Ash was the ancient Egyptian god of oases and the vineyards of the western Nile Delta and thus was viewed as a benign deity. In his 1923 expedition to the Saqqara (also spelt Sakkara), Flinders Petrie found several references to Ash in Old Kingdom wine jar seals: “I am refreshed by this Ash” was a standard inscription.
In particular, he was identified by the ancient Egyptians as the god of the Libu and Tinhu tribes, known as the “people of the oasis”. Consequently, Ash was known as the “lord of Libya” the western border areas occupied by the Libu and Tinhu tribes correspond roughly with the location of modern Libya.
In Egyptian mythology, Ash was associated with Set as the god of the oases, originally a god of the desert. Ash was identified as the lover of Set, who was originally a god of the desert and was seen as the protector of the Sahara. The first known reference to Ash dates to the Protodynastic Period, and he continued to be mentioned as late as the 26th Dynasty. Still, by the late 2nd Dynasty, his importance grew. He was seen as the protector of the royal estates since the related god Set, in Lower Egypt, was regarded as the patron deity of royalty itself. Ash’s importance was such that he was mentioned even until the 26th Dynasty.
Ash was usually depicted as a human, whose head was one of the desert creatures, being shown as a lion, vulture, hawk, snake, or the unidentified Set animal.
Some depictions of Ash show him as having multiple heads, unlike other Egyptian deities, although some compound depictions were occasionally shown connecting gods to Min. In an article in the journal Ancient Egypt (in 1923), and again in an appendix to her book, The Splendor that was Egypt, Margaret Murray expands on such depictions. She draws a parallel to a Scythian deity, who is referenced in Sebastian Münster’s Cosmographia Universalis.
The idea of Ash as an imported god is contested, as he may have been the god of the city of Nebut, now known as Naqada, before Set’s introduction there. One of his titles is “Nebuty” or “He of Nebut”, indicating this position.
Ash is sometimes seen as another name for Set. Further, the speculation that Ash is Set’s lover is tied to a title- “Beloved of Set”. As many Pharaohs had such a title linked to one or other gods, it is rather hard to call them lovers because of it. It simply means that Set favours him and, as Ash is a desert deity, this makes sense. More often, Ash is seen as another name for Set– similarly as one might give the name Ta-Bitjet for Selket (Serqet), Dunanwy for Anti, or Sefkhet-Abwy for Sheshat.