- The Sons of the Sun
- Apep in Egyptian ritual
- Countering an Egyptian-based Reconstructionist view of Apep
- The Demonization of Set
- Satan in the Old and New Testaments
- Zoroastrianism and the Persian Ahriman
- Greek Influence Upon the Judaic Imagination
- Rome and Christianity
- Dominionism and the concept of Jesus
- Countering Satanist Identifications of Satan with Set
- Reconciling the Apep-Satan Thesis With Polysatanic Theology
- The Advantages of Identifying Apep with Satan
For many years, I have researched many different world mythologies in the hope of someday proving that Satan, the Christian Devil, was originally known under a different name by a pre-Christian civilization. My research was particularly focused upon the study of ancient Egyptian religion, for I was determined to find a link between Satan and the Egyptian god Set that would prove substantial.
I am certainly no professor of archaeology, nor do I even have any kind of degree in the subject. But I have conducted my research for almost ten years now, and I can safely say that I still have not found any evidence to prove any such connection between Satan and Set. In fact, it would seem that identifying the Christian Satan with any particular pagan deity is a rather risky venture that requires a leap of faith.
However, during my research, I have come to believe that there may be a connection between Satan and another Egyptian deity who was called Apep. And, while I am skeptical of most Satanist identifications of Satan with other deities, I feel it is sensible to identify Satan with Apep in particular. Although even this identification requires a leap of faith, I believe that my leap of faith in this regard is significantly smaller than those of some other Satanists.
The purpose of this document is to explain my reasoning for identifying Satan with Apep, to explain my reasons for thinking such an identification to be sensible, and to cite my sources for my conclusions.
Apep was believed, by the ancient Egyptians, to be a powerful Snake Devil of darkness and rebellion who lived in the underworld, or in some accounts, the waters of Nun (i.e., primordial chaos). According to some versions of the mythology, he was present in the world even before the Sun God rose up from chaos to create the Earth. This is expanded upon by Caroline Seawright in her online article, Apep, Water Snake-Demon of Chaos, Enemy of Ra...:
Apep (Apepi, Aapep, Apophis) was a demon of the underworld, in the form of a giant water snake. It was believed that he was created when Nit spat into the primeval waters of Nun. He was the enemy of the sun god, trying to stop him as he travelled on his barque through the underworld each night. He was so powerful that little could defeat him, and even then, he was back again the following evening to threaten Ra. He was a demon outside of ma'at, the opposite of order, a demon of darkness and chaos.
Seawright also mentions that Apep was called "Evil Lizard," "Enemy of Ra," "World Encircler" and "Serpent of Rebirth." In his book, Egyptian Magic (pg. 171), E. A. Wallis Budge mentions a long list of names that were given to Apep in the Egyptian Book of Overthrowing Apep:
"Tutu (i.e., Doubly evil one), Hau-hra (i.e., Backward Face), Hemhemti (i.e., Roarer), Qetu (i.e., Evil-doer), Amam (i.e., Devourer), Saatet-ta (i.e., Darkener of earth), Iubani, Khermuti, Unti, Karauememti, Khesef-hra, Sekhem-hra, Khak-ab, Nai, Uai, Beteshu, Kharebutu the fourfold fiend," etc.
There are similarities between Apep and other "chaos dragons" of Near Eastern mythology, such as the Sumerian Tiamat and the Hebrew Leviathan. A comparison can even be made with the Norse Midgard Serpent, whose name was Jörmungand. But there are also major differences.
For instance, there is nothing in either Hebrew scripture or in Norse mythology to indicate that either Leviathan or Jörmungand were regarded as sentient entities. No ancient texts have been found in which either of these creatures are depicted as possessing the ability of speech - a characteristic that often implies personal intelligence in mythology.
And in Sumerian mythology, Tiamat only posed a threat before the creation of the world; the creator god Marduk fashioned the world from her remains, so she was never considered to pose a present danger in the Sumerian mythos. Stephanie Dalley's translation of the Sumerian Epic of Creation describes this in some detail:
The Lord [Marduk] trampled the lower part of Tiamat,
With his unsparing mace smashed her skull, Severed the arteries of her blood, And made the North Wind carry it off as good news. His fathers saw it and were jubilant: they rejoiced, arranged to greet him with presents, greetings gifts. The Lord rested, and inspected her corpse. He divided the monstrous shape and created marvels (from it). He sliced her in half like a fish for drying: Half of her he put up to roof the sky, Drew a bolt across and made a guard hold it. Her waters he arranged so that they could not escape.
But the Egyptian Apep was considered to be a clear and ever-present danger in all levels of Egyptian society. He posed a geniune threat to the Sun God, Ra, and his company of gods, for it was believed that each night, when the Sun God descended into the underworld (which was the Egyptian way of explaining nightfall), the Snake Devil would attempt to disrupt the passage of the solar barque. He even attempted to devour the Sun God, as is remarked upon by Egyptologist Lewis Spence in his book, Ancient Egyptian Myths and Legends (pg. 131):
In Apep we have a figure such as is known in nearly every mythology. He is the monster who daily combats with, and finally succeeds in devouring, the sun.
And unlike Leviathan or Jörmungand the Midgard Serpent, Apep was hardly just a giant snake. He was a conscious entity, an actual god, and the opposition he posed toward the Egyptian pantheon was deliberate. This can be seen from the following quotation from an Egyptian text, mentioned in Myth and Symbol in Ancient Egypt, by R. T. Rundle Clark:
[Apep cries out, after being bashed up by Set, that he will conform to the divine will:]
"I will perform your will, O Ra, I will act properly, I will act peacefully, O Ra!"
[During the fight with Horus, Set loses his testicles ... Apep then taunts Set with this:]
"But what you felt is worse than the sting of the scorpion. What Ma'at did to you was so dire that you will suffer from its effect forever! You will never go courting, you will never make love!"
Obviously, Apep would not be depicted as speaking, like the other gods are, if the Egyptians did not imagine him to be sentient as the other gods were imagined to be.
It is said that at times, Apep would temporarily win against Ra, which was the Egyptian way of explaining such things as solar eclipses and thunderstorms. E. A. Wallis Budge writes in his book From Fetish to God in Ancient Egypt (pp. 126 - 127):
[Apep] was believed to cause thunder and lightning, hurricanes, sand storms, rain storms, eclipses, fog, mist, and darkness.
Because of this, it is fairly typical for most modern Westerners to dismiss the idea of Apep as simply the creation of a primitive imagination, which bears no real theological meaning. But Apep was far more than just symbol of darkness and thunderstorms.
The Sons of the Sun
The Sun God, Ra, was believed by the Egyptians to be the ultimate Creator of all things, upon whom all order and goodness in the universe depended. Without Ra, it was believed that the entire world would collapse back into a primordial state of nothingness. And it was believed by the Egyptians that this is precisely what Apep intended by attempting to overthrow the Sun God.
However, we must also consider that Ra was not just a Sun God for the Egyptians; he was also a patron of divine kingship. Ra, and other solar deities such as Horus (who were often identified with each other as the same deity, as in the composite deity Ra-Horakhte - "Horus of the Two Horizons"), were perceived to be the primary deities of societal order, the "world-fashioner" and lawgiver gods, who established the role of human government within the perceived "natural order of things" (i.e., Ma'at). The sun god was believed to have been incarnated within the very first Pharaoh of Egypt, and because of this, he was considered to be the founder of Egyptian government. Lewis Spence wrote:
Undoubtedly the best parallel to the worship of Ra in Egypt is to be found in that of the sun in ancient Peru. Just as the monarch of Peru personified the sun on earth, and acted as his regent in the terrestrial sphere, so the Egyptian monarchs styled themselves 'sons of the sun.' In both instances the solar cult was eminently aristocratic in character. This is proved by the circumstance that the paradise of Ra was a sphere more spiritual by far than that of Osiris, with its purely material delights. Those happy enough to gain the heaven of the sun-god were clothed with light, and their food was described as 'light.' The Osirian paradise, again, it will be recalled, consisted of converse with Osiris and feasting with him. Indeed, the aristocratic caste in all countries shrinks from the conception that it must in the afterlife rub shoulders with the common herd. (Spence, 134)
The Pharaohs were not only considered to be kings by the Egyptians; they were believed to be gods incarnate, meaning that their rulership was essentially a theocracy. Again, this is demonstrated by the following quotes from Time Life Books' TimeFrame 3000 - 1500 BC: The Age of God-Kings (pp. 57 - 59):
At no time in the history of Egyptian civilization was Egyptian government completely separate from religion. Not only were the Pharaohs considered to be gods, but the priesthoods also possessed political power. The modern American phrase, "Separation between church and state" would mean nothing to an ancient Egyptian.The word pharaoh means simply "great house," and one of the missions of the first pharaohs was to establish their spiritual supremacy over all the other influential houses of the land . . . The tale of primal conflict and restitution not only provided a religious rationale for the power wielded by the pharaoh but also helped fuel a royal obsession with death and mortuary rituals.
We may ask ourselves why the Egyptians would have considered it such a difficult task for the sun to rise, especially in the climate of Egypt. One might better understand this type of thought originating in northern Europe. There is no doubt that the Egyptian's fear of Apep definitely included a fear of nighttime darkness; but evidently, this was not all there was to it. Considering that the Pharaohs were believed to be incarnations of the Sun God during life (i.e., you had to worship the Pharaoh in order to worship the Sun God), then Apep's opposition to Ra was not just some distant battle to consume the sun itself, but a clear and present danger against all of the avenues through which the Sun God intervenes in the human world. And since the Pharaohs were one of these avenues, and perhaps the most essential one at that, then Apep would be just as opposed to them as he was to Ra himself.
Ra was evidently understood to be more than just the sun itself in the Egyptian imagination. The sun was merely one of his manifestations in the visible world (another being the Pharaohs); he was also an invisible being (Amen) who acted as the patron of kingship and society. And, of course, the Egyptian society was very theocratic in nature. So it is evident that the Egyptians' fear of Apep was a fear that society itself would collapse due to the destruction of the gods. And here, "gods" includes political leaders.
Therefore, Apep's opposition against Ra, and his continual attempts to overthrow and devour the Sun God, were not just a cute mythological way of explaining eclipses and thunderstorms. The Egyptians believed that Apep would be satisfied with nothing less than overthrowing the universe as they knew it.
Apep in Egyptian ritual
We know that Apep was not simply dismissed as a fairy tale by the Egyptians themselves, because each and every night, the priesthood of Ra would conduct rituals which were believed to ward off the influence of Apep and to assist Ra in his victory. Such rituals would include making images of snakes out of wax, spitting on the images, reciting abusive prayers against them, and burning and mutilating them. This ritual was to be performed each night at sundown, as well as at midnight and just before the dawn. In E. A. Wallis Budge's Egyptian Magic, the Egyptologist again quotes from The Book of Overthrowing Apep (pg. 81):
If thou wouldst destroy Apep, thou shalt say this chapter over a figure of Apep which hath been drawn in green colour upon a sheet of new papyrus, and over a wax figure of Apep upon which his name hath been cut and inlaid with green colour; and thou shalt lay them upon the fire so that it may consume the enemy of Ra. And thou shalt put such a figure on the fire at dawn, and another at noon, and another at eventide when Ra setteth in the land of life, and another at midnight, and another at the eighth hour of the day, and another towards evening; [and if necessary] thou mayest do thus every hour during the day and the night, and on the days of the festivals . . . and every day. By means of this Apep, the enemy of Ra, shall be overthrown in the shower, for Ra shall shine and Apep shall indeed be overthrown.
Whereas the other Egyptian gods had to conform to the laws and limitations of Ma'at, Apep was the only Egyptian god who was believed to exist entirely outside of Ma'at; that is, he was believed to exist apart from the natural order.
Although it was believed that Ra typically vanquished him, Apep was so powerful that he could never be completely defeated. He would always return again each night for a new battle with the Sun God. And he was so powerful that apparently, the Egyptian gods required the help of human beings to keep him at bay. Hence the popularity of such exorcism-like rituals as the one mentioned above.
Countering an Egyptian-based Reconstructionist view of Apep
The members of the House of Netjer, an Egyptian-based reconstructionist group which refers to its religion as "Kemetic Orthodoxy" ("Khem" is the name the ancient Egyptians used for their own country), say the following about Apep in their online Glossary of Netjeru:
Apep (GR Apophis) - (actual translation unclear; the Romans believed it to mean "He Who Is Spat Out") While outside of the creation of Tem and thus technically not a part of Netjer [i.e., the Kemetic Orthodox idea of "God"], Apep is yet a part of the universe; that part which constantly seeks its dissolution and destruction.
I would counter this statement by elaborating that Apep constantly sought the dissolution and destruction of the universe as the Egyptians understood it. The Egyptians indeed believed that the world would end if the Sun God were annihilated; but in my view, the removal of their primary deity does not necessarily mean literal dissolution and destruction of the universe outside of an Egyptian theological worldview.
The entire Egyptian cosmology works upon the assumption that what its primary deity claims about himself is true -- i.e., that he is the Creator, the primary source of all order in the universe, and the highest of all gods that exist. His subsequent claims about Apep are also assumed to be true; Apep is supposedly a threat against the entire universe. But all this is really no different from the biblical god, who also claims to be the Creator and the source of all order in biblical scripture. And his subsequent claims about Satan are also that He is a threat against the divine order, which must constantly be opposed.
In other articles on this website, I challenge the popular views about Yahweh. Here, I will challenge the popular views of Ra. Why is it assumed by Kemetic pagans that what the Egyptians believed about Ra is true? Because Ra personally revealed it to them? Or because Ra personally revealed it to an ancient Egyptian that they have never met? If either of these is the case, why is it assumed that Ra was telling the truth?
I believe that if there is indeed a Creator god at all, It is highly unlikely to take even a remotely personal interest in human beings. And I believe that any spiritual being that evidently does take a personal interest in human beings must surely be a smaller-than-cosmic entity. This viewpoint is called Post-Copernican natural theology.
It may be argued that Ra is somewhat of a less personal Creator god than Yahweh, but this does not serve any argument against my point. Ra would still have to take somewhat of a personal interest in humans if he were to reveal himself as "the Creator" at all to the ancient Egyptians, and this is exactly as he is depicted in the mythology. For instance, the narrator of the Egyptian creation story is supposedly the Sun God himself. But assuming that this is truly an inspiration from some kind of spiritual being, how is anybody really sure that this spiritual being is really what he says he is?
I do not agree with the ancient Egyptians that Ra created himself, or that he "split apart" the ocean of "nothingness" so that he could create the entire world, or that all order in the universe depends upon his existence, or that the lack of his existence would spell out the ultimate annihilation of all things. Even if Ra really does have anything to do with the sun literally (as opposed to just using it as a personal symbol for his cult), it has been proven since the days of Copernicus that the universe does not revolve around our sun anymore than it revolves around ourselves. Sure, the destruction of the sun would be the subsequent destruction of us -- but the entire universe? No. The universe would go on just fine without us, and our sun.
If Ra is not the Creator god, then this means that the universe will not collapse if he is overthrown by Apep. If anything, it means that a spirit trying to control his flock through deception will be overthrown, and the humans he once controlled through superstition will be freed from his grasp. In this light, Apep's work against Ra may very well mean the end of the world -- but only for worshipers of Ra.
As a Devil worshiper, I think that any personal deity who claims to be the Creator is a liar, and I would sooner trust the god who is believed to oppose him, who does not make any claims about himself, and who allows himself to be scapegoated by everybody. I put my faith in Satan over Yahweh because, unlike Yahweh, Satan doesn't make claims about Himself, and He allows people to scapegoat Him all they want. Even according to the traditional Christian beliefs, Satan does not care whether human beings believe in Him or not. In my perspective, this demonstrates that Satan's ego is made of much stronger stuff than Yahweh's, which would appear to be quite fragile.
Likewise, Apep apparently never bothered to make claims about Himself to a cult of followers in Egypt. He seems to allow Ra and the other gods to spread whatever beliefs about Him they want. And He apparently does not care whether people believe in Him or not, as they do not have to believe in Him for Him to battle the Sun God. For the same reasons that I am inclined to put my faith in Satan over Yahweh, I am also inclined to put my faith in Apep over Ra, or any other self-proclaimed "Creator god."
Apep was considered to be a force that was alien to Egypt, and which brought foreign influences that continually threatened the stability of the Egyptian lifestyle and worldview. The Egyptians also feared Apep because he was essentially trying to overthrow the rulership of Deity in human politics. He therefore represented not only a fear of the destruction of the entire universe, but also a xenophobic fear of foreign influences, and a theological fear of secularism. To the Egyptian imagination, the idea of government apart from the gods -- i.e., secular government -- was quite unthinkable. It naturally would have painted images of apocalyptic death and destruction in their minds. But it has since been proven in recent centuries that secular government is not exactly the end of the world.
The House of Netjer website goes on to say:
Apep is characterized as an 'evil serpent' in some texts, but it must be remembered that for Kemetics this is not a personalized evil, such as the Christian or Islamic concepts of "devil."
Why would the Egyptians have depicted Apep as a character who speaks, as with their other gods, if they did not perceive him to be some sort of personal entity? Why would they believe that Apep was a clear and ever-present danger, which they were required to personally help the Sun God in fighting through rituals, if they did not believe that Apep was somehow personalized? Such an idea is inconsistent. If one believes one must personally take a role in fighting the "evil," then that "evil" naturally becomes personal to them. Therefore, the Egyptians most certainly did see Apep as a personalized "evil." And as I shall explain in further detail below, the Egyptian concept of Apep is indeed strikingly similar to the New Testament concept of Satan.
The Demonization of Set
The only one of the Egyptian gods who was believed to be powerful enough to fight Apep face-to-face was Set. Before he became demonized, Set was believed to be Ra's divine protector in the solar barque, and much like the Norse god Thor with the Midgard Serpent, Set would be the one to actually wrestle with Apep. For instance, Set is quoted as saying the following to Apep in Clark's Myth and Symbol in Ancient Egypt:
"Apep, O Enemy of Ra! Turn your face away! Ra hates the very sight of you." [Apep's head] is then cut off, hacked in pieces and thrown away on either side of the roads ... "Your head is crushed, O Groundling! Your bones are broken up and your flesh cut in pieces. Ra has consigned you to the earth, O Apep! Enemy of Ra!"
But war between the cults of Set and Horus, and the forceful establishment of rulership by the Horus cult, led to Set becoming demonized within the Egyptian imagination:
Thus the ruler of Naqada in Upper Egypt derived his authority from the truculent god Seth, pictured as a fierce, long-snouted beast, and the chieftan of a nearby Nekhen secured strength and cunning from the falcon-god Horus. In time, myths associated with these local deities were combined to form a compelling legend that told of a bitter power struggle and celebrated the emergence of a god-king for all Egypt. (McNeill, 57)
Afterwards, the foreign Hyksos invaders, who identified Set with their own god Sutekh, took over the Egyptian government. Due to the strong Egyptian distaste for foreigners (much less being ruled by them), Set became further degraded as a "god of evil" within the Egyptian imagination. Later, he would be blamed for the murder of Osiris, who had previously died of drowning:
It was probably about the Twenty-second Dynasty that the worship of Set began to decline, and that he took on the shape of an evil deity. The theory has been put forward that the Hyksos invaders identified him with certain of their gods, and that this sufficed to bring him into disrepute with the Egyptians. (Spence, 101)
At this time, Set, who had previously been the divine protector against Apep, became aligned with Apep in the Egyptian imagination. In some cases, some of the Egyptians apparently believed that Set was merely an aspect of Apep (or quite possibly vice versa). But whereas Set was sometimes worshiped as a positive deity, there is no evidence that Apep was ever worshiped at any point in Egyptian history. All the available evidence shows that he was only ever worshiped against.
According to A History of Christianity in Egypt on the Tour Egypt website, the final dethroning of the god-king Pharaohs was by the Roman Empire, well prior to its conversion to Christianity. The ancient Egyptian beliefs had already been effectively destroyed long before the cult of Christ was born. This is why the Egyptians were so quick to convert to Christianity when Mark went proselytizing down there in the early part of the first century AD. It was also because many of the beliefs of Christianity were already familiar to them (e.g., resurrection of a god-man, judgment of the soul after death, etc.).
It does not require that much of a stretch of the imagination to think that "Satan the Great Red Dragon who makes war against the Woman who is clothed with the Sun" (Revelation 12) would have sounded familiar to the Coptic (i.e., Egyptian) Christians, or that they would have identified such with "Apep the Dragon of Darkness who makes war against the Sun God." The fact that the Dragon is described as "red" in Revelation may also have reminded them of Set, particularly in his demonized role as an aspect of (or replacement for) Apep in Osirianism. It is interesting to note that the kingship of the Pharaohs was finally overthrown by the Romans, whose government would be described as being under the control of "Satan the Great Red Dragon" by the early Christians. This will be explained in further detail below.
Satan in the Old and New Testaments
In the Old Testament, the concept of Satan as we currently know it is non-existent. The "satan" of Job is hardly an adversary of the Jewish god, but merely an angel who serves him, and who works to test the faith of Yahweh's followers. From the online Jewish Encyclopedia:
Yet it is also evident from the prologue [of Job] that Satan has no power of independent action, but requires the permission of God, which he may not transgress. He can not be regarded, therefore, as an opponent of the Deity; and the doctrine of monotheism is disturbed by his existence no more than by the presence of other beings before the face of God.
By the time of the New Testament, a completely new idea of Satan from that of the Old Testament emerges. In the NT, Satan is described as a "great dragon" (Revelation 12:9) whose number one goal is to create and encourage competition against the Christian church, to secularize it, and to lead people away from the god of the Bible. Or, as Revelation 12:9 says, to "lead the world astray." He is not a mere servant who tests Christ's followers; he is an "evil dragon" who has declared war against Christ and the saints. How and why did this change in the understanding of Satan occur?
One of the common traditional Christian terms for the Devil is "that Old Serpent" or "that ancient Serpent" (Revelation 12:9, 20:2). Now, if you ask any Bible-thumping Christian where this terminology comes from, they will most likely tell you that it is a reference to the Genesis story, in which Satan, as a serpent, tempts Adam and Eve to eat the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge (Genesis 3:1), thereby condemning them and their descendants to lives of sin and godlessness.
However, this does not make any historical or scriptural sense. Nowhere in Genesis does it actually identify the serpent with Satan. This idea that the snake was Satan was a much later development that did not reach full fruition until well after the advent of Christianity. From The Encyclopedia of Religion, edited by Mircea Eliade:
Genesis (3:1ff.) mentions the serpent but not Satan; in Romans (16:20), however, Paul suggests that the serpent was Satan, an association already made in apocalyptic literature. This would imply that Satan tempted Adam, but the consensus of early Christian tradition was that Satan fell after Adam (Russell, 1977, p. 232). There may be good reason for believing that not until Origen in the third century CE was it clearly established that Satan's sin was pride, that he fell before Adam's creation, and that he was the serpent in the garden of Eden.
According to Bernard McGinn, a Professor of Historical Theology and History of Christianity at the University of Chicago, one of the major elements that led to the conceptualization of a "Devil" in Judeo-Christian thought was the tradition of the ancient combat myths, concerning a creator god's struggle against the "dragon of chaos." In other words, the stories of Marduk battling Tiamat, Ahura Mazda battling Ahriman, Ra battling Apep, and Zeus battling Typhon were adapted by the Jews to serve their own religious purposes. McGinn writes in his Antichrist: 2000 Years of the Human Fascination With Evil (pg. 26):
The use of such mythic language is heightened in the Psalms (for example, Ps. 77:16 - 19), where we find the monster named as Leviathan (Ps. 74:14 - 15, Ps. 104:26) or as Rahab (Ps. 89:9 - 10). The book of Job also refers to both Rahab (9:13) and Leviathan (3:8, 7:12, 40:25 - 41:25) as opponents of God. Perhaps the most powerful use of the mythic paradigm comes in Isaiah 51:9 - 10, where Yahweh's imminent deliverance of his people from their exile in Babylon is placed in the perspective of the cosmogonic struggle:
"Awake, awake! Clothe yourself in strength, arm of Yahweh. Awake, as in the past, in times of generations long ago. Did you not split Rahab in two, and pierce the Dragon through? Did you not dry up the sea, the waters of the great Abyss, to make the seabed a road for the redeemed to cross?"
The distance between this text and the apocalyptic, future-oriented use of the mythic combat pattern [in the book of Revelation] is not great.
In other words, these Near Eastern and Mediterranean "combat myths" about a creator god battling the Dragon of Darkness were also adapted by Christians for their own religious purposes, as will be further elaborated upon below.
However, McGinn points out that many of these ancient combat myths were similar only in fragmentary ways, which is undoubtedly true. If we compare the New Testament Satan to the other dragons of the earlier combat myths, we find some major differences between them. As I have already mentioned, the Sumerian Tiamat was believed to have been already defeated before the beginning of time, and was therefore not considered by the Sumerians to be a clear and present danger. The same holds true with the Greek Typhon, who was defeated and buried beneath the Earth by Zeus prior to the creation of humans. And neither the Hebrew Leviathan nor the Norse Jörmungand were considered to be sentient entities who consciously opposed their respective enemies.
Zoroastrianism and the Persian Ahriman
The idea of a full-blown Devil would not enter the Judaic imagination until after the Babylonian Exile, when Zoroastrian dualism inspired some of the Jews to believe in a powerful supernatural adversary of their god. From Robert E. Hume's The World's Living Religions (pg. 200):
Of all the other nine extra-Biblical living religions, Zoroastrianism is the only one from which a definite religious belief has been borrowed and included in the Bible. Consistently throughout the Old Testament down to and including the Isaiah of the Exile, the ultimate source of everything, including evil, is represented as the God Jehovah. But a distinct change took place after the Exile. A comparison of two parallel accounts of a certain experience of King David will show that a post-exilic document (1 Chronicles 21:1) substitutes 'Satan' for 'Jehovah' in the pre-exilic account (2 Samuel 24:1). Thus Satan is not an original feature of the Bible, but was introduced from Zoroastrianism.
According to L. Michael White on PBS.org, the Jews had been largely successful in most of their wars up until the Babylonian Exile. But then they were enslaved by the Babylonians under King Nebuchadnezzar, who in 586 B.C.E. destroyed Solomon's Temple and the city of Jerusalem. Afterwards, some of the Jews -- it is not known precisely how many -- were subsequently deported to Babylon.
Forced to admit defeat and to worship their god in a foreign land, the Jews began to question the legendary promises that Yahweh had supposedly given to King David (2 Samuel 3:18). There is no doubt that some of them may have thought that Yahweh had abandoned them, while others thought he was punishing them for their sins. But there was also the greater fear that there might be another god who was even more powerful than Yahweh. Thus did the trauma of having witnessed the destruction of their temple and their holy city turn inward and became theological reflection. (It is interesting to note here that, ever since the Babylonian Exile, the cities of Jerusalem and Babylon are continually used throughout post-exilic scripture -- even in the Christian book of Revelation -- as symbols of the opposition between Yahweh's chosen people and their enemies.)
Babylon was later conquered by the Persians, who released the Jews and helped them to rebuild their city. The Jews subsequently viewed the Persians as having been sent by Yahweh to save them. In particular, Isaiah 44 and 45 refer to Cyrus, a Persian king, as "God's anointed one."
The Persians at this time were Zoroastrians, dualistic believers in a cosmic god of goodness (Ahura Mazda) and a cosmic god of evil (Ahriman). Since the Jews believed the Persians had been sent by Yahweh to save them, then naturally they would have taken some inspiration from the Zoroastrian religion. And the idea of a powerful spiritual opponent that works to overthrow the "good" god's people began to catch on. It provided an explanation as to why Jerusalem was destroyed: because the Babylonians were receiving help from Yahweh's ultimate spiritual opponent, who is described in the post-exilic scriptures as a mighty dragon.
Similar to Tiamat and Apep before him, the Persian Ahriman was another "dragon of darkness" who had to be battled in order to establish some semblance of order in the world. But as in the other cases, the similarities between Ahriman and other Near Eastern dragon myths are fragmentary. Unlike Tiamat, the battle of Ahura Mazda against Ahriman was not an event in the distant past that had led to the creation of the world. Instead, it was an ongoing battle, like the battle between Ra and Apep, which would supposedly come to an end during a great apocalyptic showdown. This is attested to by Carol and Dinah Mack in their book, A Field Guide to Demons, Faeries, Fallen Angels, and Other Subversive Spirits (pg. 167):
The battle between these two has been predetermined to rage for a specific amount of time. The time is divided into eras, each of which lasts thousands of years. After the fourth age of these eras, there will be three saviors who will destroy the forces of Evil. Eventually Ahura Mazda will triumph and the new world will be restored to his rule.
But the mythology of Ahriman is also significantly different from that of Apep. Unlike Apep, Ahriman was largely associated with plagues, diseases, and physical ailments of the flesh, as is explained in Charles W. Waddle's Miracles of Healing - The Place of Magic and Miracle:
The belief in evil spirits, demons, magic, etc., and the same sort of prayers, incantations, charms, and formal ceremonies to ward off evil or to cure disease, are to be found here as in the Atharva-veda. We are told (61, pp. 219, and 229) how Angra Mainyu, a helper of Ahriman, created 99,999 diseases to afflict men and how they were defeated by the 10,000 healing plants which Ahura Mazda brought down from heaven, by Airyaman's permission, for the use of Thrita a priest of the god of life and health.
In fact, Ahriman is significantly different from the Judeo-Christian Satan as well. This is because the Zoroastrian religion had a pretty straightforward definition of "good" and "evil"; "good" seems to have been associated in Zoroastrianism with concrete physical benefit to humans (as in medicine), while "evil" was associated with concrete physical harm to humans (as in plagues).
On the surface, this may seem similar to Judeo-Christian notions of "good" and "evil," but it actually is not. For one thing, Satan is never associated specifically with plagues or diseases in the New Testament; the worst things He does in the New Testament is possess people and drive some of them insane (Matthew 8:28, 9:32). In fact, it is Yahweh who is reported to send plagues against people (Psalms 105; 135:8, 9; Acts 7:36; Exodus 9 - 12, 29, 30; 1 Samuel 6:4, 5; Leviticus 26:21; Deuteronomy 28:59; Revelations 11:6, 15:1, 6-8; 22:18, 19). If anything, Yahweh is sort of a combination of both Ahura Mazda and Ahriman (e.g., he is identified as "good" like Ahura Mazda, but he is believed to send plagues and harsh judgments against mankind like Ahriman). But Satan is never really associated purely with concrete physical harm; more to the point, His alleged number one goal is to "lead people astray" from Yahweh (Revelation 12:9), a spiritual "evil" that is considered far worse than any sort of physical injury.
After all, Satan does not exactly own a corner on the market of nastiness in Christian scripture; there are several examples of Yahweh demanding both animal and human sacrifice (Genesis 22:2, Exodus 29:14), as well as ordering genocide and the destruction of human civilization (Genesis 6:17) throughout the entire Bible. In Christian scripture, both Yahweh and Satan are capable of performing both beneficial and harmful acts upon humans on a concrete, physical plane. The primary reason why Satan is considered "evil" is simply because He opposes Yahweh and leads people away from worshiping him. And it is even said that He will take the form of an "angel of light" (2 Corinthians 11:14) in order to accomplish this. After all, you can attract more flies with honey than with vinegar.
Ahura Mazda, in contrast to Yahweh, was believed to be an all-benevolent deity who was responsible for everything that was beneficial to humanity on a physical level. Ahriman, in contrast to Satan, really was believed to own a corner on the market of nastiness; all physical ailment was said to come from him. So Ahriman is not only different from the Christian Satan in terms of being associated with plagues and diseases, but he is also different in terms of how "evil" is defined in Zoroastrianism and traditional Christianity. It would appear that Zoroastrianism has a human-centered definition of "evil" (i.e., "If it is harmful for humans, then it is evil; if it's beneficial for us, then it is good"), while traditional Christianity has a "God"-centered definition of "evil" (i.e., "It doesn't matter if it seems beneficial or harmful to humans; if it's against God's will, it's evil - if it comes from God's will, then it's good").
The definition of "evil" was apparently also different for the Egyptians as well, for the "good" god Ra most certainly was not an all-benevolent deity on a physical level. There is a legend in which Ra, during his years as the first Pharaoh of Egypt, became laughed at and ridiculed by his mortal subjects. He grew so displeased with this that he sent the goddess Hathor, in the form of Sekhmet the Lioness, to go out and slay all human beings everywhere. Not only did she happily carry out the Sun God's orders, but she also enjoyed drinking the blood of her mortal victims:
Long ago there dwelt on earth Ra, the sun-god, the creator of men and things, and ruler over the gods. For a time men gave to him the reverence due to his exalted position, but at length he began to grow old, and they mocked him . . . Now Ra was very wroth when he heard their blasphemy . . . Then did all the gods and goddesses give counsel to Ra that he should send his eye down among men to smite them sorely. And the eye of Ra descended in the form of the goddess Hathor, and smote the men in the desert and slew them . . . All night [she] waded in the blood of those who had been slain . . . (Spence, 167)
Eventually Ra ended up having second thoughts about his decree, and he managed to prevent Hathor from killing everybody by getting her good and drunk. Nevertheless, this legend demonstrates that Ra, like Yahweh, had somewhat of a genocidal streak, and was certainly not "all-benevolent" in a human-centered sense. And in much the same way that Satan is "evil" in traditional Christianity, Apep was really "evil" in terms of challenging the god who was thought to be the highest. So although the concept of a Devil became imported into Judaism through Zoroastrianism, the Christian idea of Satan is much more similar to Apep than it is to Ahriman.
Greek Influence Upon the Judaic Imagination
L. Michael White goes on to describe how, after the Jews became influenced by the Zoroastrian culture, Alexander the Great overthrew the Persians and conquered the entire Middle Eastern world. He enforced Hellenistic culture upon the peoples that he conquered. At this time, the book of Enoch was produced, in which Jewish monotheism and a belief in rebellion against Yahweh by supernatural beings were combined for the first time.
From the story of the Titans seeking to overthrow Zeus and the gods of Olympus, the Jews derived their story of Azazel and the Watchers, a group of angels who descend to the Earth, mate with mortal women, and instruct humankind in various arts that Yahweh has supposedly made forbidden to them. It is relatively easy to see that this story may have been strongly influenced by the Greek myth of Prometheus as well.
The Jews originally did not see the Greeks as oppressors, but as benign rulers. But this changed after the Maccabean Revolt around 200 B.C. A Greek king named Antiochus IV had ascended to the throne, and he became a far more oppressive ruler than his predecessors. The Jews were resistant to some of his policies, and to make a demonstration of his power, Antiochus IV blasphemed and vandalized their temple with the "abomination of desolation." Among other things, he put a pig's head on the altar of sacrifice. This in turn incited a Jewish revolt against the Greek authorities.
For the first time since their war with Babylon, the Jews found themselves facing an enemy that wanted not only to defeat them, but also to destroy their culture and traditions. In the minds of the Jews, the Greeks became human embodiments of the supernatural forces that sought to overthrow Yahweh, who would be collectively personified by the seven-headed chaos serpent alluded to in their post-exilic scriptures.
The Jews won their war and succeeded in forming a new independent Jewish state, which existed for roughly the next hundred years. But they would later get into a civil war, and the city leaders asked for the Romans to help them in settling the dispute. The Romans ended up occupying the Jews and absorbing them under their own rulership.
Rome and Christianity
According to the online Illustrated History of the Roman Empire, the government of Rome was not established upon any core belief system that prohibited the toleration of other belief systems. Because of this, the foreign cultures that Rome brought under its occupation found it relatively easy to continue living and practicing according to their own religious traditions. This included not only the Jews, but also the cults of Cybele, Osiris and Isis. So long as the people who were made citizens of Rome demonstrated loyalty to the state, they were allowed to worship whatever gods or practice whatever beliefs they liked.
It is sometimes thought that, when Rome was brought under the rulership of the emperors, it came to resemble Egypt in that the emperors were worshiped, much like the Pharaohs were. However, this is not exactly the case. In actuality, an emperor was declared to be a "divus," which was something like a genius spirit, only after his death. The dead emperor would then be worshiped and given sacrifices beside the other gods during popular festivals. Worship of dead emperors was instituted as a means of demonstrating loyalty to the state, but the worship of a living emperor as an incarnate deity was often not considered acceptable.
Also, Rome was far less xenophobic than was Egypt, as is proven by the fact that Rome was willing to absorb so many different foreign cultures into its empire. And despite the emperor worship, Rome would appear to have been the closest thing to a secular state that the ancient world had at that point in history.
Mainstream Judaism seemed to blend in well with the surrounding Roman culture, but after a while, Jewish reform groups began to crop up and incite rebellion against the Roman government. One of these groups claimed to have been founded by Jesus Christ, who was believed by his followers to be the Messiah.
The Christians called their namesake "the King of the Jews" and preached that, although he had ascended to the heavens, he would one day return and overthrow the Roman government. He would subsequently install his own theocratic kingdom, the "New Jerusalem" (Revelation 3:12) over the Earth, in which all who refused to accept Jesus as their savior would be thrown into the "lake of fire."
Because of these beliefs, the Christians became seen as rebels and insurrectionists, and they were persecuted violently at times by the Roman government. Due to this development, the Roman government became interpreted in Christian apocalyptic texts (such as Revelation) as a vehicle through which the great opponent of Yahweh worked to oppress Yahweh's people. In Revelation 12, the seven-headed dragon is specifically named as Satan.
So let us review what we have so far:
(1) The ancient Egyptians believed in a powerful supernatural being named Apep, whom they identified as a great dragon, and whom they believed sought to permanently overthrow the Sun God.
(2) The Egyptians believed the Sun God to have been the founder of their civilization, which was extremely theocratic in nature; therefore, Apep's attempts to overthrow the Sun God were also considered to be a direct attack against his visible agents in Egyptian government and civilization -- namely, the Pharaohs.
(3) The Romans eventually conquered the Egyptians and overthrew the kingship of the Pharaohs once and for all; they also came to occupy the Jews.
(4) The Jews, after being conquered by the Babylonians and saved by the Persians, began to believe in a powerful supernatural adversary against their god, to whom they alluded in their post-exilic scriptures as a seven-headed dragon.
(5) This dragon would become blamed for the destruction of Jerusalem, the theocratic Jewish city-state.
(6) Throughout Jewish history after the Babylonian Exile, enemies of Jerusalem and "God's Chosen People" would become demonized as agents of the great dragon.
(7) The newborn Christian cult also believed in the existence of a great dragon, whom they specifically identified as Satan; they believed the dragon makes war against Christ, the saints, and Jerusalem, and that it would seek the ultimate destruction of Jerusalem during the battle of Armageddon.
(8) Rome was the closest thing the ancient world had to a truly secular state, and was considered by the early Christians to be a vehicle through which the dragon works His will upon the world.
(9) The Christians believed that Christ would one day return and establish a theocracy under Yahweh that would replace Rome; the center of Christ's government would of course be "the New Jerusalem."
(10) Christ, like the Pharaohs, was considered to be the ultimate human representative of a Creator god, who was the only source of light, order and "goodness" in a world that was constantly under "attack" by the "evil" dragon.
Dominionism and the concept of Jesus
It is interesting to note that the Egyptians' perception of Apep as being dangerous to the entire universe was significantly due to their highly theocratic culture. It is also interesting to note that the Pharaohs were finally dethroned by the Romans, who were perhaps the closest thing to a secular state in its time. And finally, it's extremely interesting to note that the Roman government was identified with the great red dragon Satan by the early Christians. These things are interesting because they suggest a recurring theme of theocracy versus secularism, with theocracy being symbolized by a god-king, and secularism being represented by a dragon of darkness.
When Christianity was adopted by the Roman Empire as the state religion, the Roman government became more and more theocratic, until the Christian church finally became the primary political power of Western Europe after the fall of Rome in 476 C.E. For many centuries, the church was the only source of political stability within Western Europe. Secular government would not arrive into people's minds until well after the Middle Ages, and quite naturally it was opposed by both Catholic and Protestant churches in Europe.
After the Enlightenment era, the idea of secular government became steadily more popular, even among many Christian groups. This in turn led to such things as the American Revolution, which brought about the birth of what Islamic fundamentalists today call "the Great Satan."
Today, secular government has become the norm in Western culture. But in recent decades, a particular variety of Christian known as the Dominionists have been exerting more of an influence within American society. Dominionists are Christians who believe in re-establishing Christianity as a political and theocratic power within American government. From the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance:
[Dominionism] represents one of the most extreme forms of Fundamentalist Christianity thought. Its followers, called Dominionists, are attempting to peacefully convert the laws of United States so that they match those of the Hebrew Scriptures. They intend to achieve this by using the freedom of religion in the US to train a generation of children in private Christian religious schools. Later, their graduates will be charged with the responsibility of creating a new Bible-based political, religious and social order. One of the first tasks of this order will be to eliminate religious choice and freedom. Their eventual goal is to achieve the "Kingdom of God" in which much of the world is converted to Christianity. They feel that the power of God's word will bring about this conversion. No armed force or insurrection will be needed; in fact, they believe that there will be little opposition to their plan. People will willingly accept it. All that needs to be done is to properly explain it to them.
All religious organizations, congregations etc. other than strictly Fundamentalist Christianity would be suppressed. Nonconforming Evangelical, main line and liberal Christian religious institutions would no longer be allowed to hold services, organize, proselytize, etc. Society would revert to the laws and punishments of the Hebrew Scriptures. Any person who advocated or practiced other religious beliefs outside of their home would be tried for idolatry and executed. Blasphemy, adultery and homosexual behavior would be criminalized; those found guilty would also be executed.
Today it is not unusual for us to hear in televangelist programs, such as "The 700 Club," that "This was originally a Christian country!" and "We need to take America back for Christ!" Not only is this trend for theocracy disturbing, but the opposition toward it, and the encouragement of secularism, is believed to come purely from Satan Himself.
Of course, there are also fundamentalist Christians in the world who do not subscribe to the beliefs of Dominionism, and whose churches are perhaps wrongly considered "theocratic." They place greater authority on following Jesus and the Bible rather than on remaining loyal to an institution or a public figurehead. And instead of trying to Christianize the political world, they view themselves as an isolated enclave in what is essentially Satan's domain (for Satan is described as "the God of this World" in 2 Corinthians 4:4), belonging truly to "the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 7:21) which is "not of this world" (John 18:36).
However, we must keep in mind that in the more apocalyptic forms of Christianity, it is strongly believed that when Jesus returns to Earth, he will establish a one-world theocratic government beneath Yahweh. And we must also remember that Christianity in its earliest forms was an extremely apocalyptic belief system, having grown specifically out of Jewish apocalypticism. Just the idea of Jesus Christ itself is very much like the views of the Egyptians toward their Pharaohs. Jesus is considered by fundamentalist Christians (even non-Dominionists) to have been "the Creator" and the Highest of all supernatural beings incarnated in human form. And, just as Apep was dedicated to subverting the authority of "the Creator" in the person of the god-king Pharaohs, Satan is dedicated to subverting the authority of "the Creator" in the person of the god-king Jesus. The recurring theme of theocracy versus secularism, with theocracy represented by a god-king and secularism represented by a dragon, remains an extremely important feature of many (though not necessarily all) modern Christian movements today.
Countering Satanist identifications of Satan with Set
Many Satanists try to identify the Christian Devil with earlier, pre-Christian pagan deities. And some of the identifications they make are not only far-fetched, but absolutely absurd.
Perhaps the number one deity who is identified with Satan by Satanists is the Egyptian god Set. This is usually based upon the claim that the Hebrew word "satan" (meaning "adversary") is somehow derived from Set-hen, an Egyptian cult title which supposedly means "Eternal Set."
The problem with this assertation is that there is simply no documented Egyptological evidence to support such a belief. First of all, I have never been able to locate the cult title Set-hen in any archaeological resource that is available to me. I am willing to allow that perhaps there may be some evidence of this out there somewhere, but until I find documented proof, I will remain skeptical.
To my knowledge, the person who first popularized this idea that "Satan came from Set-hen" was Dr. Michael A. Aquino, the founder of the Temple of Set. I emailed Dr. Aquino privately through his website, and I asked him if he would be willing to share what his sources are for this postulation. Unfortunately Dr. Aquino, being busy, did not have time to find the information I needed. So I still have not seen any evidence that Set-hen was even a name that was used in Egypt. At least, not yet.
It seems to be thought, by the Satanists who identify Satan with Set, that such an identification makes sense because Set was "the original Devil." To be sure, most Egyptological books that you can pick up at your local Waldenbooks typically refer to Set as "the god of evil" and the murderer of Osiris, without any elaboration on the original positive roles this god played in Egyptian religion. In my opinion, this is due to the fact that most Egyptological books really only skim the surface of Egyptology, and they offer oversimplified views of what the Egyptians believed. Most of them do not mention, for instance, that the Osirian cult evolved at a relatively late period in Egyptian history, and that therefore Set's role in the Osirian cult was a much later development.
So due to the common misinformation about Set and Egyptian religion in general, it is often supposed that Set was always a Devil-god, and that he was always the chief Devil-god of Egypt. Such is provably false, however, when one considers that Set was originally a positive deity who was prayed to for strength in battling Apep. He was originally Ra's bodyguard and the helmsman of the solar barque, and Apep was the original (and chief) Devil-god before Set.
Many of the Satanists who identify Satan with Set do this so that they can say, "Before He became the fallen angel of Christianity, the Prince of Darkness was worshiped as a good guy who protected the universe from a monster called Apep." My reasons for disagreeing with this motivation are fourfold:
(1) I don't see the Prince of Darkness as the sort of entity who has ever wanted to be worshiped by large numbers of people. I would not expect Him to have ever been worshiped in any ancient culture. Therefore, if we are to identify Him with a pre-Christian deity at all, it makes the most sense to me that He be identified with a deity that was never worshiped. And Apep, unlike Set, was evidently never worshiped.
(2) Although it is natural for Satanists to believe that Satan is somehow "good" (and indeed we have good reason to believe so), I don't believe Satan has any wish to be popularly understood as a positive deity by the masses. I think He is perfectly happy to play the role of a bogey for conventional religionists. And I feel that, by attempting to make Him popularly seen as a positive deity, we would be whitewashing Him. So if we are going to identify Satan with a pre-Christian deity, I think it ought to be with a deity that was also consistently seen as a bogey in the respective culture. Set was not always seen as a bogey, but Apep was.
(3) There were times when the rulers of Egypt were worshipers of Set. As with the Pharaohs who were believed to be incarnations of the Sun God, Setian Pharaohs were believed to be incarnations of Set. Therefore, the cult of Set was every bit as theocratic as that of the Sun God. Even mythologically, Set was defending theocracy by defending the Sun God from Apep. I do not perceive the deity I worship to be a theocratically-inclined deity at all; I believe that the Prince of Darkness is absolutely opposed to theocracy. Therefore, I think it is nonsensical to believe that the Prince would ever have allowed Himself to be worshiped by a theocratic cult in ancient times. Identifying Him with Apep makes a great deal more sense in this respect, precisely because Apep was never worshiped by any cult, and He was always perceived to be adversarial toward the Egyptian theocracy.
(4) There is simply no hard, concrete evidence that the Christian idea of Satan was really influenced by Set at all. However, there is a reasonable amount of evidence to suggest that the Christian idea of Satan was influenced by the dragon combat myths, and the one dragon combat myth that resembles Satan the most is Apep.
Reconciling the Apep-Satan Thesis With Polysatanic Theology
As I indicate in my article, Lions and Satans and Christs, Oh My!, I am a polytheist who believes not only in more than one god, but also in more than one Devil. I also believe that not all people who claim to worship the Devil are really worshiping the same one. In my article, I suggest that the best way to differentiate between different Devils is by observing the ways that theistic Satanists or Devil worshipers behave in response to their spiritual experiences.
If a Devil worshiper feels that the Devil they follow desires a lot of human attention and worshipers, and wants to be recognized as the "one true god," then they are following an altogether different entity from the New Testament Satan. The New Testament Satan is a character who leads people away from the "one true god" concept, and who is more than happy to have human beings become atheists or pagan polytheists. There is a famous old saying: "The greatest trick the Devil ever played was in convincing us that He doesn't exist." This establishes the traditional Christian view that Satan does not care whether people believe in Him or not; so long as He can lead them away from being under the thumb of the god-king Jesus, He is happy to let them practice whatever non-Christian beliefs they like.
This is extremely different from the "Satan" worshiped by some other Satanists. A minority of theistic Satanists will claim that Satan is "angry" that He is not acknowledged and worshiped by the majority of humankind, and that some day in the future, He will make an apocalyptic demonstration of His power. All who then refuse to worship Him will be punished, and He will subsequently establish a theocratic kingdom over the Earth. Their emphasis on theocracy and one-true-wayism is what differentiates their Devil from the New Testament Satan.
Since the word "satan" is not really a name, but simply a title (meaning "adversary" in Hebrew), then it would be foolish to say that "there is only one Satan." Absolutely anyone or anything that takes some kind of adversarial role can be acknowledged as a "satan." Therefore, I try to avoid getting into theological pissing contests by claiming that the Satan I worship is the "one true Satan." However, I believe I am on solid ground when I assert that the Satan I follow is the Satan of the New Testament, and that the Satan some of these other Satanists worship is a completely different entity.
Both the New Testament Satan and the Egyptian Apep have strong connections to secularism and "godlessness." Because of this theme of theocracy versus secularism that is evident in Egyptian, Jewish and Christian religion, I feel confident in asserting that the New Testament Satan and the Egyptian Apep are one and the same entity. I must further assert that, whatever spirit the theocratically-minded Satanists may be following, they are not following Apep either. In terms of the question, "Which Devil do you follow?", I assert that the Devil I follow is the Devil of the New Testament, whom I believe is identical to the original Devil of ancient Egypt.
The Advantages of Identifying Apep With Satan
There are a number of advantages of identifying the Egyptian Apep with the New Testament Satan:
(1) There is no evidence that there was ever a cult of Apep, and no evidence that he was ever worshiped in Egypt. Therefore, in choosing to identify the New Testament Satan with Apep, a worshiper of the New Testament Satan cannot claim that they are "reviving an ancient religion" that "predates Christianity." This is an unverifiable claim that is made by distressingly many theistic Satanists. It is important for theistic Satanists to admit that our subculture is a relatively new phenomenon and not some ancient religion in disguise. Identifying the New Testament Satan with Apep, as opposed to identifying Him with other deities like Set or Enki or Ptah, prevents us from being able to claim that we are practicing a pre-Christian religion.
(2) Since Apep was never worshiped, Satanists who identify their Satan with Apep will not have to waste time trying to reconstruct an ancient belief system. For instance, we don't need to concern ourselves with what sort of rituals might have been practiced by the priests of Apep, or what holidays they may have practiced. This is because there were no rituals or priests or holidays dedicated to Apep specifically. Identifying the New Testament Satan with Apep gives us a great deal of room to play around with new ideas, rather than having to chain ourselves to old ones. This is in fact quite agreeable with the role Apep played in ancient Egyptian religion as a bringer of strange and foreign influences.
(3) Apep was never described in ancient Egyptian mythology as a "fallen angel," or a created being who rebels against the Creator. In Egyptian religion, Apep was considered to be an uncreated being who exists entirely apart from the Egyptian Creator deity. Satanists who wish to divorce themselves from the "Satan as a fallen angel" concept may find an identification with Apep to be invaluable for this very reason.
(4) Identifying the New Testament Satan with Apep gives us a means of connecting with the Prince of Darkness that is not limited to the Judeo-Christian mythos, but which also refrains from dismissing the Judeo-Christian mythos entirely. Because of the recurring themes of theocracy versus secularism, and because of the fact that Rome (a) conquered the Egyptians and (b) was associated specifically with the dragon by the early Christians, it does not require that much of a stretch to believe that Apep succeeded in dethroning Ra and the Pharaohs through the Romans, and that after beating the Egyptian gods, He has now turned His attention toward the Judeo-Christian god. Even today, Apep works through modern day forces of secularization against Dominionists and other theocratically-inclined religionists.
(5) There are no Neopagan religious groups dedicated to the worship of Apep. Since Apep was never worshiped in Egypt and was always considered a devil, modern Egyptian-based Neopagan groups seem to have no interest in claiming Him as a member of their pantheons. Therefore, Satanists who choose to claim Apep as an alternate form of the New Testament Satan will not have to deal with any angry Neopagans telling them that "You can't do that!" And even if they do, all they have to do in response is to point out that Apep was never considered to be a member of any ancient Egyptian pantheon, ever. Therefore, His name is not the property of Kemetic pagans.
There is considerable evidence that the Christian idea of Satan was indeed influenced by the "dragon combat myths" of the Mediterranean and Near East. And when we compare these various "dragon combat myths" to the Christian mythology about Satan, the one dragon character that most resembles Him is Apep.
Apep, like Satan, appears as a conscious entity that deliberately seeks to overthrow "divine authority," who is everywhere and encircles the entire Earth, who never rests from His quest against absolute control by the gods, who must be continually fought and prayed against, and who can never be completely vanquished or destroyed (or at least, not until some purported apocalypse scenario). He is accused of trying to destroy the entire universe by a god that claims to be the Creator; and yet, like Satan, Apep makes no claims about Himself.
Both Apep and Satan are described as great dragons who behave as adversaries to "the established divine order" (whether it be Ma'at or "the Word of God"). Both are sentient entities who are believed to consciously create opposition. They both have to be continually re-defeated, not only by Yahweh or Ra, but also by human priests in the form of exorcisms. And like Apep, Satan was never worshiped - or at least, not until recently.
They are both chiefly considered "evil" simply because they oppose a god who is considered to be "the Highest." And neither of the gods they oppose - neither Yahweh nor Ra - were considered completely benevolent in their respective religions. Both Apep and Satan threaten to secularize human society, for Apep sought to overthrow "the Creator" in the forms of the Pharaohs, and to thereby secularize Egypt. And in similar fashion, Satan seeks to overthrow "the Creator" in the form of Jesus Christ, and to thereby secularize the Church. And what is Jesus Christ but another kind of Pharaoh, a god-king who rules in "the kingdom of heaven"?
It requires a leap of faith to identify the Christian Satan with any pre-Christian deity; this much is certainly a fact. However, regarding the evidence of Satan's origin in Judeo-Christian thought, His ties to the "dragon combat myths," and the major similarities between Satan and Apep in their respective mythologies, I feel very secure that my leap of faith is not anywhere near as large (or baseless) as some others.
And on that note, I give praise to the Great Dragon of the Apocalypse, who is called Satan in today's world, but whom I believe was known in the ancient days of Khem as Apep.
HAIL APEP SAATET-TA, SNAKE GOD OF HELL! ALL PRAISE UNTO THE GREAT DEVOURER WHO VANQUISHED THE EGYPTIAN SUN GOD RA, AND WHO OFFERS THE VERY SAME FATE TO THE TYRANT GOD YAHWEH! HAIL LORD APEP, THE MASTER OF THE WORLD!
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