Lilith is a female Demon of the night and Succubus who flies about searching for newborn children to kidnap or strangle and sleeping men to seduce in order to produce Demon children. Lilith is a major figure in Jewish Demonology, appearing as early as 700 B.C.E. in the book of Isaiah; she or beings similar to her also are found in myths from other cultures around the world. She is the dark aspect of the Mother Goddess. She is the original “scarlet woman” and sometimes described as a screech owl, blind by day, who sucks the breasts or navels of young children or the dugs of goats.
In addition to Jewish folklore, Lilith appears in various forms in Iranian, Babylonian, Sumerian, Canaanite, Persian, Arabic, Teutonic, Mexican, Greek, English, Asian, and Native American legends. She is sometimes associated with other characters in legend and myth, including the queen of Sheba and Helen of Troy. In medieval Europe, she was often portrayed as the wife, concubine, or grandmother of Satan.
Lilith appears in different guises in various texts. She is best known as the first wife of Adam, created by God as twins joined in the back. Lilith demanded equality with Adam and, failing to get it, left him in anger. Adam complained to God that his wife had deserted him. God sent three angels, Sanvi, Sansanvi, and Semangelaf, to take Lilith back to Eden. The angels found her in the Red Sea and threatened her with the loss of 100 of her Demon children every day unless she returned to Adam. She refused and was punished. Lilith took revenge by launching a reign of terror against women in childbirth, newborn infants—particularly males—and men who slept alone. She was forced, however, to swear to the three angels that whenever she saw their names or images on an amulet, she would leave infants and mothers alone.
After the Fall, Adam spent 130 years separated from Eve, during which Lilith went to him and satisfied him during sleep. They had a son, who became a frog. The earliest account of Lilith appears in a midrash, Alpha Bet Ben Sira, which attempts to resolve the discrepancies in the Torah about the creation of Lilith in Genesis, followed by the creation of Eve just a few passages later. In the midrash, God created Lilith in the same way as he did Adam, but he used filth and impure sediment instead of dust from the earth.
Adam and Lilith were at odds with each other from the beginning, and she refused to lie beneath him during intercourse. When she saw that Adam would gain power over her, she uttered the ineffable name of God and flew off to a cave in the desert near the Red Sea. There, as queen of Zemargad or queen of the desert, she engaged in promiscuity, including with Demons, and gave birth to 100 Demonic offspring called lilim every day. The daughters all practice Sorcery, seduction, and strangling.
She became the bride of Samael, the Devil (in some accounts called Ashmodai, or Asmodeus), in a union arranged by the Blind Dragon, an entity who has been castrated so that his offspring will not overcome the world. The lilim are hairy beings, having hair everywhere on their faces and bodies except their heads. In a text preceding the Zohar, Lilith and Samael are born joined as androgynous twins from an emanation beneath the throne of glory. They are the lower aspects of another androgynous twin, Adam and Eve.
In the Zohar, Lilith arises from an evil shell or husk, a Kelippah, that is created in the waning of the Moon. In the beginning, the Sun and Moon were equal, and this created a rivalry. To end it, God diminished the Moon and made it rule the night. Lilith’s powers are at their peak when the Moon is dark. She is the seducer of men and the strangler of children; the latter role is sometimes attributed to Naamah.
Lilith, who has the upper body of a beautiful woman and a lower body of fire, carries the fiery resentment of the Moon. Lilith lurks under doorways, in wells, and in latrines, waiting to seduce men. She is adorned with the “ornaments for seduction”:
Her hair is long and red like the rose, her cheeks are white and red, from her ears hang six ornaments, Egyptian cords and all the ornaments of the Land of the East hang from her nape. Her mouth is set like a narrow door comely in its decor, her tongue is sharp like a sword, her words are smooth like oil, her lips are red like a rose and sweetened by all the sweetness in the world. She is dressed in scarlet and adorned with forty ornaments less one.
Men who sleep alone are especially vulnerable to Lilith.
The Zohar also describes Lilith as a female aspect of Leviathan, who has a Serpent body. She is Leviathan, the Tortuous Serpent, the counterpart to the male aspect, Leviathon, the Slant Serpent. Lilith is the serpent who tempts Eve with the apple of forbidden knowledge in paradise and thus instigates the Fall. She also persuades Eve to seduce Adam while she is menstruating and impure.
The numerical value of Lilith’s name equals the Hebrew word for “screech.” Thus, Lilith is the “Demon of screeching” and “the princess of screeching” and is personified as a screech owl. In legend, on the Day of Atonement, Lilith spends the day in a screeching battle with Mahalath, a concubine to Samael. They taunt each other so much that the very earth trembles. Also on the Day of Atonement, Lilith goes forth into the desert with 420 Legions of her Demons, and they march about while she screeches. Lilith is also known as Lady of the Beasts, who rules the wilderness and all beasts, the animal side of human nature.
In her guise as the queen of Sheba, she attempted to seduce King Solomon. He discovered her true nature by having the Djinn build a throne room with a floor of glass. Lilith mistook it for water and raised her garments in order to cross it to his throne. Her hairy, bestial legs were revealed in the reflection of the glass. Amulets and Incantation Bowls traditionally protected new mothers and infants against Lilith. Common amulets were knives and hands inscribed with Charms; some had bells attached. Frogs also protect against her.
Male infants were vulnerable for the first week of life, girls for the first three weeks. Sometimes a magic circle was drawn around the lying-in bed, with a charm inscribed with the names of the three angels, Adam and Eve, and the words barring Lilith or protect this newborn child from all harm. Sometimes amulets with such inscriptions were placed in all corners of and throughout the bedchamber. If a child laughed in its sleep, it was a sign that Lilith was present. Tapping the child on the nose made the Demon go away.
According to lore, men who had nocturnal emissions believed they had been seduced by Lilith during the night and had to say incantations to prevent the offspring from becoming Demons. Any seed spilled during sex, even marital sex, is at risk for becoming lilim.
- Koltuv, Barbara Black. The Book of Lilith. Berwick, Me.: Nicolas-Hays, 1986.
- Scholem, Gershom. Kabbalah. New York: New American Library, 1974.
Thesis : Lilith – Eros and Evil
Screech Owl; Beautiful Maiden; Dark Maid; Flame of the Revolving Sword; Maid of Desolation; Night Demon; Hand of Inanna; The Night Witch; The Howler
No spirit possesses a more fabulous history than Lilith, among the most primordial of spirits and the most modern. Few, if any, are more powerful. Her earliest appearance in recorded history is in Sumeria where she is somehow associated with Inanna. Although identified as a wind spirit, Lilith has profound associations with trees. She is a wild, free spirit who cannot be chained or contained. In the Sumerian myth of the Huluppu Tree, Inanna makes the transition to an urban, settled agricultural environment. When she instigates the chopping down of the sacred tree Lilith calls home, Lilith flees, remaining a spirit of the wilderness.
The Kabbalists identified Lilith as the spouse of Samael, chief of the evil angels. On the other hand, Lilith also reputedly sits at YHWH’s side in Heaven, his consort following the exile of the Shekhina and thus the most powerful intercessor of all, literally able to whisper in God’s ear.
Jewish legend identifies Lilith as Adam’s first wife, the true first female, created not from Adam’s rib but from Earth simultaneously with him. Adam and Lilith’s relationship quickly became contentious. She refused to take directionfrom him, specifically refusing to lie beneath him during sex. Lilith demanded to be treated as an equal rather than a subordinate, basing her claim on their common origin. When Adam attempted to force her, Lilith uttered the secret, ineffable name of the Creator and flew away, initiating the first divorce.
Lilith makes appearances in Sumerian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Canaanite, Hebrew, Mandaean, Persian, Sabaean and Arabic myth and folklore. She may linger in Christianity under the guise of some Black Madonnas. She is an omnipresent figure in Jewish myth and folklore. A book of Jewish fairy tales without Lilith is about as likely as a book of Mexican folklore without La Llorona.
Lilith demands acknowledgement. Her name appears only once in the Jewish Bible (Isaiah 34:14) and even that reference is ambiguous since it may also be literally interpreted as “screech owl.” Lilith is the suppressed goddess who refuses to disappear. If she’s not venerated, then she will be feared.
Spirit of darkness and night, Lilith is both angel and Demoness of conception. Blamed for miscarriage; stillbirth, crib death and infertility, Lilith the baby killer also bestows fertility when and if she chooses. She has dominion over sexual desire, erotic dreams and sacred sex magic. Emphasizing the ambiguity of her personality, Lilith herself has revealed the tools that will guard against her:
• Rue and iron ward her off
• Lilith has vowed not to cause harm wherever she sees her name(s) posted.
• The simplest amulet to prevent Lilith from causing harm involves casting a charcoal circle on the wall. Within the circle write “Adam and Eve, Out Lilith!”
• The Seal of Solomon (hexagram; Jewish star) protects against Lilith and diseases or harm that she causes. For maximum effectiveness, it should be made of iron or fine silver
Lilith once encountered the Prophet Elijah who immediately recognized her and demanded new improved protective measures. Lilith revealed her other names to him and vowed not to cause harm anywhere she saw or even heard those names. Unfortunately the names were not immediately graven in stone: allegedly thirteen or seventeen names were given to Elijah but more variations exist today. For safety’s sake, these are the possible names:
• Odam or Odem
• Prtsa, Partsha; Partashah or Partasah
• Prta, Patrota, Petrota
Lilith despises sanctimonious people and punishes the prudish. She enjoys ensnaring hypocrites but is a protective guardian spirit towards those she perceives as her children, especially her daughters. (See Lilith, Daughters of.) Lilith has dominion over all aspects of sex, fertility andchildbirth. She is immensely powerful; potentially vicious and will fearlessly eliminate any evil threatening those whom she guards.
Lilith resists attempts to classify or pigeon hole her. She breaks boundaries like the chains she abhors. Her name is synonymous with “witch.” She is frequently depicted as a vampire or succubus. She is a Queen of Demons and an Angel of Prostitution. Lilith leads 480 hosts of destroying angels and dangerous spirits. (The number is derived from numerology based on the numerical value of the letters in her name.) Yet 13th century Spanish Kabbalists described Lilith as a ladder on which one can ascend to the rungs of prophesy.
Also known as:
Lilitu (Sumeria); Lilis (Yiddish)
Lilith possesses many forms, appearing as an old crone or beautiful young woman. She may appear as a woman from head to waist; flame underneath. Lilith dresses in crimson. She wears forty ornaments less one. Her hair may be black or red but it will be distinctive, either because it is beautiful or because it is disheveled or both. Amid cultures where women’s hair is traditionally bound and/or covered, Lilith’s is loose and long. She manifests in animal form too, typically as a large black cat, black dog or owl. Even when in human form, Lilith may display bird’s feet, claws or wings.
A seventh century BCE tablet from what is now Northern Syria depicting Lilith as a winged sphinx is accompanied by an incantation in a Phoenician-Canaanite dialect intended to assist birthing women: Oh, Flyer in a dark chamber, Go away now, oh Lili!
The Sumerian Burney Plaque, (circa 2300 BCE) is generally identified as Lilith. It depicts her as a winged naked bird woman holding the ring and rod of power and flanked by owls. Her taloned feet stand atop reclining lions.
A flaming sword; Lilith’s myth contains mysterious references to hands:
• In Sumeria, Lilith is the Hand of Inanna.
• In the Kabbalah, Lilith is known as the Handmaid.
Decorate her altar with images of hands, especially the hand-shaped amulet called hamsa.
The moon is Lilith’s lantern; her power increases with the waning moon. Lilith is also the name given to three distinct space phenomena: Earth’s hypothetical second moon (Dark Moon Lilith); the apogee of the moon’s orbit (the furthest point from Earth) and an asteroid
Algol, known in traditional Jewish astrology as “Lilith’s Star”.
Lilith has associations with air, water, earth and fire. Hebrew myth has her created from earth. In Sumeria, she began her incarnation as a wind spirit. She manifests as fire. The Zohar, holy book of the Kabbalists, explains that Lilith is nourished by water while the south wind spreads her influence. Lilith is as frequently found living in wells as she is in trees.
Lilith loves all wild animals but has a special affinity for jackals, hyenas, wild cats, black cats, black dogs, ostriches, snakes, dragons, spiders, and unicorns.
The owl is her sacred bird and messenger.
Lilith rides a dragon in which form she may also manifest.
Lilith rules solstices and equinoxes and is associated with the zodiac sign Scorpio.
Lilith is happiest in desolate wilderness, far removed from civilization. She loves forests, crossroads, seacoasts and especially the desert. When Lilith fled from Adam, she went to dwell in a cave in the desert on the shores of the Red Sea, reputedly still her favorite place. When she approaches people, she makes homes for herself in trees and wells. Provide them for her to keep her close.
It is difficult to imagine a spirit with more media presence than Lilith. Her appearances are too innumerable to list: Lilith herself or characters named in her honor appear on stage, screen and television. She appears in poems and novels as disparate as Goethe’s Faust or Marie Corellis The Soul of Lilith. Lilith is a constant presence in comic books, most famously as Marvel Comics’ Lilith, Daughter of Dracula, which emphasizes her vampiric reputation. Lilith is also Vampirella’s mother. The television series Supernatural features a vicious killer Demon named Lilith. The subject of many paintings, she was a great favorite of Pre-Raphaelites like John Collier and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Lilith Magazine, the feminist Jewish magazine, was founded in 1980.
Frankincense; plates of jam; tea; doll babies and images of the animals she loves; trees; create a wilderness for her. Offerings may be placed on an altar or outside.
- Agrat bat Mahalat
- Ardat Lili
Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses– Written by Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.