from Khephera Website
Unfortunately, I have found that modern authors often leave much to be desired on the subject of Lilith.
Modern interpretations of Her nature are presented as historical, and the historical facts themselves are regularly misrepresented.
These are some of the questions,
myths, facts, and errors that will be covered in this essay-
hopefully laying to rest the many misconceptions that surround this
ancient and powerful figure.
For instance, you and I both know today that the Gods did not build the city of Babylon with Their own hands. Yet, if one were to call upon the great Marduk, He would gladly share with us his full memory of constructing the city. Likewise, we know that Adam and Eve did not exist as the "first humans." Yet, Lilith has full memory of Eden, the Fall, and every other event depicted in Genesis and the various Judeo-Christian legends.
It is thus that Lilith, though She is not now the vile and disgusting archdemon envisioned by the early Judaic peoples, is nevertheless affected by these conceptions of Her. Her darker aspects, even the nastiest ones, are a part of Her regardless of modern attempts to "liberate" Her from unpleasantness.
Lilith was, in fact, not originally a benevolent Goddess who was raped by the patriarchy. However, I move slightly ahead of myself here.
Therefore, I will begin at the beginning.
Her roots do certainly extend that far, but Lilith Herself is not to be found among that massive pantheon of Gods and demons.
In order to explain how both of these particulars can be true at once, we must begin with some basic lessons in ancient Sumerian language- specifically the development of one word in particular:
The oldest known term which we might suggest relates to Lilith would be the plural word "Lili" (feminine "Lilitu"), which was simply the same in Sumeria as our modern generic word "spirits."
In fact, it was quite common in ancient languages for the same word for "air" or "breath" to be used for "spirit," as the breath was thought to be the evidence of life; the spirit of the person. Disembodied spirits, therefore, were themselves composed of the same substance.
The very word "spiritus"
is one such example - Latin for "to breath." The Hebrew "ruach" is
another identical example. This suggests, therefore, that the
Sumerian Lilitu were either a specific type of demon, or were simply
"spirits" in general.
"Ardatu" was a term that described a
young woman of marrying age. Thus, the Ardat Lili were sexually
active female spirits - the succubae. It was believed that these night
demonesses were the cause erotic dreams, by which they robbed the
male of semen and spiritual vitality. Of course, there is also a
male version of this entity- the incubus- but we need not address
this creature here.
This has an obvious
relation to the word Lili (and Ardat Lili specifically); not just in
the similarity of pronunciation and spelling, but also in the very
definition of the words. Keep in mind that these ancient languages
did not possess the specific definition of our modern words. A
single word would indicate any one of a number of related concepts.
This demoness is supposed to be Lilith Herself, whom the hero
Gilgamesh finally forces out of the Tree and into the desert.
While the word for
air/spirit is obviously present, there is no indication of a Lilith-
anymore than the presence of the word "ki" (Earth) indicates the
Earth Goddess Ki. Perhaps Kramer was concentrating on the two
More specifically, the assumption was
made first, and Kramer's work was provided as proof of Lilith's
existence in ancient Sumeria. Of course, as the demoness of the Tree
is not Lilith, than surely neither is the woman depicted in the
The verse supposedly speaks of a screech owl, and this is said to indicate Lilith by way of the above-mentioned plaque (and the owls depicted thereon). This instance is even used to argue that Lilith's name is derived from the Hebrew term for "to screech." However, this is probably not the case. Instead, the Biblical reference seems to come directly from the term "Lilitu."
It may very well be a direct
reference to Lilith, however the spelling must be noted: In the
Biblical passage the word is L I L I Th, while the name of Lilith is
properly spelled "L I L O Th" (which is actually a plural, and will
be covered later).
These also happen to be symbols associated with Inanna. It is most unlikely that the lowly demon driven away by Gilgamesh would be depicted among these holy symbols. Of course, others may argue that owls are a principal motif in the image as well- and owls were animals of bad omen and evil in Sumer-Babylonia.
Thus, the plaque is
surely a mystery, but in any case there is no hard evidence to
support its identity as Lilith. One begins to wonder if this is not Inanna Herself as associated with the Underworld...
The modern association of Lilith
with this image has given it its own validity (the same must also be
said of the relation of Lilith with "to screech"), and therefore
does not need to be cast aside for practical purposes. However, the
historical facts should at least be understood and noted.
However, it must be kept in mind that Ardat Lili simply meant succubus, without indicating any specific being. This, then, brings me to another often overlooked point: the name Lilith itself is, in fact, an improper transliteration of the Hebrew. The Hebrew lettering is Lamed (L), Yod (I), Lamed (L), Vav (O), Tau (Th).
"-ith" should be spelled "-oth," which is the Hebrew feminine plural
suffix. It may be that the earliest Hebrew references were not to
"Lilith," but to "the liloth" (the spirits)- a curious cross of a
Sumer-Babylonian word with a Hebrew suffix. More specifically, it
referred to female spirits, and thus was probably little more than
the Hebrew version of the Sumerian term Lilitu.
However, I have personally found no direct evidence to support
whether these bowls referred directly to one demoness or to a group
of demonesses. The etymology may suggest the latter, while the
existence of the singular Lilith in Hebrew mythos may suggest the
This tentative answer lies in the Babylonian demoness Lamashtu. This horrible creature was, among other things, held responsible for "stealing babies from their mothers." More than likely, this indicates crib-death and perhaps still-birth- as the general concept of a demon in Babylon was more often than not an explanation for medical problems and sickness.
As we know, crib
death was shockingly common in the ancient world, and thus Lamashtu
was one of the major, and most feared, demonic forces. She was,
perhaps, a large enough cultural influence to be adopted by other
peoples who had intimate contact with Babylon. People such as the
Hebrews, who adopted quite a few major concepts from the Babylonian
religion. Thus was Lilith's birth - a demoness who attacked men in
the night, and women and babies during and after child-birth.
The work in
question is a tenth-century folktale called "The Alphabet of Ben Sira," where Lilith is presented as the first wife of Adam.
Today, we know that Genesis I and II are two separate Creation stories.
Genesis II derives from a Sumerian story, while Genesis I
is a later creation of the Hebrew Priesthood (created by the Deuteronomic School around 700 BCE). However, to a people who were
quite determined to take the Scriptures as ultimate Truth, such a
contradiction was not welcome at all. It demanded an explanation
that reconciled both stories.
Of course, God is not seen as being
either male or female, but as both at once. Even the Name Elohim is
a feminine word (Eloah-Goddess) with a masculine plural suffix
(-im). Thus, if God is male and female, the mother and the father,
then Adam (which translates as "Mankind") must also have originally
been male and female in one. To be otherwise would have been
unbalanced, and thus imperfect.
This imperfection finally led to the Fall- which
was the manifestation of the human race from the archetypal to the
actual. The woman was called Eve, which literally translates as
"Life." Mankind was given Life, and the rest is history.
The verse from Genesis I was thus explained as a veiled hint to the entire Lilith affair. Genesis II:20 even helps back this up:
The animals of the Earth had been created for the strict purpose of being helpers to Adam, and Lilith was among them.
But, Lilith had failed, and no other beast even came close to fulfilling the need (apparently Lilith was the only animal enough like Adam to be a candidate at all).
The next scene in the Scripture is where Yahweh breaks down and decides to chance separating Adam into his two halves of male and female. Without worrying over specific developments of the tale, I will simply relate the entire story as it came to be after all.
Here, then, is the story of Lilith.
The Mythos - Lilith's Defiance
Now Lilith was the first wife of Adam, well before the creation of
Eve. She had been created along with him to be his helper, as the
Torah states "Male and Female He created them."
Thereupon Lilith pronounced
the Divine Name, and flew away from the Garden and Adam forever.
In return for the pain delivered upon her and her children, she would slay the children of Adam. She swore to attack children, and even their mothers, during child-birth. She also swore that all new-born children were in danger of her wrath- baby girls for twenty days after birth, and boys for eight. Not only this, but she vowed also to attack men in their sleep.
She would steal their semen to give
birth to more demon children, in order to replace those slain each
And thus is the legend of Lilith. However, the story does not end here by any means, and I will be adding to it as this essay continues.
I will go over the basic Hebraic interpretations (Folk
and Religious), the later Qabalistic interpretation, the modern
interpretation, and I will conclude with my own interpretation.
The folk interpretation of this
myth is the most literal, and sees the myth as an actual event. In
this, Lilith is an actual demoness who is blamed for such things as
mothers dying in child-birth, still-birth, crib-death, "night-hag
syndrome," and erotic dreams among men.
With sexual release being such a taboo, it is no surprise that erotic dreams were very common - and even more so were they feared. This was no case of seeing a woman and being aroused.
This was (within a dream) committing the full sexual act and enjoying it the entire time! Being that it is not uncommon to dream of women one knows in waking life - other men's wives among them - the problem became an issue of breaking the Ten Commandments. Finally, add to this the fact that the real life result of these dreams was to be cursed as one who has "spilled his seed."
Yet, this was something that could never be
avoided by even the most pious men- and was thus going to be a
continuing source of guilt. The relief for this guilt was to blame
it on a succubus, Lilith.
This dynamic may have developed in answer to the hardships often associated with death. There were even steps a family would take to ensure the illegitimate demon-children were banished from the house upon the husband's death.
Of course, Lilith was not the only
possible mother for these children. Jewish folk tales are teeming
with gullible men being tricked into marriages with beautiful demonesses.
This is due to the fact that your
limbs are trying to move according to the dream, but are being
entangled under the body and in the bedclothes. When even less of
the chemical is produced, sleepwalking occurs.
Of course, there is no visible attacker, which makes the experience extremely frightening. Today we know that this chemical imbalance is simply caused by stress or old age; though it could still be considered Lilith (or simply a succubus) if one considers a demon an imbalanced aspect of the Self or sickness.
In the old world, such things were known as rape by the succubus (or
Even more recent are the talismans which bear the images of the three Angels and the Hebrew phrase:
These would be hung over wedding beds as well as delivery tables and cribs. In many cases the inscription was painted upon or over the door to the place.
All of this done as per the agreement Lilith made
with the three enforcer Angels.
Though it may not figure into the Hebraic views of her, it
still relates. This addition concerns Lilith's involvement with the
Fall from Eden.
Apparently, Lilith was not
satisfied with her vows of revenge as they were, and decided to
attack Adam where he least expected it- through his new wife Eve.
Perhaps even an amount of jealousy is involved here.
Lilith provided the body of the serpent,
while Samael was the voice. As the wife of Samael (rather than
Asmodeus), she is known as the Elder Lilith.
This, of course, is the part of the body that would most be
concealed from view. Only one intimate with her would find out the
horrible truth- after it was too late.
In this, Lilith far
pre-dates (and perhaps has something to do with) the Christian
concept of the Pan-like Satan.
The Qabalists created yet another chapter in the life of Lilith, which stems directly from the above Religious ideas. As Lilith had come to represent those things that God frowned upon, so too did she come to symbolize the corrupt ways of the entire world at large. She was the lifestyle of the Pagans around the Judaic Peoples, who did not frown upon sex, indulgence, and fun.
She symbolized all those who would break the
Torah, and she was anyone who would attack the Israelites. Most of
all, she was Babylon- the enemy holding the Israelite people
This was known as the Sacred Marriage. In the Middle Eastern cultures, a newly anointed
king was ritually married to the Goddess (or mother of the land),
and thus to the kingdom itself. Likewise, the Qabalists depicted
Adonai as a king, and the Shekinah was [the people of] Israel
"rape" was symbolic of mankind's rape of the world and of the
Thus, in an effort to sustain a balance, Adonai took Lilith as His consort.
Being what She was, Adonai felt no pity in uniting with Her in impurity. She was, quite simply, His harlot. Thus it was that one half of the Divine Force which sustained the Universe was tainted- allowing the evil of mankind to reign supreme and unstoppable.
Lilith was the Dark Shekinah - the polar opposite of that
Holy Goddess. She had made Her
final leap from demoness to Goddess - the Wife of God.
It was during this time
that Adonai had the best chance of reuniting with the Shekinah- and
the Qabalist did all he could to help through purity and devotional
invocation. This symbolism is even hinted at in the Christian Book
of Revelation, where the Whore of Babylon is supplanted in power by
the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.
From here, I will briefly explain Her modern interpretation, and you will see why I disagree with most of it so strongly.
The Modern Interpretation - Feminism
Today Lilith has been adopted by the Neopagan community. Most specifically by those with a feminist angle.
Their main focus is
upon Lilith's choice to fly from paradise, and even suffer the death
of hundreds of Her children, rather than live under submission to
Adam. In this, She represents feminine defiance and strength. Her
resulting attack on men in the night is the revenge of the woman
upon the men who have harmed Her.
The "proof" of this is the above mentioned plaque, and we have
already seen how this is simply not so. It is even said that Lilith
was a maiden, in service to Inanna, who stood without the Temples
and invited men to enter and partake of the sacred sex with the
Priestesses. For this, not one shred of archeological evidence has
been offered of which I am aware.
This is, in my opinion, pure silliness.
Anyone who puts the slightest study into Sumerian culture will find
that there was hardly any degradation of women occurring there. The
exact same thing can be said for the Babylonians who followed, and
even the earliest Hebrews themselves. It is true that the warrior
traditions and kingship of early civilization began to focus upon
masculine Deities, but the idea that hatred of women came
immediately with this is not founded.
Likewise, this view insists, there were absolutely no
evil female characters in any mythology. Once God-worship had been
invented by "power-hungry war-mongers," that is when all the
mythologies were re-written to show how evil the Goddesses were.
In reality, however, the
tale is a depiction of warfare between younger Gods and older
Gender does not play a specific role in the epic- and both male and
female characters play roles on both sides of the battle.
Therefore, the battle between Horus and Set might be depicted as
male versus female, or primordial Mother versus young male usurpers.
Though, once again, a review of the actual stories do not reveal
such a distinction. (More than likely, the story of the battle
between Horus and Set is a depiction of solar eclipse.)
That is, after all, what mythology is all about. What I am speaking against here is shoddy scholarship.
And, more than this, the attempt to push off personal opinions, half-truths, political agendas, and even outright lies as actual history. I will gladly interpret mythologies for use in the modern world, but I also A) acknowledge the original interpretations, and B) make sure that my interpretation takes the older ones into account.
Again, I point out that a God and its mythology are inseparable. If I evoke Lilith, She will not conform utterly to what I expect or wish. Yes, She will be affected by my expectations and my interpretation of Her nature, but this merely accounts for one half of the interaction between myself and the Goddess.
And with this I move on to my final goal: an interpretation of Lilith for the modern world. This is based not only on the scholarship above, but also on my own experience of this seductive beauty.
And now, let us meet Lilith.
Adam is the Image of the Divine; he, and all physical things, are the final result of Divine manifestation. On the Qabalistic Tree of Life, Adam is Malkuth (Kingdom), the physical world.
In Qabalistic psychology,
Malkuth refers to the conscious mind. Thus, Adam represents our
waking consciousness, or ego. Adam is everything about us that
imposes "proper behavior" within society.
She is just as
described in the religious interpretation - she is Babylon (or, as
Crowley spells Her Name:
She is the polar opposite of Lilith. She and Lilith
together form the whole of the inner Self.
He is the embodiment of Divine Severity. He is the
Prince of the Seraphim- those Fiery Serpents who, at one point,
Yahweh sent to punish the Israelites (see the book of Exodus), and
to purify by fire those who wished to enter the Temple (see the book
of Isaiah). Samael is hardship.
Even when Adam
wishes She would come back, it is too late and the damage has been
These demons are born within the locked away and forgotten parts of our minds. Even though we attempt, as the Angelic Enforcers, to hunt down and slay as many of them as we can, the tide is too great to be turned. We have attempted to suppress that which can not be suppressed.
Lilith, in Her darkness, has grown Her (owl's) talons. By nature a beautiful creature - as our natural selves are in fact beautiful - Lilith now has the means and motive to rip us to tiny shreds. She attacks us while we sleep; and with our semen- the facts and deeds of our daily lives- she spawns more and more demons.
Before she is finished, she will slither her way back into our minds - as the Serpent in the Garden. Our conscious selves rarely see it coming; while we are occupied with our day to day foolishness- Lilith will be sweet-talking Eve into taking the fatal bite. She will attack us below the surface, in that part of ourselves we have long-since thought conquered.
One moment we suddenly find ourselves
with break-downs, outbursts, causing harm to others, and social and
personal ruin. We have experienced the Fall from Grace.
Now, we have prostitution, strip-clubs, and brothels which are viewed as seed-beds of physical abuse, drug abuse, and disease.
The people who
frequent these places are labeled as dirty and immature people with
little to no social value. Individuality and self expression is now
corrupted into gang activity and the anarchy of social outcasts.
Children who display this individuality spend their time in the
principal's office or suffer worse punishments. They are labeled as
"problem children," and so problem children they believe they are.
Yet, if we allow Lilith to seduce us with Her beauty, she will finally show us the ugliness that lies under her dressing. This is when she rips into us with her talons. The gangster is executed, and thus ends his glory.
The prostitute has
her throat cut, or dies of an overdose. And the man who frequents
the brothel dies a lonely old man because a real relationship was
ever beyond him.
This, in turn, fuels the view that these things are harmful in and of themselves. Society literally eats itself from the inside out- and this is the marriage of Lilith to God.
As in the Qabalistic interpretation, the flow of Divinity has been tainted; Samael/Lilith is in control, and what is natural has been twisted into evil. Lilith should be our ally, and yet we are pitted in combat against her. If Adam can not be forced to accept his Lilith, then Lilith will destroy him.
But, those in control of
our society maintain that control through the suppression of Lilith-
our defiance and freewill- and they would sooner see us destroyed
than to lose that control.
The clashing of the acceptable and non-acceptable, or the overrunning of the mind by its own neuroses. In short, Cain- full of hate, jealousy, and anger which finally explodes into murder- represents the very inhibited society thus far described.
This is not a new concept, of course, as
Cain has long been said to be the ancestor of the corrupt majority
of the world's population. For instance, Hebraic legend insists that
it was the Cainite women who seduced the Angelic Watchers and gave
the Nephalim (Giant creatures, one of whom was Asmodeus
Himself) (Genesis 6:1-4f).
On the other hand there is also Seth, the third son of Eve (also fathered by Adam), who is said to be the ancestor to the pious minority of the world. The Gnostics for instance, who felt they had the Knowledge to purify themselves (of the Samael/Lilith influence), and thus return to a state of grace, described themselves as descendants (or even embodiments) of Seth.
Able, then, is the
Paradise that could have been; Cain is the corruption that slew that
dream, and Seth is the hope of a return to utopia.
In short, there are those few who have refused Samael's marriage to Lilith. Instead, they have invited Lilith to return to the Garden - promising Her that She can play mistress just as much as Adam plays master.
They have attempted to join Lilith and Eve, and
to return them both to their rightful place within Adam. They strive
to become Adam Qadmon- that Supernal Man(kind) who is greater even
than the Angels. They strive for the state of Seth.
Perhaps in that time a person could be natural, individual and even a little rebellious without being labeled a criminal for doing so. Of course, no utopia will ever exist in full. However, just as the Medieval Qabalist strove to unite God and His Shekinah, so too should we strive to unite Eve and Lilith, and both of them with Adam within ourselves.
Only then will
we have the power to rebuild the inner Temple, and aid the Shekinah's return to Adonai. Only then will the "children of Seth"
have a chance to reign.
Of course, Lilith has Her dark side. If I allow Her to rule over me, She would drain my vitality as a succubus. She would rule me to the point of being little more than a thoughtless animal, useless and perhaps harmful within a human society.
Instead, I accept Lilith in
equality; in both darkness and light.
Here I wish to elaborate somewhat on this aspect, as it is a rather important one in getting to know Her. In the Solomonic Legends, the Queen of Sheba was a very prominent figure.
Much like Asmodeus, Lilith was an adversary to Solomon.
However, unlike Asmodeus - who's wish was to dethrone Solomon - Lilith
simply enjoyed testing Solomon's wisdom. She constantly arrived in
his royal court with puzzles, riddles, and specific dilemmas in
unceasing attempts to find fault in his abilities to serve the
The demons replied that they knew these Prophets, and added, "But who are you?"
Unlike Solomon to the Queen of Sheba, these exorcists had no good answer- and the demons tore them apart. Solomon always had a good answer- that is to say, he always knew the solutions to Her puzzles. In fact, it would seem that Solomon accepted the true nature of Lilith, because he actually enjoyed Her visits; and the opportunity to try himself at Her puzzles.
He understood the
necessity of these tests to keep him polished and on his toes. But,
then again, Solomon was known for his Wisdom.
However, Lilith was often much more subtle. In one
instance, She took the form of a prostitute and claimed motherhood
to another prostitute's baby. Eventually, the matter was brought to
the court of the king. Solomon heard both sides of the story, but
this solved nothing. Both women were adamant, and told wholly
different stories to back their claims.
She admitted that she was
not truly the mother, and that she did not wish for the baby to die
on her account. Solomon immediately gave the baby to her- knowing
that only the real mother would give the baby away rather than watch
it die. Lilith, on the other hand, was foiled again.
This is a work that describes Solomon's efforts to summon a number of demons, and find out their various names, forms, actions, and (most importantly) the Angels who oppose them. Lilith was among these summoned demons. (As a note, there is a similar legend in which Elijah encounters Her and demands Her Names.)
She told Solomon that Her opposing Angel is Raphael - which makes sense when we recognize that Lilith's name refers to "spirit" or "air," and Raphael is the Kherub of Air. Lilith is the enveloping fog, while Raphael is the clear-sky breeze.
As for Her various Names - taken from various sources - they are as follows:
Append II - The Experience of Lilith