Lilith: The Dark Goddess
"No she-demon has ever achieved as fantastic a career as Lilith, who started out from the lowliest of origins, was a failure as Adam's intended wife, became the paramour of lascivious spirits, rose to be the bride of Samael the Demon King, ruled as Queen of Zemargad and Sheba, and ended up as the consort of God himself."
Ever since I was a child, I have been fascinated by Lilith, the first woman, the rebellious woman who refused to lie down in sexual submission to Adam, preferring instead, to be on top (who wouldn't?). The story of Lilith, in its simple version, goes something like this:
According to the Talmud, Lilith was the first wife of Adam, before Eve. Lilith refused to lie down for Adam in sexual submission, and fled the Garden of Eden. She went to Yahweh (God) and tricked him into giving his secret name, his name of power. Because Lilith now had power over Yahweh, she demanded he give her wings and she flew to the desert. Adam begged Yahweh to send Lilith back to him and Yahweh sent the three angels Senoi, Sansenoi and Samangloph to find her and bring her back. They found her on the banks of the Red Sea, copulating with demons, and giving birth to hundreds of demon children. She refused to return and was told that she would lose a hundred of her children every day if she did not, but still she refused.
Adam was given a new mate: Eve. You know the story, they fell from favour with Yahweh and Adam decided upon celibacy. Then Lilith had her revenge. Every night she came to him as succuba, capturing his semen and making demon babies. In some versions of the legend, Samael, the Demon King was one of these and she took him for her mate and companion.
Various legends of Lilith saw her as a threat to children, possibly in revenge for the killing of her own demon babies. Patricia Monaghan says, "Lilith threatened children as well, for she has power over all infants in their first week... Mothers could protect their children however, by hanging an amulet marked 'Sen Sam San" for the protective angels Sensenoi, Samangalaph, and Sanoi" - around the child's neck.
"Because she liked her victims smiling she tickled the infant's feet. It giggled, thereupon Lilith strangled it... Mothers were also wary of kites, pelicans, owls, jackals, wildcats and wolves, all disguises favoured by Lilith, who went as well by 40 other names and represented a terrifying power that the Sumerians called Lamasthu, the Greeks Lamia, and other people Gilou, Kishimogin, or Baba Yaga." 1
According to the Farrars, "Lilith was not her original name, which appears to have been lost. She acquired it by identification with the Sumerian 'night hag' Lilitu. As such, she is the 'screech-owl' or 'night monster' of Isaiah xxiv:14." 2
They go on to say, "So much for the blackening process. Lilith (whatever her own name was), is clearly a concept much older than Eve. Whether she was the First Woman, co-equal with the First Man - or farther back than that, the uncreated Primordial Mother who gave birth to the First Man (or the first Male God) and then mated with him - she was totally unacceptable to emerging Hebrew patriarchalism. So Eve was invented - created by a male God out of Adam's male body, as complete a reversal of the natural order as Zeus's giving birth to Athene by swallowing her pregnant mother, Metis." 3
A much deeper interpretation of Lilith appears in Raphael Patai's book, The Hebrew Goddess, where he considers "the Talmudic material about Lilith is complemented by much richer data contained in Aramaic incantation texts" 4, and gives a most wonderful history of Lilith from piecing together the various sources. I'll be adding more about Lilith as time goes on, but for now, if you're interested in her, get a copy of Patai's book!
1. Patricia Monaghan, The Book of Goddesses and Heroines, Llewellyn Publications, 1993, pp.208-9
2. Janet and Stewart Farrar, The Witches Goddess, Phoenix Publishing Co., 1987, p.131
4. Raphael Patai, The Hebrew Goddess, Wayne State University Press, Third Enlarged Edition, 1990, p.224
Die Wahrheit wiegt meistens schwer.