Sunday 27 September 2009

Lilith-Mother of Witches

If Lucifer was the first male rebel in creation then Lilith has to be the first female. And what a rebel she was: the first feminist; the first witch; the first sexually assertive woman; the first divorcee! As a figure she is an inspiration, a mentor and a guide; a woman who deliberately exiled herself from paradise in search of nothing more substantive than freedom, nothing more important than freedom. For there is nothing more important.

In tradition she takes many shapes, drawing to herself the creatures of the dark and the night, not just witches but Jinn, vampires and demons of all sorts. In Hebrew her name means ‘screech owl’ and she is sometimes depicted in the form of a bird-woman. ‘Lilith’ is also related to the Semitic root word for ‘night.’

She is depicted in Jewish lore sometimes as a beautiful young woman, at other times a hag. She is also depicted as a woman from head to waist, with fire down below, which, I suppose, might very well be a comment on her sexual appetite. :-)) In other depictions the lower parts take the form of a snake.

She also takes on a complete animal form, most usually a large black cat, an owl or a snake. It’s possible that she may have emerged in some ancient traditions as a tree spirit. In one Sumerian myth ‘Dark Maid Lilith’ lives as in a sacred tree with a snake and a sacred bird as companions.

In her most familiar form she appears in Jewish legend as the first wife of Adam, created not from his rib, like Eve, but from the Earth itself at the same time as her partner. Because of this she demanded equal status, which included refusing always to take the ‘missionary position’ when they had sex, seeing that as an admission of submissiveness. And that was not her style; oh, no. When Adam attempted to force her she gave voice to the secret name of the Creator, which allowed her to leave Paradise on wings. All attempts to bring her back failed; for if the angels threatened Lilith threatened even more.

In some accounts Lilith is unfertile; in others she is mother to a host of demons, the Lilin or Daughters of Lilith. The father of these girls is uncertain, with suggestions ranging from Samael, the fallen angel, or even Asmodeus. Lilith is also the original succubus.

She continues to have a strong presence in Jewish fairy-tales and folklore. In the Sephardic tradition she is La Broosha, which simply means ‘the witch.’ Here she often appears as a large black cat.

There seems to me to be some Greek influences in the general make up of Lilith, in that the owl is her sacred bird, as it is for Pallas Athena, and she derives strength from the Moon, associating her with Artemis.

In whatever manner she is a potent symbol, the great mother, an inspiration to all witches, an example to all women.


  1. Ana,
    I like the way you described about Lilith. WOW!

  2. In some books she is associated with the ancient Assyrian Goddess Ishtar, whose sacred animals were the snake and the cat.

    Lunar goddesses have usually been invoked for fertility from their monthly cycles.

    The Jewish tradition is overlayed by much of animosity found in the OT to the goddess worshippers who surrounded the Israelites - none more so that the Adam and Eve myths which took the sybols of female worship - apples,and snakes (symbols of fertility and rebirth) and wove them into a myth which was used to enforce the patriachal supremecy.

    I agree that Lilith is something special, as indeed is Hecate, a Greeck equivalent.

  3. Thanks, Harry. :-)

    An interestin addition; thanks, Michelle. Yes, I agree: Lilith and Hecate forever. :-)

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  5. No man can resist Lilith; that's his downfall. :-))