The Pacification of Set

 
From the borders of the sky, the Opener of the Roads looked down. He could see the light increasing. The Wrathful Eye was returning from the south, lured on by the promises of Djehuty. The vizier of the sun walked before the great lioness in his form of a baboon, playing the tambourine and singing of the welcome she would receive, of how the people would praise her beauty and shower her with offerings and love. All the southern horizon was alight with her golden glow as She drew ever nearer.

But Set in his name of The Lord of the Northern Sky held sway in the land, ruling with wind and storm and the strength of his mighty arm. Anger still lurked in the heart of the Goddess, not yet fully appeased, and Set was never one to give way easily or graciously. This, thought the Opener of the Roads, was likely to be a problem.

Fortunately, every problem has a solution.

 
* * * * *

 
Set frowned at the light in the southern sky. He knew what it meant. So the prodigal Daughter was returning, was she? And after smiting isfet through all the dark months, he was supposed to step meekly aside while the people fawned over her and exalted her just for deigning to grace them with her presence?

He Before Whom the Sky Shakes does not do “meek.” He threw back the hood of his furred cloak and tightened his grip on his iron scepter.

A whisper of tiny bells distracted him; he turned his head. The Lady of Per-Bast stood behind him, smiling her feline smile. Her dress was the white of the snow; it left bare her golden limbs, adorned with chiming bracelets and anklets, and gathered close beneath her breasts, it revealed them in all their glory. She must be cold was quickly replaced in Set’s mind with, She is obviously cold.

The Goddess swayed closer to him. “Heyyy,” she purred, her voice low, her words teasing, “I heard you like milk.”

“I…what?”

“Well,” she said, tilting her head reflectively, “at least Heru said so.”

There had been that time, Set recalled, when, in order to heal him of poison, Heru had demanded his name, his real name. I am a jug of milk milked from the teats of Bast, Set had retorted, among other lies and evasions. Heru had not been fooled.

Suddenly Bast was directly before him, so his gaze was forced at last from her breasts to her face. Grinning, she slid her arms around his neck, twined her fingers in his hair. “Or is it only Heru’s milk you like?”

He stared at her for a moment, then with a growl unslung his cloak, swinging it around to lie beneath them as Bast fell backward into the snow, laughing, drawing him down with her.

The milk of Bast that nourished kings fed the hunger of Set and caused him to grow. Their heat and sweat as they moved together melted the snow; the meltwater made the grass rise, new and vibrantly green. And the milk of Set came forth in turn along with his shout of pleasure as the Mistress of Joy reminded him of pure ecstasy and the power of release, of surrender.

The Opener of the Roads smirked as Bast departed, quietly as a sunbeam, leaving Set snoring on the ground behind her.

 
* * * * *

 
Set opened one eye. Just past the edge of his cloak, a ray-petaled blue flower nodded in the warm breeze, its golden center winking at him as it bowed. In the distance he could hear the shouts and songs of acclamation, the sounds of drums and horns and a thousand sistra hissing, a thousand hands clapping in riotous celebration in honor of the Eye of Ra.

Oh well. He always liked a good party.

 


 

 
Notes

This story is the central reading in my ritual for the Feast of Set, Lord of the Oasis. It’s entirely modern, though I hope also true and perhaps resonant for someone other than myself. In any event, I had fun writing it, and Set seemed amused by it.

Despite the modernity, there are some hooks into historical Kemetic material:

The story of the flight of the Eye to Nubia and Her eventual return at the coaxing of Djehuty (sometimes Djehuty and Shu, or Anhur) is traditional (Pinch, p. 130), even if my addition of Set to the mix is not. Pinch draws connections between the return of the Distant Goddess and either solar eclipses or the rising of Sirius; the House of Netjer associates it with the cycle of solstices and equinoxes, but I don’t have a direct reference for that.

The incident involving the line “I am a jug of milk…” appears in a spell against poison in Borghouts (p. 74, spell 102). “Heru’s milk” is an arch reference to that notorious episode in the Contendings of Heru and Set (Pinch, p. 82). I’m knowingly conflating Herus here, as the Heru who questions Set is Heru-wer rather than Heru-sa-Aset. The spell itself does include both Heru the brother of Set and Heru the son of Aset, however, not particularly distinguished from each other, at least in Borghouts’ translation. And who knows, maybe Set and Heru-wer had something going on at some point.

Thanks to Bezenwepwy for the epithet “Opener of the Roads” and its connection with the division of north and south.

 
References

Bezenwepwy. 2013. “Wepwawet, Re, and Wepiu.” http://wepwy.wordpress.com/2013/03/01/divider/. Accessed March 27, 2013.

Borghouts, J. F, trans. 1978. Ancient Egyptian Magical Texts. Leiden: E. J. Brill. Google Books preview: http://books.google.com/books/about/Ancient_Egyptian_Magical_Texts.html?id=9f8UAAAAIAAJ.

Pinch, Geraldine. 2002. Egyptian Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Goddesses, and Traditions of Ancient Egypt. New York: Oxford University Press. Google Books preview: http://books.google.com/books/about/Egyptian_Mythology.html?id=tfXlI11ys38C.