The Myth of Lilith

lilith-2           There was probably a time in pre-recorded human history when a man and woman looked at each other and asked, “What th’ hell are we doing here?”  Not finding an answer they then asked, “Well, where did we come from?”  The world has not been the same since!

Some of the earliest myths have an androgynous (both sexes) god giving birth to a male and female child.  Another myth has man as androgynous, but arrogance invaded this creature so the ruling god cleaved the creature into male and female counterparts.  Separated, they began looking for their other half, and here we are.

One of the most important sexual myths for Western civilization is the Myth of Lilith.  Myths are a lot like sea-stories: they change with who tells them.  In ancient Sumeria, Lilith was a handmaiden of the goddess, Inanna.  Her job was to bring men to the temple of Inanna and have them participate in sacred sexual rites with the priestesses, like Shamhat in the story of Enkidu.  In Sumerian, the word root of Lilith, lil, means “air” or “lady air.”

Let’s stop for a moment and try and place ourselves in the sandals of a Sumerian guy selected for this task.  Could he have been thinking, “Oh oh!  This lady is connected to the gods!”  Today, we think of “being connected” as having an affiliation with organized crime.  They are pikers in comparison to the power of the gods!  So, when this man entered the temple of Inanna, he was no longer the great hunter, or best warrior, or even the best farmer or craftsman as he might have viewed himself to his wife.  His ego went out the window!  His macho man-box faded into nothingness by comparison of being in the presence of a goddess’ representative!  What happened to them inside the temples?  Perhaps, as suggested by Enkidu, they were transformed from a “bestial” into a “human state,” perhaps as needed by some men today.  (Both men and women are conditioned by these myths and misinformation from “voices of authority.”)  Maybe, as Hill observed, they were raised from mediocrity to the altitude of genius.  Maybe they went home and treated their wives with more dignity and respect.  We can only guess.

What about the priestesses?  How did they regard themselves?  Although later thought of in derogatory terms, they probably regarded themselves as sacred adjuncts of Inanna.  As such, their bodies were sacred temples and the act they performed was sacred.  It is highly doubtful they thought of this sacrament as “turning a trick.”  It is further doubtful that this attitude of sanctity in anyway diminished the physiological pleasure of the sacrament for either party.  It more than likely enhanced it!  What a wondrous world it would be, were men and women to regard themselves thusly.

This was early Sumeria.  To the North in Babylon was Ishtar, a similar goddess to Inanna. Also there was Astarte for the Semites, and Aphrodite for the Greeks.  Although most archeologists look upon the priestesses as “prostitutes,” they may have served a higher purpose.

Lilith, called Lilitu, as she served Ishtar, was then originally a guide to what we call “spiritual sex.”  So what ever happened to her?  Well, speaking for most men everywhere, the temples of Inanna, or Ishtar, are far more appealing than, say that of Apollo.  I would guess that visits to other temples became perfunctory, as church today is for many.  Besides, men leaving the temple of Inanna were now “human,” a word having a higher connotation then than it does today.  Perhaps it referred to an “awakened” state of consciousness.

Before we leave Sumeria and cuneiform writing, the cuneiform symbol for woman was the inverted triangle with a vertical cleft in the middle.  This was symbolic of the pubic area.  In The Di Vinci Code, Dan Brown calls this symbol, the chalice.  It also meant, “giver of life.”  Archeologists, locked into the pleasure/procreation paradigm, interpret this as childbirth.  We suggest this could also be the awakened state of consciousness for men: a new life.

Where in Sumerian, Lilith was “lady air,” the Semitic word root “lyl” became “lylil” in Arabic meaning night.  Darkness.  Evil comes out of darkness and the night.  So it begins.  First she was the spirit of destructive night storms.  Later she was incorporated into the Syrian spirit of Lamashtu, a demon who killed children.  Already, who wants to hang around her?

In Hebrew legend, she first appears around the 12th Century CE as Adam’s first wife.  Initially, they were created of the same material, out of the earth.  (But watch how she changes as the stories change!)  Adam wanted to be sexually dominant, and Lilith wanted to get on top.  There was no resolution to this argument, so Lilith returned to the spirits from whence she came.  Adam then got the subservient Eve, made from his rib to insure cleanliness.  One wonders here if this is not some variation on the original story of androgynous man being cleaved, separating men and women?

The main elements of the story remain the same, but as with sea-stories, grow and get more misogynistic with each telling.  Then in Hebrew mythology, she again merged with Lamashtu and became a baby killer.  The spirits to which she returned are demons and she becomes the original succubus who visits men in their dreams, taking semen from their nocturnal emissions to create new demons.

The most misogynistic treatment of Lilith is also the most modern by Robert Graves.  He claims Lilith was made of filth, where Adam was made of clean dirt and Adam kicked her out of the Garden of Eden for wanting to get on top.  Lilith immediately went off and consorted with demons and Adam again got the subservient Eve.

Of all of them, this makes the least sense.  If God loves us then why would he give man a mate made of filth?  Had He wished to use separate construction materials, there were flowers and spices and all kinds of sweet-goods.  Further, all of these myths portray Adam as a dummy.  He should have known the one on top does all the work!  We should also recognize “demonizing the enemy” as an ancient tactic of war.  We see it not only in ancient but also modern history, and in modern politics in America.  Lastly, although Eve is raised to sainthood among some cultures and subcultures, look at her kids.  In other cultures, she is looked upon as weak and responsible for evil.  Maybe we’d all be better off had Adam stuck with Lilith.  Also, as part of this mythology, Abel was Lilith’s child, not Eve’s.   So, since he was probably a demon, it was OK to kill him.

Later, all of Lilith’s “evil” qualities were incorporated into the Malleus Maleficarum in 1486, but that is another myth for another blog.

copyright Art Noble 2011

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7 Responses to “The Myth of Lilith”

  1. Sharronelise Brandon Says:

    Love it ….: )

  2. Sharron Elise Brandon Says:

    Interesting …

  3. Deanna Margaret Says:

    This is really well done.. Immense LoVe ~ Gratitude ❥❥❥

  4. Stephen E. W. Savage Says:

    love it, thank you and one of those necessities for modern males to know….

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