Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Sons of Snakes

The Biblical Seth

The Valentinians and Ophites (Sethians) "regarded Seth as the first of the race of the perfect ones, the spiritual in opposition to the material (Cain) and Abel (the psychic). Seth was, no doubt, well suited to become the great prophet of the Gnostic race, various attributes of prestige being ascribed to him in apocryphal traditions about the Old Testament: image of God, heir of Adam, inventor of astronomy. His sons were to be the 'Sons of God' who, upon Mount Hermion, led a pious and secluded life cherishing the nostalgia for Paradise."
- Jean Doresse, The Secret Books of the Egyptian Gnostics

Adam "had indeed many other children, but Seth in particular. As for the rest, it would be tedious to name them; I will therefore only endeavor to give an account of those that proceeded from Seth. Now this Seth, when he was brought up, and came to those years in which he could discern what was good, became a virtuous man; and as he was himself of an excellent character, so did he leave children behind him who imitated his virtues. All these proved to be of good dispositions. They also inhabited the same country without dissensions, and in a happy condition, without any misfortunes falling upon them, till they died."
- Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews Bk I, Ch II, Sn 3

"The wickedness of Cain is repeated in Ham. But the descendants of both are shown as the wisest of races on earth; and they are called on this account 'snakes', and the 'sons of snakes', meaning the sons of wisdom, and not of Satan, as some divines would be pleased to have the world understand the term. Enmity has been placed between the 'snake' and the 'woman' only in this mortal phenomenal 'world of man' as 'born of woman'. Before the carnal fall, the 'snake' was Ophis, the divine wisdom, which needed no matter to procreate men, humanity being utterly spiritual. Hence the war between the snake and the woman, or between spirit and matter."
- M. P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled

The Ophites reputedly said:

"We venerate the serpent because God has made it the cause of Gnosis for mankind. Ialdabaoth (the Demiurge who was the 'god of the Jews') did not with men to have any recollection of the Mother or of the Father on high. It was the serpent, who by tempting them, brought them Gnosis; who taught the man and the woman the complete knowledge of the mysteries from on high. That is why [its] father Ialdabaoth mad with fury, cast it down from the heavens."
- St. Epiphanius, Adversus Haereses

"...No one can be saved and rise up again without the Son, who is the serpent. For it was he who brought the paternal models down from aloft, and it is he who carries back up again those, who have been awakened from sleep and have reassumed the features of the Father."
- St. Hippolytus, Elenchos V. 17

The Ophites "made a very special cult of these reptiles: they kept and fed them in baskets; they held their meetings close to the holes in which they lived. They arranged loaves of bread upon a table, and then, by means of incantations, they allured the snake until it came coiling its way among these offerings; and only then did they partake of the bread, each one kissing the muzzle of the reptile they had charmed. This, they claimed, was the perfect sacrifice, the true Eucharist.
"Where is it - in the Dionysiac orgies, in the cult of Asclepios, or in the mysteries of Sabazios which, according to Arnobius (Adversus nationes, V.21), also made use of the image of the serpent - that one must look for the origins of such practices? Or do they not remind one even more of the cults of certain pagan sects which made a special cult of the serpent of the constellation Ophiuchus (if we are to believe the Astonomica of Manilius, 5; 389-93)? Like our Ophites, these adepts held the reptiles to their breasts and caressed them, as living symbols of the celestial image that they worshipped."
- Jean Doresse, The Secret Books of the Egyptian Gnostics

Set/Seth, the Egyptian God of Chaos

In Egyptian tradition, the god Seth or Set "stands for the forces of chaos and destruction, or energy misplaced. He was the manifestation of Apep or Typhon, opposers of the power of light."
- Murray Hope, Practical Egyptian Magic

"In the Pharaonic religion Seth was the great enemy of the other principal gods; of Osiris, of Isis and of Horus. In this character he was ritually cursed in the great myths and in ceremonies held in the great temples. However, he also had his own cult, in some places officially: some of the Pharaohs - The Sethi - even claimed him as the patron god of their dynasty. We can read, in Plutarch's treatise on Isis and Osiris, an exegesis of the mythical relations between Seth and Osiris, derived from sources which seem to have been quite authentically Egyptian, in which we find what is almost a Gnostic dualism. In the magic of the later period Seth is identified with the monstrous Greek genie Typhon, son of Tartarus, who has a serpent's body. He is supposed to have an ass's head, a feature which recalls the elongated snout and long ears of some African animal, with which Seth is sometimes represented in Pharaonic iconography. More often he seems to be identified with a sort of headless demon whose eyes are placed in his shoulders, the Akephalos."
- Jean Doresse, The Secret Books of the Egyptian Gnostics

"...Seth-Typhon is the principle of all which burns, consumes. He has red hair, for example, for he represents the desert rocks, arid and sterile."
- Lucy Lamie, Egyptian Mysteries

"The original Priesthood of Set in ancient Egypt survived for twenty-five recorded dynasties (ca. 3200-700 BCE). It was one of the two central priesthoods in predynastic times, the other being that of HarWer ('Horus the Elder'). Unification of Egypt under both philosophical systems resulted in the nation's being known as the 'Two Kingdoms' and in its Pharaohs wearing the famous 'Double Crown' of Horus and Set.
"Originally a circumpolar/stellar deity portrayed as a cyclical counterpart to the Solar Horus, Set was later recast as an evil principle by the cults of Osiris and Isis. During the XIX and XX Dynasties Set returned as the Pharaonic patron, but by the XXV Dynasty (ca. 700 BCE) a new wave of Osirian persecution led to the final destruction of the original Priesthood of Set. When the Hebrews emigrated from Egypt during the XIX Dynasty, however, they took with them a caricature of Set: 'Satan' (from the hieroglyphic Set-hen, one of the god's formal titles)."
- Murray Hope, "The Temple of Set FAQ"

"In the Gnostic myths which transform the God of Genesis into an evil god, and similarly turn various other values of Biblical doctrine upside down, this Seth - the enemy of the chief Egyptian gods - acquires a definite position. One may even wonder whether, perchance, some of these myths did not bring him into such contact with his homonym, Seth the son of Adam, as to create some confusion between them."
"...Certain Egyptian theologies reported by Plutarch (essentially in the De Iside) set up an antithesis between Seth and Osiris, closely analogous to that which the Gnostics developed between Ialdabaoth-Sacla and the divinity of the light. A Greek Hermetic text even suggests that in the Roman epoch, the Egyptian religion, arraigned its Gnostics as 'sons of Typhon'."

" known in Islam, and usually assimilated to Agathodaimon, who is one of the great figures of Hermetic literature. The prophetic prestige with which the Gnostics endowed him, he still possesses, especially in the traditions of various Shi'ite groups, therefore chiefly in Mesopotamia or in Iran. In these particular doctrines the survival of Gnostic themes is ubiquitous and seems immense..."
- Jean Doresse, The Secret Books of the Egyptian Gnostics


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