LILITH

If matriarchal feminists reread the Bible they can find it a source of fascinating information and inspiration about our powerful foremothers and the Goddesses they worshipped. It also records their put-down, Goddesses and women alike. In this it is similar to other sacred writings of various religions, i.e. the Ramayana, the Rigveda, and many African religious myths. Lilith is one example of the process. "The land shall become burning pitch Thorns shall grow over its strongholds It shall be the haunt of jackals yea there shall the night hag alight and find for herself a resting place." Isaiah 34. 8-14 Who is this "night hag"? What is she doing in the biblical Book of Isaiah? The verses describe a state of desolation, due, in the context, to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 587 BCE. God is angry both at the destruction of the place and the exile of the people from it; the verses are also supposed to reflect that this desolation is brought on themselves by people who worshipped other deities. We know that this part of the Bible was written by the scribes in exile at that time and put together later, as an object lesson in what happens to those (many,) people who did not adhere to the patriarchal monotheism that was the religion of the ruling classes. The word in Hebrew which is translated by (night) hag is Lilith. It is the only time in the bible that the word Lilith appears. The translation night hag comes from Revised Standard Version (reasonably modern and said to be very accurate). The more familiar King James Bible (authorised version) translates Lilith as "screech owl". A look at other Bible translations shows that New English Bible (NEB) gives night-jar. The Revised Version (RV) of 1881 uses night monster; the Latin Vulgate of the 4th century CE from which most Christian translations stem says Lamia - who are the Hellenistic "dirty goddesses'. Moffat (American) produces "vampires" (plural), French bible calls Lilith "le spectre de la nuit" (ghost of the night), and German Lutheran translates her as der Kobold - masculine - a sprite or goblin. None of them give her real name, Lilith. Perhaps they are afraid to use it. The patriarchal world turned Lilith into a monster, strangling new born babies and sucking their blood; a demoness howling in the desert and in the night, making men impotent, (where have we heard that before?), causing cattle to die and generally being the personification of evil. In medieval times, the christian church called her Mother of the Witches, and projected on to women all these feared so-called attributes of Lilith. Christians united with Jews and Moslems in their fear of her. Here is a charm against Lilith as a 'Striga', a witch, dated 1531 G.E. Black Striga, black and black Blood shall eat and blood shall drink; Like an ox she shall bellow Like a bear she shall growl Like a wolf she shall crush.

and God cannot compel her. that she is also an early Wisdom Goddess. all these beings leave it. and in the centre. The Jewish legends have been the subject of intense inspiration to feminists. and Lil. 3000 BCE) for wind or breath. in her place Eve is made from Adam's rib to be subordinate to him forever. used impartially for air . reading from her records and her symbols. (though not in the Bible) Lilith (female) and Adam (a man) are made from the same and equal dust. until the information from Sumer came to light. why all this fear of her. in the Bible.it is in her name. But in the tree are three beings . why this emphasis on her demonic character? I want to say that in studying our mother Lilith.as in pneumatic . and this being "became a living soul".Layil. In both legends. and was borrowed by the Babylonians for the same use.There is a linguistic connection in Hebrew between Striga and hystera . then from early Judaism. mainly connected with the persecution of the witches. Lilith is connected with two root words . but today scholars insist that it is more correct to use Lil. where the goddess Inanna insists on a throne being made for her from this special tree (it may have been a willow) and the hero is eager to cut it down in order to do this. Traditionally. a host of ghostly spirits flying around.womb. that gives life to us all. This Sumerian word meant breath. This speaks for itself! The question comes up: since Lilith is only referred to once. an Arabic pool of Lilith legends. also responsible for creation and for outer and inner knowledge. and Lilith flies off to the desert. and lastly from Arabic literature In addition. Jewish rabbinical and medieval literature as well as the Cabalistic writings. They engage in sexual intercourse but Lilith objects to the missionary position. En-Lil is Lord of the Lilim. One of their chief deities.a bird at the crown. I look to some legends for this information. Lady of the Air is Lady of Knowledge. saying "I am made of the same earth. She is called a "desolate maid". In the Bible (Gen.or in a philosophical sense as breath. So I believe her to be the Lady of the Air. dated about 2000 BCE which tells us a great deal. We have several sources of information about Lilith: the archaeological records and pictures from the Ancient Near East. In the beginning. Lilith flies off to the desert where she is free Note that Lilith knows the magic name of god (which is hidden from Adam). many Christian church references. becoming lillitu. while the misogynistic stories are designed to put her down . or soul. a "snake who knows no charm" at the base. why should I be treated as inferior?" She escapes from Adam by uttering the magic name of god and flies away to the desert. Sumerian (c. When Gilgamesh chops down the tree. I suggest that Lilith is the first and original "breath of life". in Hebrew. I see in what happened to her an exact parallel with what has happened to us women in patriarchy. of the living breath.literally . 2:7) God breathes the breath of life into the human being formed of dust. or spirit. God sends three angels to bring her back but she refuses. 1:2 & 1 Kings 19:11). The Biblical Hebrew "ruach" is used both as the spirit of God and a mighty wind (Gen. there is a relief of her. Hebrew for night. All the rest flows from that. from Northern Syria. spirit. right at the beginning . In this legend we already see some patriarchal influence. Another Greek word for both wind and spirit is pneuma. . Words in many languages which double as wind and spirit indicate the creation process. Lilith had built herself a house. The various translations help us to deduce what is being hidden from us. The Sumerian Gilgamesh Epic includes the story of the hero Gilgamesh and the Huluppu tree. It seems to me. So. the turning of inanimate matter into animate (anemos is Greek for wind). Yet the secret of Lilith is revealed for me.into the worst and furthest place the male mind can dream up. Lilith was always derived from "night". the first from Sumer.

. We may also ask ourselves. and her symbol is an owl. She is spirit of the wind and of the air. the creatrix. as is the owl and it is in the dark of the womb and the earth that all nature germinates. 200 BCE) "Though she is but one. and she orders all things well (Book of Wisdom of Solomon. A legend from the Mandean Gnostics reveals that Lilith knows 'the secrets of darkness and light. 8. Hochma becomes the Greek Sophia. and in the Gnostic picture. and stands on two lions (possibly lionesses). She is also recorded as Mother of the Queen of Sheba.the Holy Spirit. before they spring into the light. while to many of the early Christians she was pneuma . The vestiges of Lilith as a Wisdom Goddess cling through all the scurrility about strangling babies. occasionally someone calls on the older myths and begins to reinstate her. she reaches mightily from one end of the world to the other. Although history downgraded and poisoned her. But wisdom comes through again later Though not called Lilith. the Shekinah the female divine presence over the ark of god also has huge far-reaching wings.but can only ask.22) She was the creation principle with him "When he established the heavens I was there".it was knowledge of magic in its different forms. scholars remind us that this was not moral knowledge . The owl universally is a wisdom bird. A relief inscribed with her name has been found in Northern Syria. there the serpent was coiled round the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. In Jewish lore. Her aspect is that of Wisdom. Lady of wisdom. Another document sees her actually as the bride of god. ancient Wisdom Goddess. It shows a beautiful naked woman with bird's legs and talons. and she can refuse . and in the dark of the mind. Arabic legends show Alilat (a form of Lilith) as the daughter of Allah and Goddess of the night. ideas are born." says one. and dates to about 2000 BCE. huge wings and a crown. but by the Hebrew word for Wisdom. he makes the connection with the tree of knowledge of good and evil. and while remaining in herself she renews all things. Alilat has been identified with Athena. The snake in the huluppu tree reminds us of the snake in the garden of Eden. 7:27 8:1) In Chapter 10 of the same book. she can do all things. she is also of the night. The symbols that come with Lilith as well as the translations in the bible tell a story that has to be connected with Wisdom. how did Lilith and not Adam .with riddles. Lady of Knowledge and Wisdom. who is so wise she can even test the Master of Wisdom . she appears in the Book of the Wisdom of Solomon (c. and unites heaven and hell'. The Cabalistic Zohar texts say "she has dominion over all instinctual natural beings over every living being that creepeth".Solomon .and does so. Hochma. Wisdom is credited with "protecting the first formed father of the world" and with the saving of the world from its own stupidities. Both are punished by the patriarchy for their innate power. Later. and win. Some Cabalists went further: "Lilith is a ladder on which one can ascend to the rungs of prophecy. The statement of her reaching mightily from one end of the world to the other recalls her tremendous wings. and .know the magic name of god? I suggest it is because she is the original Wisdom Goddess who was with god from the beginning (Prov. she is attended by two owls.. from the Jewish legend. She is the serpent of Wisdom who offers to her sister Eve her own knowledge.

Patriarchy has turned her into queen of the demons. Bibliography E. protects and makes knowledge available so that we do not perish through our own ignorance. It may be in recognising at last the original Goddess of Wisdom we may be able to avert the nuclear disaster that patriarchy has brought us so near to. 1900. Gaster. Heschel. particularly to be feared by mothers in childbirth. we throw off and pour away for ever the poison about ourselves. New York 1983 Maria Teresa Colonna. our guilt. In reclaiming Her. 1985 Acknowledgements to all my dear sisters and friends who support me in my writing and research. She represents to us our innermost herstory. Lady of Wisdom and knowledge. We renew ourselves by accepting it and experiencing it. the original Mother Goddess. There is some possibility that the emphasis on her negative role in childbirth may be a reversal of an earlier time. Many feminists have been interested to concentrate on her autonomy. that emerges as we give birth to our children. her breath of life that is our true necessity today. our autonomy. She is the Goddess who knows the "magic name of god" because it is her own. Arachne 2. our power. Schocken Books. J. Lady of the Air and of Breath. On reclaiming Lilith we reclaim the breath of life. in On Being a Jewish Feminist (s. Couventure. vols. Assyrian and Babylonian Religious Texts. she was Goddess of childbirth and assisted women in labour. The Lilith Question. ed. In addition to all these. Begg. Journal of Analytical Psychology. killer or children. London 1984 J. Lilith ou la Mere Obscure Paris 1981 Aviva Cantor. Myth and Today's Consciousness. she has become a source of evil to be feared most particularly by women. The symbol of women's wisdom and power. when like Artemis and Astarte. instead of the creatrix they have made her the destroyer. October 1980. our so-called inferiority. She is the Wisdom Goddess who creates. I feel at one with these insights. Berlin 1895. Craig. x1. renews. her freeing herself sexually from Adam on the grounds of equality.). She is the powerful creatrix. . we reclaim our Wisdom. and the shadow side of our natures. The Child-stealing Witch. Brill. 1 &2. to our works of all kind. Folklore. others have become involved with darkness and in getting into the dark side. It is her Wisdom. the wind or breath of life. And that sums it up. She is the spirit that gives life. our knowledge. Lilith or the Black Moon. our evil inner selves. M. the dark of the moon.being a night demoness and queen of evil. but for me Lilith goes further.

The Time Falling Bodies Take to Light. Thompson. Albuquerque 1982. de Gruyter & Co. The Hebrew Goddess. Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon. vol. New York 1967. Harper and Row. N. Jewish Folklore and Legend. G. F. L. New York 1981. Spiders and Spinsters. Kramer. Die Natur der Gotter. Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics (ed. Tregellan. in Arabischen Heidentums. Graves and R. St. translated by S. Daimon Verlag. History Begins at Sumer. N. Ringgren. Langdon. S. Martins Press. Avon. Wellhausen. Berlin. Hurwitz. Hebrew Myth and Legends. London 1966. Hastings). I. Gesenius 1884. Martha Weigle. reprinted 1961. University of New Mexico Press. The Jewish Encyclopedia. Hamlyn 1980. G. 5. The Women's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets.D. Lexicon Talmudicum. J. London 1956. R. Barbara C. S.v . Patai. J. R. New Schaf-Herzog Encyclopedia. Merkabah Mysticism and Talmudic Tradition. ?. MacCulloch) W. Cesara Publication. Inanna. Mythology of all Races. N. W. H. Eire 1975. Semitic (ed. Walker. Jewish Gnosticism. Goldstein. Thames and Hudson. Scholem. 1984. NY 1960.. Diane Wolkstein and S. S. Buxtorf. 1987. Kramer. Durdin-Robertson. Israelite Religion. Lilith der erste Eva. SPCK. The Bible. Queen of Heaven and Earth. New York 1983. New York and London. Patai. Harper. The Goddesses of Chaldea Syria and Egypt.