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Ian R Thorpe Who is Lilith? Some poets are appalled at the idea of giving readers a few clues as to what we are
on about. I find my readers appreciate it, a hundred years ago education included much more cultural history and culture was not so diverse. When Tennyson wrote about The Lady Of Shallot everybody had heard the story of Lancelot and Elaine but now education covers a much wider base. Full notes on Lilith are down at the end of our story, sufficient here to say the Bible's she – demon might not be as evil a bitch as she has been portrayed. The poem has two voices; Lilith's reply to her would be lover is in italics.
Lost in between awake and sleeping lies a vision of a land half - known, as if some ancient, buried memory transports me to this timeless zone. Stark against the shifting desert a tower stands by a pure spring. Where fig trees grow in a cool cresent I wait to hear a soft voice sing. A walled garden is her lonely prison; she dwells in luxurious solitude. For what sin can she not be forgiven? Whose law condemed her turpitude? Is she in thrall to jealous lover, does a heartless djinn posess her soul? Will I seduce her to discover The garden is truly her sheole?* I see her sometimes by a window, she scans the view then turns away, her lovely face is lined with sorrow. This vision ensnares me more each day Until at last I summon courage to bang my fist upon the door. She greets me, straight away I engage in courtship, she does not demur But serves me sweetmeats, fragrant candy, ripe figs well drenched in strong, sweet wine, lays us down but declines to tell me
why she stays in this place alone.
Hanging round the gardens of Babylon
Instead her answer sets a challenge no man can resist nor turn aside. "Love has no worth bound with conditions love given for gain enslaves the bride. I seek one who will pledge to love me for myself, not what I have to give; I'll give to him the world and all time and not a moment feel captive. This desert men have made around us bears witness to self love and greed, I rest here, the eternal woman 'til fate sends me the love I need. I have opened my garden to you who gives, asking nothing in return. Never seek for account or measure, my own soul is no other's concern. Abandon now all worldly purpose commit all, without thought of requite; this garden ever will sustain us while we rejoice in love's delight."
Copyright © 2004, Ian Thorpe NOTES:
Who is Lilith Lilith is one of the most misunderstood characters in Middle Eastern mythology. She has ben cast as the she – demon that led men away from God but many scholars compare her to the Greek Pandora, who is reputed to have released all humanity's troubles into the world. Thinking more deeply about Pandora's myth (after considerable reading) leads us to see she might represent a moment of progress in human development, a point at which human consciousness develops to a point where we no longer dumbly accept our fate as animals must but understand we have the power to chgange outcomes. Archaic words: sheol (Aramaic) a dwelling place of the dead djinn (Arabic) a genie or sprit, not human but can be either good or bad, as opposed to an Ifrit, a demon, half human perhaps one of the "old race" referred to in ancient scriptures. Hebrew equivalent are the Nephilim.
Genesis of Lilith
extract from the LILITH MYTH: ( taken from a translation of sections of the Dead Sea Scrolls by Robert Graves) Some say that God created man and woman in His own image on the Sixth Day, giving them charge over the world; but that Eve did not yet exist. Now, God had set Adam to name every beast, bird and other living thing. When they passed before him in pairs, male and female, Adam-being already like a twenty-year-old man-felt jealous of their loves, and though he tried coupling with each female in turn, found no satisfaction in the act. He therefore cried: 'Every creature but I has a proper matel', and prayed God would remedy this injustice. God then formed Lilith, the first woman, just as He had formed Adam, except that He used filth and sediment instead of pure dust. From Adam's union with this demoness, and with another like her named Naamah, Tubal Cain's sister, sprang Asmodeus and innumerable demons that still plague mankind. Many generations later, Lilith and Naamah came to Solomon's judgement seat, disguised as harlots of Jerusalem'. Adam and Lilith never found peace together; for when he wished to lie with her, she took offence at the recumbent posture he demanded. 'Why must I lie beneath you?' she asked. 'I also was made from dust, and am therefore your equal.' Because Adam tried to compel her obedience by force, Lilith, in a rage, uttered the magic name of God, rose into the air and left him. This is the pre-Christian version of the story which, unsurprisingly is left out of the Bible (so much for "literal truth") as Lilith shows herself to be the equal not only of man, but of God too (the essential feminist?) Christian versions of the Lilith myth paint a much darker picture, portraying Lilith and all women since as whores and scheming temptresses. In The Old Testament book Ezekiel, Chapter 23, v 19-20 describes a woman thus: Ezekiel 23 19:20
19: Yet she turned to even greater prostitution, remembering her youth when she was a prostitute in Egypt. 20: She lusted after lovers with genitals as large as a donkey’s and emissions like those of a horse.
That is only one translation, The King James version phrases it much more kindly and whoever the girl was, I think she was really a sweetheart and the man who wrote those verses was pissed off
because she had given him the knock-back. The male dominated Abrahamic religions are of course all based on fear and loathing of females sexuality. The ancient scriptures also say that only when women are properly respected as the equal of men in every way other than physical attributes (in which the two genders complement each other to make the whole) can humanity be saved. Thus the renaissance of the sacred feminine, the pagan Goddess of the Old Religion, which this poem deals with, is a pretty urgent task.
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