Lilith: The Goddess of Demons

Lady-Lilith

“Lady Lilith” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1867)

Lilith is a difficult Goddess to understand. What is known about Her comes from dubious Jewish lore. She emerged fully formed as the Mother of Demons in Medieval Times, and then She received a makeover in modern times. The Goddess Religions want to see Lilith in a positive light as the first proto-feminist. Now this Goddess has bizarrely contradictory attributes, which confuses me.

“The Alpha-Beta of Ben Sira” (Pseudo-Ben Sira, 9th Century) is the problematic source for Lilith. According to it, Lilith was Adam’s first wife. In the first creation (Note 1), Yahweh created male and female, at the same time, from the earth. As the equal of Adam, Lilith refused to be dominated by him. Fleeing her husband, she “pronounced the Ineffable Name (of Yahweh) and flew away into the air.” Lilith went to the Red Sea, the dwelling place of demons.

Adam complained to Yahweh about Lilith abandoning him. The God sent three angels to convince her to come back. Since Lilith knew the hidden name of Yahweh, He could not compel her to return. When the three angels threatened to kill her demon children, Lilith countered with preying on newborns. After that, Yahweh, the angels and Lilith came to an odd pact. She could continue to kill babies unless they wore an amulet with the names of the three angels. However, Lilith had to endure with death of a hundred of her own children each day. (This was to explain why newborns die unexpectedly.)

“The Zohar,” compiled by Moses de Leon (1250-1305) (Note 2), called Lilith “a temptress of innocent men, breeder of evil spirits and carrier of disease.” As the Queen of the Demons, She was the succubus who attacked men in their sleep. Because Lilith drove men’s lust, the Shekhinah (the Female Part of Yahweh) went into exile.

In “A Treatise on the Left Emanation” by Rabbi Isaac ben Jacob ha-Kohen (the 13th century), Lilith is paired with Samael (Satan). Writing about evil, Rabbi Isaac said that Samael and Lilith were twins, created by Yahweh. Samael, regarded as The Angel of Death, became the “Great Demon,” and Lilith his partner in evil.

The Goddess Religions have reclaimed Lilith as the first pro-feminist. The Dark Goddess Lilith is their Patroness of Witches. She teaches women to embrace their sexuality and live according to their own rules. Some see Lilith representing “the power, politics and psychology of sex.” To stand up to the patriarchy, She sacrifices her children daily.

Polytheist theologians discuss whether the Gods can be differentiated or do their aspects refer to one being? For example, Anubis of Egypt, in the early dynasties, can be regarded to be a different God than Anubis of Cleopatra’s time. However, Anubis could also be the same God with more attributes.

According to Raven Kaldera, a shaman of Northern-Tradition Paganism, Gods have “horizontal” and “vertical” aspects. (Note 3) “Vertical” aspects range from a personal experience to a diffuse unknowable presence. “Horizontal” aspects entail the attributes of the Gods such as Jupiter being both the God of Thunder and the God of Government.

I have unanswered questions about Lilith. Are there more than one Goddess? Is Lilith of the Middle Ages the same Goddess of the Goddess Religions? Could She be considered a “pop culture” God because the Goddess Religions rewrote the lore?

From what I can discern, Lilith is the Dark Aspect of the Divine Feminine in Jewish Monotheism. She is a counterpart to the Shekhinah. My theory is that once Monotheism defined that the Divine be only a single male Deity, the feminine aspects went underground. They have come out sideways as Lilith and the Shekhinah. (Note 4). The Goddess Religions which worship only the Divine Feminine has elevated Lilith to be an aspect of the Goddess.

Notes:
1. Genesis details two creations. It is believed that the lore tries to reconcile the two, with Eve being Adam’s second wife. Made from his rib, she is subordinate to him.
2. “The Zohar” is a fundamental work of Kabbalism (Jewish mysticism).
3. Kaldera, Raven, “Dealing with Deities.” Hubbardston (MA): Asphodel Press. 2012.
4. The Dark Aspect of the Divine Masculine came out as Samael (Satan).

The Ambarvalia

green grass field during sunset

Photo by David Jakab on Pexels.com

At the end of May, the Ambarvalia is held. This festival centers on asking the blessings of Mars and Ceres for the growing crops. Traditionally, a boar, a ram and a bull were sacrificed (Note 1). Modern Romans will offer meat from the store. During the Ambarvalia, the boundaries of the fields are walked with people making offerings of milk, honey and incense for Ceres and the meat for Mars.

As with other Roman festivals, the Ambarvalia was adapted by the Christian Church. Rogation Days, which precede Ascension Day, copies aspects of the Ambarvalia. Processions would go around to parish boundaries singing hymns. Along they way, they would stop at various fields to pray for God’s blessings on the new crops.

A Roman Prayer for Ambarvalia:

“Father Mars I pray and beseech You that You may be propitious and well-disposed to me, our home, and household, for which cause I have ordered the offering of pig, sheep, and ox to be led ‘round my field, my land, and my farm, that you might prevent, ward off, and avert diseases, visible and invisible; barrenness and waste; accident and bad water; that you would permit the crop and fruit of the earth, the vines and shrubs to grow great and prosper, that you would preserve the shepherds and their flocks in safety and give prosperity and health to me and our house and household. To this intent, to the intent of purifying my farm, my land, my ground, and of making an expiation, deign to accept the offering of these suckling victims.”
(from Nova Roma’s website)

Note 1: The suovetaurila is the triple sacrifice of principal livestock. Only Mars, Neptune and Apollo received this sacrifice.

The Alphabet and the Cosmos

 

ndtree-of-life_paths_sm

The Tree of Life by the Hebrew Alphabet

 

Alphabets do more than simply freeze speech. They extend the power and reach of people. In reading Shakespeare, a person is partaking of the thoughts of a man long dead. Alphabets form the basis for magical speech and prayers to the Gods.

Traditionally, alphabets are thought to be the organizing principles of the world. For example, Christians believe in Christ’s statement: “I am the Alpha and the Omega.” (Christ is referring to the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet.) He is both ordering the cosmos through the alphabet and becoming the cosmos, itself.

Each letter contains the world, the means and form of creation. For many cultures, the letters themselves are holy beings. For example, the Norse viewed their Runes as living entities. The Ancient Greeks saw their letters as part of the cosmic order. Every letter conveys an idea, a poem, architectural design and textual space.

Letters through time have affected and reflected Western consciousness. Alphabets string letters together forming words. In this manner, they offer a magical portal to bridge the worlds. Moreover, individual letters have cultural meanings. In the Middle Ages, the capital “T” represented the Cross of Christ, associating that letter with the Crucifixion.

In 1529, French typographer Geoffroy Tory (1480–1533) in Champ Fleury, his treatise on the alphabet, reflected the Renaissance worldview that the Roman alphabet should one of harmony, balance, symmetry, and scale. He wrote that “L” was the letter of balance, because it was the shadow cast by the body at the autumn equinox. Tory presented “Y” twice: once in the “moral sense of the Pythagorean letter (Sens moral de la letter Pythagorique), and again as the choices presented in Dante’s Inferno.

Letters have shaped culture as each culture has shaped the letters. According to Cicero (First Century CE), the “Y” (upsilon) was associated with Hercules. The letter indicated the two paths – good or bad – that He had to choose. From this association, the “Y” became a letter which represented the physical geography of the Western world – the “fork in the road.” And also, because of its shape, the “Y” represented the moral choices that a person has to make.

The next time you meditate, ponder the shape and order of each letter in the alphabet that you use. What does each say in the relation to the world? For example, in the Roman alphabet, why is “X” the unknown and not “P?” Meanwhile, the Chinese use “N” for the unknown in mathematics. Why is “A” the grade for the best and not “L?” What does your alphabet say about your world and your consciousness?

Further Reading:

DeLooze, Laurence, The Letter & The Cosmos. University of Toronto Press: Toronto. 2016.

Monotheistic Filter: The Great Chain of Being

Ordained by the Christian God, the Great Chain of Being, is a hierarchy based on perfection, independence, spirit and flesh. God is at the top, perfect, completely independent and made entirely of spirit. The Angels come next since they are dependent on God. Humans, who are made of flesh and spirit, are farther down. Each member of the chain is dependent on the next higher member. At the bottom, below the rocks is Nothingness, the opposite of the Christian God.

This concept is subtly reflected in the discussions about various pantheons. A hierarchy is assumed with the “chief” God being a male Sky God. Then the pantheon’s hierarchy moves down from the Gods of the sky to the earth to under the earth. Spirits of the Home or Place are often relegated as unimportant or ignored since They do not fit neatly in this hierarchy.

The study of Polytheistic religions reveals something different. The Greeks have three Brothers – Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades ruling their respective domains as co-equals. The Etruscans and Romans have Triads of Gods to govern their pantheons. These Triads consist of two females and one male, who are peers of each other.

Furthermore, the Great Chain promotes single purpose units, since it is a moral duty to know one’s place in the Chain. Fish are just below seed-eating birds, which are just below worm-eating birds. This aspect of the Great Chain is reflected in Polytheism by having only single purpose Gods. Thus, Mars is relegated to being only the God of War in the Roman Pantheon. Mars is also regarded as being the only God of War as well. (Note 1).

Note 1: Minerva, Bellona, and Nerio are Goddesses of War. Honos and Virtus are the Gods of Military Courage and Honor. Mars is also the God of Fields and Agriculture. None of these Gods are single purpose Gods.

Further Reading:

Kaldera, Raven, “Dealing with Deities.” Hubbardston (MA): Asphodel Press. 2012.
“Wyrdwalkers.” Hubbardston (MA): Asphodel Press.2007.

Paper, Jordan, “The Deities Are Many.” Albany NY: State University of New York Press. 2005.

Suber, Peter, “The Great Chain of Being.” 1997 Web: http://legacy.earlham.edu/~peters/courses/re/chain.htm

Wheeler, L. Kipp, “The Chain of Being: Tillyard in a Nutshell.” 2017. Web: https:// web.cn.edu/kwheeler/Tillyard01.html