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Lilith(lĭl`ĭth), female demon of Jewish mythology, originally probably the Assyrian storm demon Lilitu. In Talmudic tradition many evil attributes were given to this supposedly nocturnal creature. In Jewish folklore she is a vampirelike child-killer and the symbol of sensual lust. Of the various legends connected with her, the one making her Adam's first wife is the strongest. Lilith appears in the Walpurgis Night section of Goethe's Faust and is discussed in Bernard Shaw's Back to Methuselah.
See L. Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews, vol. V (repr. 1956).
Lilith(religion, spiritualism, and occult)
In the book of Genesis there appear to be two different versions of the story depicting the creation of man and woman.
In chapter 1, verse 27: "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them."
In chapter 2, verse 21: "So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs... and made a woman... and brought her to the man."
Chapter 1 gives us the "dust of the earth" story while chapter 2 recounts the familiar "Adam's rib" account. It's difficult to harmonize them. Scholars who subscribe to literary criticism (see Literary Criticism/Historical Critical Method) simply see this as an example of two different traditions being woven into one story. But the Hebrew Talmudic scholars long ago formed an alternative tradition.
There are different versions of their story, but the general outline is that Eve was Adam's second wife. She is the woman of Genesis 2 and was created from Adam's rib. She accepted her role as being subservient. After all, her husband had come first and had given up a part of himself for her very life.
But the woman of Genesis 1, Adam's first wife, is quite another story. She was created from the same dust of the ground as Adam. (Some stories have her being created from dirty mud, rather than clean dust like Adam. This casts her in a sinister light.) As Adam's equal, the woman the Talmudic scholars named Lilith ("storm goddess" or "she of the night") was not about to play second fiddle to a man she considered her equal. When Adam "desired to lay on top of her," she refused. Why should she have to be on the bottom when she and the man were equal? So she flew off to the desert.
The key is that Adam had not yet been kicked out of the garden, so Lilith got away with eternal life. That's right. She's still out there. She consorted with demons and gave birth to demons—some stories say at the rate of more than a hundred a day. God sent three angels to bring her back, but she refused to come. The owl became her companion and symbol as she prowled the night, sometimes seducing sleeping men who thought they were dreaming.
She is pictured in Sumerian mythology as a goddess of desolation, part snake and part woman, with wings on her back similar to those of a dragon. She lives today in stereotypes of the "Dragon Lady," witch, and temptress.
Lilith, contrasted with Eve, no doubt gave the early Hebrew patriarchy of Middle Eastern tradition a valuable tool to keep women in their place.
Lilith(religion, spiritualism, and occult)
In Jewish folklore, a female demon in some ways similar to a vampire. She derives from a Babylonian-Assyrian demon Lilit, or Lilu. She was believed to have a special power for evil over children. In the Rabbinical literature, Lilith became the first wife of Adam but, being his equal, objected to lying under him in intercourse. When he tried to force her, she flew away.
The "Maid of Desolation" (ardat lili) of Babylonian tradition was a demon of waste places who originally lived in the garden of the Sumerian Inanna. In Assyrian belief, she became a wind spirit, wild-haired and winged. In the Talmud Lilith is a succubus—a demon of the night whose offspring, from her unions with men, became demons. Attacking men who slept alone, she was an angel of darkness, becoming a goddess of conception. This belief gained strength in the Middle Ages. It was said that children in their first week of life were most susceptible to Lilith, although some said a girl was in danger for twenty days and a boy for the first eight years of his life.
A talisman of protection against Lilith had to have three names engraved on it: Sanvi, Sansanvi, Semangelaf. These three names could also be written on the door to a child's room. To medieval Jewry, Lilith was the one who caused men to have nocturnal emissions. Her offspring were the lilin, or lilim, and were said to have human bodies but with wings and the hindquarters of a donkey, although a terracotta relief from Sumer depicts Lilith herself as a human but with wings and the taloned feet of a bird. Lilith also appears in the folklore of Britain, Greece, Germany, Mexico, and even in Native American legends.
Some Witches consider Lilith a patroness. A Moon goddess, her beauty is more than human. Leland identifies her with Herodias, or Aradia, and quotes ancient Slavonian charms where she is mentioned.
Lilith, one of the most famous figures in Hebrew folklore, originated as a storm demon and later became identified with the night. She was one of a group of Sumerian vampire demons that included Lillu, Ardat Lili, and Irdu Lili. She appeared in the Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic (approximately 2000 B.C.E.) as a vampire harlot who was unable to bear children and whose breasts were dry. She was pictured as a beautiful young girl with owl’s feet (indicative of her nocturnal life). In the Gilgamesh Epic, Lilith escaped from her home near the Euphrates River and settled in the desert. In this regard, she earned a place in the Hebrew Bible (the Christian Old Testament). Isaiah, in describing God’s day of vengeance, during which the land will be turned into a desert, proclaimed that as a sign of the desolation, “Lilith shall repose there and find her place of rest” (Isaiah 34:14).
Lilith reappeared in the Talmud, where a more interesting story was told of her as the wife of the biblical Adam. Lilith was described as Adam’s first wife. They had a disagreement over who would be in the dominant position during sexual intercourse. When Adam insisted upon being on top, Lilith used her magical knowledge to fly away to the Red Sea, an abode of demons. She took many lovers and had many offspring, called the lilim. There she met three angels sent by God—Senoy, Sansenoy, and Semangelof—with whom she worked out an agreement. She claimed vampiric powers over babies, but agreed to stay away from any babies protected with an amulet bearing the names of the three angels.
Once more attracted to Adam, Lilith returned to haunt him. After he and Eve (his second wife) were expelled from the Garden of Eden, Lilith and her cohorts, all in the form of an incubus/succubus, attacked them, thus causing Adam to father many demons and Eve to mother still more. Out of this legend, Lilith came to be regarded in Hebrew lore much more as a succubus than a vampire, and men were warned against sleeping in a house alone lest Lilith overtake them. Lilith (a name that in popular thought came to be attached to a whole class of demonic beings) were noted as being especially hateful of the normal sexual mating of the individuals they attacked as succubi and incubi. They took out their anger on the human children of such mating by sucking their blood and strangling them. They also added any complication possible to women attempting to have children—barrenness, miscarriages, and so forth. Thus, Lilith came to resemble a range of vampirelike beings that became particularly visible at the time of childbirth and whose presence was used to explain any problems or unexpected deaths. As a result, those who believed in the Lilith developed elaborate rituals to banish them from their homes. The exorcism of Lilith and any accompanying demons often took the form of a writ of divorce sending them forth naked into the night.
The myth of Lilith (the singular entity, as opposed to the whole class of demons) was well established in the Jewish community during the centuries of the early Christian era. She remained an item of popular lore, although little was written about her from the time the Talmud was compiled (sixth century C.E.) until the tenth century. Her biography was expanded in elaborate (and somewhat contradictory) detail in the writings of the early Hassidic fathers. In the Zohar, the most influential Hassidic text, Lilith was described as a succubus, with nocturnal emissions cited as the visible sign of her presence. Demons that plagued humanity were thought to be the product of such unions. She also attacked human babies, especially those born of couples who engaged in intercourse in improper fashion. Children who laughed in their sleep were believed to be playing with Lilith, and hence in danger of dying at her hand. During this period, Lilith’s vampiric nature was deemphasized; rather, she was described as killing children in order to steal their soul.
The stories about Lilith multiplied during the Middle Ages. She was, for example, identified as one of the two women who came before King Solomon for him to decide which one was the mother of a child they both claimed. Elsewhere she was identified as the Queen of Sheba. Strong belief in her presence was found among more conservative elements in the Jewish community into the nineteenth century, and elements of the belief can be seen to the present time. In the 1970s, Marv Wolfman, the writer for Marvel Comics’s The Tomb of Dracula drew on the Lilith myth to create an new character, Lilith, the Daughter of Dracula. She was killed along with all of the other vampires in the Marvel universe in 1983. Then in 1992, a new realm of the Marvel Universe, primarily populated by superheroes, was created around interaction with an evil supernatural realm. A new Lilith character appeared as the key figure leading the invasion of the supernatural into modern society. Through the mid-1990s, she was opposed by the Midnight Sons in several titles of Marvel comic books. Lilith has also been brought into the mythology of the role-playing game, in which the origin of vampirism is ascribed to the biblical Caine Lilith as the first wife of Adam, is seen as the mother of a child Ennoia who at a later point become a vampire and the mother of a new vampire clan, the Gangrel.
Lilith(religion, spiritualism, and occult)
In astrology, Lilith refers to either an asteroid or a cloud of small dust particles that orbit Earth like a second moon. Lilith, asteroid 1,181 (the 1,181st asteroid to be discovered, on February 11, 1927), was named after the legendary first wife of Adam, who was expelled from Eden for not acknowledging Adam’s superiority. It has an orbital period of 4⅓ years and is 18 kilometers in diameter.
Lilith is one of the more recent asteroids to be investigated by astrologers. Preliminary material on Lilith can be found in Demetra George and Douglas Bloch’s Astrology for Yourself and an ephemeris (table of celestial locations) for Lilith can be found in George and Bloch’s Asteroid Goddesses. Unlike the planets, which are associated with a wide range of phenomena, the smaller asteroids are said to represent a single principle. George and Bloch give Lilith’s principle as personal power and conflict resolution; their tentative key phrase for Lilith is “My capacity to constructively release my anger and resolve conflict.” Zipporah Dobyns views Lilith as related to many Pluto concerns, namely, a strong will, interest in the occult and the unconscious, and power and control issues. J. Lee Lehman relates Lilith to the “wild women” in each of us (in men, the anima of female shadow self). This aspect of ourselves is often repressed, leading to misogyny in men and self-hatred in women.
Lilith the dust cloud, Earth’s “dark moon,” received much attention from a handful of important earty twentieth century astrologers, such as Ivy Goldstein-Jacob-son and W. Gorn Old (Sepharial). While the very existence of Lilith has been questioned, some astrologers have taken the claimed observations of a dust cloud obscuring—or being illumined by—the Sun and constructed ephemerides for this body. Early investigators regarded the influence of Lilith as malefic, believing the dust cloud to be involved in such unpleasant matters as betrayal and stillbirth. However, the feminist movement—which has strongly influenced the astrological community, if for no other reason than that the majority of practitioners are women—has caused reevaluation of mythological figures like Lilith: Perhaps the rejection of Adam’s authority should be seen as commendable, as the first time in history (even though it is a mythological history) that a woman refused to be ordered around by a man. Thus, more recent interpreters have tended to give Lilith a richer range of meanings, including many positive ones.
The majority of contemporary astrologers reject the notion of astrological influence from an obscure dust cloud, and fewer actually use “the dark moon Lilith” in their work. (One measure of its rejection is its absence from such standard twentieth-century reference works as the Larousse Encyclopedia of Astrology.) Attributing influence to Lilith persists, nevertheless, particularly among astrologers in the lineage of Goldstein-Jacobson and Sepharial. An important modern treatment of Lilith by Delphine Jay (Interpreting Lilith) and her very usable Lilith Ephemeris were published in the early 1980s. In 1988 and 1991, respectively, these two books went through their third printing. Thus, like her namesake, Earth’s dark moon continues to refuse to submit to the astrological mainstream, which would prefer to deal with more manageable celestial bodies.
The ancient texts of the Assyro-Babylonian civilizations make the first recorded reference to the sexual demon Lilith. They describe a being that resembles the Medieval succubi and yet possesses characteristics similar to those of modern vampires. Succubi are night demons that cause nocturnal emissions in order to feed on the resulting bodily fluids. Lilith also made appearances in Hebrew texts as the princess of the race of succubi. The name “Lilith” may derive from the Hebrew word “lulti,” meaning “lasciviousness,” and not “lailah,” meaning “night.” Commentators sometimes saw Lilith in Hebrew scriptures. For example, according to Midrashic literature, the serpent that tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden was, in actuality, the demon Lilith, a minion of Satan, and not Satan himself.
The texts of some rabbinical translators present the first human being as a hermaphrodite, with the female half being Lilith. When God separated them from each other, Lilith fled the garden when she learned that God expected her to “lay under” Adam. It was after this incident that the more accommodating Eve was created from Adam’s rib. In modern times there is a Jewish feminist magazine titled Lilith, a choice of name that associates the content of the publication with Lilith’s refusal to be subservient to Adam.
The 1940s movie Nightmare Alley also borrows from the ancient legends of Lilith, even going so far as to name the female lead character after her. In this movie, she is a demonic “consulting psychologist” who preys upon the minds of her patients. She extracts damning information from their nightmares and uses the facts she obtains to blackmail them.