If you've been around in the Satanist subculture for a while, then there's no doubt that you've heard somebody refer to Satan by the name of "Set" before. Some of you may be wondering why people like that name so much. I have a very long and wordy explanation for this phenomenon that you can find here, but here in this sermon, I will try to give a simpler explanation.
You see, Set was one of many names for an ancient Egyptian god who was associated with chaos, thunderstorms, and the desert. Among other things, he was called "the Red Lord" and "the God of the Nighttime Sky." As a stellar deity (that is, a nocturnal god associated with stars), he was considered to be the twin brother and equal of Horus, the hawk-god of the sky by day. Together, the two brothers were deities of war, and at one time in Egyptian history, they were worshiped equally.
But, as in other countries, religious war broke out in Egypt. The cults of Horus and Set began to fight with each other for kingship over all of Egypt, and the worshipers of Horus won. History has proven that the gods of the defeated become the devils of the victors, and so it was with Set. Set became a new scapegoat for the Egyptians, who needed somebody to blame for all the evil in the world.
Previously, the Egyptians had already possessed a primary Devil-god for their pantheon, the Snake devil Apophis. Originally, Set was believed to be the one god who was strong enough to protect the sun god Ra from Apophis. But after the unsuccessful war with the cult of Horus, Set and Apophis became fused together into a single Devil-god, who was normally just called Set. It is most likely because of this fusion that the Greeks would later identify Set with their own snake monster Typhon, who was the arch-Enemy of the Olympian gods in their mythos.
And anybody who's read up on Jewish history will realize how Greek ideas influenced their beliefs in "the Enemy of Jehovah" while they were under Greek occupation. The story of Typhon no doubt influenced some of their ideas about the monster serpent Leviathan - who was already quite similar to Apophis - and the story of Prometheus no doubt influenced their story about Azazel, the rebel angel. And of course, the ideas of the Dragon and the rebel angel would become fused together as "Satan" in European Christianity.
Isn't it just crazy how all these ideas are so inter-connected with each other?
Anyway, a lot of people believe that our Lord, the Prince of Darkness, was originally worshiped in Egypt as Set before He became the Satan of the Christians. Perhaps there is some ounce of truth in this, but not in the way that most adherents of this theory would think. To my knowledge, the first Satanist to have popularized this connection was a man named Dr. Michael A. Aquino.
Dr. Aquino was a member of the Church of Satan back in the early 1970's. In 1975, he and some other Church of Satan members left the group and later chose to form their own church. They named this church the Temple of Set, based on Dr. Aquino's belief that the name "Satan" is etymologically derived from an Egyptian title for Set, Set-hen, which supposedly means "Eternal Set."
With all due respect to Dr. Aquino (whom I have to admit I greatly admire), there is absolutely no evidence for the Set-hen theory. In fact, there is no evidence of a direct connection between the Christian Satan and the Egyptian god Set as he was originally worshiped. But if we take into account that Set was fused together with Apophis, who was pretty much identical to Leviathan, who was later fused together with Azazel to make the modern Christian idea of Satan, then the idea begins to make sense.
But to claim that Set is the "oldest and purest form" of the Prince of Darkness is to make quite a stretch. To my knowledge (which is certainly not infallible by any means), the Devil goes back to ancient Sumer at least (in the form of Tiamat). And He is a god who has always been scapegoated and feared by the conventional religions of the time. Not even Set was always scapegoated and feared, for his was originally a very popular and widespread cult.
Still, the name Set has become very important for many people who religiously follow the Devil, including myself. Why has this association become so important? What is its meaning, and why its significance?
Even though Dr. Aquino may have been wrong about the Set-hen theory, I do not believe he is wrong to call the Devil Set. I believe that what Dr. Aquino really did was actually give the Devil a new name. A name which has been given to Him out of love and reverence, rather than hatred or fear.
Consider the fact that almost every name we have for the Devil - Tiamat, Apophis, Ahriman, Satan, and even Lucifer - have been given to Him by His avowed enemies. None of these names were given to Him out of love or respect. They have been given to Him by people who preach against having any love or respect for Him.
People who sympathize with the Devil are a pretty new breed in terms of human history; folks like us didn't start turning up until the late 19th century or so at the very least. And even then, we didn't really go public in a major way until the 1960's, when Anton LaVey started his Church of Satan. Until 1975, all the names that people like us used for the Devil were names we had inherited from His avowed enemies. To our knowledge, it wasn't until 1975 - when Dr. Aquino started calling Him Set - that the Devil was actually given a name by someone who loved Him.
My own belief is that the ancient Egyptian god Set was originally a completely different being from the Prince of Darkness. But I also believe that the name of Set has been adopted, by us Devil folk, as a post-Christian name for Him. Furthermore, Set is the first name that people like us have chosen for the Devil that has become popularly associated with Him, even within non-Satanist circles. And in that sense, I feel that it is perfectly legitimate for us to call Him Set, provided that we understand He may not be the same as the Egyptian Set.
Think about it this way. Just as there can be more than one human being who has the name John, there can also be more than one spirit who has the name Set. Thanks to people like Dr. Aquino, who actually revere the Prince of Darkness, the names "Set" and "Prince of Darkness" have become firmly tied together within the Satanist subculture. And whether it is historically accurate or not, it is most certainly meaningful and sincere.
Another good thing about calling the Devil Set is that, historically, it has helped many Satanists to break farther away from the Judeo-Christian mindset. Many of us Devil folk come from Christian backgrounds and were raised by our parents to believe in Satan as an evil being. I myself was not given this kind of upbringing, but I know plenty of Satanists who were.
This sort of mental programming can be difficult to overcome; it is like a virus that seeps into your soul and threatens to take over your mind. But ever since Set became a new name for the Devil, it's become easier for Satanists to tear themselves away from this wicked programming. This is because it gives us a way of understanding the Prince of Darkness from outside of a Christian lens. And because of it, we have become more and more of a non-Christian culture of faith, rather than just an anti-Christian one.
In terms of my own spiritual experiences, Set was the first name by which the Devil revealed Himself to me as a real and awesome divinity. Before that, I only believed as the LaVeyans do, that the Devil is just an unconscious force. But when He revealed Himself to me as Set, I came to understand that He is indeed a real and sentient intelligence in nature. He has revealed Himself to me by many other names since then as well, but the name Set continues to have great personal meaning to me in this regard. It is for this reason that in most of my sermons on this website, I will be referring to Him as Set.
In the end, it doesn't really matter what names we use to refer to the Prince of Darkness. If you pray to Him, He will know you are talking to Him - even if you're calling Him "Elvis." It doesn't matter if the names you use are historically accurate or not, so long as they are spiritually meaningful to you, the individual. So if you should ever find yourself in a debate where someone is making fun of you for using a name that they don't like, you just remember that it's your relationship with the Devil that we're talking about here, and it's entirely between you and Him to determine how you're going to communicate to each other. And nobody else - neither man nor god - has any right to interfere with that!
And on that note, I'd like to say hail Set, the Devil and Prince of Darkness, who is Lord of all the Earth. Amen!