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Lilith (Hebrew לילית) is a female Mesopotamian storm demon associated with wind and was thought to be a bearer of disease, illness, and death. The figure of Lilith first appeared in a class of wind and storm demons or spirits as Lilitu, in Sumer, circa 4000 BC. Many scholars place the origin of the phonetic name "Lilith" at somewhere around 700 BC despite post-dating even to the time of Moses. Lilith appears as a night demon in Jewish lore and as a screech owl in the King James version of the Bible. In later folklore, "Lilith" is the name for Adam's first wife.
Hebrew לילית Lilit, Akkadian Līlītu are female or male nisba adjectives from the Proto-Semitic root LYL "night," literally translating to nocturnal "female night being/demon", although cuneiform inscriptions where Līlīt and Līlītu refers to disease-bearing wind spirits exist.
Another possibility is association not with "night" but with "wind," thus identifying the Akkadian Lil-itu as a loan from the [Sumerian lil, "air", — specifically from NIN.LIL "lady air," goddess of the South wind (and wife of Enlil) —and itud, "moon."
The earliest reference to a demon similar to Lilith and companion of Lillake/Lilith is on the Sumerian king list, where Gilgamesh's father is named as Lillu. Little is known of Lillu ("Wind[wer]man"; or Lilu, Lila) and he was said to interfere with women in their sleep and had functions of an incubus, while Lilitu appeared to men in their erotic dreams. Such qualities are further suggested by the Semitic associations made with the names Lila and Lilitu, namely those of lalu, or wandering about, and lulu, meaning lasciviousness.
The Assyrian Lilitu were said to prey upon children and women, and were described as associated with lions, storms, desert, and disease. Early portrayals of such demons are known as having Zu bird talons for feet and wings. They were highly sexually predatory towards men, but were unable to copulate normally. They were thought to dwell in waste, desolate, and desert places. Like the Sumerian Dimme, a male wind demon named Pazuzu was thought to be effective against them.
Other storm and night demons from a similar class are recorded around this period: Lilu, an incubus; Ardat lili ("Lilith's handmaid"), who would come to men in their sleep and beget children from them; and Irdu lili, the incubus counterpart to Ardat lili. These demons were originally storm and wind demons; however later etymology made them into night demons.
Lilith's epithet was "the beautiful maiden," She was described as having no milk in her breasts and was unable to bear any children. Babylonian texts depict Lilith as the prostitute of the goddess Ishtar. Similarly, older Sumerian accounts assert that Lilitu is called the handmaiden of Inanna or "hand of Inanna." The Sumerian texts state that "Inanna has sent the beautiful, unmarried, and seductive prostitute Lilitu out into the fields and streets in order to lead men astray." That is why Lilitu is called the "hand of Inanna."
The Lilitu, the Akkadian Ardat-Lili and the Assyrian La-bar-tu like Lilith, were figures of disease and uncleanliness. Ardat is derived from "ardatu," a title of prostitutes and young unmarried women, meaning "maiden." One magical text tells of how Ardat Lili had come to "seize" a sick man. Other texts mention Lamashtu as the hand of Inanna/Ishtar in place of Lilitu and Ardat lili.
Lilith is further associated with the Anzu bird, lions, owls, and serpents, which are animals associated with the Lilitu. It is from this mythology that the later Kabbalah depictions of Lilith as a serpent in the Garden of Eden and her associations with serpents are probably drawn. In The Epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh was said to have driven Lilith, an Anzu bird, and a "snake which fears no spell" from a tree that was in a sacred grove dedicated to the Goddess Ishtar/Inanna/Asherah. Other legends describe the malevolent Anzu birds as "lion-headed" and pictures them as eagle monsters, likewise to this a later amulet from Arslan Tash site features a sphinx like creature with wings devouring a child and has an incantation against Lilith or similar demons, incorporating Lilith's correlating animals of lions and owls.
Lamashtu (Sumer Dimme) was a very similar Mesopotamian demon to Lilitu and Lilith seems to have inherited many of Lamashtu's myths. She was considered a demi-goddess and daughter of Anu, the sky god. Many incantations against her mention her status as a daughter of heaven and exercising her free will over infants. This makes her different from the rest of the demons in Mesopotamia. Unlike her demonic peers, Lamashtu was not instructed by the gods to do her malevolence; she did it on her own accord. She was said to seduce men, harm pregnant women, mothers, and neonates, kill foliage, drink blood, and was a cause of disease, sickness, and death. Some incantations describe her as "seven witches." The space between her legs is as a scorpion, corresponding to the astrological sign of Scorpio. (Scorpio rules the genitals & sex organs.) Her head is that of a lion, she has Anzu bird feet like Lilitu, her breasts are suckled by a pig and a dog, and she rides the back of a donkey.
Two other Mesopotamian demons have a close relation to Lilitu, Gallu & Alû. Alu was originally an asexual demon, who took on female attributes, but later became a male demon. Alu liked to roam the streets like a stray dog at night and creep into people’s bedrooms as they slept to terrify them. He was described as being half-human and half-devil. He appears in Jewish lore as Ailo, here, he is used as one of Lilith’s secret names. In other texts, Ailo is a daughter of Lilith that has had intercourse with a man. The other demon, Gallu is of the Utukku group. Gallu’s name, like Utukku, was also used as a general term for multiple demons. Later, Gallu appears as Gello, Gylo, or Gyllou in Greco-Byzantine mythology as a child stealing and child killing demon. This figure was, likewise, adapted by the Jews as Gilu and was also considered a secret name of Lilith’s.
Lilith in the Bible
The Book of Isaiah 34:14, describing the desolation of Edom, is the only occurrence of Lilith in the Hebrew Bible:
- Hebrew (ISO 259): pagšu ṣiyyim et-ʾiyyim w-saʿir ʿal-rēʿhu yiqra ʾakšam hirgiʿah lilit u-maṣʾah lah manoḫ
- morpho-syntactic analysis: "yelpers meet-[perfect] howlers; hairy-ones cry-[imperfect] to fellow. liyliyth reposes-[perfect], acquires-[perfect] resting-place."
- King James Version of the Bible: "The wild beasts of the desert shall also meet with the wild beasts of the island, and the satyr shall cry to his fellow; the screech owl also shall rest there, and find for herself a place of rest."
Schrader (Jahrbuch für Protestantische Theologie, 1. 128) and Levy (ZDMG 9. 470, 484) suggest that Lilith was a goddess of the night, known also by the Jewish exiles in Babylon. Evidence for Lilith being a goddess rather than a demon is lacking. Deutero-Isaiah dates to the 6th century BC, and the presence of Jews in Babylon would coincide with the attested references to the Līlītu in Babylonian demonology.
The Septuagint translates onokentauros, apparently for lack of a better word, since also the saʿir "satyrs" earlier in the verse are translated with daimon onokentauros. The "wild beasts of the island and the desert" are omitted altogether, and the "crying to his fellow" is also done by the ‘daimon onokentauros.
In Quintus Horatius Flaccus (De Arte Poetica liber, 340), Hieronymus of Cardia translated Lilith as Lamia, a witch who steals children, similar to the Breton Korrigan, in Greek mythology described as a Libyan queen who mated with Zeus. After Zeus abandoned Lamia, Hera stole Lamia's children, and Lamia took revenge by stealing other women's children.The screech owl translation of the King James Version of the Bible is without precedent, and apparently together with the "owl" ('probably a water bird) in 34:11, and the "great owl" (qippoz, properly a snake,) of 34:15 an attempt to render the eerie atmosphere of the passage by choosing suitable animals for difficult to translate Hebrew words. It should be noted that this particular species of owl is associated with the vampiric Strix of Roman legend. This possibly evolved from the early 5th century Vulgate Bible of the Catholic Church, which translated the same word as Lamia instead.
Isaiah (Isaias Propheta) 34.14
et occurrent daemonia onocentauris et pilosus clamabit alter ad alterum ibi cubavit lamia et invenit sibi requiem—Isaiah (Isaias Propheta) 34.14Vulgate
Later translations include:
- night-owl (Young, 1898)
- night-spectre (Rotherham Emphasized Bible, 1902)
- night monster (American Standard Version, 1901; New American Standard Bible, 1995)
- vampires (Moffatt Translation, 1922)
- night hag (Revised Standard Version, 1947)
- Lilith (Jerusalem Bible, 1966)
- lilith (New American Bible, 1970)
- Lilith (The Message (Bible), Peterson, 1993)
- night creature (NIV, 1978; NKJV, 1982; NLT, 1996)
- nightjar (New World Translation, 1984).
- night bird (English Standard Version, 2001)
A Hebrew tradition exists in which an amulet is inscribed with the names of three angels (Senoy, Sansenoy, and Semangelof) and placed around the neck of newborn boys in order to protect them from the lilin until their circumcision.
Dead Sea scrolls
The appearance of Lilith in the Dead Sea Scrolls is somewhat more contentious, with one indisputable reference in the Song for a Sage (4Q510-511), and a promising additional allusion found by A. Baumgarten in The Seductress (4Q184). The first and irrefutable Lilith reference in the Song occurs in 4Q510, fragment 1:
And I, the Instructor, proclaim His glorious splendour so as to frighten and to te[rrify] all the spirits of the destroying angels, spirits of the bastards, demons, Lilith, howlers, and [desert dwellers…] and those which fall upon men without warning to lead them astray from a spirit of understanding and to make their heart and their […] desolate during the present dominion of wickedness and predetermined time of humiliations for the sons of lig[ht], by the guilt of the ages of [those] smitten by iniquity – not for eternal destruction, [bu]t for an era of humiliation for transgression.
Akin to Isaiah 34:14, this liturgical text both cautions against the presence of supernatural malevolence and assumes familiarity with Lilith; distinct from the biblical text, however, this passage does not function under any socio-political agenda, but instead serves in the same capacity as An Exorcism (4Q560) and Songs to Disperse Demons (11Q11) insomuch that it comprises incantations – comparable to the Arslan Tash relief examined above – used to "help protect the faithful against the power of these spirits." The text is thus, to a community "deeply involved in the realm of demonology," an exorcism hymn.
Another text discovered at Qumran, conventionally associated with the Book of Proverbs, credibly also appropriates the Lilith tradition in its description of a precarious, winsome woman – The Seductress (4Q184). The ancient poem – dated to the first century BC but plausibly much older – describes a dangerous woman and consequently warns against encounters with her. Customarily, the woman depicted in this text is equated to the "strange woman" of Proverbs 2 and 5, and for good reason; the parallels are instantly recognizable:
Her house sinks down to death,
Her gates are gates of death, and from the entrance of the house
However, what this association does not take into account are additional descriptions of the "Seductress" from Qumran that cannot be found attributed to the "strange woman" of Proverbs; namely, her horns and her wings: "a multitude of sins is in her wings." The word "seductress" here does not refer literally to "prostitute" or at the very least, the representation of one, but one who tempts men into sin. The sort of individual with whom that text's community would have been familiar. The "Seductress" of the Qumran text, conversely, could not possibly have represented an existent social threat given the constraints of this particular ascetic community. Instead, the Qumran text uses the imagery of Book of Proverbs to explicate a much broader, supernatural threat – the threat of the demoness Lilith.
Although references to Lilith in the Talmud are sparse, these passages provide the most comprehensive insight into the demoness yet seen in Judaic literature, which some speculate to echo Lilith's purported Mesopotamian origins and prefigure her future as the perceived exegetical enigma of the Genesis account. Recalling the Lilith we have seen, Talmudic allusions to Lilith illustrate her essential wings and long hair, dating back to her earliest extant mention in Gilgamesh:
"Rab Judah citing Samuel ruled: If an abortion had the likeness of Lilith its mother is unclean by reason of the birth, for it is a child but it has wings." (Niddah 24b)
"[Expounding upon the curses of womanhood] In a Baraitha it was taught: She grows long hair like Lilith, sits when making water like a beast, and serves as a bolster for her husband.” ('Erubin 100b)
Unique to the Talmud with regard to Lilith is her insalubrious carnality, alluded to in The Seductress but expanded upon here sans unspecific metaphors as the demoness assuming the form of a woman in order to sexually take men by force while they sleep:
"R. Hanina said: One may not sleep in a house alone [in a lonely house], and whoever sleeps in a house alone is seized by Lilith.” (Shabbath 151b)
Yet the most innovative perception of Lilith offered by the Talmud appears earlier in 'Erubin, and is more than likely inadvertently responsible for the fate of the Lilith myth for centuries to come:
"R. Jeremiah b. Eleazar further stated: In all those years [130 years after his expulsion from the Garden of Eden] during which Adam was under the ban he begot ghosts and male demons and female demons [or night demons], for it is said in Scripture, And Adam lived a hundred and thirty years and begot a son in own likeness, after his own image, from which it follows that until that time he did not beget after his own image… When he saw that through him death was ordained as punishment he spent a hundred and thirty years in fasting, severed connection with his wife for a hundred and thirty years, and wore clothes of fig on his body for a hundred and thirty years. – That statement [of R. Jeremiah] was made in reference to the semen which he emitted accidentally.” (‘Erubin 18b)
Comparing 'Erubin 18b and Shabbath 151b with the later passage from the Zohar: “She wanders about at night, vexing the sons of men and causing them to defile themselves (19b),” it appears clear that this Talmudic passage indicates such an adverse union between Adam and Lilith.
A cult in Mesopotamia is said to be related to Lilith by early Jewish leaders. According to the hypotheses proposed by William F. Albright, Theodor H. Gaster, and others, the name Lilith already existed in 7th century BC. and Lilith retained her Shedim characteristics throughout the entire Jewish tradition. Shedim is plural for "spirit" or "demon". Figures that represent shedim are the shedu of Babylonian mythology. These figures were depicted as anthropomorphic, winged bulls, associated with wind. They were thought to guard palaces, cities, houses, and temples. In magical texts of that era, they could be either malevolent or benevolent. The cult originated from Babylon, then spread to Canaan and eventually to Israel. Human sacrifice was part of the practice and a sacrificial altar existed to the Shedim next to the Yahweh cult, although this practice was widely denounced by prophets who retained belief in Yahweh.
Shedim in Jewish thought and literature were portrayed as quite malevolent. Some writings contend that they are storm-demons. Their creation is presented in three contradicting Jewish tales. The first is that during Creation according to Genesis, God created the shedim, but did not create their bodies and forgot them on the Shabbat when he rested. The second is that they are descendants of demons in the form of serpents, and the last states that they are simply descendants of Adam & Lilith. Another story asserts that after the tower of Babel, some people were scattered and became Shedim, Ruchin, and Lilin.
The Alphabet of Ben Sira is considered to be the oldest form of the story of Lilith as Adam's first wife. Whether this particular tradition is older is not known. Scholars tend to date Ben Sira between the 8th and 10th centuries AD. Its real author is anonymous, but it is falsely attributed to the sage Ben Sira. The amulets used against Lilith that were thought to derive from this tradition are in fact, dated as being much older. The concept of Eve having a predecessor is not exclusive to Ben Sira, and is not a new concept, as it can be found in Genesis Rabbah. However, the idea that Lilith was the predecessor is exclusive to Sira. According to Gershom Scholem, the author of the Zohar, R. Moses de Leon, was aware of the folk tradition of Lilith. He was also aware of another story, possibly older, that may be conflicting.
The idea that Adam had a wife prior to Eve may have developed from an interpretation of the Book of Genesis and its dual creation accounts; while Genesis 2:22 describes God's creation of Eve from Adam's rib, an earlier passage, 1:27, already indicates that a woman had been made: "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." The Ben Sira text places Lilith's creation after God's words in Genesis 2:18 that "it is not good for man to be alone"; in this text God forms Lilith out of the clay from which he made Adam but she and Adam bicker. Lilith claims that since she and Adam were created in the same way they were equal and she refuses to submit to him:
After God created Adam, who was alone, He said, 'It is not good for man to be alone.' He then created a woman for Adam, from the earth, as He had created Adam himself, and called her Lilith. Adam and Lilith immediately began to fight. She said, 'I will not lie below,' and he said, 'I will not lie beneath you, but only on top. For you are fit only to be in the bottom position, while I am to be the superior one.' Lilith responded, 'We are equal to each other inasmuch as we were both created from the earth.' But they would not listen to one another. When Lilith saw this, she pronounced the Ineffable Name and flew away into the air.
Adam stood in prayer before his Creator: 'Sovereign of the universe!' he said, 'the woman you gave me has run away.' At once, the Holy One, blessed be He, sent these three angels Senoy, Sansenoy, and Semangelof, to bring her back.
Said the Holy One to Adam, 'If she agrees to come back, what is made is good. If not, she must permit one hundred of her children to die every day.' The angels left God and pursued Lilith, whom they overtook in the midst of the sea, in the mighty waters wherein the Egyptians were destined to drown. They told her God's word, but she did not wish to return. The angels said, 'We shall drown you in the sea.’
'Leave me!' she said. 'I was created only to cause sickness to infants. If the infant is male, I have dominion over him for eight days after his birth, and if female, for twenty days.’
When the angels heard Lilith's words, they insisted she go back. But she swore to them by the name of the living and eternal God: 'Whenever I see you or your names or your forms in an amulet, I will have no power over that infant.' She also agreed to have one hundred of her children die every day. Accordingly, every day one hundred demons perish, and for the same reason, we write the angels' names on the amulets of young children. When Lilith sees their names, she remembers her oath, and the child recovers.
The background and purpose of The Alphabet of Ben-Sira is unclear. It is a collection of stories about heroes of the Bible and Talmud, it may have been a collection of folk-tales, a refutation of Christian, Karaite Judaism, or other separatist movements; its content seems so offensive to contemporary Jews that it was even suggested that it could be an anti-Jewish satire, although, in any case, the text was accepted by the Jewish mystics of medieval Germany.
The Alphabet of Ben-Sira is the earliest surviving source of the story, and the conception that Lilith was Adam's first wife became only widely known with the 17th century ‘‘Lexicon Talmudicum of Johannes Buxtorf.
In the folk tradition that arose in the early Middle Ages Lilith, a dominant female demon, became identified with Asmodeus, King of Demons, as his queen. Asmodeus was already well known by this time because of the legends about him in the Talmud. Thus, the merging of Lilith and Asmodeus was inevitable. The fecund myth of Lilith grew to include legends about another world and by some accounts this other world existed side by side with this one, Yenne Velt is Yiddish for this described "Other World". In this case Asmodeus and Lilith were believed to procreate demonic offspring endlessly and spread chaos at every turn. Many disasters were blamed on both of them, causing wine to turn into vinegar, men to be impotent, women unable to give birth, and it was Lilith who was blamed for the loss of infant life. The presence of Lilith and her cohorts were considered very real at this time.
Two primary characteristics are seen in these legends about Lilith: Lilith as the incarnation of lust, causing men to be led astray, and Lilith as a child-killing witch, who strangles helpless neonates. Although these two aspects of the Lilith legend seemed to have evolved separately, there is hardly a tale where she encompasses both roles. But the aspect of the witch-like role that Lilith plays broadens her archetype of the destructive side of witchcraft. Such stories are commonly found among Jewish folklore.
Kabbalistic mysticism attempted to establish a more exact relationship between Lilith and the Deity. With her major characteristics having been well-developed by the end of the Talmudic period, after six centuries had elapsed between the Aramaic incantation texts that mention Lilith and the early Spanish Kabbalistic writings in the 13th century, she reappears, and her life history becomes known in greater mythological detail.
Her creation is described in many alternative versions. One mentions her creation as being before Adam's, on the fifth day, because the "living creatures" with whose swarms God filled the waters included none other than Lilith. A similar version, related to the earlier Talmudic passages, recounts how Lilith was fashioned with the same substance as Adam was, shortly before. A third alternative version states that God originally created Adam and Lilith in a manner that the female creature was contained in the male. Lilith's soul was lodged in the depths of the Great Abyss. When God called her, she joined Adam. After Adam's body was created a thousand souls from the Left (evil) side attempted to attach themselves to him. However, God drove them off. Adam was left lying as a body without a soul. Then a cloud descended and God commanded the earth to produce a living soul. This God breathed into Adam, who began to spring to life and his female was attached to his side. God separated the female from Adam's side. The female side was Lilith, whereupon she flew to the Cities of the Sea and attacks humankind. Yet another version claims that Lilith was not created by God, but emerged as a divine entity that was born spontaneously, either out of the Great Supernal Abyss or out of the power of an aspect of God (the Gevurah of Din). This aspect of God, one of his ten attributes (Sefirot), at its lowest manifestation has an affinity with the realm of evil and it is out of this that Lilith merged with Samael.
An alternative story links Lilith with the creation of luminaries. The "first light," which is the light of Mercy (one of the Sefirot), appeared on the first day of creation when God said "Let there be light." This light became hidden and the Holiness became surrounded by a husk of evil. ”A husk (q'lippa) was created around the brain" and this husk spread and brought out another husk, which was Lilith.
Adam and Lilith
The first medieval source to depict Adam and Lilith in full was the Midrash Abkir (ca. 10th century), which was followed by the Zohar and Kabbalistic writings. Adam is said to be perfect until he recognizes either his sin or Cain's homicide that is the cause of bringing death into the world. He then separates from holy Eve, sleeps alone, and fasts for 130 years. During this time Lilith, also known as Pizna or Naamah, desired his beauty and came to him against his will. She bore him many demons and spirits called "the plagues of humankind". The added explanation was that it was through Adam's own sin that Lilith overcame him against his will.
Older sources do not state clearly that after Lilith's Red Sea sojourn, she returned to Adam and begat children from him. In the Zohar, however, Lilith is said to have succeeded in begetting offspring from Adam during their short-lived sexual experience. Lilith leaves Adam in Eden, as she is not a suitable helpmate for him. She returns, later, to force herself upon him. However, before doing so she attaches herself to Cain and bears him numerous spirits and demons.
Samael and Lilith
The mystical writing of two brothers Jacob and Isaac Hacohen, which predates the Zohar by a few decades, states that Samael and Lilith are in the shape of an androgynous being, double-faced, born out of the emanation of the Throne of Glory and corresponding in the spiritual realm to Adam and Eve, who were likewise born as a hermaphrodite. The two twin androgynous couples resembled each other and both "were like the image of Above"; that is, that they are reproduced in a visible form of an androgynous deity.
Another version that was also current among Kabbalistic circles in the Middle Ages establishes Lilith as the first of Samael's four wives: Lilith, Naamah, Igrath, and Mahalath. Each of them are mothers of demons and have their own hosts and unclean spirits in no number. The marriage of Samael and Lilith was arranged by "Blind Dragon", who is the counterpart of "the dragon that is in the sea". Blind Dragon acts as an intermediary between Lilith and Samael:
Blind Dragon rides Lilith the Sinful -- may she be extirpated quickly in our days, Amen! -- And this Blind Dragon brings about the union between Samael and Lilith. And just as the Dragon that is in the sea (Isa. 27:1) has no eyes, likewise Blind Dragon that is above, in the likeness of a spiritual form, is without eyes, that is to say, without colors.... (Patai81:458) Samael is called the Slant Serpent, and Lilith is called the Tortuous Serpent.
The marriage of Samael and Lilith is known as the "Angel Satan" or the "Other God," but it was not allowed to last. To prevent Lilith and Samael's demonic children from filling the world, God castrated Samael. In many 17th century Kabbalistic books, this mythologem is based on the identification of "Leviathan the Slant Serpent and Leviathan the Torturous Serpent" and a reinterpretation of an old Talmudic myth where God castrated the male Leviathan and slew the female Leviathan in order to prevent them from mating and thereby destroying the earth. After Samael became castrated and Lilith was unable to fornicate with him, she left him to couple with men who experience nocturnal emissions. A 15th or 16th century Kabbalah text states that God has "cooled" the female Leviathan, meaning that he has made Lilith infertile and she is a mere fornication.
The Two Liliths
A passage in the 13th century document called the Treatise on the Left Emanation says that there are two Liliths, the lesser being married to the great demon Asmodeus.
In answer to your question concerning Lilith, I shall explain to you the essence of the matter. Concerning this point there is a received tradition from the ancient Sages who made use of the Secret Knowledge of the Lesser Palaces, which is the manipulation of demons and a ladder by which one ascends to the prophetic levels. In this tradition, it is made clear that Samael and Lilith were born as one, similar to the form of Adam and Eve who were also born as one, reflecting what is above. This is the account of Lilith which was received by the Sages in the Secret Knowledge of the Palaces. The Matron Lilith is the mate of Samael. Both of them were born at the same hour in the image of Adam and Eve, intertwined in each other. Asmodeus the great king of the demons has as a mate the Lesser (younger) Lilith, daughter of the king whose name is Qafsefoni. The name of his mate is Mehetabel daughter of Matred, and their daughter is Lilith.
Another passage charges Lilith as being a tempting serpent of Eve's:
And the Serpent, the Woman of Harlotry, incited and seduced Eve through the husks of Light which in itself is holiness. And the Serpent seduced Holy Eve, and enough said for him who understands. And all this ruination came about because Adam the first man coupled with Eve while she was in her menstrual impurity – this is the filth and the impure seed of the Serpent who mounted Eve before Adam mounted her. Behold, here it is before you: because of the sins of Adam the first man all the things mentioned came into being. For Evil Lilith, when she saw the greatness of his corruption, became strong in her husks, and came to Adam against his will, and became hot from him and bore him many demons and spirits and Lilin. (Patai81:455f)
This may relate to various late medieval iconography of a female serpent figure, believed to be Lilith, tempting Adam and Eve.
The prophet Elijah is said to have confronted Lilith in one text. In this encounter, she had come to feast on the flesh of the mother, with a host of demons, and take the newborn from her. She eventually reveals her secret names to Elijah in the conclusion. These names are said to cause Lilith to lose her power: lilith, abitu, abizu, hakash, avers hikpodu, ayalu, matrota… In others, probably informed by The Alphabet of Ben-Sira, she is Adam's first wife. (Yalqut Reubeni, Zohar 1:34b, 3:19)
Lilith as Qliphah
Lilith is listed as one of the Qliphoth, corresponding to the Sephirah Malkuth in the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. The demon Lilith, the evil woman, is described as a beautiful woman, who transforms into a blue, butterfly-like demon, and it is associated with the power of seduction.
The Qliphah is the unbalanced power of a Sephirah. Malkuth is the lowest Sephirah, the realm of the earth, into which all the divine energy flows, and in which the divine plan is worked out. However, its unbalanced form is as Lilith, the seductress. The material world, and all of its pleasures, is the ultimate seductress, and can lead to materialism unbalanced by the spirituality of the higher spheres. This ultimately leads to a descent into animal consciousness. The balance must therefore be found between Malkuth and Kether, to find order and harmony.
Another similar monster was the Greek Lamia, who likewise governed a class of child stealing lamia-demons. Lamia bore the title "child killer" and was feared for her malevolence, like Lilith. She has different conflicting origins and is described as having a human upper body from the waist up and a serpentine body from the waist down.(Some depictions of Lamia picture her as having wings and feet of a bird, rather than being half serpent, similar to the earlier reliefs of Greek Sirens and the Lilitu.) One source states simply that she is a daughter of the goddess Hecate. Another that Lamia was subsequently cursed by the goddess Hera to have stillborn children because of her association with Zeus, alternately, Hera slew all of Lamia's children (Except Scylla.) in anger that Lamia slept with her husband, Zeus. The grief caused Lamia to turn into a monster that took revenge on mothers by stealing their children and devouring them.
Lamia had a vicious sexual appetite that matched her cannibalistic appetite for children. She was notorious for being a vampiric spirit and loved sucking men’s blood. Her gift was the "mark of a Sibyl," a gift of second sight. Zeus was said to have given her the gift of sight. However, she was "cursed" to never be able to shut her eyes so that she would forever obsess over her dead children. Taking pity on Lamia, Zeus gave her the ability to remove and replace her eyes from their sockets.
The Empusae were a class of supernatural demons that Lamia was said to have birthed. Hecate would often send them against travelers. They consumed or scared to death any of the people where they inhabited. They bear many similarities to lilim. It has been suggested that later medieval lore, succubae, or lilim is derived from this myth.
Karina of Arabic lore is considered Lilith’s equivalent. She is mentioned as a child-stealing and child-killing witch. In this context, Karina plays the role of a "shadow" of a woman and a corresponding male demon, Karin, is the "shadow" of a man. Should a woman marry, her Karina marries the man’s Karin. When the woman becomes pregnant is when Karina will cause her chaos. She will try to drive the woman out and take her place, cause a miscarriage by striking the woman and if the woman succeeds in having children then her Karina will have the same number of children she does. The Karina will continuously try to create discord between the woman and her husband. Here, Karina plays the role of disrupter of marital relations, akin to one of Lilith's roles in Jewish tradition.
Lilith in the Classical German period
Lilith's earliest appearance in the literature of the Romantic period (1789-1832) was in Johann Wolfgang von Goethr'd 1808 work Faust Part One, nearly 600 years after appearing in the Kabbalistic Zohar:
Who's that there?
Take a good look.
Lilith? Who is that?
Adam's wife, his first. Beware of her.
Her beauty's one boast is her dangerous hair.
When Lilith winds it tight around young men
She doesn't soon let go of them again.
(1992 Greenberg translation, lines 4206–4211)
After Mephistopheles offers this warning to Faust, he then, quite ironically, encourages Faust to dance with "the Pretty Witch". Lilith and Faust engage in a short dialogue, where Lilith recounts the days spent in Eden.
Faust: [dancing with the young witch]
A lovely dream I dreamt one day
I saw a green-leaved apple tree,
Two apples swayed upon a stem,
So tempting! I climbed up for them.
The Pretty Witch:
Ever since the days of Eden
Apples have been man's desire.
How overjoyed I am to think, sir,
Apples grow, too, in my garden.
(1992 Greenberg translation, lines 4216 – 4223)
Lilith in the Victorian period
The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, which developed around 1848, were greatly influenced by Goethe's work on the theme of Lilith. In 1863, Dante Gabriel Rossetti of the Brotherhood began painting what would be his first rendition of "Lady Lilith", a painting he expected to be his "best picture hitherto" Symbols appearing in the painting allude to the "femme fatale" reputation of the Romantic Lilith: poppies (death and cold) and white roses (sterile passion). Accompanying his Lady Lilith painting from 1863, Rossetti wrote a sonnet entitled Lilith, which was first published in Swinburne's pamphlet-review (1868), Notes on the Royal Academy Exhibition:
Of Adam's first wife, Lilith, it is told
(The witch he loved before the gift of Eve,)
That, ere the snake's, her sweet tongue could deceive,
And her enchanted hair was the first gold.
And still she sits, young while the earth is old,
And, subtly of herself contemplative,
Draws men to watch the bright web she can weave,
Till heart and body and life are in its hold.
The rose and poppy are her flower; for where
Is he not found, O Lilith, whom shed scent
And soft-shed kisses and soft sleep shall snare?
Lo! As that youth's eyes burned at thine, so went
Thy spell through him, and left his straight neck bent
And round his heart one strangling golden hair.
(Collected Works, 216)
The poem and the picture appeared together alongside Rossetti's painting Sibylla Palmifera and the sonnet Soul's Beauty. In 1881, the Lilith sonnet was renamed "Body's Beauty" in order to contrast it and Soul's Beauty. The two were placed sequentially in The House of Life collection (sonnets number 77 and 78).
Rossetti wrote in 1870:
Rossetti, W. M. ii.850, D.G. Rossetti's emphasis
Lady [Lilith]...represents a Modern Lilith combing out her abundant golden hair and gazing on herself in the glass with that self-absorption by whose strange fascination such natures draw others within their own circle."—Rossetti, W. M. ii.850, D.G. Rossetti's emphasis
This is in accordance with Jewish folk tradition, which associates Lilith both with long hair (a symbol of dangerous feminine seductive power in both Jewish and Islamic cultures), and with possessing women by entering them through mirrors.
The Victorian poet Robert Browning re-envisioned Lilith in his poem "Adam, Lilith, and Eve". First published in 1883, the poem uses the traditional myths surrounding the triad of Adam, Eve, and Lilith. Browning depicts Lilith and Eve as being friendly and complicitous with each other, as they sit together on either side of Adam. Under the threat of death, Eve admits that she never loved Adam, while Lilith confesses that she always loved him:
As the worst of the venom left my lips,
I thought, 'If, despite this lie, he strips
The mask from my soul with a kiss — I crawl
His slave, — soul, body, and all!—Browning 1098
Browning focused on Lilith's emotional attributes, rather than that of her ancient demon predecessors.
In modern occultism
The depiction of Lilith in Romanticism continues to be popular among feminists, Wiccans, satanists, and in other modern occultism.
Few magical orders dedicated to the undercurrent of Lilith, featuring initiations specifically related to the arcana of the "first mother" exist. Two organizations that use initiations and magic associated with Lilith are the Ordo Antichristianus Illuminati and the Order of Phosphorus. Lilith appears as a succubus in Aleister Crowley's De Arte Magica. Lilith was also one of the middle names of Crowley’s first child, Nuit Ma Ahathoor Hecate Sappho Jezebel Lilith Crowley (b. 1904, d.1906), and Lilith is sometimes identified with Babalon in Thelemic writings.
Many early writers that contributed to modern day Wicca expressed special reverence for Lilith. Charles Leland associated Aradia with Lilith: Aradia, says Leland, is Herodias, who was regarded in stregheria folklore as being associated with Diana as chief of the witches. Leland further notes that Herodias is a name that comes from West Asia, where it denoted an early form of Lilith.
Gerald Gardner asserted that there was continuous historical worship of Lilith to present day, and that her name is sometimes given to the goddess being personified in the coven, by the priestess. This idea was further attested by Doreen Valiente, who cited her as a presiding goddess of the Craft: “the personification of erotic dreams, the suppressed desire for delights”.
In some contemporary concepts, Lilith is viewed as the embodiment of the Goddess, a designation that is thought to be shared with what these faiths believe to be her counterparts: Inanna, Ishtar, Asherah, Anath and Isis. According to one view, Lilith was originally a Sumerian, Babylonian, or Hebrew mother goddess of childbirth, children, women, and sexuality who later became demonized due to the rise of patriarchy. Other modern views hold that Lilith is a dark moon goddess on par with the Hindu Kali.
Western mystery tradition
The western mystery tradition associates Lilith with the Klipoth of kabbalah. Samael Aun Weor in The Pistis Sophia Unveiled writes that homosexuals are the "henchmen of Lilith." Likewise, women who undergo willful abortion, and those who support this practice are "seen in the sphere of Lilith." Dion Fortune writes, "The Virgin Mary is reflected in Lilith," and that Lilith is the source of "lustful dreams."
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Hurwitz (1980)
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 Sayce (1887)
- ↑ Fossey (1902)
- ↑ Patai (1942)
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 Raphael Patai p. 222, The Hebrew Goddess 1978, 3rd enlarged edition from Discus Books New York.
- ↑ T.H. Jacobsen, "Mesopotamia", in H. Frankfort et al., Before Philosophy: The Intellectual Adventure of Ancient Man.
- ↑ Hurwitz p.50
- ↑ Goddesses and Demons: Some Thoughts by Johanna Stuckey
- ↑ Black, Jeremy and Anthony Green. Gods, Demons, and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press 2003. p. 118
- ↑ Patai p.222
- ↑ Erich Ebeling and Bruno Meissner, Reallexicon der Assyriologie, Walter de Gruyter 1990
- ↑ S.H. Langdon p.74
- ↑ Hurwitz p.58
- ↑ Kramer translates the Anzu as "owl," but most often it is translated as "eagle," "vulture," or "bird of prey."
- ↑ "Inanna and the Huluppu Tree": One Way of Demoting a Great Goddess by Johanna Stuckey
- ↑ Chicago Assyrian Dictionary 1956. Chicago: University of Chicago.
- ↑ Dalley, Stephanie. Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, The Flood, Gilgamesh and others. Oxford University Press, Oxford. 1991
- ↑ Hurwitz 64
- ↑ Hurwitz p.34-35
- ↑ AncientNearEast.net. Lamaštu (Lamashtu)
- ↑ Britannica, s.v. "Lamashtu"
- ↑ Margi B. Lilith
- ↑ Hurwitz p.39
- ↑ Hurwitz p.40
- ↑ Hurwitz p.41
- ↑ Summers, Montague (2003). Vampire: His Kith and Kin. Kessinger Publishing. pp. 356. ISBN 978-0766176034.
- ↑ http://la.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Old_Testament_(Vulgate)/Isaias_propheta
- ↑ http://www.latinvulgate.com/verse.aspx?t=0&b=27&c=34
- ↑ Hurwitz p. 53-54
- ↑ Leick 1998: 30-31
- ↑ Hurwitx p. 54-55
- ↑ Hurwitz p. 54
- ↑ Humm, Alan. Lilith in the Alphabet of Ben Sira
- ↑ Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, p. 174
- ↑ Segal, Eliezer. Looking for Lilith
- ↑ Schwartz p.7
- ↑ Schwartz p 8
- ↑ 38.0 38.1 Schwartz p.8
- ↑ Ibid
- ↑ Patai p.229-230
- ↑ Patai p.230
- ↑ Patai p231
- ↑ 43.0 43.1 Patai p232
- ↑ Patai p.231
- ↑ Patai p244
- ↑ Humm, Alan. Lilith, Samael, & Blind Dragon
- ↑ Pataip246
- ↑ R. Isaac b. Jacob Ha-Kohen. Lilith in Jewish Mysticism: Treatise on the Left Emanation
- ↑ Humm, Alan. Lilith picture: with Adam & Eve
- ↑ Lilith Amulet-J.R. Ritman Library
- ↑ Humm, Alan. Kabbalah: Lilith's origins
- ↑ The Lilith Myth
- ↑ Hurwitz p. 43
- ↑ 54.0 54.1 Hurwitz p.43
- ↑ Hurwitz p.78
- ↑ Hurwitz p.136
- ↑ Hurwitz p.137
- ↑ hurwitz p.138
- ↑ 59.0 59.1 59.2 59.3 59.4 http://feminism.eserver.org/theory/papers/lilith/ The Feminism and Women's Studies site: Changing Literary Representations of Lilith and the Evolution of a Mythical Heroine
- ↑ "Lilith's Cave," Lilith's Cave: Jewish tales of the supernatural, edited by Howard Schwartz (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988) 
- ↑ Seidel, Kathryn Lee. The Lilith Figure in Toni Morrison's Sula and Alice Walker's The Color Purple
- ↑ Grimassi, Raven.Stregheria: La Vecchia Religione
- ↑ Leland, Charles.Aradia, Gospel of the Witches-aAppendix
- ↑ Lilith-The First Eve
- ↑ Grenn, Deborah J.History of Lilith Institute
- ↑ Lilith
- ↑ |Excerpts from Lilith-The first Eve
- ↑ goddess.com.au
- ↑ Koltuv
- ↑ R. Buckland
- ↑ Pistis Sophia Unveiled
- ↑ 72.0 72.1 Psychic Self-Defence
- Siegmund Hurwitz, Lilith, die erste Eva: eine Studie uber dunkle Aspekte des Wieblichen. Zurich: Daimon Verlag, 1980, 1993. English tr. Lilith, the First Eve: Historical and Psychological Aspects of the Dark Feminine, translated by Gela Jacobson. Einsiedeln, Switzerland: Daimon Verlag, 1992 ISBN 3-85630-545-9.
- Archibald Sayce, Hibbert Lectures on Babylonian Religion (1887)
- C. Fossey, La Magie Assyrienne, Paris 1902
- Raphael Patai, Adam ve-Adama, tr. as Man and Earth; Jerusalem: The Hebrew Press Association, 1941-1942.
- Talmudic References: b. Erubin 18b; b. Erubin 100b; b. Nidda 24b; b. Shab. 151b; b. Baba Bathra 73a-b
- Kabbalist References: Zohar 3:76b-77a; Zohar Sitrei Torah 1:147b-148b; Zohar 2:267b; Bacharach,'Emeq haMelekh, 19c; Zohar 3:19a; Bacharach,'Emeq haMelekh, 102d-103a; Zohar 1:54b-55a
- Dead Sea Scroll References: 4QSongs of the Sage/4QShir; 4Q510 frag.11.4-6a//frag.10.1f; 11QPsAp
- An overview of the Lilith Mythos including analysis of the Burney Relief
- Kramer's Translation of the Gilgamesh Prologue. Kramer, Samuel Noah. "Gilgamesh and the Huluppu-Tree: A reconstructed Sumerian Text." Assyriological Studies of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago 10. Chicago: 1938.
- Hurwitz, Siegmund. Lilith. Switzerland: Daminon Press, 1992. Jerusalem Bible. New York: Doubleday, 1966
- Lilith's Cave: Jewish tales of the supernatural, by Howard Schwartz (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988)
- Patai, Raphael. The Hebrew Goddess, 3rd enlarged edition New York: Discus Books, 1978.
- The Witch Book, by Raymond Buckland, Visible Ink Press (November 1, 2001)