Billie Walker-John wrote to me because of Kha’m-uast, the High Priest of Ptah from Memphis. Because of my researches into the obscure magical backgrounds of Dion Fortune and Charles Seymour, I had expected that Kha’m-uast would have been known to some of the more grey-haired members of the Fraternity of the Inner Light. But I didn’t expect to find him well-known to this young American woman, living in south Wales, who had been working with this inner contact privately and personally for many years. In her turn, she had been stunned to read in my book, Dancers To The Gods, of the others who had also been working with this being, decades before she was born.
Billie was … different. No one who met her had any doubt that this woman really was a reincarnation of someone from the very heart of ancient Egypt, whose everyday consciousness often spent more time there than it did in our present world. Neither of us was particularly interested in past lives, oddly enough, but then neither did we doubt that at some period in the long, long history of Egypt, we had been siblings. Think of her as a ‘Mistress of the House of Books’ in the Temple of Thoth. A precise, necessarily fussy, and immensely learned individual who cared only about Knowledge, and its preservation, and the creation of those links which would help us become illumined by our own researches.
My partnership with Billie during the writing of our Inner Guide to Egypt was one of the most fruitful and rewarding of my life. She made it easy for me to evoke the images. She provided the power. She could have written the book without me: I could never have done it without her. I had only to think: I need such-and-such a piece of information and it would arrive by post the next day, or she would raise that very topic in a phone call, and give me what I needed. In those days, on various levels and differing ways, Kha’m-uast was very close to both of us.
She was also one of the kindest, loyal and most generous of people. Never well off, nevertheless she must have spent a small fortune sending me (and many others) books, items, and magazines which she felt might strike a cord - not all of it relating to Egypt. Sometimes, embarrassed by her generosity or the obliqueness of her gift, I was crass enough to wonder: Why has she sent me this? Yet without fail, it quickly proved itself to have an exquisitely apt if unexpected purpose. In the last two years of her life, she started working almost exclusively with Set, the Lord of Darkness. In fact, the same energy/entity came through to me at exactly the same time, although it was some months before we spoke of this to each other. Originally she hoped to do a book about Set with artist Judith Page, but that fell through.
And then we talked about doing a very small one between us, which we called simply the Inner Guide to Set. Billie did a lot of sample essays with the idea that we look at Set through the personalities of differing people from differing classes in Egypt. The idea was that I would then ‘magick’ the prose in the same way as before. It was never going to make money, or even be understood, but it would be a labour of love for what most regard as this most unlovely of gods. Unfortunately, circumstances prevented us both from going too far with this project. Quite simply, the Setian energies we invoked transformed both our lives, made us live our insights, and taught us about Darkness - yet brought us both (in differing ways) towards a newer cycle of Light.
So her writing about Set consisted of numerous articles, which she sent to me, or that éminence grise, John Crabtree, the insightful editor of Liongate; and these were eventually sewn together by Mélusine Draco, who was the real force behind this production, and who has more knowledge of these arcane areas than I will ever have. It should have been her name on the original cover, not mine. I am not being falsely modest (because I’m an arrogant bastard by nature): I am stating a simple fact.
Because the text was written as separate pieces, there are small elements of repetition within the prose that we were tempted to take out at first, for purely stylistic reasons. On reflection, however, these repetitive images and details serve to evoke the image of Billie herself, almost jabbing her finger down at the page as if saying: Listen. Look. This figure is more important than I can openly say. This detail contains magick. See? And you will see. Because as soon as you become aware of Set, then Set becomes aware of you: the more you learn, the more he teaches you.
So I never managed to ‘magick’ more than a short introduction for that limited edition and I always felt that I had failed her in this respect. Yet that short piece was, I know, something that pleased her immensely and lifted her spirits during some bleak times. So if there is one way in which I can publicly honour her memory, and start to give back just a portion of the wealth she gave me, it is by seeing that work finally come to fruition.
Introduction to The Setian by Billie Walker-John
This is a book about the ancient Egyptian god named Set. It is also a book about exploring the equally ancient shadows within ourselves. As the Lord of Darkness (to give him but one of his titles, Set has been reviled and feared for thousands of years; everything that ever went wrong, every nasty, cruel, depraved and vicious act was seen as having the hallmark of Set. In time, by juggling about with name-origins and quasi-histories, Set the Lord of Darkness, came to be seen as the proto-type of Satan, the very Prince of Darkness, and thus the root of all Evil.
The purpose of this book, however, is to learn how to work within the heart of Set’s ‘darkness’, to see the outlines of his shadow on the earth and so find our way to those sources of ‘light’ which actually create him, and are part of his very Mystery. In short, it is a book about Darkness as a necessary corollary to the Light; about shadow as a means of defining existence; about those magicks of the Dark and Night which have nothing to do with Evil and everything to do with balance, renewal and - surprisingly - healing.
This is not a question of inverting morality and taking the crass stance of ‘Evil be thou my Good’. Or of trying to win through to purity by indulging our atavistic urges and then conquering them. And even less does it relate to summoning depraved entities from the pit of our subconscious. Dire warnings have always been given out to those who have wanted to invoke Set. Yet in almost all cases, the would-be summoner is moved by entirely the wrong impulse - while those giving the warning are invariably ignorant of the true nature of Set’s energies.
So what we will say now is this: If you work with Set, then the first thing you might experience is Chaos. Your world could be shaken and turned inside-out. Everything might seem to fall apart. Now why anyone might still what to work with Set after learning this, and why it can be seen as a primal magical path, is one of the themes that we will discuss in due course. But in practise, Set usually comes to the fringes of the psyche when there is no other spiritual option, and he becomes that energy which can break chains, and smash down barriers, and set you free …
To reduce everything to its root, we would argue that over the aeons a distortion crept into the way we look at the binaries of existence:
… and so on. The distortion came through adding Good/Evil to this list. Thus the qualities of Darkness, Chaos, Night and so forth, were all seen as expressions of Set and so linked with the quality of Evil. Yet as we shall see, this was never an aspect of Set’s original nature, for the Lord of Darkness (Set) is an inseparable partner to the Lord of Light (Horus). The ancient Egyptians gave no moral dimensions to Set’s role in their earliest Mysteries. This was added much later.
The history of religion is, of course, the history of propaganda, using the standard tools of misinformation, disinformation, manipulation and deceit. The venom that came to be directed toward Set became so intense that any fair-minded researcher eventually pauses to ask whether any deity could be that bad - or whether in fact, something else was going on behind the scenes. Any serious study of archaic Egypt inevitably unearths fragments of worship from times when Set was the deity of choice for the common folk, long before the usurper Osiris came on the scene. They worshipped him, not because they feared his power, but perhaps because they understood the qualities of Night and Darkness better than we do today.
Long ago, before there was even an ancient Egypt as we know it from popular histories, there was a prehistoric proto-kingdom in what is now Southern or Upper Egypt, called Nubt, of which Set was the ruling deity.
Set the Golden. Set the Mighty. Set of Nubt.
Although Set of Nubt, the primal Lord of Night, is largely unknown to us, we can glimpse him through the images his subjects and followers made of him. One of these images showed a mysterious animal that no one has been able to satisfactorily identify. In fact, we can use this odd and often disturbing beast, the so-called Set-animal, as our guide as we follow Set’s journey through time and place.
We can watch with amazement as the image shape-shifts and assumes many different forms, including that of a human being. This ability to change form means that people often see many different Sets. Yet behind the changing shape and the unidentifiable animal head, there is always the one Set.
Set the Golden. Set the Mighty. Set of Nubt.
The aim of this book, then, is to follow this strange and misunderstood deity and tell his story through his subjects and his fabled Companions: the Shayu Net Set. These people lived at different times and in different places, but the one thing they had in common through the millennia was that they were Set’s people, his shayu, his Companions. Through them and the stories they have to tell we will not so much unmask Set as allow him to reveal himself to us, and through him we will learn to practice that magic of the Dark which will give our own inner light a truer focus and effect ...
The Setian by Billie Walker-John has been re-published by Ignotus Press UK in paperback : ISBN: 9781786971395 : Available direct from the printer at a reduced price https://www.feedaread.com/books/The-Setian-9781786971395.aspx
And also in ebook format from Kindle