a cache of usenet and other text files pertaining
to occult, mystical, and spiritual subjects.


Patron of Sorcery: The Survival of the Ancient Cult of Set

[from ]

Subject: Patron of Sorcery: The Survival of the Ancient Cult of Set
                              Dakhla Sba
                       16 July XXXI, Aeon of Set
                               (1996 CE)
   During a recent conversation, a student of ancient Egypt
   mentioned to me the cult of Isis and Osiris and its survival of
   the fall of Egypt as a Mediterranean "mystery religion". As an
   initiate of the modern Temple of Set, I began to wonder to what
   extent the original cult of Set had survived that civilization,
   and what documented forms this survival had taken.
   I found an answer in Hans Dieter Betz's edition of The Greek
   Magical Papyri in Translation Including the Demotic Spells
   (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986). In the twilight of
   Egyptian civilization, Set, the Lord of Darkness denounced by
   followers of Osiris, became a patron of sorcery. This apparently
   occurred by way of Egyptian priests moving into freelance magical
   practice after foreign domination led to loss of royal funding
   for the temples.
   It is strange to envision the Egyptian priests consigning their
   lore to the written word, given their notorious reputation for
   xenophobia and secrecy. Significantly, while these spells span
   the full range of magical operations, little of a theoretical
   character is disclosed.
   In PGM IV 154-285, there's an invocation of the Feared One that
   specifically mentions the defeat of Osiris, the dying god, and
   the Setian power over the hypotic gaze of Apep, serpent and neter
   of chaos that threatened the solar barque:
     "Oh dark's disturber, thunder's bringer, whirlwind,
     Night-flasher, breather-forth of hot and cold...
     I'm He who searched with you the whole world and
     Found great Osiris, whom I brought you chained.
     I'm he who joined you in war with the gods!
     I'm he who closed heav'ns double gates and
     put to sleep the serpent who must not be seen..."
   Later in the same text the magician addresses the rising sun:
     "...You who are fearful, awesome, threatening,
     You who're obscure and irresistable,
     And hater of the wicked, you I call,
     Typhon, in hours unlawful and unmeasured..."
   As mentioned elsewhere, the rising sun was one of the symbols of
   Xepera, the ancient Egyptian concept of Self-Creation.
   Fragments of Egyptian are found everywhere in these Greek spells.
   The 'true names' "erbeth", "pakerbeth" and "bolchoseth" appear
   repeatedly in invocations of Set. They may be corrupted praise
   names. The words are seen in binding and restraining spells (PGM
   IV 2145-2240, perhaps PGM VII 467-77, PGM XXXVI 1-34), spells to
   charm and subject (PGM VII 940-68, PGM XLVI 4-8), to cause
   separation (PGM XII 365-75, PDM XII 62-75 and XII 76-107), "evil
   sleep" (PDM XIV 675-94) and crazed lust (PGM XXVI 69-101).
   It is in the spells for self-initiation that one gets a sense of
   how the destruction of their civilization shaped the perspective
   of those who used these conjurations. The social machinery of the
   temple tradition responsible for these spells was dying, or
   already dead, and it was the individual who now pursued the
   magical arts for individual ends. Freelance practice of this type
   was solitary and secretive compared to the observances of state
   cults or even the mystery-religions. This presents problems in
   evaluating the significance of the papyri as evidence for
   survivals of the ancient cult of Set.
   The magical papyri presented by Betz are thought to have come
   from a private library in Thebes and date from the 2nd century
   BCE through the 5th century CE. We can't be sure if this
   collection of surviving scrolls is representative, or if it
   reflects a cult of Set in Graeco-Roman Egypt. But they do show
   that some literate Egyptians not only identified Typhon with Set
   but invoked the powers of Set-Typhon, hailed Set-Typhon as a
   divine power, and so forth.
   Strange though the magical papyri seem to us today, they document
   a flow of "operative" temple knowlege from Egypt into the
   Mediterranean world. This naturally invites speculation as to
   what theoretical or abstract knowlege might also have passed by
   way of the Egyptians who wrote these papyri in the twilight of
   their civilization.
   In Hermetic Magic (York Beach, ME: Samuel Weiser, Inc., 1995)
   Stephen Flowers affirms that the magical papyri were a major root
   of the Western magical philosophy called Hermeticism. Betz states
   frankly in his preface to The Greek Magical Papyri--
     "It is known that philosophers of the Neopythagorean and
     Neo-platonic schools, as well as Gnostic and Hermetic groups,
     used magical books and hence must have possessed copies. But
     most of their material vanished and what we have left are
     their quotations."
   By the 2nd century of the common era, Roman hostility had driven
   underground the legendary state magic of Egypt. Thessalos, a
   Greek physician, reported that Theban priests were scandalized at
   his inqury as to whether anything remained of the old Egyptian
   magic. Nevertheless, an old priest agreed to perform a divination
   for Thessalos. His account of the working corresponds pefectly
   with descriptions in demotic and Greek magical papyri that have
   come into our hands (Robert K. Ritner, The Mechanics of Ancient
   Egyptian Magical Practice, Chicago: University of Chicago, 1993,
   p. 219).
   We thus have cause to think that these papyri reflect authentic
   temple practice, and that priests of Egypt under Greek and Roman
   rule performed such rites until the temples were shut down.
   Whether this includes the invocation of Set for aggressive magic,
   under temple auspices, is an open question.
   However diabolized Set may have become in the final days of
   ancient Egypt, the papyri show that his esteem among magicians
   survived the destruction of his temples and images. The spells of
   the Theban cache found their way onto curse tablets in Rome,
   Athens and Jerusalem. Details and comparisons of the papyri and
   tablets are found in John G. Gager's Curse Tablets and Binding
   Spells from the Ancient World (New York: Oxford University Press,
   1992). More generally, the practice of the "spell-book" of
   European tradition found its prototype in the "magical cookbook"
   approach exemplified by the Theban papyri. Thus the written
   magical tradition of Europe began under the auspices of
   Set-Typhon, and provided the matrix for the Remanifestation of
   Setian thought hundreds of years later.
   That the papyri themselves survived Roman suppression, a
   ferocious campaign of destruction of magical books under
   Christianity (Acts 19:19), and the rise of Islam, may itself be
   reckoned to border on magic. What the papyri may yet reveal of
   the original cult of Set-- and of such survivals as have found
   their way into the wellsprings of Western thought--remains to be
    Compiled by Dakhla Sba,


The Arcane Archive is copyright by the authors cited.
Send comments to the Arcane Archivist:

Did you like what you read here? Find it useful?
Then please click on the Paypal Secure Server logo and make a small
donation to the site maintainer for the creation and upkeep of this site.

The ARCANE ARCHIVE is a large domain,
organized into a number of sub-directories,
each dealing with a different branch of
religion, mysticism, occultism, or esoteric knowledge.
Here are the major ARCANE ARCHIVE directories you can visit:
interdisciplinary: geometry, natural proportion, ratio, archaeoastronomy
mysticism: enlightenment, self-realization, trance, meditation, consciousness
occultism: divination, hermeticism, amulets, sigils, magick, witchcraft, spells
religion: buddhism, christianity, hinduism, islam, judaism, taoism, wicca, voodoo
societies and fraternal orders: freemasonry, golden dawn, rosicrucians, etc.


There are thousands of web pages at the ARCANE ARCHIVE. You can use ATOMZ.COM
to search for a single word (like witchcraft, hoodoo, pagan, or magic) or an
exact phrase (like Kwan Yin, golden ratio, or book of shadows):

Search For:
Match:  Any word All words Exact phrase


Southern Spirits: 19th and 20th century accounts of hoodoo, including slave narratives & interviews
Hoodoo in Theory and Practice by cat yronwode: an introduction to African-American rootwork
Lucky W Amulet Archive by cat yronwode: an online museum of worldwide talismans and charms
Sacred Sex: essays and articles on tantra yoga, neo-tantra, karezza, sex magic, and sex worship
Sacred Landscape: essays and articles on archaeoastronomy, sacred architecture, and sacred geometry
Lucky Mojo Forum: practitioners answer queries on conjure; sponsored by the Lucky Mojo Curio Co.
Herb Magic: illustrated descriptions of magic herbs with free spells, recipes, and an ordering option
Association of Independent Readers and Rootworkers: ethical diviners and hoodoo spell-casters
Freemasonry for Women by cat yronwode: a history of mixed-gender Freemasonic lodges
Missionary Independent Spiritual Church: spirit-led, inter-faith, the Smallest Church in the World
Satan Service Org: an archive presenting the theory, practice, and history of Satanism and Satanists
Gospel of Satan: the story of Jesus and the angels, from the perspective of the God of this World
Lucky Mojo Usenet FAQ Archive: FAQs and REFs for occult and magical usenet newsgroups
Candles and Curios: essays and articles on traditional African American conjure and folk magic
Aleister Crowley Text Archive: a multitude of texts by an early 20th century ceremonial occultist
Spiritual Spells: lessons in folk magic and spell casting from an eclectic Wiccan perspective
The Mystic Tea Room: divination by reading tea-leaves, with a museum of antique fortune telling cups
Yronwode Institution for the Preservation and Popularization of Indigenous Ethnomagicology
Yronwode Home: personal pages of catherine yronwode and nagasiva yronwode, magical archivists
Lucky Mojo Magic Spells Archives: love spells, money spells, luck spells, protection spells, etc.
      Free Love Spell Archive: love spells, attraction spells, sex magick, romance spells, and lust spells
      Free Money Spell Archive: money spells, prosperity spells, and wealth spells for job and business
      Free Protection Spell Archive: protection spells against witchcraft, jinxes, hexes, and the evil eye
      Free Gambling Luck Spell Archive: lucky gambling spells for the lottery, casinos, and races