Who is Lilith?
Lilith is known to be the first woman to ever be created according to many rabbinic texts (the source of much Jewish mythology). There are several different perspectives of who Lilith is and why she was so dangerous, but all of them involve her hatred towards Adam, Eve, and their descendants.
Depending on the source, Lilith is usually portrayed as being a dangerous seductress or a killer of infants. At times, she is also said to be an evil demoness or a practitioner of witchcraft who was known to cast vile spells onto men and women who worshiped Jehovah.
Lilith wasn’t originally created to be such a vile being, however. In fact, legend tells us that she was originally made to be Adam’s mate and helper.
Lilith is Created
Legend tells us that on the Sixth Day, man and woman were created. While many religions that descended from Judaism recognize this woman to be Eve in modern day, there are several sources in rabbinic texts that suggest the first woman created for Adam was actually Lilith.
When Jehovah sent all the animals he had created before Adam in their male and female pairs so that Adam could name them, the first man quickly became jealous of the love that each animal pairing had. He is said to have attempted to mate with every type of female animal but was unable to find a good partner because none of the female creatures had been made specifically for him. Adam was devastated and complained to Jehovah that every living creature except for himself had a ‘proper mate.’ He implored Jehovah to see his suffering and create a suitable partner for him.
Jehovah saw that Adam was troubled and decided to answer his prayer by creating woman in the same manner that he had created man. Instead of using pure dust (like what was used with Adam) however, this woman was made from filth and sediment. Lilith’s terrible attributes and unpleasant disposition is sometimes blamed on this fact. Still, despite being made from impure dust, Lilith was the most beautiful woman to have ever been created. She was known to have been perfect in every manner of appearance.
Lilith and Adam Quarrel
Adam was immediately captivated by the beauty of his partner and was thankful to Jehovah for bringing her into existence. This sense of contentment didn’t last long however – almost as soon as Lilith emerged into the world, she began quarreling with Adam.
It appears that the biggest conflict that surrounded Adam and Lilith’s relationship was the matter of sexual intimacy. Lilith was offended by Adam’s insistence that she lay beneath him to copulate and had no problem informing Adam of her issue. Lilith quickly began to argue with Adam about the issue and would not relent. She insisted that because she was also made from dust, she was his equal and should not be made to lie in a lesser position than him.
Adam was displeased with Lilith’s stance. As the man – and therefore leader – of their union, Adam felt that Lilith should respect his instructions. Furthermore, it was quite evident that Adam was not about to lay below Lilith. In frustration, Adam attempted to make Lilith obey him by using force. This turned out to be a terrible mistake.
Lilith Runs Away
As soon as Adam attempts to use force to make Lilith copulate beneath him, the enraged Lilith utters the unspeakable (the magical name of Jehovah) and flies away into the skies. Adam, both enraged and saddened, turned once again to Jehovah and complained that his helpmate had forsaken him. Jehovah felt badly for Adam and sent three of his angels named Senoy, Sansenoy, and Semangel to find Lilith and bring her back to Adam.
Senoy, Sansenoy, and Semangel flew off in search of Lilith and were shocked by what they found. After searching the world for Lilith, she was eventually discovered to be in the Red Sea – an area that was filled with hundreds of demons. To make matters worse, Lilith was copulating with demons and giving birth to hundreds of new demons on a daily basis. These demon offspring came to be known as ‘lilim’ after their mother.
The Angels Bargain with Lilith
Disgusted, Senoy, Sansenoy, and Semangel demanded that Lilith return to Adam as his helpmate. If she refused to obey, she was told that she would be drowned in the seas. Unfortunately, Lilith was not about to return and told them that she had no desire to return to Adam in a lesser position when she saw herself to be his equal. The angels warned her that her disobedience would result in death if she did not obey them and return.
Still, Lilith continued to argue with the angels. She turned to them and asked them how they expected her to return to Adam like, ‘an honest housewife’ when she had stayed by the Red Sea and given birth to so many demon children. The angels refused to take this into consideration, however, and insisted that her disobedience would result in death by drowning.
Lilith was clever, however, and asked the angels how they could threaten her with death when Jehovah himself had entrusted her with the care of all newborn children. She reminded them that she held power over newborn boys until their eight day of life and power over girls until their twentieth day of life. The angels were horrified by this realization and began pleading with Lilith to return to Adam in the Garden of Eden. It soon became clear, however, that no amount of pleading or reasoning would convince Lilith to return to her role as Adam’s partner.
To appease the angels, Lilith promised that she would not harm any infant that wore an angelic amulet with their names inscribed on it. The same was promised to newborns who wore amulets with their likeness etched into its surface. This appeased the angels and they agreed to let Lilith stay in her newfound filth.
Jehovah Punishes Lilith
Frustrated, Jehovah tried one last time to convince Lilith to return to Adam. He told her that if she refused to return to Adam, she would be forced to watch 100 of her children die each day. This made Lilith bitter, but she agreed to the fate and allowed 100 of her demon offspring to die with the rising and setting of every sun.
It is thought that the bitterness that was created in Lilith from this punishment is why she targets newborn infants. Because she is forced to watch her own children die each day, she wishes to force the same sort of pain upon the descendants of Adam and Eve. It is said that Lilith and a consort named Naamah go to infants in the night and strangle them to death if they are not protected by an angelic amulet.
Strangely, Lilith’s rage towards children is not limited to humans alone. It is suggested that if Lilith is unable to find an infant to kill (because they are protected by amulets) she was not above turning against her own children in a fit of rage.
It is Necessary for Jehovah to Make a New Partner for Adam
When Jehovah realized that it was necessary to make another partner for Adam because he could not convince Lilith to return, he began to fashion another partner for Adam and allowed the first man to watch her creation. Jehovah used bones, muscles, tissues, blood, and organs to create Adam’s new helpmate. This time, Jehovah also ensured that the woman was made from pure dust.
When he had finished, the new woman was called ‘the First Eve’ and was presented to Adam. Even though the First Eve was incredibly beautiful, Adam could not bear to look at her because of his disgust and nausea from watching her be put together. Jehovah realized that he should not have allowed Adam to watch his creation process and took the First Eve away. No one knows what happened to her.
The Third Time’s a Charm
Realizing the mistake that he had made, Jehovah waited until Adam had fallen asleep and took one of Adam’s ribs. He used this rib to fashion the new woman – creating her both in his and Adam’s image. When he had finished creating the new woman, he braided her hair and dressed her as a bride with 24 pieces of jewelry. When he had finished, he brought this new woman (also named Eve) to Adam. The first man was immediately taken with Eve’s beauty and made a union with her.
Their happiness did not last long, however. Soon, the evil serpent entered the Garden of Eden and tempted Adam and Eve into eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Although many in modern day identify this serpent as Satan or Lucifer, there are some ancient texts that claim Lilith was responsible for tempting the two and having them cast out of Jehovah’s favor. This raises questions as to whether Lilith is an alternative identity for Satan.
Furthermore, because Lilith had left the Garden of Eden long before Adam and Eve’s fall, it is known that Lilith is not subjected to death. This factor likely plays into her being perceived as either a demoness or dark goddess by cultures throughout the world.
Other Implications of Lilith’s Creation Story
There are rabbinic texts that suggest that Lilith was not the only woman made from dust as Adam was. It is suggested that Jehovah tried once again to make a woman from dust as he had with Adam, and that her name was Naamah. From Adam’s union with Lilith and Naamah, it is suggested that all demons were created. Some of the more terrible demons listed are Tubal and Asmodeus. It is known that countless of Lilith and Naamah’s demon offspring seek to inflict pain and suffering on the descendants of Adam and Eve to this day because of their mothers’ hatred towards the couple. The texts that record this part of the story suggest that Naamah is not as powerful as Lilith but is always present with the first woman and partakes in the same evil acts.
Alternate Explanations for Lilith’s Creation
There are also those who say that Lilith’s creation came about in a different manner. These texts claim that while Jehovah had considered making a male and female human, he changed his mind and created one human with a male face on the front portion of the body and a female face on the back portion of the body. After watching this creature struggle to communicate and find happiness, Jehovah changed his mind and separated the two. Adam was kept in the original body facing forward and Lilith was fashioned out of the female face that had looked backwards.
When they were separated, Lilith began quarreling with Adam. She complained that she should not be forced to lie below him to copulate because they had been created from the same body. In her opinion, this made her his equal. The rest of the story falls in line with the existing mythology of who Lilith is and how she came into being.
The Many Attacks Attributed to Lilith
Because of Lilith’s connection to the fall of man and her general dislike and disrespect towards Adam, Lilith has come to be associated with a number of misfortunes and sufferings that are directed towards humans.
The Killing of Infants
Because Lilith refused to give children to Adam by copulating with him in a lower position, Jehovah is said to have punished her by making her watch as 100 of her demon spawns were killed each day. Lilith did not take this punishment lightly and was said to have retaliated by trying to kill any infant that descended from Adam and Eve.
According to legend, there was only one thing that could be done to prevent Lilith from taking her revenge. It is known that when she bargained with the angels so that she would not have to return to Adam, she promised to release her power over a child if they were protected by an amulet that bore the names of the angels that attempted to retrieve her. These angels were named Senoy, Sansenoy, and Semangel. Because of this promise, many newborns were given special amulets to wear that bore these angel’s names. The image of these angels was also used on the amulets because it also prevented Lilith from claiming an infant’s life.
Another practice to protect newborns (especially male newborns) was to draw a ring on the wall of the room the child was born inside using charcoal. Inside the ring, the words, ‘Adam and Eve. Out, Lilith!’ were written. Below these words were the names of the guardian angels; Senoy, Sansenoy, and Semangel. In rare cases, it was thought that Lilith was able to sneak into these rooms despite the warnings (perhaps on an obscure technicality) and would approach the children she wished to kill. It was thought that when she fondled the child, the infant would laugh in their sleep. Parents kept a watchful eye over their children to make sure this didn’t happen. If it did, they would strike a sleeping child’s lips with one finger – a technique that was thought to make Lilith disappear.
These precautions were only necessary until the male children reached their eighth day of life and were circumcised, or until female children reached their twentieth day of life.
The Seduction of Men
Lilith was not only dangerous because of her wrath towards children, but also for the threat she posed towards men. It has been suggested that Lilith was also known to try to attack grown men in their sleep because of her deep hatred and resentment towards Adam.
These myths portray Lilith (and sometimes Naamah) as going into the night to search for male victims. It was thought that they would only attack men who slept alone, making single men and solo travelers a primary target. According to legend, Lilith would go to the beds of men who slept alone and cause them to sin in their dreams by touching them and causing them to think terrible things.
It appears that forcing men to be led astray by sexual dreams, however, was the least of the threats posed by Lilith and Naamah towards grown men. It was thought that Lilith and Naamah also had a tendency to suck the blood of the men they preyed on and were sometimes known to even eat the flesh of their victims. It is thought that this part of the Lilith legend went on to inspire the Lamiae, who were known for the same type of cannibalization. The Lamiae went on to help inspire early vampire and werewolf legends, which indirectly makes Lilith the mother of all vampires.
Rabbinic texts did not take this part of Lilith’s legend lightly. They strongly urged men to be on guard against such attacks and advised them to avoid sleeping alone to protect themselves.
The Infertility of Women
While it seems that Lilith was not above taking the life of a newborn to cause grief and suffering among the descendants of Adam and Eve, she didn’t stop there. It was thought that Lilith was also responsible for the suffering of women who were not able to conceive.
Though Lilith was not impaired from having children in any manner, it is thought that she sought to cause pain and suffering in all aspects of conception, childbirth, and childhood. The idea of Lilith causing infertility developed over time – perhaps because of her inability to target infants who were protected by angelic amulets. It makes sense then, that Lilith would seek to get around the confines of her promise by preventing certain women from becoming pregnant at all.
Was Lilith Adams First Wife, or a Result of Confused History?
In early years, the passages of rabbinic texts and biblical passages made it clear that the creation of man identified two separate creations of woman. Additionally, it can be determined that the two were not considered to be the same woman because different processes were used to create them; one woman was created at the same time as Adam, while the second (Eve) was created from one of Adam’s ribs.
It is thought that the early scholars struggled to identify the first wife of Adam and settled on a demon named Lilith to complete the story. If this is, indeed, the processed that was used to identify Lilith, it could mean that she was not Adam’s actual first wife – though she was certainly a fearful demoness. It is important to note that all other knowledge of Lilith aside from this remains the same.
A Crude Misinterpretation
Interestingly enough, although many stories from the rabbinic texts and biblical passages have their origin in Middle Eastern mythology, the Judo-Christian story of the creation of man has no parallels. There is, however, a scene that has disturbingly similar imagery. An ancient painting of the earlier cultures showed the goddess Anath naked in the air, watching her lover Mot murder his twin brother Aliyan. It is thought that biblical and rabbinic mythographers mistook Mot for Yahweh and Aliyan for Adam. Thus, Yahweh removing Adam’s rib was actually Mot stabbing Aliyan with a curved dagger under his fifth rib – not removing a sixth rib.
If this is the case, it would mean that the story of Eve was formed with dishonest information and that Eve was also given the same respect and love as Adam (though she still would have followed his leadership).
The Over Exaggeration of Real Events
It is also possible that the story of Adam and Lilith could have come from the actual events that occurred in Canaanite history. It was recorded that a Queen named Lilith allowed a group of nomad herdsmen into her court as guests. All was fine until the herdsmen suddenly seized power in the realm, causing Queen Lilith to flee. The lost queen was soon replaced with a new queendom. This queen pledged allegiance to the Hittite goddess who was known as Heba.
In fact, it is thought that the name Eve, which means ‘mother of all living’ was a Hebraicized form of the divine name Heba. Furthermore, Heba was known to be the wife of the Hittite storm god (often the portrayal that Jehovah, Yahweh, and Allah are associated with in various cultures) and was known to be equated with Anath. As stated above, an image that featured Anath and her lover Mot was thought to serve as the inspiration for the rabbinic creation story.
The combination of all these strange parallels cause many to question whether Lilith was actually Adam’s first wife. Regardless of her association with Adam, however, Lilith was greatly feared and respected among many early cultures.