“He of the Two Faces”
Big Red is a pretty complex Guy; He’s got an awful lot of names. Granted, some of them are different versions of the same name; but nobody really knows just what that name was. (All we know for sure is that it contains the consonants “S-T”; we don’t know what any of the vowels might have sounded like.) The following is my attempt at explaining what some of the Big Guy’s names actually mean, or at least what they mean to me personally.
Variations of the “S-T” Name:
Set: The most popular form of Seth’s name among Pagans and in popular culture. I associate it with Seth’s perceived role as a so-called “devil,” which is probably because it’s so often used to invoke Him as a fictional “God of evil” in books, movies, comics and TV shows. I also think it sounds very “reptilian,” which is admittedly pretty cool, but which is more of a pop culture association than a historical one.
Seth: A Hellenized version of Big Red’s name, and the one that I most prefer to use in public. I find that it leads to more trustworthy resources in a literature search than Set, and I also think it sounds more “mammalian.” Its only drawback is the fact that it can lead to confusion with the Gnostic Seth, who is a completely unrelated figure. However, this can be dealt with by using the name in conjunction with Typhon.
Sutekh (“SOO-tek”): A variation of Seth’s name that was popular in the Nile Delta region of Lower Egypt. As Sutekh, Seth was equated with the Hyksos’ chief Deity, the thunder God Ba’al. This led Seth’s cult to adopt many foreign elements, including the Edfu tale of how He rescued Ishtar from the sea monster
Yamm. I refer to Seth as Sutekh when I pray to Him alone.
Suti (“SOO-tee”): It’s difficult to be sure, but this is probably the closest to how Seth’s name was originally pronounced in Upper Egypt during predynastic times (i.e., prior to 3200 BCE). The reason we can’t take this for granted is because we don’t know how the vowels are supposed to sound; but I reckon Suti is probably close enough for government work. I also think this version of His name should only be used sparingly, in times of great need.
Aberamentho: A name that probably means “Lord of the Waters.” It was given to Seth in the Demotic Leiden Papyrus, and it likely refers to His power over the forces of chaos. Strangely, Seth shares this name with Jesus Christ, for whom it is also used in the Pistis Sophia. For me, this name is a point of intersection and dialogue between Typhonianism and Christianity, and it always makes me think of the Alexamenos graffito.
Ash (“OSH”): The name of a Libyan desert God who was identified with the holy sha-animal of Seth, and who was believed to guide travelers to oases. There seem to be two different theories about Ash: (1) that He’s an entity distinct from Seth (probably a consort), and (2) that He’s an alternate form or aspect of Seth. It could be that They’re separate entities, but that Seth will also answer to the name Ash. Either way, I don’t use this name very often, but I do like it.
Ba’al (“BAY-uhl”): “Lord,” a Semitic title that was used for many storm Deities throughout Mesopotamia. It was inherited by Seth when He was identified with the Ba’al of the Hyksos (who was probably Ba’al Hadad). I don’t use this name for Him very often, but sometimes I refer to Him as “Ba’al Sutekh” in my prayers.
Iao Sabaoth (“YOW SAH-BAH-YOTH”): A Greek corruption of the Hebrew Iah (i.e., Yahweh) and tsebha’oth (“armies”); together they mean “Lord of Hosts.” In The Seven Faces of Darkness (Runa Raven Press, 1996), Don Webb theorizes that Iao might also be a corruption of the Egyptian aai (i.e., “donkey”), which would make sense. (Alexandrian Jews were often accused of onolatry or donkey worship.) The name is used in several invocations to Seth in the Greek magical papyri. For me, it represents Seth’s fondness of donkeys, His sympathy for the Jewish people in Late Antiquity, and the dark truth that even Pagans can perpetuate “satanic panics” against innocent people. It also makes me think of Big Red and His warriors putting the smackdown on chaos monsters in Setheus.
Nubti (“NOOB-tee”): “Golden One,” a name for Seth that was used in the predynastic Naqada civilization. It refers to the prominence of His worship in Nubt (“Gold Town”), a gold-mining desert town in Upper Egypt that later became known as Ombos. I think this name represents Seth as a God of life on the frontier, who helps His people find prosperity in the wilderness.
Typhon (“TIE-fohn”): “Whirlwind,” a name that was given to Seth in Late Antiquity. It was the name of a chaos monster in Hellenic mythology, and its association with Seth was originally an error; but an entire magical system was developed in which Seth is identified by this name (i.e., the Greek magical papyri), and the system works. I also feel that Typhon represents Seth’s aquatic aspect, which compliments His role as a desert God. I especially like to use this name during rituals at the Great Lakes.
Great Longhorn: Seth as the Celestial Bull. In this form, He crushed Osiris beneath His thigh, which was later amputated by Horus. His thigh was then chained to the pole star, whereupon it became the Big Dipper (or as the Egyptians called it, “the Bull’s Thigh”). This aspect of Seth always makes me think of Ishtar’s Bull of Heaven in the Epic of Gilgamesh, which also had one of its legs removed and turned into a sacred object.
Great of Strength: Seth as the one God who’s strong enough to slay other Gods and stare into the eyes of the Backward Face without being hypnotized. I associate this title with Seth’s linear immortality (i.e., He never dies nor rises again), which also sets Him apart from the rest of His pantheon.
He Before Whom the Sky Shakes: Seth as the God of thunder and Creator of natural disasters. I think it represents Him as this incredibly destructive force that could destroy the entire cosmos at any time, but which decides to protect the universe from monsters instead. He is the single most frightening entity in existence, and yet He is on our side.
He of the Two Faces: A reference to the Secret of the Two Partners, or the idea that Seth and Horus are really two aspects of the same God. This concept is depicted in Egyptian art as a humanoid figure with both the head of Horus and the head of Seth, and I think of this symbol as being like the Egyptian version of the Tao. Naturally, the Secret of the Two Partners works both ways, and “He of the Two Faces” can also be used as a name for Horus.
Lord of the Red Lands: Seth as the Lord of deserts. Storms don’t occur very frequently in the Nile Valley; they more often occur in the deserts surrounding it. So unlike the storm Deities of other cultures, Seth was never identified with fertility, but with sterility instead. And since the desert sands are red, this color became associated with Him as well. Red became a “negative” color in Egyptian culture for this reason (just as we associate the color black with “evil” in our culture today), but there was a positive side to it as well. Just as the deserts were like a “buffer zone” that protected the Egyptian civilization from the rest of the world, so too is Seth a “buffer” between Creation and the primordial chaos. A shorter version of this title is “Red Lord”, which I use all the time.
Lord of Twofold Strength: Another reference to Seth as a God who’s stronger than the average Deity. I think it refers to His dual nature as a bringer of kheper or positive chaos and a defender against isfet or negative chaos. Conversely, it can also refer to Seth as both an instigator of chaos and a defender of the cosmic order, who keeps one foot in Creation and another in the Void.
Master of the Imperishable Ones: Seth as the God of the northern sky and the circumpolar stars. The Egyptians considered these stars to be ancestral spirits who were granted (or who achieved by their own hard work) the same linear deathlessness that Seth experiences. This is based on the fact that they never descend beneath the horizon (unlike the Sun, the Moon, and the planets of our solar system), but are always located in the center of the sky (for those of us living in the northern hemisphere, at least). This title reveals the stellar and nocturnal origins of Seth’s worship.
Savior of Ra: Seth as the hero who protects and defends Ra from the Backward Face each night. Ra dies and rises again each day, and Ze* is attacked by the monster while undergoing Hir regenerative process. If the Backward Face should ever succeed in swallowing Hir, all things – including the rest of the Gods – will cease to exist. When Thoth negotiated the truce between Horus and Seth, part of the bargain was that Seth would become Ra’s personal bodyguard. He has served Ra in this capacity ever since, and the fact that our universe continues to exist is a testament to His ultimate benevolence. This title is very important to me because it’s an important part of Seth that most people don’t know or think about.
Son of Nut: While He isn’t the only son of Nut (Osiris being the other one), Seth’s the God who is most often identified by this title. This is due to the circumstances of His birth; for while Osiris, Isis and Nephthys were all born in the natural way, Seth clawed Himself right out of His mother’s womb. This couldn’t have been pleasant for Nut, but it gives Seth the distinction of being the only God aside from Ra to have willed Himself into existence (according to the Heliopolitan cosmogony, at least). That’s the quality of Seth I’m referring to when I use this title.
Big Red: An affectionate adaptation of “Red Lord” or “Lord of the Red Lands” that many of Seth’s people use for Him all over the world.
Cloven Hoof: A term for the Christian devil that’s inspired by his association with goats. However, animals with cloven hooves are members of the order Artiodactyla, which happens to include most of Seth’s sacred animals (including antelope, hippopotami, oryx, pigs, etc.). For this reason, the LV-426 Tradition has appropriated the term “Cloven Hoof” as a title for Big Red.
Holy Jackass: A humorous title coined in the LV-426 Tradition. It refers to both Seth’s affinity for donkeys and the fact that He’s a hellraiser.
Prince of Darkness: A term for the Christian devil that was appropriated for Seth by members of the Temple of Set in the 1970s. It might sound lurid, but it does make a certain amount of sense; Seth is a prince, after all, and He does rules the northern sky and the nighttime world. I don’t use this title very much in public, but I do sometimes use it for Seth when I pray to Him alone.
* Since June 2015, I’ve taken to using gender-neutral pronouns for Ra.