I ♥ Lilith


She’s everywhere in popular culture these days, from museum exhibits to music’s Lilith Fair, to goddess depictions in Tarot decks. But where did she come from? Her origins are a bit murky, but it seems her myths date back to Mesopotamia, where she was seen as a wind demon, and source of illness and disease. By now most people are familiar with the stories from Jewish lore of her as the first wife of Adam, who refused to be subservient to him, they argued, she spoke the ineffable name of God, and flew out of the Garden of Eden. After that the myths really grow.

Some stories tell of her becoming the consort of the demon Samael (one of the fallen angels), others that she went into the ocean. Despite God sending three angels – Senoy, Sansenoy, and Semangelof – to fetch her back, she still refused to return, at which point the angels threatened to drown her (sounds like a bunch of good ol’ boys to me). Finally she got them to leave by promising that when she saw any of their names or forms in an amulet placed on or near a child, she would not harm the infants she claimed she had been created solely to destroy. But, she had to agree that 100 of her children (demons) would die every single day. She agreed, and the angels left.

She shares many of her attributes with an earlier Mesopotamian demon, or demigoddess, Lamashtu, who was a daughter of the sky god Anu. Lamashtu supposedly fed on babies, on their blood and bones, stealing them from their mothers, perhaps the first vampiric figure. One of the aspects of her that is most fascinating to me is that she did bad all by herself, and not at the direction of the gods. Which means other demons were acting under orders of the gods. :::pause for dramatic effect::: Again, by inscribing amulets with the name and likeness of another god or demon, known as Pazuzu, children could be protected from her. The space between her legs was described as a scorpion, corresponding to Scorpio who rules over the genitals and sex. And the Lilith card here in the Moon Oracle is assigned to Scorpio.

The Lilith card pictured above clearly shows a strong influence from the Burney Relief:
Burney Relief

This bas relief (retitled by the British Museum as “The Queen of the Night”) in terracotta has a spotty provenance. It seems to have appeared sometime in the 1930s in the possession of a Syrian dealer, but as it was not part of an archaeological excavation its exact origin remains a mystery. Is it a fraud? Some people undoubtedly believe it is, but it is now housed in the British Museum, lending it some credibility. No one knows precisely where it came from or how old it is, although traces of pigment and the style of the carving tend to date it to around 1750 BCE. Whether it even is intended to depict Lilith is not certain. If the tablet was constructed as a focal point for worship, it would be unusual to have such a thing for a demon, as no known demonic cults existed at the time. Demons couldn’t be bargained with, either with food, or drink, and apparently weren’t interested in sacrifices. One thing ancient man needed was gods he could bargain with: We’ll kill this fatted calf, and you give us a good crop this year. Can’t do that with demons. Thorkild Jacobsen therefore suggests it is not a depiction of Lilith, but instead Inanna/Ishtar. Further, Inanna was the only goddess associated with lions, although the Assyrian lilitû demons were associated with lions. Perhaps that is why Caroline Astrop chose to depict a snake on her illustration of Lilith, since the snake is closely associated with Lilith.
Lilith by John Collier
Lilith has been depicted as the snake which seduced Eve in the Garden. Seductress, holy prostitute, appearing to men in erotic dreams, she was called the “hand of Inanna”. Sumerian texts tell us, “Inanna has sent the beautiful, unmarried, and seductive prostitute Lilitû out into the fields and streets in order to lead men astray.”

However, it seems she may have been preceded in that role by the father of Gilgamesh, Lilû, who supposedly did the same things, only to women, making him the first incubus. Only later were these traits assigned to the female lilitû demons. (The legend of Gilgamesh is the earliest known text, dating back to somewhere around 2500 BCE.)

But, all this fun history aside, the card’s meaning from the accompanying book states:

When the Black Goddess Lilith is selected, you must take firm steps to survive courageously against all odds. Events and people may be currently creating an evil image about you but this must be ignored. You will need to be prepared to go to the utmost of passionate action to achieve the desired end: you can sit back no longer. Change is inevitable, and that which is no longer useful must be rejected. Everything must be reassessed to determine its worth.

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12 thoughts on “I ♥ Lilith

  1. Thanks, Chazz. And I barely scratched the surface! 🙂 When you start digging into ancient mythology like that, it’s AMAZING where you end up. Linguistics, geography, religion, anthropology… it’s hard to know when to stop.

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  2. Mythology ❤ geek-out! 😛 I find it so interesting how so many of the near/middle eastern goddesses weave in and out of each other. It makes it hard to know where one ends and the next begins, but they are unfailingly striking. This Lilith is stunning. I am so enamoured with the artwork. There is a deep power, despite the actual simplicity of the drawing. It's what happens when you have just the right amount of elements. Magic!

    p.s. If you wouldn't mind, could you scan Hekate card? She is also so lovely.

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  3. This Lilith chick I am so digging. I have read your page along with the other link talking about Eve and Lilith. Lilith sounded like a woman that did not take any crap from no one especially men. She wanted women rights before women right evolution began. I say good for her to stand up for herself, but geez did she had to be so evil afterward. Why kill and feed on babies even though I have read she said that what she was created for. Then the amulet interest me. How could the whole world know to protect their babies with the amulet of the three angels. I am sure as time went on people took it as a myth and stop wearing the amulet. I would love to get my eyes on one to see in person. Now when I know anyone who child die or have a miscarriage I will be thinking of her. And another thing…it seems like she was the snake in the true that persuaded Eve to eat the apple. She might as left Adam but she make sure came back to ruin his life. Reading so much on Lilith make me think Eve was no better. She was not obedient. She did not listen to Adam or God when they told her not to eat any fruit from a particular tree. Why was she so stubborn when she had abundant of trees to eat from. Curious did not kill the can’t it gave me menstrual pain each month and expensive bill when buying clothes. Not cool at all Eve not cool at all.

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  4. Well, you have to bear in mind who was telling these stories. They turned Lilith into the bogeyman to keep other women in line and keep them from standing up for themselves. What better way to instill fear in a woman than to threaten her children? As we know the victors write the histories. 😉 I wouldn’t be too hard on Eve, after all, we don’t really know what happened there either. For all we know, Adam took the first bite, and figured out what was going on and then tried to seduce Eve (come to think of it, that makes a whole lot more sense when I think about men vs. women). Personally, I don’t do obedience either, so I’m on Team Lilith. haha

    I don’t think I’ve run across the idea that the snake was Lilith. If I were her, I wouldn’t have gone back to the Garden and risked getting caught. 😉

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    1. I don’t think she thought she would get caught or linger around for too long. I think that she was there more than once and each time she whisper to Eve until one day Eve finally cave in. Perhaps this was Lilith way of getting back at God and Adam. My mind is really working just picturing all this act taking place. I am telling you DD one day if I am bless with a child or children I don’t even think I will need fairy tail books. I can share with them what I am learning here today. There are many truth to a story even if it is a small percentage. And if I have a miscarriage bet your buns I be thinking of Lilith and cursing her name…even though I am on her side to for as Bob Marley woulds say, “Stand up for your Rights”.

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