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Lilith: Goddess and Demon

Updated on September 21, 2014

From Sumerian Goddess to Jewish Demoness, Lilith

Demon Goddess to Feminist Icon

Lilith is an ancient Goddess figure who can be found in the writings of ancient Sumeria and Babylon. Her influence was as far-reaching as the holy texts of the Judaism to modern neo-paganism and as a feminism role model.

She has been demonized as a vampiric succubus, stealing the lives of children and seducing men in the night; and, she has been praised as a champion of women's independence.

Demon or Goddess, she is here to stay.

Lilith in pre-history

Winged Bird Goddess

Some of the earliest representations of Lilith, dating from 3,000BCE, seem to show that she was not one but a group of wind and storm demi-gods called the Lilitu. These demi-Gods resided in desolate open places and were believed to be sexual predators of men. They were associated with the lion, the owl, water, storms, and the destructive powers of nature.

Later she is named as the Handmaiden of Inanna in Sumerian texts. It was Lilith, as the Hand(maiden) of Inanna, who led men to the sacred temples for ancient sexual practices and who presided over fertility rites.

The first complete reference that mentions Lilith can be found in the tale of Inanna and the Huluppa-Tree. Inanna has obtained the Huluppa - Tree from which she intends to carve a throne and a great bed, but an owl has built its nest in the upper branches, a great serpent is wrapped around the roots, and Lilith is living in the center of the tree. Inanna appeals to the Gods for help in removing the three and finally Gilgamesh responds. Gilgamesh cuts down the tree, sending Lilith screeching into the wilderness.

Lilith: First Wife of Adam

Alpha Bet Ben Sira, around 1000 C.E.

When the Almighty created the first, solitary man, He said: It is not good for man to be alone. And He fashioned for man a woman from the earth, like him (Adam), and called her Lilith. Soon, they began to quarrel with each other. She said to him: I will not lie underneath, and he said: I will not lie underneath but above, for you are meant to lie underneath and I to lie above. She said to him: We are both equal, because we are both created from the earth. But they did not listen to each other.

When Lilith saw this, she pronounced God's avowed name and flew into the air. Adam stood in prayer before his Creator and said: Lord of the World! The woman you have given me has gone away from me. Immediately, the Almighty sent three angels after her, to bring her back.

The Almighty said to the Angels: If she decides to return, it is good, but if not, then she must take it upon herself to ensure that a hundred of her children die each day. They went to her and found her in the middle of the Red Sea. And they told her the word of God. But she refused to return. They said to her: We must drown you in the sea. She said: Leave me! I was created for no other purpose than to harm children, eight days for boys and twenty for girls.

When they heard what she said, they pressed her even more. She said: I swear by the name of the living God that I, when I see you or your image on an amulet, will have no power over that particular child. And she took it upon herself to ensure that, every day, a hundred of her children died. That is why we say that, every day, a hundred of her demons die. That is why we write the names Senoi, Sansenoi and Semangloph on an amulet for small children. And when Lilith sees it, she remembers her promise and the child is saved.

Lilith in modern writing

The Book of Lilith
The Book of Lilith

This is a book I always refer to when I am wanting to refresh myself on something about Lilith. Barbara Black Koltuv has done an excellent job in researching and writing this book.

 

Lilith

Lilith by John Collier
Lilith by John Collier | Source

Lilith: Agricultural and Fertility Goddess

Sumerian Legend

Before the stars were born

Before people built great cities

The great mountain Atlen shook

And bled fiery blood

As it gave birth to Lilitu

The land all around burned

Many animals and people died

When Lilitu opened her eyes

Lilitu saw the ashes of her birth

And wept tears like rain

Lilitu's tears became rivers and streams

Flowers grew where Lilitu walked

Trees grew where Lilitu sat

The ashes became fertile soil

And an orchard became Lilitu's home

In Lilitu's orchard many animals are

People came to live in paradise

Lilitu gave them grain and taught them to harvest

Lilitu made bread and beer

The people rejoiced, ate and drank

One day a great prince came to the land of Atlen

He spied Lilitu and wooed her

But Lilitu spurned and rejected him

The great prince became very angry

He spied two lions and killed them both

Lilitu wept for the lions

She cradled their heads in her arms

The lions awoke to her tears

The lions licked away her tears and became strong

They became Lilitu's loyal friends

The great prince saw this

And again he wooed Lilitu

But Lilitu became a bird

She flew away from him

Angry, the prince began hunting birds

Lilitu saw this and was upset

To spite the prince she spat at him

And mated with a serpent

Lilitu gave birth very quickly

Her child was like no other

The child had six arms

The child had a serpent's tail

The child was very strong

Lilitu called the child a marilitu

The Marilitu attacked the great prince

The great prince and the marilitu fought

The fought day and night

For night after night

And day after day

But neither could win the fight

Lilitu saw this and mated again

Another marilitu was born

And another and another

Two hundred and sixteen were born

In fear the great prince ran away

The people of the orchard rejoiced

The marilitu's farmed the land

The marilitu's protected the people

But the great prince swore vengeance

He cursed the mountain Atlen and its land

Atlen became angry at this curse

The mountain and the land shook

Atlen shook and bled and cried

Its fiery blood made fires

And its tears made floods

Afraid Lilitu turned into a great bird

She grasped people in her feet

She carried animals on her back

The marilitu's and the lions carried people too

Together they fled the land of Atlen

Lilitu went west and east

Lilitu went north and south

Finally she came to dry land

The people thanked Lilitu greatly

The people built statues in her honour

Lilitu wept for her lost home

Her tears formed two rivers

The rivers joined together

They flowed into the ocean

The people grew grain by the river

The people grew great orchards

They built buildings and towers of stone

The people grew healthy and the land rich

Merchants from far places travelled there

News of the wealth of the land grew

The great prince heard of the land

He sent his heralds to inquire of its lady

But Lilitu fed his heralds to her lions

The great prince sent an army

But the marilitu's destroyed his army

Finally the great prince went

When he saw the beautiful orchards

When he saw the six-armed marilitus

The great prince knew the lady was Lilitu

In fear he disguised himself as a woman

The great prince went to Lilitu's temple

His disguise fooled the people

But the lions knew his scent

The two lions warned Lilitu

So Lilitu prepared a trap

Lilitu summoned thirty-six young men

She filled a hall with thirty-six silver platters

She ordered thirty-six beasts slaughtered

At last she was ready

She invited the people to the feast

People came from all over the land

The great prince came too

The great prince arrived in disguise

But Lilitu knew him eagerly

She welcomed him as an honoured guest

The great prince accepted her hospitality

He sat before all the people

The thirty-six young men were brought forth

"Please choose a man," Lilitu commanded

Not wanting to be rude the great prince chose one

Lilitu bade the great prince to sit beside the young man

The silver platters were brought forth

The people feasted on the meat of thirty-six beasts

Great gifts were brough forth

Lilitu gave the gifts to the great prince

Confused the great prince accepted

Then the feast was finally over

Curious, the great prince questioned Lilitu

"Do you always give such grand gifts to strangers?"

"Only when someone is married," Lilitu answered

Realizing what had happened the great prince became angry

He ripped off his disguise

He drew his sword and his dagger

"Why have you made me marry this man?" he demanded

"Because you can never marry me," Lilitu answered

Enraged the great prince attacked Lilitu

The two fought endlessly for Lilitu was very strong

Whenever the prince would get too bold

Lilitu would change into a bird

The great prince fell to the ground and wept in despair

The great prince professed his love

He promised that he would never quit

He prepared to cut his own throat

Finally Lilitu grew tired of this game

She felt pity for the great prince

"I will grant you one kiss," Lilitu declared

Desperate the great prince accepted

The moment the great prince's kiss had been dealt

His body flooded with life and then death

So great was the pleasure of one kiss that he died

Lilitu wept for the great prince

But the great prince remained dead

Saddened Lilitu knew she could never love

No mortal man could taste her kiss and live

Her tears brought life, but her kiss brought death.

Lilith in Modern Time

Feminist Icon, Pagan Goddess

Today, Lilith is revered in many feminist circles as the woman who refused to be subservient to man. She is the original feminist, choosing to live in exile rather than submit to Adam.

Lilith is seen as being a Goddess of sexual empowerment. She can be invoked during rituals related to rape or other forms of abuse and violent aggression towards women. She is also invoked during rituals geared towards giving women greater sexual freedom and autonomy.

My associations with Lilith

Lilith came to me through scent initially. I kept smelling cinnamon everywhere. Later I learned that cinnamon was once burned as incense in Jewish temples. She came to me at a time when I was discovering who I was sexually. At a time when I was asserting myself as an strong, independent woman.

Her tests, to make sure I was strong enough to have her as a Matron Goddess, were difficult at times, but I made it through them. Which is not to say that I didn't have a harsh word on occasion and tell her to back off for a bit. Though I didn't phrase it quite so politely.

These days, I don't tend to call upon Lilith very often, but I know she is around if I should need that extra bit of strength as a woman.

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    • Lionrhod profile image

      Lionrhod 3 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Fantastic lens. Learned much I didn't know about Lilith, Thank you so much!

    • NanLT profile image
      Author

      Nan 3 years ago from London, UK

      @Alfiesgirl LM: If you only know how to what? Perhaps I can help.

    • Alfiesgirl LM profile image

      Alfiesgirl LM 3 years ago

      If I only knew how to

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Hi there

      I am writing you to recommend a book that I think might be interesting. The book

      Lilith: The Jewish Demoness â 1000 Years of Border-Line Personality Disorder" sheds light on Lilith andother demons in the times of antiquity.

      if you want more info about Lilith please visit "her" website: www.lilith.co.il . The book is on sale on amazon. One can read online the first chapter.

      Please don't hesitate to mail me if you have any questions.

    • nancyrowina profile image

      nancyrowina 5 years ago

      I love the fact she rejected Adam :).

    • winter aconite profile image

      winter aconite 5 years ago

      I love Lilith! The latest book I've read is "The Book of Lilith [Paperback] by

      Robert G. Brown". Great read! Oh, yes one of my cats is called Lilith....

    • Ram Ramakrishnan profile image

      Ram Ramakrishnan 5 years ago

      Even though made so without a say

      I generally have no trouble being a man;

      Realize there are things I just canât do

      And many that only I possibly can.

      From this perspective, a woman

      Seems a complementary being to share

      The joys of living and to help satiate a

      Mutual yearning; for each other, care.

      No god or goddess, in this, need interfere;

      No demon or demoness, odiom besmear.

      Oneupmanship (and its feminine counterpart)

      Is what upsets this principled applecart.

      Attempt at dominance by either,

      taking recourse to illogic and myth;

      Is what creates real or abstract

      Beings, of the likes of Adam and Lilith.

    • NanLT profile image
      Author

      Nan 5 years ago from London, UK

      @anonymous: My own opinion is that the Gods cannot force you to change your divine course in life. Is Lilith a cause of guilt? No, but perhaps some would use Her and Others as an excuse.

      I would also suggest - have you explored in your own looks at guilt the differences between guilt and shame?

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      hi! i should think that this ancient character which has evil at the roots is the cause of guilt in males. SHe forces you to change the divine course of life and drop you eventually in the dark hole of misery, worry and guilt!

      Pl visit my blog for further info

      Pl share your views!

    • profile image

      Zanaffar85 6 years ago

      Here is a very interesting article about Lilith

      http://zanaffarsbookofshadows.blogspot.com/2011/04...

    • Missmerfaery444 profile image

      Missmerfaery444 6 years ago

      Been fascinated by Lilith for a while. Excellent lens - blessed by the Pagan SquidAngel!

    • awakeningwellness profile image

      awakeningwellness 6 years ago

      Such an interesting and complex being, I wonder what other women she has been through the ages?

    • profile image

      wikuowen 6 years ago

      So, this is the tale behind the legend of Lilith. Very amazing. Great lens.

    • Board-Game-Brooke profile image

      C A Chancellor 6 years ago from US/TN

      Interesting lens! Blessed.

    • Addy Bell profile image

      Addy Bell 6 years ago

      I'm always glad to revisit Lillith and her complex mythology. Thanks :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      lilith - we must embrace totally and not fear her - Celt

    • FlynntheCat1 profile image

      FlynntheCat1 7 years ago

      I love reading about Lilith - she's such an interesting character and makes the Christian creation myths a lot more interesting/believable as a story ^_^

      She tends to turn up a lot in fantasy books as a vampire, or the first vampire :D

    • NanLT profile image
      Author

      Nan 7 years ago from London, UK

      @anonymous: Liz,

      The simple answer to all of your questions is "No." No, Lilith is not evil. No, Lilith is not bad. No, she should not be wary of talking to Lilith.

      In history, Lilith was the handmaiden of Inanna in Sumerian legend. In Jewish legends she was the first wife of Adam and was cast out when she refused to lie submit to Adam's rule. From there, she was demonized in Jewish traditions and became a succubi who seduced men and stole the life from human babies.

      http://englishatheist.org/lilitgoam.shtml gives a concise run down on the Lilith legends.

      Now, a more complicated answer. But first some questions.

      First - is your friend absolutely sure that it is Lilith she is speaking to? What messages or signs is she receiving?

      I ask these questions because first and foremost, just because an entity is non-corporeal does not mean it is incapable of falsehooods. They don't carry ID. Many times the gods speak to us using symbolism - things that we can look at and interpret for ourselves. Have your friend look at another squidoo article I have written called How to Find a Patron God or Goddess https://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/find-a-pa...

      I address a lot of these issues here.

      If Lilith in speaking to your friend is giving her negative messages or telling her to do things she feels are wrong, then absolutely she should stop the conversations. But the fact that this is Lilith is not in and of itself a bad thing.

      Lilith is many times viewed negatively in the Wiccan community because she is one of the Dark Goddesses. There is an idea that this makes her evil. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am more than happy to talk to your friend. Lilith was my Patron Goddess for some time and she still pops in for a visit on occasion. Just tell her to send me a message via my contact button.

      Cheers,

      Nan

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      A dear friend who is learning the Wiccan Path, was told that the fact that she can see/speak to Lilith, is...in their words, "a very dark thing, because she will use this person." Is Lilith bad? Evil? Should this friend be wary of speaking with Lilith?

    • LoKackl profile image

      LoKackl 7 years ago

      Fascinating lens. I've been curious about Lilith for quite some time. But, didn't know where to go for information about the influence. SquidAngel Blessed.

    • mariatjader profile image

      mariatjader 7 years ago

      Thank you for reminding me about this remarkable woman!

    • Addy Bell profile image

      Addy Bell 7 years ago

      Lilith is such a fascinating figure. Thanks for telling her story. I've worked with similar ladies in the past (specifically the Irish Morrigan) and they certainly require strength and stamina.

    • profile image

      Noeshia 8 years ago

      I really liked your lense. I think I'll look out for the book you reccomended. I felt so much for Lilith that I named my daughter after her. I like to think that the blood of Lilith as an achetype flows more strongly in people today.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 8 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      I had never read about Lilith and found this very interesting.

    • religions7 profile image

      religions7 8 years ago

      Great lens - you've been blessed by a squidoo angel :)