Curious about Lilith?


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I get people asking me about Lilith from time but there’s not actually much I can say. Lilith doesn’t play any significant part in Christianity. While there is a “lilith” mentioned in the Hebrew scriptures (Isaiah 34:14 for those who want to look it up) it is simply a passing reference to a night creature with no further details. Indeed the context often leads textual experts to translate the Hebrew word as “night owl” and consequently Christians have generally made nothing more of it, not least because there’s no mention at all in the New Testament.

To get to the legend of Lilith, first wife of Adam and Queen of Demons, we actually have to leave the scriptures far behind and delve into medieval Jewish folklore. Sometime after the split between Judaism and Christianity this vague scriptural reference to a night creature (possibly Babylonian in origin) became the subject of considerable speculation within Judaism. In the Alphabet of Ben Sirach, a satyrical text composed somewhere between 700 and 1000AD, Lilith emerges as the first wife of Adam who was created to cause sickness to infants. Given the satirical nature of the work, personally I am reluctant to take that depiction at face value. I’d suggest there’s a deeper subtext.

In more recent times she’s entered popular culture and morphed further still. In some circles she has been appropriated as a figure of feminine power. If people find value in the myth that’s their prerogative of course. But by this stage we are considerable distance from my own path so that’s where I’ll leave it.

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