Lilith: dark goddess, bad room-mate, queen of Sheba

lady-lilith
Lilith

Who was the first woman? Unless you want to get all realistic and silly about it, the normal answer is probably Eve. But there is an alternative.

There are two creation accounts in the Bible. In the first, man and woman were created at the same time. In the second, Adam’s wife was created from his rib-cage. How can this be? The answer is obvious. They’re two different myths Adam must have had two wives.

Adam’s first wife was called Lilith, and was created by God after Adam got tired of mating with horses.  Adam wanted Lilith to be subservient during sex but she refused to do this and left him. Pretty soon, she hooked up with demons and started to have her own children.

God sent three angels; Senoy, Sansenoy, and Samlegot, after her. They threatened to kill her children but she told them that if they did she’d kill all the children of Adam. This was a real threat, as she had been ordained by God to watch over children and therefore had authority in this area.

They worked out a compromise where the angels would only kill 100 of Lilith’s children each day, in exchange Lilith would leave alone any human children protected by the names of the angels. The thousands of her children who nonetheless survived became demons called the Lilim, and protective amulets against Lilith and her kin were used up to the 18th century.

After Adam’s son Cain murdered his brother Abel, Adam and Eve separated for 130 years. In this time, Lilith and Adam got together again. Their relationship seems to have come to an end after the birth of Naamah, a great-great-great-great grandchild of Cain. She followed Lilith’s example and made out with angels to create new powerful demons, we can only assume that Lilith found Naamah more fun to be around than Adam.

Millennia later, Lilith and Naamah were evidently still close to some degree. It seems they may even have been living together, because one of them stole the other’s baby. This is a major breach of ettiquette in most shared living arrangements and according to legend they disguised themselves as prostitutes and sought the judgement of Solomon to find who a child’s real mother was.

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The Queen of Sheba, whoever that may have been

It seems odd that Lilith couldn’t afford her own place because she apparently ruled a kingdom called Zmargad, some people think this would make her the Queen of Sheba who killed the children of Job, the Bible’s most unfortunate man.

The Queen of Sheba later visited Jerusalem to meet Solomon, and according to an Ethiopian text called the Kebra Negast their child was the ancestor of all the monarchs of Ethiopia. The Yoruba Ijebu clan of Nigeria also draw their royal line back to the Queen of Sheba. This is just one example in history where a mythic figure is a demon to some people, and a hero to others.

How does a figure get reinterpreted so differently in different cultures? It’s hard to say, but it’s starting to happen now with Lilith. As early as 1899 Lilith was being rehabilitated as a mother goddess by Neopagans, especially by those of a Jewish persuasion. She’s also becoming a symbol for some feminist Jews. So things may be starting to look up for her.

2 thoughts on “Lilith: dark goddess, bad room-mate, queen of Sheba

  1. If you read the ‘totally true origin stories of vampires’. Lillith left the Garden of Eden, taking the seraphim who guarded it with her. He became the demon Samael and they went off to have rampant equality sex together. But she ditched him and went off with Cain and together they became the first vampires. Which is an interesting origin story because it doesn’t state how/why they became vampires, they just do and they turn the entire land of Nod into vampires.

  2. Man, I’ve been reading up on myths of the bible for the last few weeks. Most of the information out there is either Vampire the Masquerade fanfic or Mormon.

    Given that I’m not a Christian and I don’t believe in authenticity, all sources of myth are as valid as each other really. But seriously. It’s as though the whole internet doesn’t share my interest in apocryphal Jewish mythology.

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