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Lilith is a female Mesopotamian night demon believed to harm male children. In Isaiah 34:14, Lilith (Standard Hebrew Lilit) is a kind of night-demon or animal, translated as onokentauros; in the Septuagint, as lamia; "witch" by Hieronymus of Cardia; and as screech owl in the King James Version of the Bible. In the Talmud and Midrash, Lilith appears as a night demon. She is often identified as the first wife of Adam and sometimes thought to be the mother of all incubi and succubi, a legend that arose in the Middle Ages. Lilith is also sometimes considered to be the paramour of Satan.
Hebrew lilith, Akkadian, lilitu are female Nisba, adjectives from the Proto-Semitic root LYL "night", literally translating to nocturna "female night being/demon". Sayce (Hibbert Lectures, 145ff.), Fossey (La Magie Assyrienne, 37ff.) and others reject an etymology based on the root LYL and suggest the origin of Lilit was as a storm demon; this view is supported by the cuneiform inscriptions quoted by these scholars. The association with "night" may still be due to early popular etymology. The corresponding Akkadian masculine lilu shows no Nisba suffix and compares to Sumerian (kiskil-)lilla. See also Light in the darkness for further insight into the root word.
Lilith has been identified with ki-sikil-lil-la-ke4, a female demon in the Sumerian prologue to the Gilgamesh epic.
a dragon had built its nest at the foot of the tree
the Zu-bird was raising its young in the crown,
and the demon Lilith had built her house in the middle.
Then the Zu-bird flew into the mountains with its young,
while Lilith, petrified with fear, tore down her house and fled into the wilderness
Wolkenstein translates the same passage:
a serpent who could not be charmed made its nest in the roots of the tree,
The Anzu bird set his young in the branches of the tree,
And the dark maid Lilith built her home in the trunk
The Burney Relief, ca. 1950 BC.
The Gilgamesh passage quoted above has in turn been applied by some to the Burney relief (Norman Colville collection), which dates to roughly 1950 BC and is a sculpture of a woman who has bird talons and is flanked by owls.
The key to this identification lies in the bird talons and the owls. While the relief may depict the demon Kisikil-lilla-ke of the Gilgamesh passage or another goddess, identification with Lilitu is more tenuous and likely influenced by the "screech owl" translation of the KJV. A very similar relief dating to roughly the same period is preserved in the Louvre.
After these reliefs, there is a gap of about a millennium, and it is only from circa the 9th century BC that vampire-like spirits called the Lilu are known from Babylonian demonology. These female demons roam during the hours of darkness, hunting and killing newborn babies and pregnant women. Akkadian Lilitu forms a triad with Ardat Lili and Idlu Lili. As stated above, they may have originated as storm demons (from the Sumerian "Lil" = Air or Wind), and the "night" association may be a Semitic popular etymology.
Earlier Sumerian myth tells the story of how Ada[a came to break the wings of the South Wind, associated with the summer sand-storms which have always afflicted Iraq, after which she vowed enmity to humankind. This wind was associated with Ninlil ("Lady Wind", from Nin = Lady, Lil = Wind) the wife to Enil (En = Lord, Lil = Wind), King of the Gods. A separate fragmentary myth describes how Enlil raped Ninlil, and as punishment he was sent to the underworld domain of Ereshkigal (Eresh = Under, Ki = Earth, Gal = Great). Ninlil, suffering the trauma of her rape, after roaming the world followed him to the underworld, vowing vengeance upon the male gender. (Ninlil. (2006). Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved February 10, 2006, from Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service)
In the transfer from Sumerian myth to Babylonian Akkadian, it is suggested that Ninlil became Lilitu (-*itu being an Akkadian feminine marker), with her two wild handmaidens Ardat Lili and Idlu Lili (mentioned above).
The "Lilith Prophylactic" of Arslan Tash (Aleppo National Museum) has been suspected a forgery, but if genuine it would be a 7th century BC plaque featuring a sphinx-like creature and a she-wolf devouring a child, with a Phoenician inscription addressing the sphinx creature as Lili.
The association with the owl is difficult to date, and may be due to the bird having been seen as a blood-sucking night spirit. Elements of the cult spread to Ancient Greece and can be traced in the Erinyes and Hekate.
Lilith in the Bible
Isaiah 34:14, describing the desolation of Edom, is the only occurance of Lilith in the Hebrew Bible:
Hebrew (ISO 259): pagšu iyyim et-iyyim w-sa ir al-re hu yiqra akšam hirgi ah lilit u-ma ah lah mano
morpho-syntactic analysis: "yelpers meet-[perfect] howlers; hairy-ones cry-[imperfect] to fellow. liyliyth reposes-[perfect], acquires-[perfect] resting-place."
KJV: "The wild beasts of the desert shall also meet with the wild beasts of the island, and the satyr shall cry to his fellow; the screech owl also shall rest there, and find for herself a place of rest."
Schrader (Jahrbuch für Protestantische Theologie, 1. 128) and Levy (ZDMG 9. 470, 484) suggest that Lilith was a goddess of the night, known also by the Jewish exiles in Babylon. Evidence for Lilith being a goddess rather than a demon is lacking. Isaiah dates to the 6th century BC, and the presence of Jews in Babylon would coincide with the attested references to the Lilitu in Babylonian demonology.
The Septuagint translates onokentauros, apparently for lack of a better word, since also the sa ir "satyrs" earlier in the verse are translated with daimon onokentauros. The "wild beasts of the island and the desert" are omitted altogether, and the "crying to his fellow" is also done by the daimon onokentauros.
Hieronymus of Cardia translated Lilith with lamia, in Horace (De Arte Poetica liber, 340) a witch who steals children, similar to the Breton Korrigan, in Greek mythology described as a Libyan queen who mated with Zeus. After Zeus abandoned Lamia, Hera stole Lamia's children, and Lamia took revenge by stealing other women's children.
The screech owl translation of the KJV is without precedent, and apparently together with the "owl" (yanšup, probably a water bird) in 34:11, and the "great owl" (qippoz, properly a snake,) of 34:15 an attempt to render the eerie atmosphere of the passage by choosing suitable animals for difficult to translate Hebrew words. It should be noted that this particular species of owl is associated with the vampiric Strix of Roman legend.
Later translations include:
A Hebrew tradition exists in which an amulet is inscribed with the names of three angels (Senoy, Sansenoy, and Semangelof) and placed around the neck of newborn boys in order to protect them from the lilin until their circumcision. This practice lends weight to the argument that Lilith had existed in earlier Hebrew mythology and is not the creation of later medieval authors. There is also a Hebrew tradition to wait three years before a boy's hair is cut so as to attempt to trick Lilith into thinking the child is a girl so that the boy's life may be spared.
Dead Sea scrolls
The appearance of Lilith in the Dead Sea Scrolls is somewhat more contentious, with one indisputable reference in the Song for a Sage (4Q510-511), and a promising additional allusion found by A. Baumgarten in The Seductress (4Q184). The first and irrefutable Lilith reference in the Song occurs in 4Q510, fragment 1:
"And I, the Instructor, proclaim His glorious splendor so as to frighten and to te[rrify] all the spirits of the destroying angels, spirits of the bastards, demons, Lilith, howlers, and [desert dwellers…] and those which fall upon men without warning to lead them astray from a spirit of understanding and to make their heart and their […] desolate during the present dominion of wickedness and predetermined time of humiliations for the sons of lig[ht], by the guilt of the ages of [those] smitten by iniquity –
not for eternal destruction, [bu]t for an era of humiliation for transgression. "
Akin to Isaiah 34:14, this liturgical text both cautions against the presence of supernatural malevolence and assumes familiarity with Lilith; distinct from the biblical text, however, this passage does not function under any socio-political agenda, but instead serves in the same capacity as An Exorcism (4Q560) and Songs to Disperse Demons (11Q11) insomuch that it comprises of incantations – comparable to the Arslan Tash relief examined above – used to “help protect the faithful against the power of these spirits.” The text is thus, to a community “deeply involved in the realm of demonology,” an exorcism hymn.
Another text discovered at Qumran, conventionally associated with Book of Proverbs, credibly also appropriates the Lilith tradition in its description of precarious, winsome woman – The Seductress (4Q184). The ancient poem – dated to the first century BCE but plausibly much older – describes a dangerous woman and consequently warns against encounters with her. Customarily, the woman depicted in this text is equated to the “strange woman” of Proverbs 2 and 5, and for good reason; the parallels are instantly recognizable:
"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)
"Her gates are gates of death, and from the entrance of the house she sets out towards Sheol. None of those who enter there will ever return, and all who possess her will descend to the Pit." (4Q184)
However, what this association does not take into account are additional descriptions of the “Seductress” from Qumran that cannot be found attributed to the “strange woman” of Proverbs; namely, her horns and her wings: “a multitude of sins is in her wings.” The woman illustrated in Proverbs is without question a prostitute, or at the very least the representation of one, and the sort of individual with whom that text’s community would have been familiar. The “Seductress” of the Qumran text, conversely, could not possibly have represented an existent social threat given the constraints of this particular ascetic community.
Instead, the Qumran text utilizes the imagery of Proverbs to explicate a much broader, supernatural threat – the threat of the demoness Lilith.
The Alphabet of Ben-Sira
Thanks to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Alphabet_of_Ben-Sira for the following article, reprinted here..
The Alphabet of Ben-Sira (Alphabetum Siracidis, Othijoth ben Sira) is an anonymous medieval text, attributed to Ben Sira (Sirach), the author of Ecclesiasticus. It is dated to anywhere between AD 700 and 1000. It is a compilation of two lists of proverbs, 22 in Aramaic and 22 in Hebrew, both arranged as alphabetic acrostics. Each proverb is followed by an Haggadic commentary. The text has been translated into Latin, Yiddish, Judeo-Spanish, French and German. A partial English translation appeared in Stern and Mirsky (1998).
The Aramaic proverbs are the far older part of the book. Five of them can be traced to Talmudic-Midrashic literature. The Hebrew commentary, illustrating the proverbs with fables, is much younger. In the reading of Ginzberg:
1. "Honor the physician before thou hast need of him" (Eccles. 38:1)
2. "If a son do not conduct himself like a son, let him float on the water."
3. "Gnaw the bone that falls to thy lot whether it be good or bad."
4. "Gold must be hammered, and the child must be beaten."
5. "Be good and refuse not thy portion of good."
6. "Woe to the wicked man and woe to his companions."
7. "Cast thy bread upon the waters and upon the land, for thou shalt find it after many days" (Eccles. 11:1)
8. "Hast thou seen a black ass? [Then] it was neither black nor white."
9. "Bestow no good upon that which is evil, and no evil will befall thee."
10. "Restrain not thy hand from doing good."
11. "The bride enters the bridal chamber and, nevertheless, knows not what will befall her."
12. "A nod to the wise is sufficient; the fool requires a blow." (Proverbs 22:15)
13. "He who honors them that despise him is like an ass."
14. "A fire, when it is kindled, burns many sheaves" (James 3:5)
15. "An old woman in the house is a good omen in the house"
16. "Even a good surety has to be applied to for a hundred morrows; a bad one for a hundred thousand."
17. "Rise quickly from the table and thou wilt avoid disputes."
18. "In thy business deal only with the upright."
19. "If the goods are near at hand, the owner consumes them; but if they are at a distance, they consume him."
20. "Do not disavow an old friend."
21. "Thou mayest have sixty counselors, but do not give up thy own opinion" (Eccles. 6:6)
22. "He that was first satisfied and then hungry will offer thee his hand; but not he that was first hungry and then satisfied." Part 2
An 18th or 19th century Persian amulet, a protective charm for a newborn boy, kept in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, depicts Lilith in chains, with "Bind Lilith in chains" written under each arm.
Lilith appears as a succubus in Aleister Crowley's De Arte Magica.
Lilith in popular culture
"[The White Witch] would like us to believe [that she's human]," said Mr. Beaver, "and it's on that that she bases her claim to be Queen. But she's no daughter of Eve. She comes of your father Adam's first wife, her they called Lilith."
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The twenty-two Hebrew proverbs are quite different in character from the Aramaic ones, and of much younger date. Half of the proverbs are borrowed from the Talmud, and they are only a pretext for the presentation of a number of legends surrounding Ben Sira. Ben Sira is presented as the son of Jeremiah. Ben Sira's fame reached Nebuchadnezzar, who called him to his court. Nebuchadnezzar sets forth various ordeals for Ben Sira, who responds with twenty-two stories. Some of the fables of the collection are indebted to Christian legend, and to the Indian Panchatantra.
The text is best known because of its reference to Lilith, and it is the fifth of Ben Sira's responses to King Nebuchadnezzar. It is reproduced here in its entirety:
Soon afterward the young son of the king took ill. Said Nebuchadnezzar, "Heal my son. If you don't, I will kill you." Ben Sira immediately sat down and wrote an amulet with the Holy Name, and he inscribed on it the angels in charge of medicine by their names, forms, and images, and by their wings, hands, and feet. Nebuchadnezzar looked at the amulet. "Who are these?"
"The angels who are in charge of medicine: Snvi, Snsvi, and Smnglof (In english: Senoy, Sansenoy and Semangelof). After God created Adam, who was alone, He said, 'It is not good for man to be alone' (Genesis 2:18). He then created a woman for Adam, from the earth, as He had created Adam himself, and called her Lilith. Adam and Lilith immediately began to fight. She said, 'I will not lie below,' and he said, 'I will not lie beneath you, but only on top. For you are fit only to be in the bottom position, while I am to be the superior one.' Lilith responded, 'We are equal to each other inasmuch as we were both created from the earth.' But they would not listen to one another. When Lilith saw this, she pronounced the Ineffable Name and flew away into the air. Adam stood in prayer before his Creator: 'Sovereign of the universe!' he said, 'the woman you gave me has run away.' At once, the Holy One, blessed be He, sent these three angels to bring her back.
"Said the Holy One to Adam, 'If she agrees to come back, fine. If not, she must permit one hundred of her children to die every day.' The angels left God and pursued Lilith, whom they overtook in the midst of the sea, in the mighty waters wherein the Egyptians were destined to drown. They told her God's word, but she did not wish to return. The angels said, 'We shall drown you in the sea.'
"'Leave me!' she said. 'I was created only to cause sickness to infants. If the infant is male, I have dominion over him for eight days after his birth, and if female, for twenty days.'
"When the angels heard Lilith's words, they insisted she go back. But she swore to them by the name of the living and eternal God: 'Whenever I see you or your names or your forms in an amulet, I will have no power over that infant.' She also agreed to have one hundred of her children die every day. Accordingly, every day one hundred demons perish, and for the same reason, we write the angels names on the amulets of young children. When Lilith sees their names, she remembers her oath, and the child recovers."
The background and purpose of The Alphabet of BenSira is unclear. It is a collection of stories about heroes of the Bible and Talmud, it may have been a collection of folk-tales, a refutation of Christian,Karaite, or other separatist movements; its content seems so offensive to contemporary Jews that it was even suggested that it could be an anti-Jewish satire although, in any case, the text was accepted by the Jewish mystics of medieval Germany.
The Alphabet of Ben-Sira is the earliest surviving source of the story, and the conception that Lilith was Adam's first wife became only widely known with the 17th century Lexicon Talmudicum of Johannes Buxtorf.
In the late 19th century, the Scottish Christian author George MacDonald incorporated the story of Lilith as Adam's first wife and predator of Eve's children into a mythopoeic fantasy novel in the Romantic style.
The role of Lilith as Adam's faithless wife has parallels with the ideas about Eve herself in the Unification theology of Sun Myung Moon.
Although the Talmudic references to Lilith are sparse, these passages provide the most comprehensive insight into the demoness yet seen in Judaic literature which both echo Lilith’s Mesopotamian origins and prefigure her future as the perceived exegetical enigma of the Genesis account. Recalling the Lilith we have seen, Talmudic allusions to Lilith illustrate her essential wings and long hair, dating back to her earliest extant mention in Gilgamesh:
"Rab Judah citing Samuel ruled: If an abortion had the likeness of Lilith its mother is unclean by reason of the birth, for it is a child but it has wings." (Niddah 24b)
"[Expounding upon the curses of womanhood] In a Baraitha it was taught: She grows long hair like Lilith, sits when making water like a beast, and serves as a bolster for her husband." (‘Erubin 100b)
More unique to the Talmud with regard to Lilith is her insalubrious carnality, alluded to in The Seductress but expanded upon here sans unspecific metaphors as the demoness assuming the form of a woman in order to sexually take men by force while they sleep:
"R. Hanina said: One may not sleep in a house alone [in a lonely house], and whoever sleeps in a house alone is seized by Lilith." (Shabbath 151b)
Yet the most innovative perception of Lilith offered by the Talmud appears earlier in ‘Erubin, and is more than likely inadvertently responsible for the fate of the Lilith myth for centuries to come:
"R. Jeremiah b. Eleazar further stated: In all those years [130 years after his expulsion from the Garden of Eden] during which Adam was under the ban he begot ghosts and male demons and female demons [or night demons], for it is said in Scripture, And Adam lived a hundred and thirty years and begot a son in own likeness, after his own image, from which it follows that until that time he did not beget after his own image…When he saw that through him death was ordained as punishment he spent a hundred and thirty years in fasting, severed connection with his wife for a hundred and thirty years, and wore clothes of fig on his body for a hundred and thirty years. – That statement [of R. Jeremiah] was made in reference to the semen which he emitted accidentally." (‘Erubin 18b)
Comparing ‘Erubin 18b and Shabbath 151b with the later passage from the Zohar: “She wanders about a night night, vexing the sons of men and causing them to defiles themselves (19b),” it appears clear that this Talmudic passage indicates such an averse union between Adam and Lilith.
In some passages of the Kabbala, as well as in the 13th century Treatise on the Left Emanation (http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~humm/Topics/L Lilith is the mate of Samael.
In others, probably informed by The Alphabet of Ben-Sira she is Adam's wife (Yalqut Reubeni, Zohar 1:34b, 3:19 http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~humm/Topics/L )
Lilith as Adam's first wife
The passage in Genesis 1:27 — "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female he created them" (before describing a mate being made of Adam's rib and being called Eve in Genesis 2:22) is sometimes believed to be an indication that Adam had a wife before Eve.
A medieval reference to Lilith as the first wife of Adam is the anonymous Alphabet of ben-Sira, written sometime between the 8th and 11th centuries. Lilith is described as refusing to assume a subservient role to Adam during sexual intercourse and so deserting him ("She said, 'I will not lie below,' and he said, 'I will not lie beneath you, but only on top. For you are fit only to be in the bottom position, while I am to be the superior one."). Lilith promptly uttered the name of God, took to the air, and left the Garden, settling on the Red Sea coast.
Two important observations should be made here: Lilith left the Garden of her own accord, before the Fall of Man, and is without Original Sin. She knows the name of God, making her an extremely powerful, and perhaps unique, cosmological being.
Lilith then went on to mate with Samael and various other demons she found beside the Red Sea, creating countless lilin. Adam urged God to bring Lilith back, so three angels were dispatched after her. When the angels, Senoy, Sansenoy and Semangelof, made threats to kill one hundred of Lilith's demonic children for each day she stayed away, she countered that she would prey eternally upon the descendants of Adam and Eve, who could be saved only by invoking the names of the three angels. She did not return to Adam.
Visit http://www.astro.com/ to draw your chart with all the Liliths included.
h13 Osculating Lunar Apogee ("True" Lilith / Black Moon)
h21 Interpolated Lunar Apogee (Lilith), also called 'Natural Apogee'
h22 Interpolated Lunar Perigee (Priapus), also called 'Natural Perigee'
h58 Waltemath Black Moon
And while you're at it, you might want to include
h56 Selena/White Moon
Dante Gabriel RossettiTo read more of Rossetti's works visit