First of all I think it is necessary to make note of the fact that I have not seriously studied Kemetic religion or Egypt even since I was in highschool. Since I am nearing my 35th birthday, that means it is has been quite a few years. And even though I felt like it gave me a good foundation I will be the first to admit that there is a lot that I have forgotten over the years (or is buried so deep it would probably take someone highly trained in hypnotism to bring it out). All the same, as today is Karneia and I am observing the movement of the year of Apollon’s functions as he is finalizing his preservation of human civilization from the devastation of wilderness (which is more accurately his domain even if he acts at holding it back out of compassion for humanity) I thought it would be appropriate to spend a moment to write about the relationship of Apollon and the Egyptian god I think most strongly resembles him: Set.
As most know when it comes to term of Hellenic-Kemetic syncretism that typically it is Heru-sa-Aset (or Horus the younger/Horus the son of Isis) with whom Apollon is usually linked historically by Hellas. I have been of the opinion for some time since reading the work of Diodoros Siculus that this association was likely most plausibly made to explain the marked difference between Apollon’s roles in the mysteries, as a son of Demeter (whom the Hellenes observed to be like Isis, while at the same time being Persephone) and Dionysos (whom they observed to be like Osiris). Thus we have a narrative of the mysteries that they must have come from Egypt and that Apollon was the son of Osiris as he was the son of Dionysos and that of Demeter (or Persephone) rather than being native to Hellas, and that Orpheus learned of these mysteries and observed them in his time there and brought them back and taught them to the Hellenes. Yet the mysteries which are reinterpreted as Kemetic have little to do with the native religion itself when looked at, nor do the Hellenic mysteries resemble them too closely. Therefore I take it more as a metaphorical translation which serves merely to help tell the mysteries without really telling them…even if it is making stuff up or changing stuff around.
We already can see a more clear distinction between Artemis and Nephthys, the sister-wife of Set as imagined as a kite, a bird that Aristophanes in his play “the Birds” associated with Artemis particularly. That and a very particular nurse goddess as well as a companion of Isis and goddess who has particular attachments with death, if Demeter is like Isis, we can see the huntress/nurse Artemis to be akin to Nephthys more so than the joyous Bastet, especially given myths where Artemis takes a larger participatory role in the rape of Persephone for which we can see Artemis and Demeter standing in distinctive roles when it comes to the departure and emergence of Persephone. In fact she shares a number of powers quite similar to Isis that it is rather awe-inspiring, and a goddess of the twilight (which I think is more apt for Artemis as it is for Apollon) as the vessel of Re descends into the underworld. In the temple of Hera at Argos we get a sense of this kind of relationship when in the hallway of the goddess Pausanias observes that the statues of Demeter and Persephone (which could be taken in similar context if replaced with Dionysos who likewise descends and was later added to the mysteries of Demeter) faced that of Apollon and Artemis at the other side of the hall. There is an immediate relationship here of a particular pairing facing off, which are parallel and oppositional (not in a bad way). Apollon and Artemis act specifically on Persephone (or Dionysos in which it is even more clear). If we had Demeter and Dionysos facing them we probably could have had an interesting parallel for the Osiris-Isis and Nephthys-Set pairings, and even more interesting given the supportive relationship Nephthys has with Isis and affection for Osiris that brought along Anubis the funerary god (which can both be linked to Hermes Psychopompos (which is far more common) and by my opinion to Apollon as guardian of the tomb) who is also called the son of Set in some texts.
Typically, as I mentioned above, in order to fulfil the purpose of the Hellenic narrative we have Apollon associated with Horus, usually based on his serpent slaying (never mind that Set is the ultimate force against Apep the great serpent) and largely due to his medicinal/healing attributes, as well as solar characteristics that become particularly emphasized in Apollon’s later cult. That is not to say that Apollon had zero such attributes, but it is more likely that he was a god of the twilight and in the solar context would have had more in common with Khepri, the god who brings the sun into becoming, and in some things I have read also been associated with the sunset. I am not sure what that may have in common with Set at all, but it is an observation and there has been on author who pushed for a recognition of the name of Apollon coming from an altered form of the name of Khepri. All the same, while Apollon is particular to that time of the day as the god who turns round the days and seasons (and therefore appropriate as god of becomings and endings) his cult is largely more distinctive as a god of natural destructive forces (which includes the sun which in hotter climates can be a bane that withers crops and destroys life as well as decaying flesh), as well as the more ancient associations with the wind storms that we see lingering in particular cult traditions and specifically in the cult name of Apollon Telkhinios.
As I have said in other posts, Apollon as a god of healing, abundance, civilization etc should usually be examined through the lens of what his name is, what his primary action is. He is the destroyer. That name is not accidental, but has a very particularly purposeful meaning behind it. That makes him more appropriately a god of the wild places, of famine and illness etc. Yet as myth demonstrates, he loves humanity and is compassionate. Therefore I see his guardianship of cities and pastoral flocks etc as a intentional holding back of that which is within his domain in order for human life to prosper. As we see with Rudra in India and Set in Egypt, or Rashef in Mesopotamia (none of these being *evil* gods by any stretch of the imagination) it is not uncommon at all to see a god of destruction/illness be petitioned for exactly the opposite purposes. Therefore it is reasonable to understand how a god of the destructive forces of nature and the wild lands would be a god who protects civilization. Certainly makes sense to me how and why Set would have been king of Upper Egypt! There is some quite odd commentaries out there that the Greeks associated Set to Typhon, when that would more accurately probably should be aligned to Apep.
In fact when looking close at the roles that Set provides (keeping in mind he also had very important supportive roles to Osiris and Horus) that his role as a slayer is not uncommon to the domain of the god and not unnatural to what you find with Apollon, particularly when looking at the relationship of Apollon and Dionysos in which Apollon is not only one who lauds Dionysos and is the first to greet him as a god but is also a god who can be seen as assisting the slaying of Dionysos. The Thyiades (who were named after a nymph who was a lover of Apollon as well as a follower of Dionysos) is perhaps a good starting point of looking into this relationship. But perhaps more strongly would be the iconographic imagery of the wolf and the bull, and instances of contest between them. Or even Theseus (with strong links to Apollon) and the Minotaur (even though I have stated before the Minotaur is strongly linked also to Apollon as guardian of the gates). Apollon as a year god and Dionysos as a seasonal and dying god thus have this natural dance that they go through which I think is appropriate to for that Osiris and Set, that the one god who loves the other who must dye, is the god who cares for him but also is the one who cuts him down by necessity. Even the exile of Set has a very strong taste of the exile of Apollon who was banished from the company of the gods for his transgression of murder. That which is necessary in nature is not always popular in any case among men or gods in myth it seems.
We see too much of the protective nature of Apollon in Set as Set is the god who protects the sun barge during its nightly traversing of the underworld. And Set as a god who restrains the desert is very much in line with how I see Apollon as a god restraining the wilderness/wolves/locusts/mice/etc. Even Set slaying Apep has a similar imagery to Apollon slaying the Python. Nevermind associations of particular animals such as the boar. Unfortunately in later periods Set gained enormously unpopularity. He is just not as pretty as Apollon apparently, and invaders saw set as being more common with Typhon and evil forces that natural destructive ones, whereas Apollon’s reputation remained fairly intact until Christianization of Hellas. In fact philosophy and later traditions that veered more into a solar cult and away from his original cult worship as a god of the natural destroying forces of nature probably did more to preserve his image than anything else. Associations Apollon had with falcons due to his swiftness of travel were played upon to show that Apollon spent time in Egypt as a falcon god makes such associations with Horus and solar cults even more pronounced. His relationship to Harmony becomes more pronounced in the writings of Plato and overshadows his more known destroyer associations……but overlooking that as god of the year who turns round the seasons part of the harmony is the necessity of destruction. Yet I think it was the shift of focus from the less destructive features of Apollon’s cult onto that which he preserved from his own forces that did a lot for his cult to not go a similar route as that of Set in later periods. I mean I have wondered a time or two, even as Set has been linked erroneously with the mad chaos that is Typhon) if plays on Typhon weren’t reminiscent or reflective in some manner of the Cretan contest between Zeus and Apollon as son of Corybas (who himself was transformed into a black dragon), and shows up again when Apollon battles the second Python (not Delphyne but the son of Gaia). It all makes an interesting turn of the mind.