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Other names: Lilitu

Location:  Middle East

Notes from Hrana

Goddesses & Heroines text

© print is available

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Hrana's Notes

I painted Lilith in 1996 for The Goddess Oracle. She is also the cover for the German edition, Gottinen Gefluster

from Goddesses and Heroines
  Exerpt from Goddess & Heroines by Patricia Monaghan
[Used by permission. This text is NOT included in the Goddess Oracle]

"Male and female he created them," proclaims Genesis in its first version of humanity's creation. But the Bible later changes its mind, explaining the creation of woman as Jehovah's afterthought.

Jewish tradition outside the Bible understood the disparity: there was a female created simultaneously with Adam, and her name was Lilith. (There were variants: she was created before him; or after him, from the slime of the earth; or much later, as the twin of the evil Samael.)

When the first man suggested intercourse to the primal female, she enthusiastically agreed. Adam then instructed Lilith to lie down beneath him. Insulted, she refused, pointing out that they had been created equally and should mate so.

Lilith then went to Jehovah and tricked him into revealing his secret name, his name of power. (See Isis for a similar tale.) Once she had power over him, Lilith demanded that Jehovah give her wings; she then flew from Eden to the western deserts. There she happily had orgies with elemental spirits and sand demons, producing demon children by the score. (Here, too, there were variants of the story: perhaps Lilith was banished from Paradise; perhaps she was born with wings; maybe she flew off to the Land of Nod. Again, some say that Jehovah cursed her with sterility.)

Adam was provided with a new mate, but he and Eve fell from Jehovah's favor. As penance for his sin, Adam vowed to avoid the pleasures of marriage for a century. Then Lilith had her revenge. Each night she came to Adam and had intercourse with him (in her preferred positions, one assumes), capturing his emissions to form little demon babies. One of these, some say, was Samael the evil prince, whom Lilith then took as her playmate and companion.

You would think her beautiful, Lilith of the luxurious hair and the arching wings-until you saw the talons she had instead of feet. Her unearthly beauty was dangerous to young men, who lusted after her and pined away, never aroused by mortal women. Lilith threatened children as well, for she had power over all infants in their first week, all babies on the first of the month and on Sabbath evenings, and all children born of unmarried people. Mothers could protect their young, however, by hanging an amulet marked "Sen Sam San"-for the protective angels Sensenoi, Samangalaph, and Sanoi-around the child's neck.

When Lilith came to steal a child, it was usually at night, when the babe was tucked in crib or cradle. Because she liked her victims smiling, she tickled the infant's feet. It giggled; thereupon Lilith strangled it. Mothers hearing their children laughing in dreams, or noticing them smiling as they slept, hit the baby's nose three times, crying out, "Away Lilith, you have no place here." 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.

Back to TOP Text from Patricia Monaghan's The New Book of Goddesses and Heroines
Published by Llewellyn, copyright 1997.   Used by permission of the author.

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