born Amenhotep IV), who prioritized the new religion of Atenism over his duty to be a good and responsible leader. His name was removed from various monuments after his death in an attempt to forget that this particular ruler even existed. This is also why modern Kemetics generally write the name of
Apep in strikeout text. Simply writing the name is not good enough, because it can actually attract the monster’s attention to ourselves. Writing its name in strikeout text serves as a way for us to communicate about the rotten bastard without actually evoking it into our lives.
It is not exactly clear what happens when a deceased person passes the Weighing of the Heart and is transformed into an Akh. But I imagine that person would be united with themself across both this world (as a corpse and a spirit) and the Other Side (as a soul), as well as with their various names and any objects in which their shadows might reside (photos, diaries, etc.). I also imagine they would be united with all the possible variations of their soul that might exist across the vast multiplicity of universes. Akhu are said to reside with the Netjeru in Duat, but there are actually many different heavens included there. I think Akhu are free to visit either of these various realms, but they are also free to visit the living and travel to alternate realities as well. This mobility of the Akhu between universes is remarkable when compared to other religious teachings about the soul after death. I can’t even begin to grasp what such an existence might be like; but I think it probably isn’t that far removed from how the people of the “Q Continuum” exist in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987–1994).
The Egyptians also referred to additional facets of the self, but our knowledge of what these things actually are is unclear. There is something called sekhem, which translates to mean “power” or “form.” This could be referring to the latent magical power that exists within each of us as unique incarnations of Ra; but I am really just guessing. It is tempting to compare sekhem with what Chinese folk medicine calls qi or “chi”: a vital life force or energy flow that can be used to guide exercises and reinforce medical treatments. It might also be similar to Japanese Reiki, a form of alternative medicine that involves energy healing.
There is also something called a sahu, which seems to be an additional spiritual body that is generated for the deceased during their funerary rites. It is not evident how this feature should be distinguished from the ka or spirit exactly, except perhaps that the ka exists from birth while the sahu doesn’t. I have heard it said that the state of sahu is probably closest to how the Netjeru experience their own existence; but the concept remains unclassifiable nevertheless. Rather than try to pontificate on things for which there is currently so little available evidence, I simply accept that there are no clear answers to this particular question at present.
For now at least, it is enough for me to know I am a body with a soul, a spirit, a heart, a shadow, and a name. There are many different versions of me that exist in all kinds of different universes, too. When I die, I hope to be found worthy of the afterlife during the Weighing of my Heart. I hope for all the pieces of my self to be re-united so I can become an Akh and get up to some shenanigans with other Akhu out in Set’s Desert, beyond the Great Bear. And I hope that when I get there, I’ll meet Ronnie James Dio and we can go smite some monsters of isfet together!
My good friend, the artist Setken, has directed a mini-documentary about the Egyptian praying mantis god, Abyt. Setken asked me to compose some music for the film, and I was very happy to oblige. I’m also happy to announce that Setken’s film has been selected by the Anatolian Short Film Festival for September 2020. Follow the link below to watch the documentary and vote for the film!
And if you enjoy the music in the film, you can also stream or download it for free by clicking the image below:
We sincerely hope that everyone enjoys this work – especially Abyt Himself! Dua Abyt!
My reactions to an especially hypocritical plea for “acceptance” on behalf of a community that utterly refuses to accept diversity.
“White evangelicals must bear their share of responsibility for both racism and Christian nationalism, so I have no argument with these careful, well-researched critiques.
I do take issue with these legitimate criticisms becoming a license for others to marginalize, even demonize, white evangelical Christians. White evangelicals are routinely and unfairly stereotyped, lumped together in the basket of deplorables with the neo-Nazi marchers in Charlottesville and other supremacists. Some may think it’s not possible to be bigoted against a group that is so closely associated with the historical trajectory of power in America. I disagree.”
No one should ever be marginalized or demonized just for being who they are, but there is a huge difference between this and calling people out for their behavior when it is demonstrably unethical (to say the very least). It is understood that not every evangelical Christian is an asshole who wants to legislate other people’s lives and deprive them of their inalienable rights; but this is the exception, not the rule. And since the entire evangelical community decided to support Trump in his rise to power, they have little room to complain about being “lumped together” with the rest of his supporters. Whether you support Trump because you’re a Christian or a Nazi, it makes no difference, the end result is exactly the same, and it has proven extremely harmful to everyone who ISN’T an evangelical or a white supremacist.
Furthermore, hearing evangelicals whine and cry about being “unfairly stereotyped” is just fucking hilarious. These are the exact same people who distribute literature claiming that Pagans and witches want to sacrifice babies, or that Planned Parenthood is run by genocidal murderers, or that the entire LGBTQ community is possessed by Satan. Do you really want to go down this path? Because if we’re keeping score on “unfair stereotypes” here, evangelicals continue to perpetuate FAR more than their fair share.
“White evangelicals are certainly complicit in our country’s history of systemic racism and overt nationalism, but I offer three reasons why transparent prejudice against them offers no way forward. First, this prejudice reduces a large, complex group to their political activities; the philosophical term is “essentialism.” In a mass culture dominated by Amazon, Netflix, Google, Harvard and MIT, evangelical ideas barely register, other than as stock villains and straw men. But in politics they loom larger, so the mainstream culture defines them entirely by their political activities and seek to “cancel” them.”
Check your privilege, dude. There are areas of this country where evangelicals hold all the cards when it comes to the law. I know because I lived in such an area for 10 years, and it was absolute hell. If evangelical Christians do not want to be “reduced” to their political activities, they should become less political and stop trying to impose their morality on all the rest of us. If you don’t believe in abortions, don’t get one; but don’t make it impossible for anyone else to get one. You people have no business trying to legislate other people’s lives, and so long as you refuse to stop attacking our freedoms, you will continue to face severe criticism and pushback. (You lie in the bed you make!)
It is also ironic that this writer complains of evangelicals being “reduced” to just their politics when this is exactly what EVANGELICALS do to all the rest of us. For example, evangelicals generally do not characterize LGBTQ people as human beings with valid concerns and perspectives; they dismiss them as some kind of “unholy conspiracy” that’s out to destroy civilization as we know it. And when those of us who love our LGBTQ family and friends try to correct religious right-wingers on this matter, we are usually dismissed for “becoming political.” I’m sorry, but fighting for my transgender nephew’s right to self-identify as he pleases, or for my best friend’s right to marry the woman she loves, or for my wife’s right to determine what she does with her own body is not a matter of “politics.” It is a simple matter of human decency, being a good person, and protecting the people I love. When evangelicals use such dehumanizing language against us, they signal to us that they do not even acknowledge us as people.
Additionally, evangelical Christians have no concept whatsoever of what it feels like to be “canceled.” Having people disagree with you and oppose your political platforms does not count as “canceling.” The only way you can be “canceled” is if you are never permitted to speak or share your opinion with anyone at all – and that is simply not the case for evangelicals, at least not here in America. When you have entire publishing companies, AM radio stations, and 24-hour TV networks to support your cause, you are not hurting for representation whatsoever. So stop trying to play the victim here, you aren’t fooling anyone dude.
“Second, many evangelicals, far from seeking out division, are the salt of the earth. They donate time and energy to their churches, but also to strangers, including strangers in other countries, where they are well known for fighting sex trafficking and providing clean water. They are conscientious parents, church members and Little League coaches. They are honest businesspeople. If racism is systemic, well, they are not the elites who own the systems. They don’t see themselves as racist because, to them, racism is a matter of personal attitude. They don’t see themselves as nationalists either, or if they do, their definition is more akin to what the rest of us call patriotism.”
Oh yes, evangelical missionaries are SO fucking noble. That is precisely why they continue to endanger indigenous cultures despite the COVID-19 pandemic (and all for the sake of winning more converts, i.e. political allies). And while the missionaries do fight sex-trafficking and provide clean water and other good works like that, they also do everything they can to DECULTURALIZE the people they help, insisting that their ancestral religious traditions are “satanic” and they must accept “the White Man’s God” in order to become truly “civilized.” Next thing you know, the new converts start hanging or burning accused “witches” in their communities (including little children!) because “God told them to,” and white evangelicals continue to shirk any responsibility for this whatsoever. Do you really expect anyone to believe you aren’t racist when you engage in such blatant modern colonialism?
“Lastly, marginalizing and demonizing this group is politically untenable. White evangelical Christians make up about 25% of the U.S. population, around 85 million people. When this election is over, they will still be here. And they will still be deeply intertwined in American life. These folks are our fellow-citizens, part of our country’s lifeblood. We need to be building bridges toward evangelicals of goodwill, not burning them.”
Can you point us to a substantial example of when evangelicals ever tried building bridges of goodwill toward Pagans, LGBTQ people, or feminists en masse? You have completely misplaced the responsibility for “making amends,” here. That burden rests squarely on the shoulders of evangelicals, not on anyone else’s. We do not owe evangelicals any apologies or reparations; THEY owe US the apologies and reparations, instead. But I am not going to hold my breath waiting for THAT to ever happen, given your community’s record for “doing the right thing.”
“But America cannot be rebuilt without white evangelical Christians. Excoriating them for the sake of Twitter likes only moves us in the wrong direction. Look for common ground. Acknowledge others’ attempts to eradicate personal prejudice even as you seek to educate yourself and others about systemic discrimination. Look for the fine line between the nationalism you fear and the patriotism you value. Take note of the positive contributions made by others, even when they believe, and vote, differently than you.”
This fellow seems absolutely determined to believe that no one could ever have a good reason for ripping on evangelical Christians. When an entire religious community seeks to deprive you of your autonomy and your freedom, we have little choice but to regard that community as an enemy. If evangelical Christians would like this situation to change, the responsibility is on THEM to BE BETTER. They can have their beliefs and live their lives the way they want to without interfering with any of the rest of us; but they consistently choose not to, and THAT is why we are angry. Gaslighting us with your empty-hearted appeals for “understanding” and “acceptance” is nothing more than a diversion. This is not a “both sides” issue, this is an issue of one side CLEARLY BEING WRONG and the other being consistently victimized.
Now REPENT, motherfuckers!