Lilith

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Sumerian Lilith

Sumerian Lilith, terra-cotta relief, ca 2000 BCE
Sumerian Lilith, terra-cotta relief, ca 2000 BCE
Lilith is thought be the demon of waste places who originally lived in the garden of the Sumerian goddess, Innana, queen of heaven. She is mentioned briefly in the Sumerian story Gilgamesh and the Huluppu-Tree” (2000 BCE) although it is now being questioned whether the name actually translates as “Lilith”.

“Years passed, the tree matured and grew big. But Inanna found herself unable to cut down the tree. For at its base the snake ‘who knows no charm’ had built its nest. In its crown, the Zu-bird — a mythological creature which at times wrought mischief — had placed its young. In the middle Lilith, the maid of desolation, had built her house. And so poor Inanna, the light-hearted and ever-joyful maid, shed bitter tears. And as the dawn broke and her brother, the sun-god Utu, arose from his sleeping chamber, she repeated to him tearfully all that had befallen her huluppu-tree.”

Lilith on Persian Incantation Bowls

Persian Incantation Bowls were found with reference to Lilith. The incantation below is an exorcism against her. Other bowls refer to her divorce.

You are bound and sealed,
all you demons and devils and liliths,
by that hard and strong,
mighty and powerful bond with which are tied Sison and Sisin….
The evil Lilith,
who causes the hearts of men to go astray
and appears in the dream of the night
and in the vision of hte day,
Who burns and casts down with nightmare,
attacks and kills children,
boys an girls.
She is conquered and sealed
away from the house
and from the threshold of Bahram-Gushnasp son of Ishtar-Nahid
by the talisman of Metatron,
the great prince
who is called the Great Healer of Mercy….
who vanquishes demons and devils,
black arts and mighty spells
and keeps them away from the house
and threshold of Bahram-Gushnasp, son of Ishtar-Nahid.
Amen, Amen, Selah.

Lilith in the Hebrew Bible

There is only one verse in the Hebrew Bible, Isaiah 34:14, that may be a reference to Lilith.

“The desert creatures will meet with the wolves,
The hairy goat also will cry to its kind;
Yes, the night monster will settle there
And will find herself a resting place.”

– from New American Bible with a footnote stating the Hebrew for “night monster” is “lilith”

The problem with this passage is that this is the only time the word “lilith” is used in the entire Bible, so it is difficult to speculate whether or not this is actually referring to the Sumerian Lilith or just another creature in the context

A passage in the Songs of the Sage (4Q510-11) of the Dead Sea Scrolls also mentions Liith in a context similar to Isaiah 34.

“And I, the Master, proclaim the magesty of his beauty to frighten and ter[rify] all the spirits of the destroying angels and the spirits of hte bastards, the demons, Lilith, the howlers (?) and [the yelpers...] they who strike suddenly to lead astray the spirit of understanding and to appal their heart and their… in the age of domination of wickedness…”
– from Geza Vermes’ translation, in Martinez’s translation “Lilith” is pluralized.


Samael and Lilith: Counterparts to Adam and Eve

Rabbi Isaac ben Jacob ha-Kohen wrote in the second half of the 13th century in Spain. His treatise on evil was entitled “A Treatise on the Left Emanation”. This work introduces Samael and Lilith as husband and wife, a concept which was then incorporated into later Kabbalistic demonology.

“Truly I shall give you a hint, that the reason for all the jealousies which exist between the princes mentioned above, and the [other, good] princes which belong to the seven classes, the classes of the holy angels which are called ‘the guardians of the walls,’ the reason which evokes hatred and jealousy between the heavenly powers and the powers of the supreme host, is one form which is destined for Samael, and it is Lilith, and it has the image of a feminine form, and Samael is in the form of Adam and Lilith in the form of Eve. Both of them were born in a spiritual birth as one, similar to the form of Adam and Eve, like two pairs of twins, one above and one below. Samael and the Eve the Elder, which is called the Northern one, they are emanated from below the Throne of Glory, and this was caused by the Sin.” – from Chap 6

Rabbi Isaac then explains that when Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden, it caused two sexual awakening among the two pairs of “twins”. This was the awakening in which the snake, either called Nahasiel or Gamliel, took part – the event that caused evil to become its own entity capable of expression.

The question is then how did Samael and Lilith become paired together? Samael was an archangel of Rome and originally one of the fallen angels in the Book of Enoch. Lilith, on the other hand, was an ancient Near Eastern deity, who was mentioned in Isaiah 34:14, and is known as a danger to infants.


Lilith as Adam’s First Wife

Lilith - John Collier
Lilith - John Collier
The Alpha Betha of Ben Sira (Pseudo-Ben Sira) states that Lilith was Adam’s first wife before Eve. Eli Yassif studied this text in detail and concluded that two versions existed: one similar to the original and one that was edited and enlarged by a later compiler. Examining the differences between the two versions helps to explain how Lilith may have become Samael’s spouse.
When God created His world and created Adam, He saw that Adam was alone, and He immediately created a woman from earth, like him, for him, and named her Lilith. He brought her to Adam, and they immediately began to fight: Adam said, “You shall lie below” and Lilith said, “You shall lie below for we are equal and both of us were [created] from earth.” They did not listen to each other. When Lilith saw the state of things, she uttered the Holy Name and flew into the air and fled. Adam immediately stood in prayer before God and said: “Master of the universe, see that the woman you gave me has already fled away.” God immediately sent three angels and told them: “Go and fetch Lilith if she agrees to come, bring her, and if she does not, bring her by force.” The three angels went immediately and caught up with her in the [Red] Sea, in the place that the Egyptians were destined to die. They seized her and told her: ‘If you agree to come with us, come, and if not, we shall drown you in the sea.’ She answered: ‘Darlings, I know myself that God created me only to afflict babies with fatal disease when they are eight days old I shall have permission to harm them from their birth to the eighth day and no longer when it is a male baby but when it is a female baby, I shall have permission for twelve days.’ The angels would not leave her alone, until she swore by God’s name that wherever she would see them or their names in an amulet, she would not possess the baby [bearing it]. They then left her immediately. This is [the story of] Lilith who afflicts babies with disease. – from the early version of Pseudo-Ben Sira


Lilith’s Refusal to Return to Adam

The main question with this text is: Why would the angels leave Lilith alone after they were ordered by God to bring her back? One conclusion is that Lilith bribed the angels with the promise that she wouldn’t harm babies protected by them or their amulets. In the later versions of the text, the author changed part of the account between Lilith and the angels as follows:

They tried to take her back, but she refused. They asked her: ‘Why don’t you want to go back? She told them: “I know that I was created for the sole purpose of making babies ill from their day of birth until the eighth day, when I have permission, and after eight days I have no permission. And if it is a female, [this is so] for twelve days!’ They said to her” ‘If you do not come back we shall drown you in the sea.’ She answered: ‘I cannot return because of what is said in the Torah – ‘Her former husband who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled, that is, when he was the last to sleep with her. And the Great Demon has already slept with me.

Samael very quickly came to be the “Great Demon” of this version – the “ha-Shed ha-Gadol” who defiled Lilith so she could not return to Adam.

Lilith as Wife of Sammael

Another text, dating from the 13th century, the Treatise on the Left Emanation, speaks of multiple Liliths, one as the consort of Sammael and the other is the consort of Asmodeus.

In answer to your question concerning Lilith, I shall explain to you the essence of the matter. Concerning this point there is a received tradition from the ancient Sages who made use of the Secret Knowledge of the Lesser Palaces, which is the manipulation of demons and a ladder by which one ascends to the prophetic levels. In this tradition it is made clear that Samael and Lilith were born as one, similar to the form of Adam and Eve who were also born as one, reflecting what is above. This is the account of Lilith which was received by the Sages in the Secret Knowledge of the Palaces. The Matron Lilith is the mate of Samael. Both of them were born at the same hour in the image of Adam and Eve, intertwined in each other. Asmodeus the great king of the demons has as a mate the Lesser (younger) Lilith, daughter of the king whose name is Qafsefoni. The name of his mate is Mehetabel daughter of Matred, and their daughter is Lilith.

This is the exact text of what is written in The Chapters of the Lesser Palaces as we have received it, word for word and letter for letter. And the scholars of this wisdom possess a very profound tradition from the ancients. They found it stated in those Chapters that Samael, the great prince of them all, grew exceedingly jealous of Asmodeus the king of the demons because of this Lilith who is called Lilith the Maiden (the young). She is in the form of a beautiful woman from her head to her waist. But from the waist down she is burning fire–like mother like daughter. She is called Mehetabel daughter of Matred, and the meaning is something immersed (mabu tabal). The meaning here is that her intentions are never for the good. She only seeks to incite wars and various demons of war and the war between Daughter Lilith and Matron Lilith.

They say that from Asmodeus and his mate Lilith a great prince was born in heaven. He is the ruler of eighty thousand destructive demons and is called “the sword of king Asmodeus.” His name is Alefpene’ash and His face burns like a raging fire (‘esh). He is also called Gurigur, for he antagonizes and struggles with the prince of Judah, who is called Gur Aryeh Yehudah (Lion-cub of Judah). From the same form that gave birth to this war-demon another prince, a prince whose root is in Kingdom, was born in heaven. He is called “the sword of the Messiah.” He too has two names: Meshihi’el and Kokhvi’el. When the time comes and when God wishes, this sword will leave its sheath and verses of prophecy will come True: “For My sword shall be drunk in the heavens; Lo, it shall come down upon Edom” (Isaiah 34:5). “A star rises from Jacob” (Numbers; 24:17). Amen. Soon in our days may we merit to see the face of the Messiah our righteous one; we and all our people….
– Treatise on the Left Emanation #19

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