Lilith: What You Don’t Know About the First Feminist

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Her house sinks down to death,

And her course leads to the shades.

All who go to her cannot return

And find again the paths of life.

— Proverbs 2:18–19

The origins of the female demon we have come to know as Lilith come from Sumeria and Babylon. A dark goddess or demoness, Lilith is oft portrayed as sexually promiscuous, unwilling to submit to men, and an eater of babes. While much is written about this empress of the dark, she is still quite an enigma even after her beginnings over some 4,000 years ago in a Sumerian poem entitled Gilgamesh, Enkidu, and the Netherworld. Pretty impressive, I daresay.

Though many religious texts mention female demons or a mother of demons, Lilith has prevailed and reigned as the standard by which all other succubi are compared. The original succubus, Lilith is said to fly by night, roaming the earth in search of male victims to terrorize and sexually vampirize. With the rise of Christianity, this lore expanded to include her role as Adam’s first wife.

In the Christian lore, Lilith is seen as rebellious and prideful, unwilling to be subservient to Adam. She runs off with an archangel named Samael, who is fabled to be the leader of the 200 Watchers that rebelled against God in the beginning. Samael later became associated with Satan. When Lilith refused to return to the Garden of Eden, she was cast off with the fallen angels and became the first female demon.

Early Rabbinic teachings often presented Lilith as the source of many sexual sins and the curses of womanhood which are squatting to relieve oneself “like a beast”, having long hair, and “serving as a bolster for one’s husband.” It goes on to state that nocturnal emissions are how demons are born (because you succumbed to Lilith in the night).

(I must tell you that I find myself siding with Lilith, so far.)

One of these early stories goes on to say that the reason she was guilty of disobedience was because she refused to have sex with Adam because she did not want to be beneath him (literally or figuratively). Ah, now we get down to it.

The Alphabet of Ben-Sira is considered to be the earliest manuscript which portrays Lilith as Adam’s first wife. In it, it is said that she fought with Adam because she demanded to be equal to him. Eventually, God replaced her with Eve. Unfortunately, Eve did not live up to Adam’s expectations either and is ridiculed as being “swell-headed and prone to jealousy”.

In other passages, though, Adam is criticized as being weak and ineffective in his dealings with Lilith and it even goes so far as to imply that even God would not deal with her and sent his angels to negotiate a deal.

For all the teachings, of both mystical and holy texts, it seems that Lilith was a strong-willed woman who knew what she wanted, and it wasn’t Adam. She refused to remain in the Garden of Eden and left willingly so that she would not have to live as a subordinate to man.

Go Lilith.

1 comments on “Lilith: What You Don’t Know About the First Feminist”

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