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Lilith (Hebrew: לילית; lilit, or lilith) is a Hebrew name for a figure in Jewish mythology, developed earliest in the Babylonian Talmud, who is generally thought to be in part derived from a class of female demons Līlīṯu in Mesopotamian texts of Assyria and Babylonia.
Evidence in later Jewish materials is plentiful, but little information has been found relating to the original Akkadian and Babylonian view of these demons. The relevance of two sources previously used to connect the Jewish Lilith to an Akkadian Lilitu—the Gilgamesh appendix and the Arslan Tash amulets—are now both disputed by recent scholarship. The two problematic sources are discussed below.
The Hebrew term Lilith first occurs in Isaiah 34:14, either singular or plural according to variations in the earliest manuscripts, though in a list of animals. In the Dead Sea Scrolls Songs of the Sage the term first occurs in a list of monsters. In Jewish magical inscriptions, on bowls and amulets from the 6th century CE onwards, Lilith is identified as a female demon and the first visual depictions appear.
In Jewish folklore, from the 8th–10th centuries Alphabet of Ben Sira onwards, Lilith becomes Adam's first wife, who was created at the same time and from the same earth as Adam. This contrasts with Eve, who was created from one of Adam's ribs. The legend was greatly developed during the Middle Ages, in the tradition of Aggadic midrashim, the Zohar and Jewish mysticism. In the 13th Century writings of Rabbi Isaac ben Jacob ha-Cohen, for example, Lilith left Adam after she refused to become subservient to him and then would not return to the Garden of Eden after she mated with archangel Samael. The resulting Lilith legend is still commonly used as source material in modern Western culture, literature, occultism, fantasy, and horror.
The semitic root L-Y-L layil in Hebrew, as layl in Arabic, means "night". Talmudic and Yiddish use of Lilith follows Hebrew.
In Akkadian the terms lili and līlītu mean spirits. Some uses of līlītu are listed in The Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago (CAD, 1956, L.190), in Wolfram von Soden's Akkadisches Handwörterbuch (AHw, p. 553), and Reallexikon der Assyriologie (RLA, p. 47).
The Sumerian she-demons lili have no etymologic relation to Akkadian lilu, "evening".
Archibald Sayce (1882) considered that Hebrew lilit (or lilith) Hebrew: לילית; and Akkadian: līlītu are from proto-Semitic. Charles Fossey (1902) has this literally translating to "female night being/demon", although cuneiform inscriptions exist where Līlīt and Līlītu refers to disease-bearing wind spirits. Another possibility is association not with "night", but with "wind", thus identifying the Akkadian Lil-itu as a loan from the Sumerian lil, "air" — specifically from Ninlil, "lady air", goddess of the south wind (and wife of Enlil) — and itud, "moon".
Although widely repeated in secondary and tertiary sources, the possible references to Lilith in Mesopotamian mythology are now disputed.
The spirit in the tree in the Gilgamesh EpicSamuel Noah Kramer (1932, published 1938) translated ki-sikil-lil-la-ke as Lilith in "Tablet XII" of the Epic of Gilgamesh dated c.600 BC. "Tablet XII" is not part of the Epic of Gilgamesh, but is a later Akkadian translation of the latter part of the Sumerian poem of Bilgames and the Netherworld. The ki-sikil-lil-la-ke is associated with a serpent and a zu bird. In Bilgames and the Netherworld, a huluppu tree (willow) grows in Inanna's garden in Uruk, whose wood she plans to use to build a new throne. After ten years of growth, she comes to harvest it and finds a serpent living at its base, a Zu bird raising young in its crown, and that a ki-sikil-lil-la-ke made a house in its trunk. Bilgames/Gilgamesh is said to have smitten the snake, and then the zu bird flew away to the mountains with its young, while the ki-sikil-lil-la-ke fearfully destroys its house and runs for the forest. Identification ki-sikil-lil-la-ke as Lilith is stated in Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (1999). According to a new source from Late Antiquity the Lilith(s) appear(s) in a Mandaic magic story where she (they) is (are) considered to represent the branch(es) of a tree with other demonic figures that form other parts of the tree.
Suggested translations for the Tablet XII spirit in the tree include ki-sikil as "sacred place", lil as "spirit", and lil-la-ke as "water spirit". but also simply "owl", given that the lil is building a home in the trunk of the tree.
A connection between the Gilgamesh ki-sikil-lil-la-ke and the Jewish Lilith was rejected by Dietrich Opitz (1932) and rejected on textual grounds by Sergio Ribichini (1978).
The bird-foot woman in the Burney ReliefKramer's translation of the Gilgamesh fragment was used by Henri Frankfort (1937) and Emil Kraeling (1937) to support identification of a woman with wings and bird-feet in the Burney Relief as related to Lilith, but this has been rejected by later sources, including the British Museum, which owns the piece.
The Arslan Tash amuletsThe Arslan Tash amulets are limestone plaques discovered in 1933 at Arslan Tash, the authenticity of which is disputed. William F. Albright, Theodor H. Gaster, and others, accepted the amulets as a pre-Jewish source which shows that the name Lilith already existed in 7th century BC but Torczyner (1947) identified the amulets as a later Jewish source.
The vardat lilitu demonsThe word lilu means spirit in the Akkadian Language, and the male lili and female lilitu are found in incantation texts from Nippur, Babylonia c600 BC in both singular and plural forms. Among the spirits the vardat lilitu, or maiden spirit bears some comparison with later Talmudic legends of Lilith. A lili is related to witchcraft in the Sumerian incantation Text 313.
In the Bible
There is an ongoing scholarly debate as to whether the concept of Lilith occurs in the Bible. The only possible occurrence is in the Book of Isaiah 34:13–15, describing the desolation of Edom, where the Hebrew word lilit (or lilith) appears in a list of eight unclean animals, some of which may have demonic associations. Since the word lilit (or lilith) is a hapax legomenon in the Hebrew Bible and the other seven terms in the list are better documented, the reading of scholars and translators is often guided by a decision about the complete list of eight creatures as a whole. Quoting from Isaiah 34 (NAB):
Hebrew textIn the Masoretic Text:
In the Dead Sea Scrolls, among the 19 fragments of Isaiah found at Qumran, the Great Isaiah Scroll (1Q1Isa) in 34:14 renders the creature as plural liliyyot (or liliyyoth).
Eberhard Schrader (1875) and Moritz Abraham Levy (1885) suggest that Lilith was a goddess of the night, known also by the Jewish exiles in Babylon. Schrader and Levy's view is therefore partly dependent on a later dating of Deutero-Isaiah to the 6th century BC, and the presence of Jews in Babylon which would coincide with the possible references to the Līlītu in Babylonian demonology. However, this view is challenged by some modern research such as by Judit M. Blair (2009) who considers that the context indicates unclean animals.
Greek versionThe Septuagint translates the reference into Greek as onokentauros, apparently for lack of a better word, since also the se'irim, "satyrs", earlier in the verse are translated with daimon onokentauros. The "wild beasts of the island and the desert" are omitted altogether, and the "crying to his fellow" is also done by the daimon onokentauros.
Latin BibleThe early 5th-century Vulgate translated the same word as Lamia.
English versionsWyclif's Bible (1395) preserves the Latin rendering Lamia:
The Bishops' Bible of Matthew Parker (1568) from the Latin:
Douay-Rheims Bible (1582/1610) also preserves the Latin rendering Lamia:
The Geneva Bible of William Whittington (1587) from the Hebrew:
Then the King James Version of the Bible (1611):
The "screech owl" translation of the KJV is, together with the "owl" (yanšup, probably a water bird) in 34:11 and the "great owl" (qippoz, properly a snake) of 34:15, an attempt to render the passage by choosing suitable animals for difficult-to-translate Hebrew words.
Later translations include:
- night-owl (Young, 1898)
- night-spectre (Rotherham, Emphasized Bible, 1902)
- night monster (ASV, 1901; JPS 1917, Good News Translation, 1992; NASB, 1995)
- vampires (Moffatt Translation, 1922)
- night hag (RSV, 1947)
- Lilith (Jerusalem Bible, 1966)
- lilith (New American Bible, 1970)
- Lilith (NRSV, 1989)
- Lilith (The Message (Bible), Peterson, 1993)
- night creature (NIV, 1978; NKJV, 1982; NLT, 1996, TNIV)
- nightjar (New World Translation, 1984)
- night bird (English Standard Version, 2001)
Major sources in Jewish tradition regarding Lilith in chronological order include:
- c. 40–10BCE Dead Sea Scrolls – Songs for a Sage (4Q510-511)
- c.200 Mishnah – not mentioned
- c.500 Gemara of the Talmud
- c.800 The Alphabet of Ben-Sira
- c.900 Midrash Abkir
- c.1260 Treatise on the Left Emanation, Spain
- c.1280 Zohar, Spain.
Dead Sea ScrollsThe Dead Sea Scrolls contains one indisputable reference to Lilith in Songs of the Sage (4Q510-511) fragment 1:
As with the Massoretic Text of Isaiah 34:14, and therefore unlike the plural liliyyot (or liliyyoth) in the Isaiah scroll 34:14, lilit in 4Q510 is singular, this liturgical text both cautions against the presence of supernatural malevolence and assumes familiarity with Lilith; distinct from the biblical text, however, this passage does not function under any socio-political agenda, but instead serves in the same capacity as An Exorcism (4Q560) and Songs to Disperse Demons (11Q11). The text is thus, to a community "deeply involved in the realm of demonology", an exorcism hymn.
Joseph M. Baumgarten (1991) identified the unnamed woman of The Seductress (4Q184) as related to female demon. However, John J. Collins  regards this identification as "intriguing" but that it is "safe to say" that (4Q184) is based on the strange woman of Proverbs 2, 5, 7, 9:
TalmudLilith does not occur in the Mishnah. There are three references to Lilith in the Babylonian Talmud in Gemara on three separate Tractates of the Mishnah:
- "Rab Judah citing Samuel ruled: If an abortion had the likeness of Lilith its mother is unclean by reason of the birth, for it is a child but it has wings." (Babylonian Talmud on Tractate Nidda 24b)
- "[Expounding upon the curses of womanhood] In a Baraitha it was taught: She grows long hair like Lilith, sits when making water like a beast, and serves as a bolster for her husband.” (Babylonian Talmud on Tractate Eruvin 100b)
- "R. Hanina said: One may not sleep in a house alone [in a lonely house], and whoever sleeps in a house alone is seized by Lilith.” (Babylonian Talmud on Tractate Shabbath 151b)
The above statement by Hanina may be related to the belief that nocturnal emissions engendered the birth of demons:
- "R. Jeremiah b. Eleazar further stated: In all those years [130 years after his expulsion from the Garden of Eden] during which Adam was under the ban he begot ghosts and male demons and female demons [or night demons], for it is said in Scripture: And Adam lived a hundred and thirty years and begot a son in own likeness, after his own image, from which it follows that until that time he did not beget after his own image… When he saw that through him death was ordained as punishment he spent a hundred and thirty years in fasting, severed connection with his wife for a hundred and thirty years, and wore clothes of fig on his body for a hundred and thirty years. – That statement [of R. Jeremiah] was made in reference to the semen which he emitted accidentally.” (Babylonian Talmud on Tractate Eruvin 18b)
Incantation bowlsAn individual Lilith, along with Bagdana "king of the lilits", is one of the demons to feature prominently in protective spells in the eighty surviving Jewish occult incantation bowls from Sassanid Empire Babylon (4th-6th Century CE). These bowls were buried upside down in houses to trap the demon, and almost every Jewish house in Nippur was found to have such protective bowls buried. One bowl contains the following inscription commissioned from a Jewish occultist to protect a woman called Rashnoi and her husband from Lilith:
Alphabet of Ben SiraThe pseudepigraphic 8th-10th centuries Alphabet of Ben Sira is considered to be the oldest form of the story of Lilith as Adam's first wife. Whether this particular tradition is older is not known. Scholars tend to date the Alphabet between the 8th and 10th centuries AD.
In the text an amulet is inscribed with the names of three angels (Senoy, Sansenoy, and Semangelof) and placed around the neck of newborn boys in order to protect them from the lilin until their circumcision. The amulets used against Lilith that were thought to derive from this tradition are, in fact, dated as being much older. The concept of Eve having a predecessor is not exclusive to the Alphabet, and is not a new concept, as it can be found in Genesis Rabbah. However, the idea that Lilith was the predecessor is exclusive to the Alphabet.
The idea in the text that Adam had a wife prior to Eve may have developed from an interpretation of the Book of Genesis and its dual creation accounts; while Genesis 2:22 describes God's creation of Eve from Adam's rib, an earlier passage, 1:27, already indicates that a woman had been made: "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." The Alphabet text places Lilith's creation after God's words in Genesis 2:18 that "it is not good for man to be alone"; in this text God forms Lilith out of the clay from which he made Adam but she and Adam bicker. Lilith claims that since she and Adam were created in the same way they were equal and she refuses to submit to him: The background and purpose of The Alphabet of Ben-Sira is unclear. It is a collection of stories about heroes of the Bible and Talmud, it may have been a collection of folk-tales, a refutation of Christian, Karaite, or other separatist movements; its content seems so offensive to contemporary Jews that it was even suggested that it could be an anti-Jewish satire, although, in any case, the text was accepted by the Jewish mystics of medieval Germany.
The Alphabet of Ben-Sira is the earliest surviving source of the story, and the conception that Lilith was Adam's first wife became only widely known with the 17th century Lexicon Talmudicum of German scholar Johannes Buxtorf.
In this folk tradition that arose in the early Middle Ages Lilith, a dominant female demon, became identified with Asmodeus, King of Demons, as his queen. Asmodeus was already well known by this time because of the legends about him in the Talmud. Thus, the merging of Lilith and Asmodeus was inevitable. The second myth of Lilith grew to include legends about another world and by some accounts this other world existed side by side with this one, Yenne Velt is Yiddish for this described "Other World". In this case Asmodeus and Lilith were believed to procreate demonic offspring endlessly and spread chaos at every turn. Many disasters were blamed on both of them, causing wine to turn into vinegar, men to be impotent, women unable to give birth, and it was Lilith who was blamed for the loss of infant life. The presence of Lilith and her cohorts were considered very real at this time.
Two primary characteristics are seen in these legends about Lilith: Lilith as the incarnation of lust, causing men to be led astray, and Lilith as a child-killing witch, who strangles helpless neonates. Although these two aspects of the Lilith legend seemed to have evolved separately, there is hardly a tale where she encompasses both roles. But the aspect of the witch-like role that Lilith plays broadens her archetype of the destructive side of witchcraft. Such stories are commonly found among Jewish folklore.
KabbalahKabbalistic mysticism attempted to establish a more exact relationship between Lilith and the Deity. With her major characteristics having been well-developed by the end of the Talmudic period, after six centuries had elapsed between the Aramaic incantation texts that mention Lilith and the early Spanish Kabbalistic writings in the 13th century, she reappears, and her life history becomes known in greater mythological detail.
Her creation is described in many alternative versions. One mentions her creation as being before Adam's, on the fifth day, because the "living creatures" with whose swarms God filled the waters included none other than Lilith. A similar version, related to the earlier Talmudic passages, recounts how Lilith was fashioned with the same substance as Adam was, shortly before. A third alternative version states that God originally created Adam and Lilith in a manner that the female creature was contained in the male. Lilith's soul was lodged in the depths of the Great Abyss. When God called her, she joined Adam. After Adam's body was created a thousand souls from the Left (evil) side attempted to attach themselves to him. However, God drove them off. Adam was left lying as a body without a soul. Then a cloud descended and God commanded the earth to produce a living soul. This God breathed into Adam, who began to spring to life and his female was attached to his side. God separated the female from Adam's side. The female side was Lilith, whereupon she flew to the Cities of the Sea and attacks humankind. Yet another version claims that Lilith emerged as a divine entity that was born spontaneously, either out of the Great Supernal Abyss or out of the power of an aspect of God (the Gevurah of Din). This aspect of God, one of his ten attributes (Sefirot), at its lowest manifestation has an affinity with the realm of evil and it is out of this that Lilith merged with Samael. According to The Alphabet of Ben-Sira Lilith was Adam's first wife.
An alternative story links Lilith with the creation of luminaries. The "first light", which is the light of Mercy (one of the Sefirot), appeared on the first day of creation when God said "Let there be light". This light became hidden and the Holiness became surrounded by a husk of evil. "A husk (klippa) was created around the brain" and this husk spread and brought out another husk, which was Lilith.
Midrash ABKIRThe first medieval source to depict Adam and Lilith in full was the Midrash A.B.K.I.R. (ca. 10th century), which was followed by the Zohar and Kabbalistic writings. Adam is said to be perfect until he recognizes either his sin or Cain's fratricide that is the cause of bringing death into the world. He then separates from holy Eve, sleeps alone, and fasts for 130 years. During this time Lilith, also known as Pizna, desired his beauty and came to him against his will.
Treatise on the Left EmanationThe mystical writing of two brothers Jacob and Isaac Hacohen, which predates the Zohar by a few decades, states that Samael and Lilith are in the shape of an androgynous being, double-faced, born out of the emanation of the Throne of Glory and corresponding in the spiritual realm to Adam and Eve, who were likewise born as a hermaphrodite. The two twin androgynous couples resembled each other and both "were like the image of Above"; that is, that they are reproduced in a visible form of an androgynous deity.
Another version that was also current among Kabbalistic circles in the Middle Ages establishes Lilith as the first of Samael's four wives: Lilith, Naamah, Igrath, and Mahalath. Each of them are mothers of demons and have their own hosts and unclean spirits in no number. The marriage of archangel Samael and Lilith was arranged by "Blind Dragon", who is the counterpart of "the dragon that is in the sea". Blind Dragon acts as an intermediary between Lilith and Samael:
The marriage of Samael and Lilith is known as the "Angel Satan" or the "Other God", but it was not allowed to last. To prevent Lilith and Samael's demonic children Lilin from filling the world, God castrated Samael. In many 17th century Kabbalistic books, this mythologem is based on the identification of "Leviathan the Slant Serpent and Leviathan the Torturous Serpent" and a reinterpretation of an old Talmudic myth where God castrated the male Leviathan and slew the female Leviathan in order to prevent them from mating and thereby destroying the earth. After Samael became castrated and Lilith was unable to fornicate with him, she left him to couple with men who experience nocturnal emissions. A 15th or 16th century Kabbalah text states that God has "cooled" the female Leviathan, meaning that he has made Lilith infertile and she is a mere fornication.
The Treatise on the Left Emanation says that there are two Liliths, the lesser being married to the great demon Asmodeus.
Another passage charges Lilith as being a tempting serpent of Eve.
ZoharReferences to Lilith in the Zohar include the following:
This passage may be related to the mention of Lilith in Talmud Shabbath 151b (see above), and also to Talmud Eruvin 18b where nocturnal emissions are connected with the begettal of demons.
Raphael Patai states that older sources state clearly that after Lilith's Red Sea sojourn (mentioned also in Louis Ginzberg's Legends of the Jews), she returned to Adam and begat children from him. In the Zohar, however, Lilith is said to have succeeded in begetting offspring from Adam during their short-lived sexual experience. Lilith leaves Adam in Eden, as she is not a suitable helpmate for him. She returns, later, to force herself upon him. However, before doing so she attaches herself to Cain and bears him numerous spirits and demons.
According to Gershom Scholem, the author of the Zohar, Rabbi Moses de Leon, was aware of the folk tradition of Lilith. He was also aware of another story, possibly older, that may be conflicting. According to the Zohar, two female spirits, Lilith and Naamah — found Adam, desired his beauty which was like that of the sun disk, and lay with him. The issue of these unions were demons and spirits called "the plagues of humankind". The added explanation was that it was through Adam's own sin that Lilith overcame him against his will.
17th century Hebrew magical amuletsA copy of Jean de Pauly's translation of the Zohar in the Ritman Library contains an inserted late 17th Century printed Hebrew sheet for use in magical amulets where the prophet Elijah confronts Lilith. In this encounter, she had come to feast on the flesh of the mother, with a host of demons, and take the newborn from her. She eventually reveals her secret names to Elijah in the conclusion. These names are said to cause Lilith to lose her power: lilith, abitu, abizu, hakash, avers hikpodu, ayalu, matrota… In others, probably informed by The Alphabet of Ben-Sira, she is Adam's first wife. (Yalqut Reubeni, Zohar 1:34b, 3:19)
Tree of Life (Kabbalah)Lilith is listed as one of the Qliphoth, corresponding to the Sephirah Malkuth in the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. The demon Lilith, the evil woman, is described as a beautiful woman, who transforms into a blue, butterfly-like demon, and it is associated with the power of seduction.
The Qliphah is the unbalanced power of a Sephirah. Malkuth is the lowest Sephirah, the realm of the earth, into which all the divine energy flows, and in which the divine plan is worked out. However, its unbalanced form is as Lilith, the seductress. The material world, and all of its pleasures, is the ultimate seductress, and can lead to materialism unbalanced by the spirituality of the higher spheres. This ultimately leads to a descent into animal consciousness. The balance must therefore be found between Malkuth and Kether, to find order and harmony.
In the Latin Vulgate Book of Isaiah 34:14, Lilith is translated lamia.
According to Siegmund Hurwitz the Talmudic Lilith is connected with the Greek Lamia, who, according to Hurwitz, likewise governed a class of child stealing lamia-demons. Lamia bore the title "child killer" and was feared for her malevolence, like Lilith. She has different conflicting origins and is described as having a human upper body from the waist up and a serpentine body from the waist down. One source states simply that she is a daughter of the goddess Hecate. Another, that Lamia was subsequently cursed by the goddess Hera to have stillborn children because of her association with Zeus; alternatively, Hera slew all of Lamia's children (except Scylla) in anger that Lamia slept with her husband, Zeus. The grief caused Lamia to turn into a monster that took revenge on mothers by stealing their children and devouring them. Lamia had a vicious sexual appetite that matched her cannibalistic appetite for children. She was notorious for being a vampiric spirit and loved sucking men’s blood. Her gift was the "mark of a Sibyl", a gift of second sight. Zeus was said to have given her the gift of sight. However, she was "cursed" to never be able to shut her eyes so that she would forever obsess over her dead children. Taking pity on Lamia, Zeus gave her the ability to remove and replace her eyes from their sockets.
The Empusae were a class of supernatural demons that Lamia was said to have birthed. Hecate would often send them against travelers. They consumed or scared to death any of the people where they inhabited. They bear many similarities to lilim. It has been suggested that later medieval lore of the succubi or lilim is derived from this myth.
Lilith (Arabic: ليليث) is not found in the Quran or Haddith. The Sufi occult writer Ahmad al-Buni (d.1225) in his Shams al-Ma'arif al-Kubra (Sun of the Great Knowledge, Arabic: شمس المعارف الكبرى) mentions a demon called the mother of children a term also used "in one place" in the 13th-century Jewish Zohar and is therefore probably derived from Jewish mythology. Another Islamic legend recounts an encounter between King Solomon and a giant female demon, Karina.
In Western literature
In German literatureLilith's earliest appearance in the literature of the Romantic period (1789–1832) was in Goethe's 1808 work Faust: The First Part of the Tragedy.
In English literatureGoethe's work on the theme of Lilith. In 1863, Dante Gabriel Rossetti of the Brotherhood began painting what would later be his first rendition of Lady Lilith, a painting he expected to be his "best picture hitherto" Symbols appearing in the painting allude to the "femme fatale" reputation of the Romantic Lilith: poppies (death and cold) and white roses (sterile passion). Accompanying his Lady Lilith painting from 1866, Rossetti wrote a sonnet entitled Lilith, which was first published in Swinburne's pamphlet-review (1868), Notes on the Royal Academy Exhibition. The poem and the picture appeared together alongside Rossetti's painting Sibylla Palmifera and the sonnet Soul's Beauty. In 1881, the Lilith sonnet was renamed "Body's Beauty" in order to contrast it and Soul's Beauty. The two were placed sequentially in The House of Life collection (sonnets number 77 and 78).
Rossetti wrote in 1870:
This is in accordance with Jewish folk tradition, which associates Lilith both with long hair (a symbol of dangerous feminine seductive power in Jewish culture), and with possessing women by entering them through mirrors.
The Victorian poet Robert Browning re-envisioned Lilith in his poem "Adam, Lilith, and Eve". First published in 1883, the poem uses the traditional myths surrounding the triad of Adam, Eve, and Lilith. Browning depicts Lilith and Eve as being friendly and complicitous with each other, as they sit together on either side of Adam. Under the threat of death, Eve admits that she never loved Adam, while Lilith confesses that she always loved him: Browning focused on Lilith's emotional attributes, rather than that of her ancient demon predecessors.
Scottish author George MacDonald also wrote a fantasy novel entitled Lilith, first published in 1895. MacDonald employed the character of Lilith in service to a spiritual drama about sin and redemption, in which Lilith finds a hard-won salvation. Many of the traditional characteristics of Lilith mythology are present in the author's depiction: Long dark hair, pale skin, a hatred and fear of children and babies, and an obsession with gazing at herself in a mirror. MacDonald's Lilith also has vampiric qualities: she bites people and sucks their blood for sustenance.
Australian poet and scholar Christopher John Brennan (1870–1932), included a section titled "Lilith" in his major work "Poems: 1913" (Sydney : G. B. Philip and Son, 1914). The "Lilith" section contains thirteen poems exploring the Lilith myth and is central to the meaning of the collection as a whole.
Lilith is also mentioned in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S.Lewis. Mr Beaver ascribes Jadis' ancestry to Adam and Lilith. (Jadis is also known as the White Witch.)
In Armenian LiteratureThe poem Lilith by the renowned 20th century Armenian writer Avetic Isahakyan is based on the Jewish legend. Isahakyan wrote Lilith in 1921 in Venice. His heroine was a creature who emerged from fire. Adam fell in love with Lilith, but Lilith was very indifferent, sympathy being her only feeling for the latter because Adam was a creature made of soil, not fire.
In modern occultism
The depiction of Lilith in Romanticism continues to be popular among Wiccans and in other modern Occultism. Few magical orders dedicated to the undercurrent of Lilith, featuring initiations specifically related to the arcana of the "first mother" exist. Two organizations that use initiations and magic associated with Lilith are the Ordo Antichristianus Illuminati and the Order of Phosphorus. Lilith appears as a succubus in Aleister Crowley's De Arte Magica. Lilith was also one of the middle names of Crowley’s first child, Nuit Ma Ahathoor Hecate Sappho Jezebel Lilith Crowley (b. 1904, d.1906), and Lilith is sometimes identified with Babalon in Thelemic writings. Many early occult writers that contributed to modern day Wicca expressed special reverence for Lilith. Charles Leland associated Aradia with Lilith: Aradia, says Leland, is Herodias, who was regarded in stregheria folklore as being associated with Diana as chief of the witches. Leland further notes that Herodias is a name that comes from West Asia, where it denoted an early form of Lilith.
Gerald Gardner asserted that there was continuous historical worship of Lilith to present day, and that her name is sometimes given to the goddess being personified in the coven, by the priestess. This idea was further attested by Doreen Valiente, who cited her as a presiding goddess of the Craft: “the personification of erotic dreams, the suppressed desire for delights”. In some contemporary concepts, Lilith is viewed as the embodiment of the Goddess, a designation that is thought to be shared with what these faiths believe to be her counterparts: Inanna, Ishtar, Asherah, Anath and Isis. According to one view, Lilith was originally a Sumerian, Babylonian, or Hebrew mother goddess of childbirth, children, women, and sexuality who later became demonized due to the rise of patriarchy. Other modern views hold that Lilith is a dark moon goddess on par with the Hindu Kali.
Modern Kabbalah, and Western mystery traditionThe western mystery tradition associates Lilith with the Qliphoth of kabbalah. Samael Aun Weor in The Pistis Sophia Unveiled writes that homosexuals are the "henchmen of Lilith". Likewise, women who undergo willful abortion, and those who support this practice are "seen in the sphere of Lilith". Dion Fortune writes, "The Virgin Mary is reflected in Lilith", and that Lilith is the source of "lustful dreams".
1. Freedman, David Noel, ed., Anchor Bible Dictionary, (New York: Doubleday) 1997, 1992. "Very little information has been found relating to the Akkadian and Babylonian view of these demons. Two sources of information previously used to define Lilith are both suspect."
2. Kristen E. Kvam, Linda S. Schearing, Valarie H. Ziegler Eve and Adam: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim readings on Genesis and gender Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999. p174 "Other scholars, such as Lowell K. Handy, agree that Lilith is derived from Mesopotamian demons but argue against finding evidence of the Hebrew Lilith in many of the epigraphical and artifactual sources frequently cited as such (e.g., the Sumerian Gilgamesh fragment, the Sumerian incantation from Arshlan-Tash)."
3. Tree of souls: the mythology of Judaism, By Howard Schwartz, page 218
4. Eve and Adam: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim readings on Genesis and gender By Kristen E. Kvam, Linda S. Schearing, Valarie H. Ziegler, pp 220–221, Indiana University Press, 1999
5. Erich Ebeling, Bruno Meissner, Dietz Otto Edzard Reallexikon der Assyriologie Volume 9 p47,50
6. Michael C. Astour Hellenosemitica: an ethnic and cultural study in west Semitic impact on Mycenaean. Greece 1965 Brill p138
7. Sayce (1887)
8. Fossey (1902)
9. Kramer, S. N. Gilgamesh and the Huluppu-Tree: A Reconstructed Sumerian Text. Assyriological Studies 10. Chicago. 1938
10. George, A. The epic of Gilgamesh: the Babylonian epic poem and other texts in Akkadian 2003 p100 Tablet XII. Appendix The last Tablet in the 'Series of Gilgamesh'
11. Kramer translates the zu as "owl", but most often it is translated as "eagle", "vulture", or "bird of prey".
12. "Chicago Assyrian Dictionary". Chicago: University of Chicago. 1956.
13. Hurwitz (1980) p. 49
14. Manfred Hutter article in Karel van der Toorn, Bob Becking, Pieter Willem van der Horst - 1999 p520-521, article cites Hutter's own 1988 work Behexung, Entsuhnung und Heilung Eisenbrauns 1988. p224-228
15. Müller-Kessler, C. (2002) "A Charm against Demons of Time", in C. Wunsch (ed.), Mining the Archives. Festschrift Christopher Walker on the Occasion of his 60th Birthday (Dresden), p. 185
16. Roberta Sterman Sabbath Sacred tropes: Tanakh, New Testament, and Qur'an as literature and culture 2009
17. Sex and gender in the ancient Near East: proceedings of the 47th Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale, Helsinki, July 2–6, 2001, Part 2 p481
18. Opitz, D. Ausgrabungen und Forschungsreisen Ur. AfO 8: 328
19. Ribichini, S. Lilith nell-albero Huluppu Pp. 25 in Atti del 1° Convegno Italiano sul Vicino Oriente Antico, Rome, 1976
20. Frankfort, H. The Burney Relief AfO 12: 128, 1937
21. Kraeling, E. G. A Unique Babylonian Relief BASOR 67: 168. 1937
22. Gaster, T. H. 1942. A Canaanite Magical Text. Or 11:
23. Torczyner, H. 1947. "A Hebrew Incantation against Night-Demons from Biblical Times". JNES 6: 18-29.
24. Lesses, Rebecca Exe(o)rcising Power: Women as Sorceresses, Exorcists, and Demonesses in Babylonian Jewish Society of Late Antiquity 2001 JAAR Journal of the American Academy of Religion Abstract pp. 343–375
25. Georges Contenau La Magie chez les Assyriens et les Babyloniens, Paris, 1947.
26. Georges Contenau Everyday Life in Babylon and Assyria translated by KR Maxwell-Hyslop and AR Maxwell-Hyslop (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1954)
27. Fauth, Wolfgang (1982) Lilitu und die Eulen von Pylos. In Tischler, Johann. (ed.). Serta Indogermanica: Festschrift für Günter Neumann zum 60. Geburtstag. pp. 60–61
28. S. Lackenbacher, RA 65 (1971)
29. Graham Cunningham Deliver me from evil: Mesopotamian incantations, 2500–1500 BC 1997 p104
30. Jan De Waard Translators Handbook on Isaiah; Delitzsch Isaiah
31. See The animals mentioned in the Bible Henry Chichester Hart 1888, and more modern sources; also entries Brown Driver Briggs Hebrew Lexicon for tsiyyim... 'iyyim... sayir... liylith... qippowz... dayah
32. The consonants p/k/t may also be pronounced: ph/kh/th.
33. (מנוח manowach, used for birds as Noah's dove, Gen.8:9 and also humans as Israel, Deut.28:65; Naomi, Ruth 3:1).
34. Blair J. "De-demonising the Old Testament" p.27
35. Christopher R. A. Morray-Jones A transparent illusion: the dangerous vision of water in Hekhalot Vol.59 p258 2002 "Early evidence of the belief in a plurality of liliths is provided by the Isaiah scroll from Qumran, which gives the name as liliyyot, and by the targum to Isaiah, which, in both cases, reads" (Targum reads: "when Lilith the Queen of [Sheba] and of Margod fell upon them.")
36. Jahrbuch für Protestantische Theologie 1, 1875. p128
37. Levy, [Moritz] A.[braham] (1817–1872)]. "Zeitschrift der deutschen morgenländischen Gesellschaft". ZDMG 9. 1885. pp. 470, 484.
38. Judit M. Blair De-Demonising the Old Testament – An Investigation of Azazel, Lilit (Lilith), Deber (Dever), Qeteb (Qetev) and Reshep (Resheph) in the Hebrew Bible. Forschungen zum Alten Testament 2 Reihe, Mohr Siebeck 2009 ISBN 3-16-150131-4
39. 34:14 καὶ συναντήσουσιν δαιμόνια ὀνοκενταύροις καὶ βοήσουσιν ἕτερος πρὸς τὸν ἕτερον ἐκεῖ ἀναπαύσονται ὀνοκένταυροι εὗρον γὰρ αὑτοῖς ἀνάπαυσιν
40. "The Old Testament (Vulgate)/Isaias propheta". Wikisource (Latin). Retrieved 2007-09-24.
41. "Parallel Latin Vulgate Bible and Douay-Rheims Bible and King James Bible; The Complete Sayings of Jesus Christ". LatinVulgate.com. Retrieved 2007-09-24. 42. Michael T. Davis, Brent A. Strawn Qumran studies: new approaches, new questions 2007 p47 "... two manuscripts that date to the Herodian period, with 4Q510 slightly earlier"
43. Bruce Chilton, Darrell Bock, Daniel M. Gurtner A Comparative Handbook to the Gospel of Mark p84
44. Revue de Qumrân 1991 p133
45. Baumgarten, J. M. 'On the Nature of the Seductress in 4Q184', Revue de Qumran 15 (1991–2), 133–143; 'The seductress of Qumran', Bible Review 17 no 5 (2001), 21–23; 42;
46. Collins, Jewish wisdom in the Hellenistic age
47. Tractate Niddah in the Mishnah is the only tractate from the Order of Tohorot which has Talmud on it. The Jerusalem Talmud is incomplete here, but the Babylonian Talmud on Tractate Niddah (2a–76b) is complete.
48. Janet Howe Gaines Biblical Archaeology Review Lilith: Seductress, Heroine or Murderer? "One bowl now on display at Harvard University's Semitic Museum reads, “Thou Lilith. . .Hag and Snatcher, I adjure you by the Strong One of Abraham, by the .."
49. Descenders to the chariot: the people behind the Hekhalot literature Page 277 James R. Davila - 2001 "... that they be used by anyone and everyone. The whole community could become the equals of the sages. Perhaps this is why nearly every house excavated in the Jewish settlement in Nippur had one or more incantation bowl buried in it."
50. Full text in p156 Aramaic Incantation Texts from Nippur James Alan Montgomery - 2011
51. The attribution to the sage Ben Sira is considered false, with the true author unknown.
52. Alphabet of Ben Sirah, Question #5 (23a–b)
53. Humm, Alan. Lilith in the Alphabet of Ben Sira
54. After God created Adam, who was alone, He said, 'It is not good for man to be alone.' He then created a woman for Adam, from the earth, as He had created Adam himself, and called her Lilith. Adam and Lilith immediately began to fight. She said, 'I will not lie below,' and he said, 'I will not lie beneath you, but only on top. For you are fit only to be in the bottom position, while I am to be the superior one.' Lilith responded, 'We are equal to each other inasmuch as we were both created from the earth.' But they would not listen to one another. When Lilith saw this, she pronounced the Ineffable Name and flew away into the air.
Adam stood in prayer before his Creator: 'Sovereign of the universe!' he said, 'the woman you gave me has run away.' At once, the Holy One, blessed be He, sent these three angels Senoy, Sansenoy, and Semangelof, to bring her back.
Said the Holy One to Adam, 'If she agrees to come back, what is made is good. If not, she must permit one hundred of her children to die every day.' The angels left God and pursued Lilith, whom they overtook in the midst of the sea, in the mighty waters wherein the Egyptians were destined to drown. They told her God's word, but she did not wish to return. The angels said, 'We shall drown you in the sea.’
'Leave me!' she said. 'I was created only to cause sickness to infants. If the infant is male, I have dominion over him for eight days after his birth, and if female, for twenty days.’
When the angels heard Lilith's words, they insisted she go back. But she swore to them by the name of the living and eternal God: 'Whenever I see you or your names or your forms in an amulet, I will have no power over that infant.' She also agreed to have one hundred of her children die every day. Accordingly, every day one hundred demons perish, and for the same reason, we write the angels' names on the amulets of young children. When Lilith sees their names, she remembers her oath, and the child recovers.
55. Segal, Eliezer. Looking for Lilith
56. Schwartz p.7
57. Schwartz p 8
58. a b c Schwartz p.8
59. Patai pp. 229–230
60. Patai p.230
61. Patai p.231
62. Patai p.231
63. Patai p.244
64. Humm, Alan. Lilith, Samael, & Blind Dragon
65. Patai p.246
66. In answer to your question concerning Lilith, I shall explain to you the essence of the matter. Concerning this point there is a received tradition from the ancient Sages who made use of the Secret Knowledge of the Lesser Palaces, which is the manipulation of demons and a ladder by which one ascends to the prophetic levels. In this tradition, it is made clear that Samael and Lilith were born as one, similar to the form of Adam and Eve who were also born as one, reflecting what is above. This is the account of Lilith which was received by the Sages in the Secret Knowledge of the Palaces. The Matron Lilith is the mate of Samael. Both of them were born at the same hour in the image of Adam and Eve, intertwined in each other. Asmodeus the great king of the demons has as a mate the Lesser (younger) Lilith, daughter of the king whose name is Qafsefoni. The name of his mate is Mehetabel daughter of Matred, and their daughter is Lilith.
67. R. Isaac b. Jacob Ha-Kohen. Lilith in Jewish Mysticism: Treatise on the Left Emanation
68. And the Serpent, the Woman of Harlotry, incited and seduced Eve through the husks of Light which in itself is holiness. And the Serpent seduced Holy Eve, and enough said for him who understands. And all this ruination came about because Adam the first man coupled with Eve while she was in her menstrual impurity – this is the filth and the impure seed of the Serpent who mounted Eve before Adam mounted her. Behold, here it is before you: because of the sins of Adam the first man all the things mentioned came into being. For Evil Lilith, when she saw the greatness of his corruption, became strong in her husks, and came to Adam against his will, and became hot from him and bore him many demons and spirits and Lilin. (Patai81:455f)
69. a b Patai p232 "Or according to the Zohar, two female spirits, Lilith and Naamah — found him, desired his beauty which was like that of the sun disk, and lay with him. The issue of these unions were demons and spirits"
70. Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, p. 174
71. "Printed sheet, late 17th century or early 18th century, 185x130 mm. This sheet was inserted in one of the library's copies of Jean de Pauly's translation of the Zohar. The sheet contains two texts within borders, which are amulets, one for a male ('lazakhar'), the other one for a female ('lanekevah'). The invocations mention Adam, Eve and Lilith, 'Chavah Rishonah' (the first Eve, who is identical with Lilith), also devils or angels: Sanoy, Sansinoy, Smangeluf, Shmari'el (the guardian) and Hasdi'el (the merciful). A few lines in Yiddish are followed by the dialogue between the prophet Elijah and Lilith when he met her with her host of demons to kill the mother and take her new-born child ('to drink her blood, suck her bones and eat her flesh'). She tells Elijah that she will lose her power if someone uses her secret names, which she reveals at the end: 'lilith, abitu, abizu, hakash, avers hikpodu, ayalu, matrota...'."
72. "Lilith Amulet-J.R. Ritman Library".
73. Humm, Alan. Kabbalah: Lilith's origins
74. Hurwitz p. 43
75. a b Hurwitz p.43
76. Hurwitz p.78
77. "an eine Stelle" Hurwitz S. Die erste Eva: Eine historische und psychologische Studie 2004 Page 160 "8) Lilith in der arabischen Literatur: Die Karina Auch in der arabischen Literatur hat der Lilith-Mythos seinen Niederschlag gefunden."
78. Jan Knappert Islamic legends: histories of the heroes, saints, and prophets of Islam, Volume 1. E. J. Brill, Leiden, 1985. " "And I am Salmas al-Hamma, the Karina of all women". In spite of his great power, King Solomon felt uneasy when he heard this name. A karina is a female demon much feared by women in the Middle East." p.149
79. Faust: Who's that there?
Mephistopheles: Take a good look.
Faust: Lilith? Who is that?
Mephistopheles: Adam's wife, his first. Beware of her.
Her beauty's one boast is her dangerous hair.
When Lilith winds it tight around young men
She doesn't soon let go of them again.
(1992 Greenberg translation, lines 4206–4211)
After Mephistopheles offers this warning to Faust, he then, quite ironically, encourages Faust to dance with "the Pretty Witch". Lilith and Faust engage in a short dialogue, where Lilith recounts the days spent in Eden.
Faust: [dancing with the young witch] A lovely dream I dreamt one day
I saw a green-leaved apple tree,
Two apples swayed upon a stem,
So tempting! I climbed up for them.
The Pretty Witch: Ever since the days of Eden
Apples have been man's desire.
How overjoyed I am to think, sir,
Apples grow, too, in my garden.
(1992 Greenberg translation, lines 4216 – 4223)
80. a b c d e "Amy Scerba The Feminism and Women's Studies site: Changing Literary Representations of Lilith and the Evolution of a Mythical Heroine".
81. Of Adam's first wife, Lilith, it is told
(The witch he loved before the gift of Eve,)
That, ere the snake's, her sweet tongue could deceive,
And her enchanted hair was the first gold.
And still she sits, young while the earth is old,
And, subtly of herself contemplative,
Draws men to watch the bright web she can weave,
Till heart and body and life are in its hold.
The rose and poppy are her flower; for where
Is he not found, O Lilith, whom shed scent
And soft-shed kisses and soft sleep shall snare?
Lo! As that youth's eyes burned at thine, so went
Thy spell through him, and left his straight neck bent
And round his heart one strangling golden hair.
(Collected Works, 216)
82. Howard Schwartz (1988). Lilith's Cave: Jewish tales of the supernatural. San Francisco: Harper & Row.
83. As the worst of the venom left my lips,
I thought, 'If, despite this lie, he strips
The mask from my soul with a kiss — I crawl
His slave, — soul, body, and all!
84. Seidel, Kathryn Lee. The Lilith Figure in Toni Morrison's Sula and Alice Walker's The Color Purple
85. Grimassi, Raven.Stregheria: La Vecchia Religione
86. Leland, Charles.Aradia, Gospel of the Witches-aAppendix
87. "Lilith-The First Eve". Imbolc. 2002.
88. Grenn, Deborah J.History of Lilith Institute
89. Hurwitz, Siegmund. "Excerpts from Lilith-The first Eve".
90. "Lilith". goddess.com.au.
92. R. Buckland
93. Aun Weor, Samael. Pistis Sophia Unveiled. Google Books. p. 339.
94. a b Fortune, Dion. Psychic Self-Defence. Google books. pp. 126–128.
Sources- Talmudic References: b. Erubin 18b; b. Erubin 100b; b. Nidda 24b; b. Shab. 151b; b. Baba Bathra 73a–b
- Kabbalist References: Zohar 3:76b–77a; Zohar Sitrei Torah 1:147b–148b; Zohar 2:267b; Bacharach,'Emeq haMelekh, 19c; Zohar 3:19a; Bacharach,'Emeq haMelekh, 102d–103a; Zohar 1:54b–55a
- Dead Sea Scroll References: 4QSongs of the Sage/4QShir; 4Q510 frag.11.4–6a//frag.10.1f; 11QPsAp
- Lilith Bibliography, Jewish and Christian Literature, Alan Humm ed., 28 July 2013.
- Raymond Buckland, The Witch Book, Visible Ink Press, November 1, 2001.
- Charles Fossey, La Magie Assyrienne, Paris: 1902.
- Siegmund Hurwitz, Lilith, die erste Eva: eine Studie uber dunkle Aspekte des Wieblichen. Zurich: Daimon Verlag, 1980, 1993. English tr. Lilith, the First Eve: Historical and Psychological Aspects of the Dark Feminine, translated by Gela Jacobson. Einsiedeln, Switzerland: Daimon Verlag, 1992 ISBN 3-85630-545-9.
- Siegmund Hurwitz, Lilith Switzerland: Daminon Press, 1992. Jerusalem Bible. New York: Doubleday, 1966.
- Samuel Noah Kramer, Gilgamesh and the Huluppu-Tree: A reconstructed Sumerian Text. (Kramer's Translation of the Gilgamesh Prologue), Assyriological Studies of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago 10, Chicago: 1938.
- Raphael Patai, Adam ve-Adama, tr. as Man and Earth; Jerusalem: The Hebrew Press Association, 1941–1942.
- Raphael Patai, The Hebrew Goddess, 3rd enlarged edition New York: Discus Books, 1978.
- Archibald Sayce, Hibbert Lectures on Babylonian Religion 1887.
- Schwartz, Howard, Lilith's Cave: Jewish tales of the supernatural, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988.
- R. Campbell Thompson, Semitic Magic, it's Origin and Development, London: 1908.
- New American Bible