Who is Lilith? Goddess or demon? Learn the story of the first woman

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by DanFF

Lilith is a controversial deity. She is considered a Goddess by some. However, those who are more frightened by her presence, consider her a demon.

But who is Lilith? What is the story of this woman who has caused controversy for over 2000 years whenever she is mentioned?

We will learn more about her story and her archetype in this post.

You can also watch a video I made about her on our YouTube Channel!

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Where does Lilith come from?

Before we get to know Lilith better, let’s understand where she comes from and why she has this dark “nature”.

Lilith is part of Jewish Mythology. So she is part of a context where everything is Manichaean.

And what does it mean to be a Manichaean?

It is to be A or B. For example:

  • someone is totally good – and their negative attitudes are justified;
  • or someone is totally bad – and their positive attitudes are ignored.

There is no duality and no balance in a single being.

Alongside her we have several other “famous” and important names like God, the creator; Moses; the Angelical hierarchy and the four Archangels: Gabriel, Rafael, Miguel and Uriel, and many others, for example.

Did you notice a small detail? Of the few names I mentioned, all of them are male and have great creative or destructive power.

There we find (or hide) an important aspect… Jewish literature is very detailed and today we are still very well inserted in this universe – at least in the western world.

The texts and references related to these names are vast. We have a lot of details!

And in all of these details, we don’t find any woman who has great supernatural powers.

There is no reference to a woman capable of “challenging” an angel or even God.

But we know she exists. And her history remains alive after so many years, even though it has been removed from all records.

Why does it happen?

Because she has that power. Lilith is the only woman, within this context, who can challenge the creator himself.

Her power is so great and frightening for those who believe in the creator that there is a tradition in Israel to protect newborns with an amulet so that she does not catch them while sleeping.

Amulet for protection against Lilith found in Israel containing the initials SSS
Amulet for protection against Lilith found in Israel containing the initials SSS

So a question remains: Was Lilith’s “non-presence” in the most recent “sacred” texts intentional or accidental?

Demystifying Lilith

In addition to her dark nature, Lilith also “faces” another problem.

It is usually mistaken for another deity and has some “forced” origins in different places.

Although we have some references to a demon in the Epic of Gilgamesh, written on the clay tablets in Mesopotamia, who is called Lili, the connection between Lili and this Lilith we are talking about is very thin.

This topic has already been much debated by historians and the conclusion they reached is that it was a translation error to call Lili, who is a demon that takes care of the tree root planted by Inanna, Lilith, the first woman in the Jewish work.

And there’s more. This image here, called the Queen of the Night, which many attribute to Lilith, does not represent Lilith.

"I am NOT LIlith" says Inanna or Ereshkigal
She’s not me! She doesn’t have my name!

The initial idea that this image represented her was because of that translation of the texts of the clay tablets. To this day, there is a discussion about who exactly is represented here, and that discussion is between Inanna/Ishtar or her sister, Ereshkigal.

She’s not Lilith!

In fact, there is an excellent text about what remained of ancient Babylon, some interpretations and discussions about the Queen of the Night, which you can read here.

Therefore, let’s put aside this reference in Mesopotamian, Babylonian and Sumerian mythology and focus on this Lilith: the first woman, the Goddess, the Demon.

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Lilith – The first wife of Adam

So Lilith is the first woman.

God, the creator, first created Adam and then created Lilith.

Both were created in a similar way thus they should have the same treatment.

It is said that Adam proposed sex to Lilith and that she accepted it in a good way. However, during the sexual act, Adam wanted to stay on top and she refused to stay on the bottom.

The symbolism implied in this story is that Adam felt superior and dominant and she did not feel inferior and did not want to be dominated.

Well, Lilith complained and said she was made of the same material as Adam, so they were equal. Adam was upset and did not accept her posture. Enraged, she began to complain.

In her complaint, she used the name of God. Adam was in a state of shock, expelling Lilith.

Lilith painted by John Collier 1886 (censored)
Lilith painted by John Collier 1886 (censored)

However, there is another version that says that Lilith tricked God into learning his secret name and, as soon as she did, she obtained the gift of magic, creating long wings and flying to a desert in the west.

This version resembles the feats of Isis in deceiving Ra and Oshum in deceiving Esu.

Adam asked God to bring Lilith back. He also wanted her to redeem herself so that everything would be fine.

God then sent 3 angels to look for her: SSS (which are Senoy, Sansenoy and Semangelof).

The three found her in the Red Sea, where she had already have several children, all “demonic”.

They asked her to return to “paradise” under threat of being expelled from it and having 100 of her children killed per day.

Lilith did not care about the threats and ended up being expelled from paradise. Thus, she saw her children being chased and killed.

This is where Eve is created, to fulfill the role of submission and suffering.

As quoted in this beautiful passage from Genesis in which God, the creator, addresses the woman:

To women, He said:

“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
in pain, you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be contrary to your husband,
but he shall rule over you.”

Genesis 3:16

The revenge of Lilith

Lilith is then taken by the feelings of hatred and of revenge.

From then on, she begins a tireless journey to kill newborns and women who have children without being married (very male chauvinist thinking, but that imposed fear).

From that moment on, she literally represents fear itself.

Lilith becomes synonymous with hatred, anger and revenge.

But, let’s face it: if someone threatened to kill your children just because you wanted to be free… how would you react?

It is interesting that her story shows that she had thousands of children, but does not speak of her spreading terror “for free”. She only started “terrorizing” from the moment when she is “officially” expelled from “paradise” and her children begin to die.

Lilith and Eve painting by Yuri Klapouh (censored)
Lilith and Eve painting by Yuri Klapouh (censored)

The symbols of Lilith

Everything that is nocturnal is related to Lilith:

  • The owl that flies in the darkness and kills its prey;
  • The snake that creeps and kills its prey;
  • The night itself and all the fears and doubts that surround it.

But, just change the perspective, and all these same symbols bring other meanings such as:

  • The owl is extremely independent and observant. It knows exactly when to attack in order to make a single accurate attack to be able to feed itself;
  • The same goes for the snake that analyzes the situation and perceives everything around itself, without needing to see well for it. When it attacks, it is usually a single attack;
  • And the doubts, the fears… the shadow that we all have inside ourselves. Lilith symbolizes just that.

When we tame “our Lilith”, we break free, just as she broke free of what was not made for her.

If we change the narrative and say that she was a prisoner of an enslaving system, and she alone found a way out and ran away, everything gets a new meaning.

Right after breaking free, she receives an order to return under the penalty of having her children killed. Even so, she refuses and maintains her firm position.

That’s what we talk about when we connect with Lilith.

The courage to face what imprisons us. The boldness to free ourselves from everything that does not serve us. The certainty that we have the strength within ourselves to do what we want.

Understanding and accepting Lilith as she is – and not as others want her to be – shows that she is one of the strongest and boldest Goddesses of whom we are aware.

God's Curse Painting by James Tissot
God’s Curse Painting by James Tissot

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