Enigmatic Magick of Set and Thelema

There is very little in historical records concerning the nature of the god Set. Light research will reveal little other than the legendary battles between Set and Horus. The battles owe to middle and late dynastic times, by which time Set had become thoroughly demonised.

Egyptian Tarot of Thelema Set XVOriginally, Set was the only begotten son (or star) of Nuit, by divine parthenogenesis. As such, Set is identical to Hadit, for he is the manifester of Nuit through her star.[1] As written in the (Egyptian) Book of the Law, Liber AL, II: 3–4,

In the sphere I am everywhere the centre, as she, the circumference, is nowhere found. Yet she shall be known and I never.

The ‘Sethian Gnosis’ forms part of the collection of works attributed to Hermes Trismegistus.[2] There we find what is very likely a pre-dynastic ancient Egyptian cosmological trinity. The principles of light and darkness are permeated by spirit or fragrance, forming the matrix for manifestation. The trinity is the geometric expression of Set or Saturn, the basis of form as an idea on the spiritual plane. Qabalistically, the three veils of the limitless, Ain Soph Aur, are projected through Da’ath (Set-Hadit) to form the triangular basis of the Tree of Life, or of Eternity.

The mysteries of Set were resumed, in fragmentary form, in other Gnostic scriptures. In Pistis Sophia, the name of Jesus is said to be ABERAMENTHO. While Christian theology insists the name ‘Jesus’ to be that of a historical personage, the Graeco Egyptian name clearly means, ‘image (likeness) of Ra-Mentu’. The god Mentu combines the attributes of both the solar Ra and the lunar Set. ABERAMENTHOOO thus identifies the Gnostic Christ with Set-Typhon as the Initiator.

The Coptic name, which begins with alpha and ends with omega, adds Qabalistically to the number 1013. There is more to ‘likeness’ than mere similarity, for the number 1013 is that of syzygy, a word indicative of a method by which one knows oneself ‘through another’.[3] The polar twin or double is central to the elemental magick of the ancient Egyptian priesthood of Set. The surviving fragments of this knowledge were attributed to the Greek god Hermes (Roman Mercury) to obscure the fact that it was derived from Egypt, the ‘black land’ of Khem-mentu.

Mentu is the name of the god that appears on the obverse of the Stele of Revealing. He has various names, including Horakhty, the Sphinx who is ‘Horus in the Horizon’, and Ra Hoor Khuit, which is the longer form of the same. The fact that this god is commonly held to be the solar child of Isis and Osiris serves as a convenient veil drawn over the identification with Set. The cult of Osiris was not dominant throughout the two lands of Egypt until relatively late dynastic times. Ra-Mentu, on the other hand, is particular to the ancient Theban cult of Thelema, embodying the attributes of Ra, Horus, Set and Apophis (as serpent) in one image. Study of the hieroglyphics on the obverse and reverse of the Stele demonstrates that Kenneth Grant was not mistaken when he insisted that Liber AL vel Legis, the source book of Thelema, declares the secret doctrine of the cult of Set-Typhon and not the exoteric rites of Isis, Osiris and their child Horus. The birth of Set as the manifesting star of Nuit required no paternal intervention—and that is a key of primordial import.

Set and the Capricorn Solstice

The hedonist revelry of Christmas is all the more bizarre when we consider that its principal icon, Santa, is derived from an obscure Roman Catholic anointed luminary, St Nicholas. Nonetheless, three days after the winter solstice the light is most certainly born into the darkness of the world—though profane humanity neither knows nor cares.

Socrates and his modern day adorants prefer the naturalistic explanation of supernatural phenomena, which does not dare contradict the sacred shrine of dogmatic material science. While asceticism insists that visible nature is abhorrent, pre-religious spiritual doctrines assert that visible nature is the form of the formless, a miraculous demonstration of the existence of God. This cannot be proved by argument, persuasion, reason or fact, since the miracle is entirely in the eye of the beholder.

While nature is the object here, Esoteric Thelema declares there are no objects as such and that all worlds of existence arise from pure subjectivity. For that reason, the nature of Set is impossible to pin down, for he is both the pin and the thing pinned; he is the hook, the line and the sinker; the cross (way) and the one crucified; he is the stone of the wise, the stone for stumbling and the one that stumbles.

If we look to the Pyramid Texts, we find that the ancient Egyptians, shrewd in such matters, depicted the serpent, cognate with ‘messiah’, going forth on two legs—when everyone knows the serpent is uniquely identified by the fact of having no legs.[4] Thus do we go forth, be it in darkness or light!

It is no accident that Saturn is the planetary ruler of two Zodiac signs and not one, though the harmony was not realised by modern astrologers, who wished to align their particular form of black art with profane science. They thus wheeled in the outer planets as new rulers of the double signs, invoking the Lords of Unbalanced Force.[5]

The Egyptian and Thelemic New Year

The ancient Egyptians marked the New Year by the reappearance of Sirius or Set, ‘Who came first before the gods’. The appearance of Sirius coincided with the Nile flood. Esoteric Thelema has the New Year beginning with the Capricorn solstice, not the Aries equinox. So far as nature is concerned, this is so obvious as not to require an explanation. We could also term this the commencement of the Qabalistic or Platonic New Year, while bearing in mind that Plato learned it all from the Egyptian priesthood.[6] In the land of Khem, Set was, and is, the Opener of the Year, and for that reason was always present at the coronation of a pharaoh. As the child of Nuit, he is her manifesting star. As declared in Liber AL, I: 1–2, the opening of the book,

Had! The manifestation of Nuit.
The unveiling of the company of heaven.


1. In the writings of Kenneth Grant, ‘Saturn is the power behind Venus’. For a magical reappraisal of divine parthenogenesis, and its importance in theurgy, see ‘The Magick of Light’, The Phoenix and other Stellar Rites of Initiation [Ordo Astri].
2. See Thrice Greatest Hermes: Studies in Hellenistic Theosophy and Gnosis, GRS Mead [Kessinger Books].
3. See The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth Volume Two [Ordo Astri].
4. Qabalistically, ‘serpent’ and ‘messiah’ are equal terms, for the Serpent  (NChSh) that initiated Eve and the Messiah  (MShICh), or ‘anointed one’, both add to the number 358. See The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth [ibid].
5. Crowley had a better idea of what to do with the outer planets in astrology but his idea was not taken up—it requires Qabalistic knowledge before it can be understood. See Hermetic Astrology [Ordo Astri].
6. For more on the god Set and the Qabalistic year, see Capricorn: Egyptian Tarot of Thelema Set XV.

© Oliver St. John 2017, 2019

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