October 4, 2012
Lilith – The First Feminist Goddess
The many legends of Lilith – “My name thou knowest not, and yet shall know, and know too late. But, know thou this indeed: joy is my sister. Sister I, to death.” Lilith’s legend stems from many cultures including Babylonian, Sumerian and Hebrew.
Of these she is most well-known for her role in Hebrew writings. This Sumerian and Hebrew Goddess, once honored for her wisdom, freedom, courage, playfulness, passion, pleasure and sexuality in pre 2300 BCE, was portrayed as a demon by Levite priests at the dawn of patriarchy. Her liberationalist attitude and assertive behavior was threatening to the emerging patriarchal society, and led to her expulsion from Eden to be replaced by the more subservient Eve. But let’s piece together the story.
It is said that Lilith was the twin sister of Adam and dwelt with him in the Garden at Paradise. Adam was created from dust, so the story goes, and She was created just as Adam was therefore claiming to be his equal. Adam was king of Eden and Lilith wished to be co-ruler with him, but the Lord of Light permitted it not. Lilith was beautiful and wise and soon She wearied of her brother, Adam, who was less wise than she. When Adam wanted to lie with her She wanted to know why she must submit and be on the bottom. This shows She was in full control of her own sexuality. Lilith refused to bear children from Adam. The Lord of Light was angered and turned Lilith out of Paradise. In som translations she fled and in others she left willingly. Regardless of hour her exit was made, She gives up paradise before submitting to a man.
Later, She went to Yahweh (god) and tricked him into giving his sacred name, his name of power. Because Lilith now had power over Yahweh, she demanded he give her wings and she flew to the desert. (Isis???) 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 Read 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.
Slight variations in Hebrew legend show She was cursed to give birth to one hundred demon children a day who were then killed because she would not return. Parentage of the demon children also vacillates… from a demon to Adam himself which will be explained in a moment. Her revenge for this curse (either the killing of her children or the giving birth to demons or then seeing them killed) is also varied. One version has Her taking revenge by stealing or killing human children.
In another version She is the snake of the garden who tempted Eve. Yet another revolves around her replacement… Eve. You know the story, Adam and Eve fell from favor with Yahweh (which may or may not have had something to do with Lilith in the form of a snake) and Adam decided upon celibacy. Then Lilith took her revenge every night by coming to him as a succubae, capturing his semen and making demon babies. For this reason Lilith is believed in Jewish folklore to be a succubus, a sexual vampire or demon who came to men at night and caused wet dreams. The Queen of Sheba, portrayed in some legends as a seductive temptress or sorceress, is associated with Lilith in Jewish tradition.
It is also said that Samuel, an angel of the Lord of Light and a son of god, fell in love with Lilith. To Samuel, Lilith bore three half-god half-human children, all called the nephilim. Their wisdom, power and beauty were so great that the children of Darkness were afraid of them and called them monstrous names to defile them. Lilith would not be defiled. From her beloved Samuel she learned the wisdom of the Lord of Light and became the first with. She lived as a daughter of the night mother, calling the people to dance and be youths by the light of the moon. Her symbol was the night owl, and those who followed her called her Arionrhod. The children of Darkness trembled and barred their doors at night seeking to protect them lest Lilith take them and teach them the ways of the wise ones, the witches of old.
Lilith is the archetype for the woman who refuses to be dominated by man. She is a largely misunderstood archetype who has been called Poetess of Darkness, Imp of Impetuosity, and Occasional Serpent of Seduction. She is deeply committed to her personal freedom and keeps her moral strength alive. Some stories says she is a demon, others a fallen angel. She has a mysterious power that is permanent, direct and instinctual. To be cast out for not obeying your husband is enough to make you a snake or a demon in the history of the Jewish people.
her name means “Screech Owl” or “Night Creature.” She is mentioned in the Bible as the Hebrew god, Yahweh, threatens the destruction of Edom (a land located to the south and east of the dead Sea) He describes what will happen after it is laid waste: “… The night creature shall rest there and find for herself a place of rest” (Book of Isaiah Chapter 34 verse 14). Like in the Inanna legend, Lilith’s presence symbolizes a dark time of fear or desolation. She is the focus of misogyny which is defined as the hatred of women and Robin Morgan went to far as to say. “Every organized patriarchal religion worked overtime to contribute its own brand of misogyny.” Curious to also note history is written by the victors (here I am referring to the patriarchal society_ and you will note that Lilith has been edited out of the final version of the creation story and Eve is the root of all sin.
Lilith is the first feminist Goddess, dating to 2300 BCE or earlier. The earliest representation of Lilith seem to be a great winged Bird Goddess, a wind spirit, or one associated with the Sumerian, Ninlil, Goddess of the Grain, and wife to Enlil. This powerful dark-mother goddess is referred to as a demon by Levite priests who wrote the Bible, likely due to her assertive behavior at a time when patriarchy was new. As the “hand of Inanna”, Lilith was notorious for bringing men from the street and fields of war to Inanna’s temple for holy sexual rites, in which the intention was to civilize the people. The sacred sexual customs were, in fact, considered the greatest gift of Inanna.
For the Sumerians, She was the original wife of Adam, with whom She claimed equality because they were created together in the image of Elohin (a word for “god” which had feminine as well as masculine linguistic roots). In her hands She holds the rod and ring of Sumerian royal authority (or glyph of 100,000). Lilith wears a stepped crown or turban and is accompanied by the bird of wisdom and the king of beasts.
In Sumerian/ Babylonian myth Lilith is a demon-goddess, called “The Dark maid” or “Maiden of Desolation”. She is associated with owls and is the creature of the night depicted on a Babylonian clay plaque from 2000 – 16000 BCE as beautiful winged woman with bird’s feet and claws.
As a young woman, Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of love and war, plants a sacred huluppu tree from which She hopes to make Her throne (representing Her power as an adult woman) and bed (representing Her full sexuality). But Lilith, along with the serpent and the lion-faced anzu bird, eventually drives Lilith out and Inanna is then able to claim Her throne and bed.
Sumerian myth has Lilith as Eve’s dark sister and first wife of Adam and she became representative of all that is dark, wild, and intensely creative and free in human nature, existing beyond the reach of society’s boundaries or control.
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.”
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 father 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 patriarchy. 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.”
In recent times, Lilith is revered as a strong woman, confident in her sexual powers, who refused to be subordinate to the husband she was given to, who left Paradise willingly rather than submit to a man.
Lilith in a reading indicates tension and its underlying dark fears that must be faced. Sexuality is a strong undercurrent in this situation and needs to be recognized.
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 Senoi” – around the child’s neck.
“Because she liked her victims smiling she tickled the infant’s fee. It giggled, thereupon Lilith strangled it. mothers were also wary of kites, pelicans, owls, jackals, wildcats and wolves, all disguises favored 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.”
Suggested mantra: Equality
- I forgive
- I welcome forgiveness
- I am free from judgment
- I deserve to be free from guilt
- I am creating the life I love
- I am tolerant of unenlightened people
- My vital energy resurfaces naturally
- I am honest and truthful in all I say and do
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More about Lilith:
In Western tradition, she was the original partner of Adam, created equally together in the image of Elohin.
Lilith’s cameo appearance as the first wife of Adam in the Garden of Eden (but dumped him when he whined just a bit too much), was followed by her appearance as the paramour of lascivious spirits in the Red Sea or the bride of Samuel the Devil (both causes of slander and libel), then as the Queen of Sheba and Sermargard (i.e. men such as Solomon the Wise do not do stupid things; they are bewitched by seductive women!), and as the Consort of God Himself in fifteenth century Cabbalism (the latter which was just one more justification for The Albigensian Crusade). But her greatest role seems likely to be as handmaiden to The Great Goddess, Inanna.
As Adam’s first wife, however, Lilith really got into trouble with patriarchy. She had the audacity to want to be treated as Adam’s equal. According to Hebrew mythology, the Babylonian Talmud, the Zohar, and the Alphabet of Ben Sira, Lilith refused to lie below Adam, and thus set the archetypal example for later feminists. God allegedly threatened her by decreeing if she did not submit to Adam, that “one hundred of her children would die every day.” Lilith chose exile, which really got Adam’s goat! Despite being ostensibly happy about having Lilith out of his life (and later blessed with a subservient, if not occasionally misguided Eve), Adam apparently never gave up resenting Lilith for having chosen exile to being with him. Not a lot has changed in thousands upon thousands of years: A woman deciding her life is better alone than with a particular man is still the greatest of insult to that male.
The male patriarchal traditions, therefore portrayed the situation as one in which the first woman on Earth, who was created equal to man and a free spirit to boot, would be condemned to survive for eternity as a she-devil, mating with demons and devils and bearing monsters instead of human children. “This image was to serve as a threat and warning to any woman who might consider leaving her husband or defying male authority.”
But it was all to no avail. For now Lilith, as the sexiest aspect of the Dark Goddess, at a time in The Great Cycle known as the Dark of the Moon, is back, stirring up trouble, and reminding us all of “a time in the ancient past when women were honored and praised for initiating and fully expressing their personal freedom and sexual passion.” And if you think she’s not fully capable of raising havoc with the patriarchy, consider the classic portrait of Lilith by Hon John Collier, 1887. (above)
In addition to the good news that “Frodo Lives”, Lilith is also present; if only as an archetype within every male and female, a primal, instinctive feminine sexuality. Lilith’s type is the free and unrestrained animating, pulsating, transforming sexuality that evokes the original orgiastic aspect of The Great Goddess. She is that part for which the masculine both fears and longs for – the woman who runs with the wolves! Lilith is the woman who refuses to nurture men, and thereby threatens their survival.
As the Goddess of the Dark Moon, Lilith “ruthlessly destroys all that is not our true individuality or appropriate life path. She will not lead us to our goal by revealing what it is, but rather by eliminating everything that it is not. The black aspect of Lilith closes all the wrong doors that face us.”
“The blank Lilith in us will accept nothing less than our true individuality, not in the sense of separateness, but in the sense of who we intrinsically are. When we are secure in acknowledging and expressing our true self, we do not falsify ourselves in order to be accepted by others.” “Consensus does not require the kind of compromise that pressures us to give up our essential values while mediating with another person.”
In all respects, Lilith’s charging to the forefront during the Processional Cycle’s Dark of the Moon, is the good news. It’s also a slight taste of what is to arrive with the ultimate Return of the Goddess in the very near future. Say, maybe around 2012 C.E. Are you ready??