Lilith: Seductress, heroine or murderer?

The ancient name “Lilith” derives from a Sumerian word for female demons or wind spirits.

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Lilith’s themes are female cosmic energy, freedom, female strength, female pride, trance, protecting mothers, courage, playfulness, passion, pleasure, and sexuality. Her symbol is an apple. Call on her when a woman’s sense of freedom is threatened or misunderstood.

Her dark origins lie in Babylonian demonology, where amulets and incantations were used to counter the sinister powers of this winged spirit who preyed on pregnant women and infants. Lilith next migrated to the world of the ancient Hittites, Egyptians, Israelites, and Greeks. She makes a solitary appearance in the Bible, as a wilderness demon shunned by the prophet Isaiah. In the Middle Ages, she reappears in Jewish sources as the dreadful first wife of Adam.

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Master-copy of Lilith by John Collier

In the Renaissance, Michelangelo portrayed Lilith as a half-woman, half-serpent, coiled around the Tree of Knowledge. Later, her beauty would captivate the English poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti. “Her enchanted hair,” he wrote, “was the first gold.”1 Irish novelist James Joyce cast her as the “patron of abortions.”2Modern feminists celebrate her bold struggle for independence from Adam. Her name appears as the title of a Jewish women’s magazine and a national literacy program. An annual music festival that donates its profits to battered women’s shelters and breast cancer research institutes is called the Lilith Fair.

In most manifestations of her myth, Lilith represents chaos, seduction and ungodliness. Yet, in her every guise, Lilith has cast a spell on humankind.

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Children of Lilith by Sebastien Grenier

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