“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.
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).