Who was the Egyptian god Set? Religion in Ancient Egypt

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Stone carving of a person with the head of a bird - the Egyptian god Set

The Egyptian god Set (Oriental Institute Museum) New Kingdom, ca. 1500 BC)

The Egyptian god Set was the brother of Isis and Osiris, and like them he was the son of the sky goddess Nut and the earth god Geb. Set is the dark side of his brother and sister – Isis makes the crops grow, and Osiris is the god of the Pharaohs who maintain order, but Set is the god of chaos. In some stories, Set showed his bad side by ripping his way out of his mother’s side to be born instead of being born the normal way.

In paintings, Set sometimes has red hair and red eyes, to show that he is weird and different. He also has an animal head, and sometimes takes the form of a crocodile, a hippopotamus, or a black pig – all dangerous animals.

In one story, Set drowned his brother Osiris in the Nile River and cut his body into pieces. Osiris’ son Horus found his uncle Set and fought him to avenge his father. In the battle, Horus lost his left eye, and Set lost the ability to have children. (Does this story remind you of the Disney movie “Lion King”, which was also set in Africa? Also compare it to the West African story of Sundiata.)

The constellation of Orion

The constellation of Orion

In ancient Egypt, Osiris was identified with the constellation of stars we know as Orion, and the story may be a way of explaining why Orion appears in the sky and then seems to be pushed aside by other constellations as the earth goes around the sun.

In other Egyptian stories, however, Set and Horus are sometimes different sides of the same god, and people prayed to them together.

Learn by doing: find the constellation of Orion on a clear night
More about ancient Egyptian gods

Bibliography and further reading about the Egyptian god Set:

Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt, by Leonard Fisher (1999). For younger kids.

Isis and Osiris, by Geraldine Harris (1997). A retelling of the story for kids.

The Egypt Game (Yearling Newbery), by Zilpha Keatley Snyder (reprinted 1985). A great kids’ story about kids who pretend to be Egyptian gods and goddesses.

Religion in Ancient Egypt: Gods, Myths, and Personal Practice, by John Baines, David Silverman, and Leonard Lesko (1991). Pretty hard going, but it will tell you everything you need to know about Egyptian religion.

Isis in the Ancient World, by R.E. Witt (1997). Mostly about the spread of Isis worship to Greece and the Roman Empire.

More about Egyptian mummies
More about ancient Egypt
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By |2018-04-19T22:41:47+00:00June 19th, 2017|Africa, Egypt, Religion|4 Comments
Cite this page: Carr, K.E. Who was the Egyptian god Set? Religion in Ancient Egypt. Quatr.us Study Guides, June 19, 2017. Web. December 13, 2018.

About the Author:

Dr. Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.


  1. eddie March 7, 2018 at 10:40 am - Reply

    this helped me learn more about Seth the god of chaos 🙂

    • Karen Carr March 7, 2018 at 11:01 pm

      Happy to hear it, Eddie!

  2. Mikael March 5, 2018 at 3:05 pm - Reply

    I very highly think Set got his testicles back, and also Horus got his eye back. But only after or when they turn / turned to good. From pyramid text, Pyramid of Unas, Horus will get his eye *) as a gift in a form of offering also Seth will get his testicles. I think you have to think very carefully.

    These gods are like sin full people but they have repented, and they deem same from people. In order to save them from punishment.

    If we leave the texts of that Greek-Roman Plutarch away, there will be Seth and Horus whose were sinners but turned to be good. One Murderer, and one Avenger, (sinful vengeance). This comes clear when you read the text from Budges “the chapters of coming forth by the day, 1898 edition; Chapter XVII, text (131) page 58. Says



    There are also books with original hieroglyphs:


    see page 80, text 116 and page 94 text 131.

    But also see papyrus of heruben:https://www.art.co.uk/products/p27987688433-sa-i8461947/heruben-papyrus-divinity-on-solar-boat-of-seth.htm

    And see throne:


    Horus ref: as sky from the hieroglyphs, and Seth the earth.

    There is the principle of Ma´^a´^t Do the Right, and also destroy the Bad. Start with your self and ask from others also. I do not think Egyptian religion is at all what some say occult, It does not worship or need evil, But merely it ask to destroy absolute evil.

    Spell 125 says:


    ” I now come to you, and I have brought Maat to you,
    And I have destroyed wickedness for you.”

    This is actually eight fold thing:


    The text is the heart spell, but the drawing is important. It says:

    Do the right For yourself
    Destroy the wrong from yourself
    Do the right what should have been done to yourself
    Destroy the wrong what should have been destroyed from yourself

    And ask from others also

    This naturally fit perfectly with the heart spell also.

    Same is in papyrus of Anhai also:


    On the right the Truth herself, or Anhai all ready with the form and attributes of Truth herself. 4 feathers in hands; 2 what has been done, and 2 for action.

    And in head dress One pointing to others, and one pointing “herself”. Actually this truth fit also to the mentioned papyrus of Heruben. How else could it be? In Papyrus of Ani there is on the other hand the lake of fire with 4 fires and 4 baboons. Some of the fires are pointing to the baboon, some are not. The same idea fits with the doom also, you must go around the picture some times, and you will get it. There is the time aspect, (the fire is pointing back or front) but also the fire is pointing to one or to others and so on. This lake seems to be very rightful.

    But when Horus and Seth are one god, this one god destroys two different evils.

    All in all:

    It is just so, there is not one without an other

    *) “Saffron” Cakes quite clearly represent the eye of Horus in a “ceremony”:

    Page 58

    • Karen Carr March 5, 2018 at 10:55 pm

      Hi Mikael, remember that the Egyptian story of Set is only a story: it’s fictional, so it can happen however the storyteller wants it to happen. There can be (and there were) many different versions of the story at the same time, and none of them are wrong.

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