Set, or Seth, whom the Greeks called Typhon, the demon of death and evil in Egyptian mythology, is said to be as "a strong god, whose anger is to be feared." The inscriptions call him "the powerful one of Thebes," and "Ruler of the South." He is conceived as the sun that kills with the arrows of heat. He is the slayer, and iron is called the bones of Typhon. The hunted animals are consecrated to him. His symbols are the griffin (akhekh), the hippopotamus, the crocodile, the swine, the tortoise, and, above all the serpent papi, who was thought to await the dying man in the domain of the god Atmu or Tum, who represents the sun below the western horizon.
Set's pictures are easily recognized by his long, erect, and square-tipped ears and his proboscis-like snout, which are said to indicate the head of a fabulous animal called Oryx. The consort and feminine counterpart of Set is called Taour or Taourt. The Greeks called her Theouris. She appears commonly as a hippopotamus in erect posture, her back covered with the skin and tail of a crocodile. Set is often contrasted with Osiris. Set was the deity of the desert, of drought and feverish thirst, and of the sterile ocean, while Osiris represents moisture, the Nile, the fertilizing powers and life. Plutarch says:
"The moon (representing Osiris) is, with his fertilizing and fecundative light, favorable to the produce of animals and growth of plants. Set is said to be associated with the sun, is determined, with its unmitigated fire, to overheat and parch animals, it renders by its blaze a great part of the earth uninhabitable and conquers frequently even the moon.
Set is identified with all destruction. He is the waning of the moon, the decrease of the waters of the Nile, and the setting of the sun. Thus, he was called the left or black eye of the decreasing sun, governing the year from the summer solstice to the winter solstice, which is contrasted with the right or bright eye of Hor, the increasing sun, which symbolizes the growth of life and the spread of light from the winter solstice to the summer solstice.
Set was not always to all Egyptians alike a Satanic deity. He was officially worshipped in an unimportant area west of the Nile, but this was the natural starting-point of the road to the northern oasis. The people, who were mostly guides to desert caravans, had good reasons to remain on friendly terms with Set, the Lord of the desert.
A great temple was devoted to Set, as the god of war, in Tanis, near the swamps between the eastern branches of the Delta, an important town of the frontier, and during the time of invasion the probable seat of the foreign dominion of the Hyksos and the Hyttites, who identified their own god Sutech with the Egyptian Set. But even among the Hyksos, Set was revered as the awful God of irresistible power, of brute force, of war, and of destruction.
There is an old wall-picture of Karnak, that was associated to the era of the eighteenth dynasty, in which the god Set appears as an instructor of King Thothmes III. In the science of archery, the second king of the nineteenth dynasty, the shepherd kings, derives his name from the god Seta sign of the high honor in which he was held among the shepherd kings, and indeed we are informed that they regarded Set, or Sutech, as the only true God, the sole deity, who alone was worthy of receiving divine honors.
In spite of the terror which he inflicked, Set was originally not merely an evil demon but one of the great deities, who, as such, was feared.
Set, the great and strong god of prehistoric times, was converted into Satan with the rise of the worship of Osiris. Set was strong enough to slay Osiris, as night overcomes the light of the sun; but the sun is born again in the child-god Hor, who conquers Set and forces him to make the old serpent of death surrender its spoil. As the sun sets to rise again, so man dies to be reborn. The evil power is full of awe, but a righteous cause cannot be crushed, and, in spite of death, life is immortal.
History of the Devil, by Paul Carus