Lilith is a major figure in Jewish demonology, she appears as early as 700 B.C.E in the book of Isaiah. However, her name is only mentioned once in the context of her being a creature of darkness. In Sumer 3rd century B.C.E. she was known as Lil the winged storm spirit, or spirit of vengeance. Her mythology concerning Adam is seen in the Alphabet of Sirach, a medieval manuscript dating anywhere between 700 and 1000 A.C.E. Part of the Alphabet of Sirach is written in fables concerning a character named Ben Sira, who, in the text, is said to be the son of Jeremiah. Here is the excerpt from the text concerning Lilith:
Soon afterward the young son of the king took ill. Said Nebuchadnezzar, “Heal my son. If you don’t, I will kill you.” Ben Sira immediately sat down and wrote an amulet with the Holy Name, and he inscribed on it the angels in charge of medicine by their names, forms, and images, and by their wings, hands, and feet. Nebuchadnezzar looked at the amulet. “Who are these?”
“The angels who are in charge of medicine: Snvi, Snsvi, and Smnglof (In English: Senoy, Sansenoy and Semangelof). While God created Adam, who was alone, He said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone’ (Genesis 2:18). He also created a woman, 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 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.”
This is the earliest account of Lilith being Adams wife before Eve, it is not however the earliest suggestion that Adam had a wife before Eve. It is not known if this story comes from earlier folk tales. It is also not the first link between Lilith and Adam. The Talmudic scholar Jerimiah ben Eleazar claimed that after Adam was expelled from the Garden of Eden he met Lilith and they “begot many ghosts and demons” who were called lilm or liln. These creatures were companions of Lilith.
Myths of Lilith’s creation come from many different sources. These mystical writings all have different versions of her creation.
The Zohar (mystical writings of the Kabbalah) has a more developed mythology of Lilith’s creation than the Alphabet of Sirach, it was written in the 13th century B.C.E. There are many alternative versions of her creation in different versions of the Zohar, all of which are very interesting. According to one account Lilith was not Adams first wife, God created Adam and Lilith at the same time and their bodies were joined. Then he separated them and Lilith flew to the cities of the sea and attached humankind. So they were obviously not the first humans in this myth either. In this version Lilith’s soul had been waiting in the Great Abyss while Adam’s soul had been created by the earth on the command of God.
Another version says that Lilith was not created by God’s will but spontaneously sprang from either the Great Supernal Abyss or the sefirot Geburah, one of the ten aspects of god, one that has an affinity with evil according to some. She is listed as one of the Qliphoth corresponding to Malkuht on the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. Her seductiveness translates to all the pleasures of the world which leads to materialism and the decent into animal consciousness.
Lilith is a demon that comes to men at night. Men often thought that if they had night ejaculations that Lilith had come to procreate with them while they slept.
She appears in an exorcism hymn in the Dead Sea Scrolls
“And I, the Instructor, proclaim His glorious splendour so as to frighten and to te[rrify] all the spirits of the destroying angels, spirits of the bastards, demons, Lilith, howlers, and [desert dwellers…]”
According to the Zohar Lilith is a beautiful woman from the navel up but from the navel down she is a flame. She is also described as a beautiful evil woman who transforms into a blue butterfly-like demon and is associated with the powers of seduction. Technically Lilith is a demon but some see her as a dark goddess.
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