LILITH

LILITH

Goddess of the night, Adam’s first wife who according to Jewish beliefs was created together with him, she, however, rebelled against his need to dominate and fled from Eden. The meaning of her name varies from Night Creature, Night Monster, Demon, Screech Owl, Lady Air, Wind or Spirit.

First I have state clearly that the character of Lilith can be interpreted in two manners, either in the same way as she was perceived by the ancient folks or in a modernised one. I am going to describe how she was depicted throughout the ages but as far as the divinationary section is concerned I refer to present time reality (and so do most authors of goddesses decks).

ABOUT GODDESS

Creatures resembling Lilith are first mentioned in the Mesopotamian mythology, however they do not take the shape of the characters from subsequent Jewish legends yet. While researching the Epic of Gilgamesh Samuel Noah Kramer studied the text of Twelfth Tablet which was not originally included in the poem. What he found there was the story of Inanna who planted the huluppu tree (most probably a willow) in her garden in Uruk so that she could make a throne for herself from its wood. However, when she came back after ten years to cut the tree, it turned out to be inhabited: a serpent was living in its base, a Zu bird (a huge bird with the head of a lion) had the nest with its young in the crown and ki-sikil-lil-la-ke found the home in its trunk. According to the tablet Gilgamesh, asked by Inanna, has smitten the serpent, made the Zu bird fly away to the mountains with its young and ki-sikil-lil-la-ke destroyed her house and fled to the forest. There is not enough evidence to identify Lilith with ki-sikil-lil-la-ke, in fact modern scholars reject this connection. The only thing that can be determined with high probability is the analysis of the tree spirit’s name: ki-sikil means ‘acred place’, lil is ‘spirit’ and il-la-ke can be either ‘water spirit’ or an owl. According to one of the Sumerian texts, Lilitu is Inanna’s handmaiden, a beautiful prostitute whom the goddess sends to the streets so that she seduce men there.

Moreover, in the texts of incantations from Nippur in Babylon dated back to around 600 bC there is a mention of vardat lilitu meaning a female spirit connected with storms and winds; the word lili itself was associated with magic and demons. According to a hypothesis the Sumerians and the Akkadians, the native inhabitants of Mesopotamia were bilinguial and their deities syncretised, in this case in the Summerian language the spirit was named ki-sikil-lil-la-ke while for the Akkadians the name of the same spirit was Ardat-lili (Ardatû). Lilitu were also present in the myths of Assyrians, the heirs of the Summerian and the Akkadians, as the demons hunting for women and children associated with lions, deserts, storms and diseases. Originally they were linked to the wind and storms and then to the night and copulating with people while they were sleeping; lilitu were hostile towards families, seduced men (it was believed that sick men were possessed by lilitu), caused infertility, miscarriages, complications during delivery and death of babies. Prostitutes were also called ardatû.

It was not until Jewish culture came that Lilith was distinguished from other night demons and gained her own mythology. Her appearance in the Bible is disputed, the only remark mentioning her is the Book of Isaiah 34: 13 – 15 where the word lilit/lilith is enumerated as one of the impure animals (most probably because of the associations with demons), it is unclear, however, whether the author refers to a particular person or the species of demons. In most translations of Bible into foreign languages lilith is treated as a specified creature bringing bad connotations for the contemporary  who shall nest and lay eggs, hatch them out and gather them in her shadow (in Septuaginta, Greek transation of the Bible, a satyr is an equivalent, being a creature of a significant sexual freedom, an embodiment of the forces of nature, in Vulgata, Latin translation, lilith is translated as Lamia, a figure from Greek mythology who was said to abduct and devour children etc). In the King James Bible, the classical translation to Old and New Testament to English, the word screech owl is used and this manner was generally adapted in further renditions.

 Lilith is given a specific embodiment in modern Jewish texts, particularly Talmud and Kabballah. According to these, she was created by God at the same time and from the same clay as Adam thus was his first wife. Several versions of this story have been noted: either she had been brought to life before Adam was, on the fifth day of creation or just a moment before him or Adam and Lilith were created as one being but Lilith’s soul was lodged in the depths of the Great Abyss until God called her to join Adam lying on the ground as lifeless body, it was not until that moment when God created soul for him and divided a woman from a man. According to yet another version Lilith was not created by God but emanated spontaneously as a separate deity and is connected to the Sefirot of Gevurah in the Tree of Life. There is also an alternative version claiming that Adam&Eve and Lilith& Samael came into living as twin couples of hermaphrodites.

Adam wanted Lilith to have sex with him but when it turned out that she was expected to lie below him, she refused firmly. She could not accept such a position because she was created from the same clay as Adam therefore she was equal to a man, not subjected to him. Enfuriated she spoke the Ineffable Name and flew to the Red Sea. Adam complained to his Creator and Yahwe sent three angels Sanvi, Sansanvi and Semangelaf* to Lilith  to convince her to return. But this made Lilith even more enraged so she refused to come back and began relationship with Samael, an angel rebelled against Yahwe. Angels warned her that if she would not return to Adam, she would have to bear one hundred little demons every day but they would all die. Despite this threat Lilith did not surrender and did not return to Eden. This is why Yahwe created an obedient and subordinate Eve from Adam’s rib and Lilith, out of revenge that her own children die, captures the newly born descendants of Adam. Other legends say that Lilith incarnated as a vengeful serpent who convinced Eve to pluck the apple. It is also said that having been expelled from the Paradise Adam separated from his second wife and lived as a hermit, at that time Lilith returned to him as a demon in his dreams.

We have to remember that the ancient did not know what viruses, bacteria and genetic diseases were so when a baby was dying or a woman miscarried (and it did happen often) they were explaining it by the intervention of a jealous female demon. This was not only the case of Mesopotamia but also ancient Hellas where the above mentioned Lamia, half – woman, half – serpent came from). Wet dreams were explained in the same way, it was believed that these were incubus and succubus, night spirits, copulating with men and women. In mythology Lilith was presented either as filled with lust that made her seduce men or filled with jealousy over neonates, the root for the legend of murdering them. It must be noted, however, that these two characters have been evolving separately, there is very few stories where Lilith plays both roles. Patriarchal cultures stigmatize women who do not want to be subjected, they are considered to be bad, vicious and culpable; up to this day women who do not agree on arranged marriages or escape abusive husbands are convinced by their relatives to return in order not to dishonour their  families. It is forbidden for a woman living in a patriarchal culture to show desire and interest in sex and most of all it is suggested to her not to wear or behave in a manner that enhances her beauty (but it is man who decides how far is too much, this is where all those ‘explanations’ of rapists that they were provoked come from). Briefly speaking, Lilith’s history is everlasting. To check how to cope with it and not to get mad, please visit the divination meaning below.

IMAGES, SYMBOLS AND ANIMALS

Here is the Burney Relief with the image of Inanna/Ishtar (or Ereshkigal) which has already been discussed in the post about Ishtar. For some time researchers have been identifying the female figure as Lilith for the sake of wings, birdlike feet and being surrounded by birds resembling owls. This assumption was mostly based on the translation of the Twelfth Tablet of  the Epic of Gilgamesh.

The Burney Relief

However, this identification is now being disputed and mostly rejected.

Lilith appears in the early Romantic culture and art thanks to Faust by Johann Goethe and famous portraits by Dante Gabriel Rosetti, the leader of an English art group of Pre-Raphaelites

'Lady Lilith' by Dante Gabriel Rosetti

and of John Collier

'Lilith' by John Collier

Modern culture did not take the odium of a harlot and infanticide off her. Modern day images portray Lilith as having fair skin and long dark hair (in Jewish and Muslim tradition it symbolises dangerous female power of seduction) and staring at the mirror, the symbol of vanity. As a heroine of 19th century book Lilith by George MacDonald she possesses not only all the features that the ancient attributed to her but is also a vampire sucking blood out of people, she is similarly presented in a modern TV – series True Blood. She is treated as the first mother by the occult societies and traditionally connected to the new moon and the zodiac sign of Scorpio.

DIVINATION MEANING

PERSON

 Person shown by this card is strong – willed and adamant, definitely aware of her influence and strengths and knows how to use them (therefore may not be liked by the environment). She may have problems at work due to insubordination and because of intransigence in relationships. Beauty and sensuality attract men to her even in a subconscious way. In negative aspects she cannot deal with inner tension, past experiences, aversion towards men and subconscious fears or complexes (including sexual ones). This card also shows a person who misuses their attractiveness just because they can.

ADVICE

 DO ON BE SCARED TO SAY ‘NO’!

Our culture requires woman to be nice and polite but these requirements limit freedom of thought and behaviour. In the long run it is impossible to meet them without some loss of own psyche. Being nothing but sweetness is deadly. To be ourselves causes us to be exiled by many others, and yet to comply with what others want causes us to be exiled from ourselves.

Being faithful to yourself requires courage and resistance which is not an easy thing to do as women are taught to be nice and please others. When you start setting the boundaries, people in your environment will be reluctant to accept it or may even behave in a hostile way. And yet if you do not do it, you will not acquire positive attitude and respect to yourself. Being submissive and will not make people love you but use you instead.

Give only as much as you really want to give. Being assertive is not easy, people in your environment may try to force you to explain your behaviour or will call you an egoist. Do not let them do that. Speak in a calm way and use simple, short statements e.g., I have no money, I have no time, etc. If anyone insists, do not engage in further discussion, just repeat the same sentence I have no money, I have no time over and over again, s/he will stop soon. Perhaps people in your environment will consider you to be a hag but they will do what they need without your help.

Express yourself clearly. Speak only things you really mean. Be consequent in what you do. Establish rules and stick to them. Giving your energy, time and money to others is good as long you do it with joy, not because you are expected to do it, the latter only leads to frustration and fatigue. You will not make anyone happy in this way.

Be prepared for the fact that showing your power will cause some unfriendly comments. People may suggest that powerful women discourage men, that you should behave in more feminine way, wear more feminine clothes or even play the role of dumb woman (‘sweet idiot’). Note that a man searching for a relationship with a woman will never get advice to be more male, wear more male clothes or play the role of strong man.

Be prepared that if you are being picked up and express your objection clearly, the person who picks you up will try to withdraw, begin to ridicule you or to say, ‘I was only joking’, ‘What were you thinking?’ etc. This tactics is aimed at “softening’ you and weakening your self – esteem but once you say ‘no’, most probably you will not be bothered again.

Think of the reasons why you are in your relationship. Perhaps it is because you are scared of being alone, not because you truly love your partner. If you are scared of being alone then do not expect someone to adore your company. If you are not scared to be alone, you will not be afraid to wait for a worthy person and you will not fritter away in an unsatisfactory relationship.

Make sure you are not dominated by your partner either in emotional, intellectual or financial way. Remember that men and women may differ but are equal. We cannot build happiness on the dependence on someone else. A cage made of gold is still a cage.

Think of whether it is worth to bind your emotions and energy to a person who is not free either legally or emotionally.

You have right to feel desire and want to have sex. Have a positive attitude to your body. Sex is a powerful tool which can either charge you with lots of positive energy or make you feel terribly down. As far as intimacy is concerned you should only do what YOU want to do. Do not let yourself be manipulated. If you do not feel like you want to have sex, do not go to bed with someone. Do not have sex just because you feel lonely, you are drunk, you want to achieve sth via bed, keep your partner or you think this will make you adult. Sex is an exchange of energy, do not waste yours on a wrong person. Do not be scared to talk about your needs and contraception.

My personal understanding of this card is not to be afraid to talk with children about their bodies, gender and sex (in the range depending on their age). Teach your daughters and sons how to say no and to set boundaries. Teach your daughters and sons that when another person says no they mean no and they have to respect their boundaries. Remember that your children’s future attitude towards relationships and sex is shaped by the behaviour they observe at their home. You also have to teach your children that not all the adults have good intentions and may hurt them.

Never forget that patriarchal culture also hurts men forcing them to play roles they do not want to or cannot bear.

Courage. Freedom. Equality. Strength. Opposition. Independence. Setting boundaries. Refusing to be enslaved. Freedom of mind, heart and body. Moving forward. Surprise.

LOVE

If you are in the relationship:  Lack of satisfaction in relationship. Romance. Partner may not be able to have children. Problems with getting pregnant, miscarriage or complications during delivery. First wife. Lover.

If you are single:  Romance. Being alone by choice. Being with someone who is already in a relationship.

(In both contexts this card warns against sexual harassment or rape)

FINANCES

 Strike. Discontent with present conditions. Inequality in wages for the same amount of work. Discrimination. Exploitation. Abuse at work (including sexual harassment).

HEALTH

 Infectious diseases. Visit your gynaecologist. Endangered parts of the body: sex organs.

CARDS

Lilith in Goddesses&Sirens by Stacey Demarco&Jimmy Manton

Lilith in Goddesses&Sirens by Stacey Demarco&Jimmy Manton 

Lilith in The Goddess Wisdom Cards by Jill Fairchild, Regina Schaare & Sandra M. Stanton

Lilith in The Goddess Wisdom Cards by Jill Fairchild, Regina Schaare & Sandra M. Stanton

Lilith accompanied by owls in The Oracle of the Goddess by Gayan Sylvie Winter&Jo Dosé

 Lilith in The Oracle of the Goddess by Gayan Sylvie Winter&Jo Dosé

Lilith in The Goddess Power Pack by Cordelia Brabbs

Lilith in The Goddess Power Pack by Cordelia Brabbs  

Lilith fleeing from Eden in Goddess Card Pack by Juni Parkhurst

Lilith in Goddess Card Pack by Juni Parkhurst

 Lilith in The Goddesses Knowledge Cards by Susan Seddon Boulet&Michael Babcock

Lilith in The Goddesses Knowledge Cards by Susan Seddon Boulet&Michael Babcock

Lilith in The Goddess Oracle by Hrana Janto&Amy Sophia Marashinsky

 Lilith in The Goddess Oracle by Hrana Janto&Amy Sophia Marashinsky

 Owl – eyed Lilith in The Goddess Oracle Deck by Thalia Took

Lilith in The Goddess Oracle Deck by Thalia Took

Lilith in Goddess: A New Guide to Feminine Wisdom by River Huston&Patricia Languedoc

Lilith in Goddess: A New Guide to Feminine Wisdom by River Huston&Patricia Languedoc

 Lilith as Devil in Universal Goddess Tarot by Maria Caratti&Antonella Platano

Lilith in Universal Goddess Tarot by Maria Caratti&Antonella Platano

* The names of the same angels were written on the amulets for babies aimed at keeping Lilith away from them. Legend says that the angels sent to bring her back to Eden forced her to promise that she would not attack children wearing amulets with their names.

Based on English Wikipedia (unfortunately some information used in this post were removed from the current version of the article about Lilith) and http://www.pantheon.org/articles/l/lilith.html

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4 responses to “LILITH

  1. “Never forget that patriarchal culture also hurts men forcing them to play roles they do not want to or cannot bear.”
    I really applaud your sense of justice in these lines. (By the way, I am a 68 year old male from the Hindu culture i.e. from South India).I am thrilled by your knowledge of our Indian female deities. I really like your website.

  2. Thank you, it’s the best thing I’ve heard for a long time 🙂 I am grateful for your comment, please keep exploring my blog and I hope you won’t be disappointed.

  3. I wish to thank you for this straightforward information regarding Lilitu and Ardat Lilitu back were they were classed as Wind Demons then Night Demons as the myth evolved right before the Hebrew Mythology took over. The Wikipedia though..good for a lot of things, but for some reason their section for Lilith is completely messy, and lacks certain information. Though this isn’t the first time, I had to dig around for other mythical creatures that they didn’t have. Given Mesopotamian archaeology is still fairly new, but there seems to be a lack of quality control just for that mythology. I spent half-the-night trying to dig around for the original demons. I don’t normally go spiritual sites like this, but thankfully you considered the archaeological point, and so there was no true biases I was seeing here.

    What I’m doing is a long-term project by collecting all the world’s mythology into one giant codex for my own personal use. I’m pretty much dedicated to finding every Deity, and monster known to humankind. The only thing is going to drive me crazy besides Mesopotamian mythology is probably Hindu as well…as I heard they had thousands upon thousands of deities that I’m sure even Wikipedia has not even begun to have them all.

    Kind of interesting that I didn’t know she was connected to Scorpio. That is my zodiac sign..(though it does explain why we’re so sexual in nature).

    • Thank you very much for your comment! Indeed, I can see the information in Wikipedia differs depending on when you check it. When I was preparing this post for the blog in my mother tongue 3 years ago there was much more information, but when I wanted to confirm it for the English version some facts were gone. Luckily I saved the page so I could still have access to them.

      Your project seems impressive, congratulations already for your hard work and perseverance. I hope you let me know if you need any help or support.
      Thank you again and greetings 🙂

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