In The Desert Of Seth

By G. B. Marian

Khepesh: The Iron of Seth

"The Apotropaic Waltz" (2014) by Yours Truly

“The Apotropaic Waltz” (2014) by Yours Truly

In Egyptian mythology, Khepesh (“Thigh”) or Meskhetiu (“Fighter”) is the Iron of Seth. This is a powerful force that was once a part of Seth-Typhon Himself, but which was removed from Him by Horus during Their war for the throne of civilization. It’s sometimes described as being Seth’s “bone,” His “foreleg,” His “semen” or even His “testicles” (which means that its violent removal is sometimes described as a “castration”). This Iron is what enabled Seth to kill Osiris, and it was returned to Him once He was “tamed” and reconciled with the rest of the Gods. He now uses it to defend Ra from the Backward Face, and its physical counterparts in nature include the Big Dipper and the chemical element Fe (i.e., physical iron).

Khepesh is often contrasted with Wedjat, the Eye of Horus (or the “All-Seeing Eye”), which Seth removed from Horus during Their fight. We use our eyes to see things, which is why Wedjat is associated with light, knowledge and order; it represents shedding light on darkness and making the unknown known. Yet Khepesh is a more instinctive force that’s usually associated with Typhon’s libido; it represents the unknown’s ability to intrude upon the known and force it to adapt. Despite this potentially frightening quality, Khepesh is an altogether different kind of chaos from that of the Backward Face, for it doesn’t threaten to destroy everything; it simply destroys some things to make room for others. Hence why it’s the perfect weapon against the chaos serpent, and in this respect it’s symbolized in Egyptian art as a lance or spear that Seth carries in battle.

Khepesh is comparable to other monster-slaying weapons like Mjollnir, the hammer of Thor. Both are associated with red-haired storm Deities, both must remain externalized from their users (for even Thor must wear gloves while wielding Mjollnir), and both have phallic connotations (as when Mjollnir is placed on a woman’s lap during Nordic wedding ceremonies). We may also compare the Iron to Thurisaz (or “Thorn”), the third rune in the Elder Futhark, which represents the destructive powers of nature (and the ability to use these powers as protective barriers). It hardly seems coincidental that the name Khepesh was also given to a human weapon that the ancient Egyptians used in battle (and that’s shaped very much like the Big Dipper).

An Egyptian khepesh sickle-sword

The connection between Khepesh and the Big Dipper is very complex. In the mythology, it’s said that the weapon was “tethered” to the star Polaris (which is now the North Star) to keep it as far away from Osiris (i.e., Orion) as possible. It’s also ostensibly kept there as a kind of “cosmic scarecrow” to ward off the Backward Face (which is said to attack the Gods from the northern sky in some accounts). Khepesh is kept in its place by Taweret (i.e., Draco), the Hippopotamus Goddess of childbirth, and the Four Sons of Horus (i.e., Duamutef, Hapi, Imsety and Qebshenuf). In the Greco-Roman magical papyri, Typhon’s said to be seated “behind” the Big Dipper. From an animist perspective, everything about this asterism may be seen as an astral reflection of Khepesh, and with this principle in mind, we can make observations like the following:

  • Many Gods are linked to stellar objects that “fall beneath” and “rise above” the horizon; Ra rules the Sun, Isis rules Sirius, and Osiris rules Orion (and, according to some accounts, the Moon). These Deities are also reported to “die” and “rise again” (or to accompany such “dying-and-rising” Gods through Their transitions). But the Dipper is circumpolar and never sets. This represents Seth’s inability to die; while other Gods experience a cyclical kind of immortality, Typhon’s immortality is continuous and linear. Khepesh is what gives Him the immense strength He needs to be truly deathless.

  • Since the Dipper indicates true north, it makes a perfect “cosmic compass” and has been used as such for centuries. For the ancient desert peoples who worshiped Him, it must have seemed like Seth was faithfully guiding them through the night whenever they were lost. This indicates that Khepesh, no matter how destructive and frightening it may be, is actually a force for good in this world; it’s the last line of defense for Ma’at.

  • The Big Dipper rotates counterclockwise (i.e., to the left), and leftness has always been linked to asymmetry, inversion and reversal (whether social, political or spiritual). This shows that Khepesh is also the source of Typhon’s aversion to pyramidal power structures (whether human or divine). I believe this is linked to why Seth was generally more popular among desert peoples than He was among Pharaohs or urban Egyptians. It may also explain why He is so popular among “left-hand path” occultists today.

  • Every day, the Big Dipper forms a giant swastika in the northern sky. This is actually a symbol for prosperity and good luck in many cultures; it doesn’t “belong” to National Socialists any more than crosses “belong” to the Ku Klux Klan. But this doesn’t change the fact that most Westerners react badly to the swastika for reasons that are completely understandable. This all shows that Khepesh is the part of Seth-Typhon that leads most people to think He’s “evil.” It may be necessary and good, but since it’s also extremely terrifying and destructive, it’s understandable that most people would have this reaction.

The swastika formed by the Big Dipper

(There are other conclusions we can draw about Khepesh from observing the Big Dipper, but I will consider these at greater length in future articles.)

That Khepesh is linked to iron (Fe) is also interesting, given that this chemical element has traditionally been used to ward off evil demons, faeries, witches, and the Evil Eye. Prison bars were once made from iron in an attempt to restrict any negative energy that might emanate from dangerous prisoners. Even today, Bedouins continue to believe that a person who uses a sword forged from meteoric iron will win any battle. It’s also a little spooky that the Greek philosopher Pythagoras claimed that Typhon’s number is 56, considering that the atomic weight of iron is 55.845(2) (which rounds up to 56). Nor is it an accident that iron is linked to the color red, the planet Mars and Geburah (i.e., the sphere of Divine Wrath on the Qabalic Tree of Life). Aside from the obvious connection to iron contained in human blood (and the use of iron to create weapons of war), these associations make perfect sense from a Typhonian perspective.

The Egyptians also believed it’s possible for us to draw the Iron of Seth down to Earth. They developed a ceremonial ritual in which this is done to “open the mouths” of mummies and cult statues. Khepesh is invoked into an adze that’s been forged from meteoric iron, and this adze – which has been shaped to resemble the Big Dipper – is then pressed against the mouth of a mummy or statue. While doing this, the officiating priests recite spells invoking “the iron that issues forth from Seth” (among other things, including Wedjat). This procedure – which is called the “Opening of the Mouth” – transforms inanimate objects into living conduits for Deities and ancestors (similar to how the Catholic mass is thought to transubstantiate bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ). Prior to having its mouth “opened” in this way, a cult image is merely an image; it’s only after having its mouth “opened” that it “comes alive” with the spirit of the God or ghost it’s meant to represent. (To put it in a slightly more “profane” manner, the Opening of the Mouth is a way of creating magical objects by symbolically “fellating” Seth.)

Horus “opening the mouth” of a mummy

Seth’s holy Iron is connected to the was scepter, which looks like a staff with the head and forked tail of the mysterious sha animal (i.e., Seth’s most sacred critter). The name was (which rhymes with “Oz”) means “power” or “dominion,” and the scepter is believed to represent the royal ability to sublimate chaos. Using the sha in this symbolism is like using gargoyles in churches; it’s a way of defending oneself from hostile chaotic forces with a more “domesticated” chaotic force. Seeing the was scepter always makes me think of the parallels between Seth-Typhon and Tokyo’s favorite giant monster, Godzilla. Both begin innocently enough, but later become extremely dangerous beings that threaten to destroy the entire world. Then, both are eventually “reigned in” to defend the Earth from even worse monsters (many of which come from outer space).

The Was Scepter

In my opinion, the Bone of Typhon is comparable to what Christians call the “Blood of Christ.” This isn’t to say they’re identical or exactly the same; Christ’s Blood supposedly washes away all sin while Seth’s Iron “straightens the spine” and “opens the mouths” of Gods and ancestors. But they’re similar from the standpoint that both (1) are part of a Deity’s body and (2) can be magically drawn down into physical objects. Just as the sacramental bread and wine at a Catholic mass can be transubstantiated into the actual Body and Blood of Christ, so too can people and objects with Typhonian properties be “filled” with the force of Khepesh.


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2 responses to “Khepesh: The Iron of Seth

  1. Mikhael aka Setken (@WingedPhysique) July 15, 2014 at 10:56 am

    An enjoyable and informative read, thanks!


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