The CBd
Bonner, SMA, 231.

meaning. In later dynastic times the pig was regarded as belonging to Set, and should be associated with darkness and evil.8 The serpent with the radiate head of a lion is a solar being, and the use of it as a medical amulet arrays it on the side of good. The scene engraved on the pig and snake amulets undoubtedly shows the two animals as enemies, and there is probably a suggestion that the pig is the victor any conflict between them. Pigs are more or less immune to the venom of snakes, and it is commonly believed that they will attack the reptiles, tread them to pieces with their hoofs, and sometimes even devour them. If the pig is the representative of Set, one is naturally led to infer that this design originated some conventicle of Set worshipers; but it may be enough to recall that even from early dynastic times Set was credited with great powers, especially in magic, and that magicians are wont to pay special homage to sinister divinities.9

What is hardest to explain is the association of the pig and snake design with Sarapis. That god, as the successor of Osiris, should be the enemy of Set, Osiris' murderer. It is just possible that in his character as god of the gloomy lower world Sarapis was thought to be a proper ally of Set; at any rate no other reason for the partnership occurs to me.10

There nothing on these four amulets to suggest a connection with the Gnostic Sethians. However, a recent publication reports the discovery of a terracotta pig actually marked on both sides with the crux monogrammatica.11 This suggests that the identification of Christ with Seth,12 who was in turn identified with Set-Typhon,13 may have made the pig a sacred animal in that sect.


The position of the serpent in the amulets just described is not unlike that in another type, which, however, has a different origin and meaning. A well-cut haematite in the collection of Professor A. B. Cook represents a mummy lying with its feet to left upon a large snake, the head and neck of which are curved over the face of the mummy while its tail turns back

8 See Kees in Pauly-Wissowa, Ser. 2, II, 1901; Roeder in Roscher, IV, 780.

9 Roeder, op. cit., 772; Kees, op. cit., 1908 f., 1920–1921.

10 There was a beneficent aspect of Set in which he was sometimes associated with the sun. It ante-dated the full development of the Osirian cycle of myths, and occasionally persisted into a time when the stories that made Set the slayer of Osiris were generally current (see Müller, p. 108; G. Nagel, “Set dans la barque solaire,” Bull. Inst. franç. arch. or., 28, 33–39). Yet it is scarcely credible that this idea of Set could still exist in so late a period as that of our amulets. Even if that were possible, a favorable view of Set does not explain why his animal should attack the solar Chnoubis serpent. It is easier to believe that the pig treading on the Chnoubis serpent indicates a kind of Satanism, supposedly effective for magical purposes. Sarapis may have been brought into it because of his lordshiρ over the lower world.

11 For a cautious discussion of this curious object see L. Keimer, “Le Chrisme sur une statuette de porc,” Bull. Soc. d'arch. copte, 9, 93–101.

12 Epiphanius Panar. 39, 1, 3.

13 The likeness of their names might easily lead to a confusion of Seth, son of Adam, with Set, the brother of Osiris, and Wünsch (Sethianische Verfluchungstafeln, pp. 104—112) argues plausibly that the two were identified in the system of the Sethian Gnostics. The proof is not entirely satisfactory, and Reitzenstein sounds a note of caution (Poimandres, p. 184, n. 1). Roeder (p. 774) and Kees (p. 1921) seem to follow Wünsch in this point without adding anything to strengthen his arguments.

Last modified: 2012-11-02 13:49:41