Against Collapsing the Divine Heterogeneity

ombiteset

I realize I’m repeating myself, but returning to the “satanification” of Set and other Pagan divinities by Satanists, Chaos Magicians, and other esotericists who are coming from that particular corner of the Western occult tradition. These people have every right to their beliefs, of course, but let’s be intellectually honest here; Set is not Satan, and neither is Pan or Loki or Enki or any of the other usual suspects who are commonly invoked in these discussions. The theology behind each of these figures is far, FAR more complex (and not nearly so two-dimensional) as some writers like to insist.

Just an example, and one I have already discussed at greater length in the links below: Set is not the “bad guy” in Egyptian religion. He is only “the bad guy” when it comes to the story of Osiris, and even then His actions in that story are not really “evil” so much as they are completely necessary to how the universe must ultimately function. (Osiris must rise from the dead to create the afterlife, after all, and you can’t rise from the dead if you aren’t killed first.) But people don’t realize, this is only ONE context in which Set was understood in ancient times; it was unique to Osirians and their particular religious traditions, and Osirians were not the only religion in Egypt. Apart from that context, Set was consistently revered for thousands of years by His own people as the Champion and Defender of Ra, protecting all the other gods from Apep the Chaos Serpent. And during the Greek and Roman occupations of Egypt, Set’s iconography and cultus were even synchronized with certain elements of Jewish and early Christian esotericism, with “Typhonians” invoking Him by such names as Aberamentho and Sabaoth. In other words, Set was conflated with Yahweh and Jesus long before He was ever conflated with Satan. What we are dealing with here is a God who stands with “the underdog,” whether they are demonized for being nomadic desert peoples (as in ancient Egypt), for being Jewish or Christian (as in the Roman Empire), for being a Pagan or a witch (as in Christian Europe), or even for being a woman, a person of color, and/or LGBTQ+ (as in everywhere).

Yes, Set is wild and rambunctious and does not always get along with the other gods so well. But the thing about polytheism is, there are many gods, none of them are absolutely perfect, and there is no single point of reference for which ones did what and when exactly. It is assumed that everyone will simply follow whichever god(s) they want (if any) and we can all just agree to disagree on how things actually work Upstairs. This is completely alien to the Christian mindset in which paths like Satanism are rooted, which more often want to collapse the divine heterogeneity into a binary where “one side is always right” and “one side is always wrong.” Whether the “right” side is Jesus or Satan makes no difference; there is almost always a dualistic dichotomy to these belief systems, and it is frankly insulting to try and force Pagan deities into such a context. For example, you aren’t “honoring” a Pagan deity by calling them “Satan” and stepping on crucifixes in their name; you’re just being a Satanist who happens to blaspheme Christianity and Paganism both. While I find this distasteful personally, I support people’s right to blaspheme any god(s) they want (including my own), so long as no one gets hurt. But they should own up and admit they aren’t really being faithful to any pre-monotheist belief system.

Divine Pronouns

A question arose elsewhere about the use of pronouns for gods, and whether they should be capitalized or not. The point was made that monotheists capitalize their god’s pronouns all the time, so why shouldn’t polytheists do the same for our deities too? Well that’s an excellent point, and I think it is perfectly reasonable for a person to capitalize the pronouns for whichever deity or deities they like. I don’t care who tells you it’s “grammatically incorrect”; since I revere Set, it makes perfect sense for me to give Him the proper treatment whenever I refer to Him in writing.

That being said, it used to be my policy that I would capitalize every deity’s pronouns, even for those I don’t personally venerate. Some people prefer to do this, and I would encourage them to continue doing so if it works for them. The reason I switched to only doing this for my gods in particular is not intended to disrespect anyone else’s deities; it is simply easier for my brain to read (and proofread). I don’t remember what the hell I was writing or when, but I was discussing a bunch of gods in the same paragraph at one point, and I could not make any sense of my own writing to save the life of me. (Which “He,” “She,” or “They” am I talking about here?) It’s easier for me to proofread my own material if I limit the capitalized pronouns to just those divinities I have relationships with, since They are the ones I write about most often. (For those who don’t already know, Set’s my main Dude, but I also revere Ishtar and have very strong feelings for Taweret.)

I only mention this because I figured I should explain some of the method to my madness. Again, if anyone is bothered by the fact that I don’t still capitalize pronouns for everyone else’s gods and not just my own, no disrespect is intended. If it’s that important to you, send me your resume and I’ll consider hiring you to proofread all my stuff for me. (Please note: There’s no pay, and there are no benefits. What do you think this is, a living?) Also, I should clarify that I’m not trying to push anyone else into following any particular formatting preference. I don’t expect people who never pray to my gods to capitalize Their pronouns; hell, there are plenty other Setian writers who never do this, not even for Big Red Himself. So do whatever rests best with your heart on this issue, and may the god(s) of your choice bless you no matter what you end up doing.