Images of Seth date back to as far as the Naqada I Period (4000-3500 BC). By the Ptolemaic Period Seth was largely associated with disorder and chaos.
Known as the ‘red one’ Seth personified anger, rage and violence. As a desert god he opposed and threatened the vegetation on which life depended. As a hieroglyph the Seth determinative is found after words that are associated with bad things such as thunder.
Seth was not always considered in such a negative light. In certain religious texts, he is an archenemy of Apophis and helper of Re. He kills the snake Apophis so that Re can continue his daily journey in his sun boat across the sky. Some Egyptians kings identified with this god in taking the name the name Seti.
Seth could be depicted as a human with an animal head, or in animal form. It was believed that Seth had red hair and red eyes. Certain materials were also connected with Seth including meteoric iron and flint.
Seth was worshipped throughout Egyptian history. His earliest cult centre was at Nubt close to the entrance of the Wadi Hammamat, a significant area which controlled the trade routes through the eastern dessert and was believed to be his birthplace.
Various execration rites designed to eliminate the enemies of chaos allude to the destruction of Seth. For example, the hunting of the hippopotamus by the king symbolised the victory of Horus over Seth.
W458 (left) is a wooden statue of the god. The wood has been specially chosen because of its red colour. Seth is shown as a human with a hippopotamus head.