The ancient Egyptian god Set (Seth, Setekh, Sut, Sutekh, Suty) is a complex fellow. Now he is evil and chaos and mayhem but that was not always the case.
Set was the brother of Isis and Osiris, and also to Nephtys, his cohort. Although he was the god of the desert, of storms, of chaos and confusion he wasn’t necessarily evil to begin with. Well, there was that whole incident with chopping up his brother Osiris and usurping his throne but other than that Set was considered an equal of Horus the Elder, Heru-Ur. In the Pyramid Texts he was believed to be a friend to the dead, and he helped Osiris ascend to heaven.
Set is thought to have had white skin and red hair, thus red animals and red-haired people were believed to be his followers. (I wonder if this is the origin of the myth about redheads being crazy and evil?)
Set was also the god of foreigners and the Asian chiefs, known as Hyksos that came to rule over the eastern Nile delta from Avaris during the second intermediate period (1650- 1550 BC) chose Set as their god.
The Pharaohs Seti I and his son Ramses II were both redheads and they embraced the Set-cult, which also fit in very well with their warrior lifestyle. Around this time, 1200-1300 BC, the cult of Set was probably at its peak.
At some point however the Set-cult began to lose power to the Horus-cult. Things are complicated by the fact that there were two “Horuses” within Ancient Egyptian moythology. Horus the elder, a.k.a. Heru-Ur and the son of Osiris and Isis, Horus the child or Harseisis (Horus, son of Isis).
Not going into this too much, it would seem the old cult of Horus blended with the “new” one and Horus the child became the main enemy of Set.
As the Horus-cult grew it was told that Horus had defeated Set. During the battle Set was even said to have lost his testicles, leaving him a laughing stock among the other gods.
Set was reduced to everything that was bad. He was the barren desert, chaos, evil, he was associated with scorpions, crocodiles and other dangerous and “evil” animals.
Set’s animal, the one he is most often represented by, has given rise to a lot of speculation. Whereas Horus is represented by a falcon, Anubis by a jackal etc., Set’s animal is a bit different. It’s called a Sha and it doesn’t look like any animal known today. The sha is usually depicted as a slender dog, resembling a greyhound or a jackal, with three distinguishing features: a stiff tail, often forked at the end, which stands straight up or at an angle, whether the animal is sitting, standing, or walking; its ears, also held erect, are usually depicted as squarish or triangular; and a long nose, often with a slight downward curve. It is normally depicted as black, but may also have been reddish. The sha has been associated with an Egyptian cryptid called Salawa, more on that soon.
The aforementioned Anubis is said to be the son of Set. Anubis was the god of the afterlife and mummification in Ancient Egypt and is depicted with the head of a jackal.
Another Ancient Egyptian deity with wolf-like attributes is Wepwawet, a.k.a. Upuaut, Wep-wawet, Wepawet, and Ophois. Wepwawet was a war deity whose cult was centered in Asyut (Lycopolis in Greek). Wepwawet was seen as a wolf deity and he was referred to as “the opener of ways”.
The salawa is a reported cryptid in Egypt. It is supposed to resemble a large dog or wolf as tall as five feet. It has a large tail, striped fur and pointed ears which are also oversized. A local witness described it as “bigger than a donkey, smaller than a camel with long neck and tail”.
The salawa is believed to frequent sugar cane farms which are very common here and it is said to hunt lizards and mammals for survival, and sometimes it is said to even hunt people.
I find the description of the creature interesting also because it reminded me of the description of the French Beast of Gévaudan in the 18th century:
“The beast was said to look like a wolf but about as big as a cow. It had a large dog-like head with small straight ears, a wide chest, and a large mouth which exposed very large teeth. The claws on its feet were as sharp as razors. The beast’s fur was said to be red in color but its back was streaked with black. It was also said to have quite an unpleasant odor.”
In 1996 there was an especially intense incident in which the salawa attacked livestock and people. In 1999 there is supposed to have been an attack in a district of Cairo where 13 people were injured but I haven’t been able to find any corroborating evidence of this.
I also found this intriguing “fanfiction” online written by Eryessa:
I can’t say exactly how much of this is fiction but it’s very interesting none the less.