This article was accepted for publication in Eye on the Web internet magazine before it ceased publication. It was also published in March 2000 as "Adam's Ex" by The Blue Review E-Zine. Rights are available.
By Kathy Fisher
When you hear the name Lilith, you possibly, like me, think of Frasier's ex-wife on the popular television series. But the original Lilith, also an ex-mate, goes back much further.
The name Lilith is usually derived from the Babylonian-Assyrian word 'lilitu,' meaning 'female demon or wind spirit.' She appears in many ancient myths and legends, mostly as a demoness. However, her most famous role is in Hebrew-Jewish folklore.
As it is told, God created Lilith and Adam at the same time, both out of the dust of the earth (one version says Adam was created out of pure soil and Lilith was formed from the filth, slime and sediment). Lilith demanded to be treated equally, but Adam wanted nothing of it and they fought constantly. When Lilith refused to perform sex in the subservient (missionary) position under him, he tried to force himself on her. She screamed God's name in vain and was banished from Eden. God then gave Adam an obedient woman for his mate, formed from his rib.
An alternative version of the tale says that Lilith used her magic powers to escape from Adam and Eden because she was being mistreated. She took up residence in the desert (or near the Red Sea) where she had sex with the demons, creating all the evil in the world. When God commanded her to return to Adam, she refused. So three angels were sent to kill 100 of her demon children. In her rage, she vowed to steal the souls of children not protected by an amulet containing the names of the three angels.
The legend continues that Lilith, in a fit of anger and retaliation, turned herself into a snake so she could return to Eden and tempt Eve to eat the apple. The rest of that story is history. One tale says that God turned Lilith into a screech owl when He found out what she had done. She is often described as either a winged serpent or an owl who torments single men at night.
The Jewish legend of Lilith was inspired by the apparent dual accounts of creation in the Bible. First, in Genesis 1, God 'creates them, male and female,' interpreted by many scholars to mean man and woman were created simultaneously from the dust of the earth. Then, in Genesis 2, Adam is alone and asking God for a partner, so Eve is created from his rib.
However, nowhere is Lilith found in ancient Jewish texts. She makes her first official appearance as Adam's ex-mate somewhere between the 8th and 10th Centuries in the work 'Alphabet of Ben Sira' (author unknown). The name Lilith is only mentioned once in the Bible (Isa. 34:14), but this may have been referring to the Babylonian night demon. The Talmud makes reference to Lilith, but only as a demoness with long black hair.
Today, despite her demonic background, Lilith has become the role model or goddess for stubborn, proud women, especially feminists and those of Jewish descent.
She is further embraced as a patron saint of sorts for alternative sexual practices, particularly domination, bondage, sadism and fetishes.
It's no surprise that Frasier's ex-wife Lilith is depicted as a dark, insolent, overbearing feminist. Her namesake apparently was just that sort of woman.
LILITH RELATED LINKS (NOTE: this links are old and may or may not work):
<> The Lilith Pages (http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~humm/Topics/Lilith/) is by far the most extensive and informative of the Lilith websites. Alan Humm, Dept. of Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania, includes text pages, links and images in this well-researched site.
<> Another extensive website is The Lilith Shrine (http://www.cjnetworks.com/~lilitu/lilith/). Billed as an 'online shrine to my role model as an uppity Jewish woman,' it includes history, images and lots of links.
<> Archangel Mi'kails Dedication to Lilith (http://members.tripod.com/~rkangel/lilith.html) has text, art and links.
<> The Myth of Lilith (http://art.net/Studios/Poets/Schlong/lilithmyth.html), text of a Jewish tale, 'Lilith's Cave,' as well as other links
<> Looking for Lilith (http://www.acs.ucalgary.ca/~elsegal/Shokel/950206_Lilith.html), an essay by Eliezer Segal
<> The Lilith Myth (http://www.webcom.com/~gnosis/lillith.html) is part of the Gnosis Archive, a post to the Newsgroup alt.religion.gnostic
<> Ritual Magick via Email: The Invocation of Lilith (http://csbh.mhv.net/~dsprague/rites/0001.html), a sexual rite
<> A collection of newsgroup posts about Lilith to alt.mythology (http://www.crl.com/~tzimon/General/lillithr.txt)
<> Lilith statues can be ordered online from the JBL Catalog (http://jblstatue.com/pages/lilith.html)
<> No text, no links, just a photo of owls is at http://lilith.com/
<> 'Lilith' is the name of The Independent Jewish Women's Magazine (http://www.lilithmag.com/).
<> Several sexually-oriented pages featuring a Dominatrix allign themselves with Lilith. Two are Lilith Lady (http://www.tiac.net/users/heydan/lilith/) and Countess Lilith Stabs (http://www.tiac.net/users/heydan/lilith/http:lilith/).
<> LILITH is the name of an alternative band (LILITH Official Home Page at http://nomusic.interspeed.net/) who incorporates elements of sex magick into their sound.
<> The Lilith Fair (http://www.lilithfair.com) is a 'celebration of women in music.' The Lilith tours began in the summer of 1997.
<> 'Lilith' is the title of a complete on-line romantic novel by George MacDonald (http://ccel.wheaton.edu/macdonald/lilith/Lilith.html)
<--- return to magazine articles page