Who is Lilith?

Why is this spirit being discussed on a website focusing on Italian folklore?

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Leland, Erodiade/Herodias, and Lilith

Charles G. Leland, a 19th century folklorist who wrote Aradia or The Gospel of Witches conflated Herodias/Erodiade with Lilith. He connected Italian legends of the Italian Erodiade with Aradia. Because of Leland, Aradia is often associated with Lillith.

In Chapter I, Leland wrote: "How Diana Gave Birth to Aradia (Herodias)". Then in the appendix, Leland wrote on p. 103-104:

Aradia is evidently enough Herodias, who was regarded in the beginning as associated with Diana as chief of the witches. This was not, as I opine, derived from the Herodias, of the New Testament, but from an earlier replica of Lilith, bearing the same name. It is, in fact, an identification or twin-ing of the Aryan and Shemitic Queens of Heaven, or of Night and of Sorcery, and it may be that this was known to the earliest myth-makers. So far back as the sixth century the worship of Herodias and Diana by witches was condemned by a Church Council at Ancyra. Pipernus and other writers have noted the evident identity of Herodias with Lilith. Isis preceded both.
Leland must have been puzzled how and why a mortal woman in the New Testament ended up flying around with witches and an ancient Roman Goddess. Leland mentioned the Council of Ancyra, which Reginald Scot quoted:
Certeine wicked women following sathans prouocations being seduced by the illusions of diuels, beleeve and professe, that in the night times they ride abroad with Diana, the goddesse of the Pagans, or else with Herodias, with an innumerable multitude...
--Reginald Scot, Discoverie of Witchcraft, 1584, quoting the Council of Ancyra
Leland was definitely aware of J.B. Andrew's article Neapolitan Witchcraft (Folk-Lore Transactions of the Folk-Lore Society, Vol III March, 1897 No.1) in which Erodiade/Herodiade/Herodias flies at midnight on the night before the feast day of San Giovanni Battista. J. B. Andrews wrote : "...on the eve of Saint John Baptist's Day. It is believed that at midnight then Herodiade may be seen in the sky seated across a ray of fire, saying: 'Mamma, mamma, perche` lo dicesti?' 'Figlia, figlia, perche' lo facesti?'" The conversation in Italian translates as "Mamma, Mamma, why did you say it?" and "Daughter, Daughter, why did you do it." See Neapolitan Witchcraft

Leland was also aware of other Italian folklore which descibed "goddess of the pagans," Diana, flying with Erodiade and horde of other women and spirits on certain nights and engaging in night assemblies.

I suspect that Leland knew Lilith was supposed to fly during the night, and thus Leland speculated the legends of the flying Jewish Lilith got mixed up with the legends of the flying Jewish Herodias. Nevertheless, the primary connection between Diana, Erodiade/Herodias, and Lilith for Leland may have been that all three were associated with legends of witches.

Leland wrote other books on folklore in which he connected Lilith with Herodias.

In Etruscan Roman Remains in Popular Tradition (1892), in chapter 8 on p 151, there is a whole section marked, "DIANA AND HERODIAS (The Queens of the Witches in Italy)." In this section, Leland sought to illustrate how the Moon Goddess Diana from classical Roman mythology was affected in popular belief and had become a witch-queen like Hecate.

Leland began the section with two quotes, one in Latin, Servius, and one in Italian, "La Strega di Pico delta."

Leland quoted Servius: Hecate trium potestatum numen est. Ipsa est enim Luna, Diana Proserpina, (In Virgilii Aeneidos: 6.118). (Translated: "Hecate possesses the powers of three deities, Luna, Diana, and Proserpina.")

Leland also quoted "La Strega di Pico delta," which I suspect is a 19th century Italian reference, but I'm not sure: Horsù dimmi, o buona. Strega, che vuoi dire che non andavi a questi balli e giuochi di Diana o di Herodiade, ovvero si come le chiamate, a quelli de la Donna? (Translation: "Horsù tell me, or good. Witch, what do you mean that you did not go to these dances and games of Diana or Herodiade, or as you call it, to those of the Woman?")

In this section on Diana and Herodias, Leland proceded to link the Italian Erodiade and Diana with Lilith by referring to Erodiade as "Lilith-Herodias." He may have made this link based on the fact that both the Italian Erodiade and the Jewish Lilith are associated with witches and witchcraft. Leland wrote:

In this country [Italy] the witch is only a sorceress, and she is often a beneficent fairy. Her ruler is not the devil, but DIANA, with whom, as I shall show, there is associated HERODIAS. The latter, as presiding at the dances of the witches, was naturally connected with the Herodias of the New Testament, but there was an older Herodias, a counterpart of Lilith, the first wife of Adam, by whom she became the mother of all the minor devils or goblins.

It is evident that in this capacity Herodias was confused with Diana. The latter had been as Hecate the ruler of all the witches, while Lilith-Herodias was the same among the Jews, (born in England in 1075--Hist. Eccl. v. 556) which illustrates this, that Diana was parent or protectress of goblins. It is as follows:--

"Deinde Taurinus fanum Dianæ intravit. Zabulon que coram populo visibilem adstare coegit, quo viso ethnica plebs valde timuit. Nam manifeste apparuit eis æthiops niger et fuligo, barbam habens prolixam et scintillas igneas ex ore mittens. . . . Dæmon adhuc in eadem urbe degit et in variis frequenter formis apparens, neminem laedit. Hanc vulgus Gobelinurn appellat."

("Then Taurinus entered the temple of Diana and compelled Zabulon to appear visibly before the people, who, being seen, was greatly dreaded by the heathen folk. For he plainly showed himself as a black, grimy Ethiopian, having a full beard and emitting sparks of fire from his mouth. The demon went forth often in the same town, appearing in many forms, yet injured no one. The common people called him Goblin, and declare that by the merits of Saint Taurinus be was withheld from doing harm.")

Here we have the Goblin as the familiar spirit of the temple of Diana, the witch-mother, just as the Jews declared that goblins were the children of Lilith-Herodias. How it was that the Shemitic myth came to unite with the Græco-Roman is a matter for investigation. That it existed is proved by the testimony of several old writers. [Brackets indicate my inserts.]

Leland wrote in chapter 10 of Etruscan Roman Remains in Popular Tradition, p. 191:
There [at the walnut tree of Benevento] they worshipped Diana (not the devil--he was only adored in Germany) or Herodias, the goddess of dancing, who, however, as before said, appears in Rabbinical writings as Lilith, who was the Hebrew Diana, or mother of all the witches, and held high revel and "had a good time." [Brackets indicate my inserts.]

In Chapter 3, Gypsy Sorcery and Fortune Telling (1891), on p. 13, Leland wrote:

Nothing is more apparent in the New Testament than that all diseases were anciently regarded as coming from devils, or evil occult, spiritual influences, their negative or cure being holiness in some form. This the Jews, if they did not learn it from the Assyrians in the first place, had certainly studied deeply in Babylon, where it formed the great national cult.
Folklorists in the 19th century believed that the concept of diseases being caused by "devils, or evil occult, spiritual influences" was likely acquired by Jews from the cultures of ancient Babylon and/or Assyria. Leland does not mention the Jewish Lilith or Babylonian Lilitu specifically in this quote.

Then again in Gypsy Sorcery and Fortune Telling, Leland brought up folklore of Lilith which he connected with Herodias, p. 36- 37:

I have in the chapter on curing the disorders of children spoken of Lilith, or Herodias, who steals the new-born infants. She and her twelve daughters are also types of the different kinds of fever for which the gypsies have so many cures of the same character, precisely as those which were used by the old Bogomiles. The characteristic point is that this female spirit is everywhere regarded as the cause of catalepsy or fits. Hence the invocation to Saint Sisinie is used in driving them away. This invocation written, is carried as an amulet or fetish. I give the translation of one of these from the Roumanian, in which the Holy Virgin is taken as the healer. It is against cramp in the night:--


"There is a mighty hill, and on this hill is a golden apple-tree,
"Under the golden apple-tree is a golden stool.
"On the stool—who sits there?
"There sits the Mother of God with Saint Maria; with the boxes in her right hand, with the cup in her left.
"She looks up and sees naught, she looks down and sees my Lord and Lady Disease.
"Lords and Ladies Cramp, Lord and Lady Vampire—Lord Wehrwolf and his wives.
"They are going to ——— (the sufferer), to drink his blood and put in him a foul heart.
"The Mother of God, when she saw them, went down to them, spoke to them, and asked them,
'Whither go ye, Lord and Lady Disease,—Lords and Ladies Cramp, &c.?'
"'We go to ——— to drink his blood, to change his heart to a foul one.'
"'No, ye shall return; give him his blood back, restore him his own heart, and leave him immediately.'
"Cramps of the night, cramps of the midnight, cramps of the day, cramps wherever they are.
From water, from the wind, go out from the brain, from the light of he face, from the hearing of the ears,
from his heart, from his hands and feet, from the soles of his feet.
"Go and hide where black cocks never crow, 1 where men never go, where no beast roars.
"Hide yourself there, stop there, and never show yourself more!
"May ——— remain pure and glad, as he was made by God, and was fated by the Mother of God!
"The spell is mine—the cure is God's."

In reference to the name Herodias (here identified with Lilith, the Hebrew mother of all devils and goblins); it was a great puzzle to the writers on witchcraft why the Italian witches always said they had two queens whom they worshipped—Diana and Herodias. The latter seems to have specially presided at the witch-dance. In this we can see an evident connection with the Herodias of the New Testament.
Some Odd Things About Leland's Evidence

In the two passages which I quoted from Etruscan Roman Remains in Popular Tradition, Leland attempted to explain how the virginal Diana of classical Roman mythology became associated with other spirits, whom he called "goblins," and acquited the role of ruler, mother, or witch queen. Leland's reasoning seems to have been: Why else was a saint able to conjure a spirit, Zabulon, from her temple unless Diana was the queen or mother of spirits, and this spirit was under her command?

In Jewish folklore, Lilith was the mother of spirits and witches. In medieval Italian legends, Diana is portrayed differently than in classical Roman mythology. References in witch trials and Italian folklore snippets, do portray Diana as a mother or ruler of spirits. Leland must have thought Diana absorbed the function from somewhere else--perhaps Lilith. Thus Leland surmised Lilith was the Hebrew version of Diana. ... or that Diana had absorbed it from Erodiade/Herodias, who was also a Jewish spirit.

In drawing this conclusion, Leland drew a connection between story motifs and decided that meant these characters, Diana and Lilith, were basically the same being. That conclusion is not necessarily correct.

There are a number of folklore references to Diana and Erodiade as Italian witch queens who led the night ride and/or presided over the night assembly. Yet, Leland shared a brief portion of a tale involving a 3rd/4th century saint and martyr, Taurinus of Evreux (died ca. 410), also known as Saint Taurin d'Evreux, who was the first bishop of Evreux who exorciced a pagan temple in Evreux. Saint Taurin d'Evreux's feast day is August 11. The story can be found in The Ecclesiastical History of Ordericus Vitalis, written circa beginning of the 12th century.

Below is my more complete version of the story of Saint Taurinus and Diana.

On his way to the French town of Evreux, Saint Taurin encountered three apparitions: le lion (lion), l'ours (bear) and le buffle (buffalo). The lion represented the official Roman religion (la religion romaine officielle), the bear (symbol of Diana) represented the cult of Diana as a mother Goddess (le culte de Diane en tant que déesse mère), and the buffalo represented the local aggrarian-based religions (la religion agraire locale). Apparently Saint Taurin took these apparitions as a sign that he would have to deal with the Pagan temple of Diana d'Evreux.

When he arrived at the temple, two priests of Diana, Cambise and Zara, attempted to stop him from entering the building, but Saint Taurin rooted these men in place by making the sign of the cross.

Upon entering the temple de Diane d'Evreux, this saint conjured a demon called, "Zabulon," which resided in the statue of the deity; this spirit was pretending to be Diana. He compelled this vile spirit to manifest visibly to others. Unmasked, it appeared as a sooty Ethiopian, "having a full beard and emitting sparks of fire from his mouth." The vanquished demon, now exorcised, visibly departed through the town of Evreux, harming no one. When the demon appeared visibly before the people of Evreux, they dreaded this frightening creature.

Stunned, the Dianic priests, Cambise and Zara, immediately asked for baptism into Christianity. Saint Taurin then converted this temple into a church, dedicating it to Marie, Mère de Dieu (Marie, Mother of God). This miracle tale is related to the old tradition that Cathédrale Notre-Dame d'Évreux built upon the site of a temple of Diana.

The point which the original Catholic storyteller was making was not that Italian witch queen Diana had fearsome spirits under command, the point was the ancient Pagan "deities" weren't deities. Those foolish and simple-minded pagan-folk had been deceived, duped, and seduced into false beliefs by demons and devils who simply pretended to be beautiful deities. It is an odd tale for Leland to reference in his Etruscan Roman Remains, as it is not directly tied to Italian culture or Italian folklore. The tale is set in a French town. The story is a French miracle tale recorded in Latin, which proved a demonic spirit had been banished. By Leland's own assertion just two paragraphs earlier in Etruscan Roman Remains (p. 151), the Italian Diana was not associated with the devil or diabolism.

In Gypsy Sorcery and Fortune Telling, I assume that Leland quoted the "Spell Against Night-Cramp" because he surmised that the night cramp spirit, aka "Lady Vampire," was a "Roumanian" form of Lilith who brought painful night cramps. The Jewish Lilith was credited bringing diseases and discomfort at night.

Oddly, this same Roumanian spell can be found in Moses Gaster, Ilchester Lectures on Greeko-Slavonic Literature and Its Relation to the to the Folk-lore of Europe During the Middle Ages: With Two Appendices and Plates, 1887 p. 83.

Gaster's book, published four years before Leland's Gypsy Sorcery and Fortune Telling, is also possibly where Leland got the notion of linking Lilith and Herodias as the same spirit. Gaster wrote:

The fairy who steals children is called Lilitli, and is further identified with Herod ias [sic] and her twelve daughters, as personifications of different kinds of fever. (p. 83)
Gaster was not referring to Italian folklore when writing about the twelve daughters. In Russian folklore, Herodias is loosely associated with the troop of twelve female fever demons called "Herod's daughters" (Triasovitsy; dvenadtsat docherey tsarya Iroda/twelve daughters of King Herod). These Russian female fever spirits are the twelve daughters of Herod, not the twelve daughters of Herodias.

Interesting as this Roumanian spell may be, it does not tie the Italian Erodiade to Lilith. Nor does it tie the medieval Diana to Lilith.

In the paragraph after the spell, Leland commented, "..it was a great puzzle to the writers on witchcraft why the Italian witches always said they had two queens whom they worshipped—Diana and Herodias. The latter seems to have specially presided at the witch-dance. In this we can see an evident connection with the Herodias of the New Testament." It seems that it was a puzzle to Leland himself.

The Italian Erodiade and the Semitic Lilith

There are those who argue that ancient Romans, and especially Italians in Tuscany (Northern Italy), would be completely unfamiliar with legends of a Semitic desert spirit. Yet, Leland must have known that the history of Jews spans more than two thousand years in Italy. Italy contains some of the oldest Jewish communities in Europe. It is likely that folklore about Lilith came with Jews to ancient Rome. It is also likely that the Italian Jews maintained stories and folklore regarding Lilith.

It is possible that the stories of Lilith somehow influenced Italian stories about Erodiade/Herodias. While it is possible, I don't think at the time of this writing (2013) that there is a direct link between the Christian legends in Italy about Erodiade and the Jewish legends in Italy about Lilith.

Lilith; Who is Lilith?

Having completed an explanation of why Lilith is on a website focused largely on Italian folklore and Aradia, I will answer the question of "Who is Lilith?"

The spirit now known as "Lilith" was originally a Mesopotamian wind and storm spirit in ancient Sumer, circa 3000 bce. She seems to have been associated with the darkness, desert, and sterilty. The following names, Lilit, Lilake, Lilitu, Lilim, Lilot, Lilith and Lilis, may have come from lil meaning "wind."

Sacred Source, Lilith plaque 5 in x 6 in

Lilith was mentioned in "Gilgamesh and the Huluppa-Tree" as was reconstructed and published by Samuel N. Kramer in 1938: In this tale, Inanna had tended a Huluppa-Tree in her garden, in order to use the wood to make herself a throne and a bed. Unfortunately, Lilith had built her house in the middle of the tree, plus a Zu-bird had a nest in the upper branches and a dragon lived in its roots. The hero, Gilgamesh, killed the dragon, frightening off Lilith and the Zu-bird--and Inanna was able to harvest the tree's wood. Lilith chose to return to the wilderness. This story is a prologue to the Epic of Gilgamesh.

Incidentally, the term which Kramer translated as Lilith in the story "Gilgamesh and the Huluppa-Tree" was ki-sikil-lil-la-ke or Lillake. It was an educated speculation by Kramer that the spirit in the text is similar to the Babylonian Lilitu and the Hebrew Lilith. Many etymologists derived "Lilith" from the Babylonian-Assyrian word "Lilitu," a female wind-spirit or demon, mentioned in Babylonian spells. Popular Hebrew etymology, however, derived "Lilith" from the Hebrew layil meaning "night" because this spirit came at night.

The Assyrian class of spirits known as the Lilitu were said to prey upon children and pregnant or breast feeding women and supposedly had taloned claws and flew. The Lilitu also seduced men--apparently to cause them to waste semen instead of fathering children on a wife and perpetuating his family line and tribe.

Yet, in the Labartu text, Lilith is the "chosen confidante" of Irnina, a Goddess who was related to the Sumerian Inanna or was another name of Inanna. Another text stated the Goddess "...has sent the beautiful, unmarried, and seductive prostitute Lilitu out into the fields and streets in order to lead men astray."

Lilith is briefly mentioned in the bible. "The first and only mention of Lilith in canonical scripture is found in Isaiah 34:14." --Meg R, The Lilith Project: Origins: Isaiah 34:14. Usually the translation of Isaiah 34:14 into English mentions "screech owl," "night-owl," "night bird," "night creatures," "night monster" etc.

Wildcats shall meet with hyenas, goat-demons shall call to each other; there too Lilith shall repose, and find a place to rest. --Isaiah 34:14, NRS.

And desert creatures will meet with hyenas, and goat-demons will call out to each other. There also Liliths will settle, and find for themselves a resting place. --Isaiah 34:14, ISV

And demons and monsters shall meet, and the hairy ones shall cry out one to another, there hath the lamia lain down, and found rest for herself. --Isaiah 34:14, Douay-Rheims Bible

And wild animals shall meet with hyenas; the wild goat shall cry to his fellow; indeed, there the night bird settles and finds for herself a resting place. --Isaiah 34:14, ESV

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. --Isaiah 34:14, NASB

Desert creatures will meet with hyenas, and wild goats will bleat to each other; there the night creatures will also lie down and find for themselves places of rest. --Isaiah 34:14 NIV

The wild beasts of the desert shall also meet with the wild beasts of the island, and the satyr shall cry to his fellow; the screech owl also shall rest there, and find for herself a place of rest. --Isaiah 34:14 KJV

And met have Ziim with Aiim,/ And the goat for its companion calleth,/ Only there rested hath the night-owl,/ And hath found for herself a place of rest. --Young's Literal Translation

According to Isaiah 34, Lilith dwelt among the desolate ruins in the desert with other creatures, such as satyrs ("se'ir"), reems, lions, wildcats, owls, jackals, ostriches, and kites.

A number of people identify Lilith with the Mesopotamian Burney Relief (aka Queen of the Night relief) (circa 2300 bce), but that relief has no inscription. This relief depicted a winged humaniod female spirit having bird-clawed feet. This image likely was a depiction of the ki-sikil-lil-la-ke or Lillake. She is flanked by owls and she is perched on lions. According to Shy David, Letter to JBL Statues: Lilith Pages, March 27, 1998 CE. "The night owls symbolize Lilith’s connection with the night (emphasized by Her identical wings in the Burney Relief). Lions were sacred to Ishtar (among others)." The female figure held two items in her hands. No one is certain what the objects are, but the Assyriologist, Henri Frankfort, speculated these items might be the rod and ring of Sumerian royal authority. Other scholars do not agree with Frankfort.

Personally, I have always thought these unknown objects resembled the Egyptian hieroglyphic shen ring. The shen ring is a circle with a line at a tangent to it. The shen ring was the symbol for eternal protection. The Egyptian vulture Goddess Mut often held a pair of these in her talons, with her wings protectively outstretched. To represent "Eternity," the renpit, papyrus stalk was usually based on top of a shen ring. Allegedly, the shen ring represented a stylised loop of a rope. While I know of no mid-Eastern scholar who has likened the unknown objects in the hands of the figure on Burney Relief to shen rings, that is what they "look" like to me.

There are those who claim Lilith originated only in Jewish folklore, and thus, Lilith was a uniquely Jewish spirit. These people traced Lilith's orgin to Genesis 1:27. In Genesis 1:27: "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." There have long been numerous Jewish theologians who use Genesis 1:27 as the clue to a back story for an annoying spirit that caused sterility, and a bunch of other problems--aka Lilith.

This "Lilith back story" (see below) was also used to explain Genesis 2:18: "And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him." How could Adam be alone in chapter 2, when earlier in Genesis 1:27 the Hebrew God created humans, "male and female" ?!?!?! Sacred scripture cannot be wrong. (These last two sentences are intended to be read with irony.)

In Genesis 2:21-24: "And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh."

In an effort to explain inconsistencies in the Old Testament, there developed in Jewish literature a complex interpretive system called the midrash which attempts to reconcile biblical contradictions and bring new meaning to the scriptural text. --Christopher LCE Witcombe, Eve and the Identity of Women: 7. Eve & Lilith
More or less below is my retelling of a midrash explanation of this inconsistency, which also provided a completely Jewish back story for Lilith:
At the same time that Adonai, the LORD, created Adam, he created a female human, Lilith, who like Adam was made from the earth. She was given to Adam as his wife, but there was a dispute between them. Indeed, according to some versions of the story, they never had any peace together. Adam disagreed with her in many matters. In particular, Lilith refused to lie beneath Adam in sexual intercourse. Thus, Lilith spoke the Tetragrammaton--the most secret and sublime Hebrew name of God.

The Tetragrammaton represents the Ineffable Name of God, or unpronounceable Name. In certain Jewish esoteric traditions of the Kabbalah, this true name of God is deemed so sacred that it is unpronounceable.

Upon pronouncing the Name, Adam's first wife vanished. One variant of this tale claimed she sprouted wings and flew off to a cave in the desert near the Red Sea and had sexual intercourse with numerous of spirits/demons, thus giving birth to hundreds of offspring, lilim.

In some variants, Adonai sent three angels, Senoy, Sansenoy, and Semangelof, to coerce Lilith into returning to her assigned station as a wife, by telling her that 100 of her children would die if she did not. She refused to be coerced. Many of Lilith's offsping were killed because Lilith would not be an obedient wife to Adam. Another version of the story claims she was cursed with infertility or sterility. However, her many children, the lilim, figure in folklore. In particular, nocturnal emissions may engender lilim or other creatures from Jewish folklore.

Adonai, the LORD God, had also formed out of the mud all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky, but among these living creatures there was no suitable wife for Adam, and the Adonai did not want Adam to remain alone. Using a rib taken out of the man during a deep sleep, Adonai, the LORD God, made Adam a new wife. Then Adonai, the LORD God, brought the wife to the man. The man said, "This is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, for she was taken out of man." Adam cleaved unto his second wife and they were as one flesh. Adam called his wife, Eve [Hawwah], because she was the mother of all living.

Lilith decided to dwell in the desert wilderness. She sometimes made her resting place among ruins or abandoned buildings. Young men, in particular, were warned not to sleep alone in a house that had sat empty for some time, as she might seduce them in their sleep. Vengeful and jealous, Lilith later began to kill many of the descendants of Eve, the woman who was her replacement.

Interestingly, during one of the visits of the three angels to Lilith, they extracted a promise from her. Lilith swore that she would not harm any infant protected by an amulet with the names of the three angels on it.

Thus, Lilith is blamed for sterility, infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth, or crib death (SIDS). Shy David provided some images of protective amulets on his Pictures Of Lilith: Lilith Pages. Aside from the names of the three angels, other protections against Lilith were found in sundry folklore. Iron and rue could ward her away as well as other amulets, including the Seal of Solomon/Magen David. One folktale claimed that she revealed to Elijah if her name or another of her secret names (she supposedly had 100 names) were written and displayed, she would restrain herself from causing harm. Judika Illes in her Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses, 2009 wrote: "A seventh century BCE tablet from what is now Northern Syria depicting Lilith as a winged sphinx is accompanied by an incantion in Phoenician-Canaanite dialect intended to assist birthing women: Oh, Flyer in a dark chamber, Go away now, of Lili!" (p. 639)

Yet, a desire to fix the inconsistencies in Genesis alone do not account for all the stories told about Lilith. Why spin such tales about a spirit causing sterility, infertility, miscarriage, stillbith or crib death (SIDS)? I will return to this point.

As for the scriptural inconsistencies in Genesis 1 and 2 themselves--biblical scholars have since found another explanation for scriptual inconsistencies. According to modern scholars, the Pentateuch (first five books of the bible) was not written down by Moses. The stories were written by various scribes possibly between 10th to 5th century bce, recording oral lore and divine inspiration. The books of the the Pentateuch probably achieved their final form during the 2nd Temple period, maybe between 6th century and 1st century bce. Scholars identify several different texts within Genesis and the Pentateuch. These different texts are referred to as J, E, P, and D:

"J" signifies "Jehovah," (the name for God YHWH) text,
"E" signifies "Elohim" (the pural name of God or literally "Gods") text,
"P" signifies "Priestly tradition" text,
"D" Deuteronomic text.

Please note the use of the words possibly and probably. Historians love to argue passionately about dates. They also argue what the texts mean and about the validity of translations. They likewise argue about the J, E, P, and D texts, etc. Some scholars subdivide the texts even further (i.e., J1, J2, etc.) but that's not really pertinent to this discussion.

The Creation account in the first verses of Genesis 1 contains elements very similar to Mesopotamian creation stories found in "The Epic of Gilgamesh" These first verses of Genesis are assumed to have been written in the 6th century bce and belong to the "P" text. The second creation story in Genesis (2:4 to 2:25) is much older in Judaism and belongs to the "J" text.

And that is the real reason for the inconsistency between Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 2:21-24 and when woman was created.

I now return to why people told and retold stories of Lilith. Instead of asking why spin such tales, the question should be: How can one theologically explain sterility, infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth, or crib death (SIDS)?

In a "polytheistic outlook," it can be theologically explained a couple of ways. One explanation is that one of the many spirits/gods/demons is plaguing you with sterility, infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth, or crib death and you must either:

a) appease this spirit/god/demon,
b) protect your family from this spirit/god/demon with magic (charms, wards, traps),
c) appeal to a more powerful deity/deities who are already your patron/matron(s) to protect your family.
Another possible explanation is that some other person had caused this bad luck by gazing with a malignant and envious glance.

In a "monothestic outlook" with an all powerful deity, the explanation is a bit trickier. It can be theologically explained in one of the following:

a) God is all powerful and evil, and God hates you and your family--ultimately you're screwed--this theological explanation isn't very popular;
b) God is all powerful and benign, but you are wicked or your family/ancestors are wicked--there is some mark against you for which you must appease this all powerful God or cleanse the stain to be worthy of this all powerful God's favor;
c) God is all powerful, as well as incomprehensible, unpredictable, unrelenting, and unstoppable; the all powerful God moves in mysterious ways and this God has a plan--and since you don't know all of that plan, you must simply accept God's actions;
d) God is all powerful, but God is at war with several rebellious spirits who attack his favored humans; God is also at war with you, or rather you and your family are at war with God because you do not submit to God's will; you are foolish, stiff-necked, proud, and rebellious--just like those wicked and rebellious spirits; yet if you have, or your family has been, unfairly injured, you will be later be rewarded for your part in this spiritual war and thus you will recieve recompense at some future unknown time.
The explanation that some other person with an evil eye caused bad luck by gazing with a malignant, envious glance--can still be used in a "monotheistic outlook," but there is still the theological problem of why an all powerful deity permitted the evil eye.

Interestingly, the Jewish Lilith was not held responsible for the sterility of Rachel or Abimelech's houshold. The gaze of an evil eye was not blamed either.

In Genesis 29:31: "And when the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren." In Genesis 30:22: "And God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her, and opened her womb." In Genesis 20:17-18: "So Abraham prayed unto God: and God healed Abimelech, and his wife, and his maidservants; and they bare children. For the Lord had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech, because of Sarah Abraham's wife." In these stories, the LORD alone is responsible for sterility in women, if it suits his plans.

Many cultures opted for the explanation of spirits, rather than the evil eye, as the cause of sterility, infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth, or crib death (SIDS).

Perhaps the ancient Hebrews warded away spirits as the cause of sterility, infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth, or crib death (SIDS).

Numerous scholars have said that the name "Lilith" was adopted and adapted from Babylonian folklore during the "Babylonian Captivity" or "Exile of the Jews":

At this point, the legend of Lilith as the "first Eve" merges with the earlier legend of Sumero-Babylonian origin, dating from around 3,500 BCE, of Lilith as a winged female demon who kills infants and endangers women in childbirth. In this role, she was one of several mazakim or "harmful spirits" known from incantation formulas preserved in Assyrian, Hebrew, and Canaanite inscriptions intended to protect against them. As a female demon, she is closely related to Lamashtu whose evilness included killing children, drinking the blood of men, and eating their flesh. Lamashtu also caused pregnant women to miscarry, disturbed sleep and brought nightmares.

In turn, Lamashtu is like another demonized female called Lamia, a Libyan serpent goddess, whose name is probably a Greek variant of Lamashtu. --Christopher LCE Witcombe, Eve and the Identity of Women: 7. Eve & Lilith.

Alan Humm, on his Lilith provides a translation of a text on a magical Persian bowl, "Lilith Exorcized on a Persian Bowl" to protect the household of "Bahram-Gushnasp son of Ishtar-Nahid." These sort of magical bowls are also known as "demon bowls" or "incantation bowls."

Lilith seems to have slipped into the USA African American hoodoo tradition via an 18th or 19th century magical text, The Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses, in the Appendix titled Sefer Schimmush Tehillim, or the magical uses of the Psalms.

Psalm 126
Are you so unfortunate, that your children are taken away from you in their infancy, and that you are not able to raise any of them, then, when your wife again becomes pregnant, write this Psalm upon four amulets made out of clean parchment, and add to the last line of each amulet the names of the following angels: Sinui, Sinszuni, and Semanglaf, and afterward hide the amulets in the four walls of your house, thus the child will remain living.
Another version of this protective spell is:
Protection for Newborns
A traditional protection against the sudden death of infants involved writing Psalm 126 upon four amulets made out of clean paper. Added to the last line of each charm were the names of three angels: "Senoy," "Sansenoy," and "Semangelof." If a married couple is so unfortunate that their young children have been taken from them, when the man's wife again becomes pregnant, he should create these charms. Wherever amulets with these names are set, the spirit will cause no harm to a child. These four charms must be hidden in the four walls of the house, the Word of God will guard against the winged night spirit.
Interestingly, these two spells seem to draw on the same type of folk practice as the magical Persian bowl, only the charm is written on paper.

Who is Lilith now?

Shy David, author of Lilith Pages, discussed how the stories and lore surrounding Lilith shifted. She was not just a spirit of the sterile desert wind, flying in the night, leading men astray, bringing nightmares and causing nocturnal emissions, and attacking children, and robbing the womb. As a Goddess of the wilderness, she is a independent spirit who cannot be chained or contained by men to serve them.

The Goddess Lilith is currently, here in the 1990s CE, associated with strong, independent women. This may be why contemporary feminism has appropreated Her as a symbol for feminism--even though there are excellent, real-life women who were and are fine examples to emulate. This appropriation of Lilith by feminists has, by ignorance and by design, rewritten the Lilith mythology: She has taken on aspects and attributes She had not posessed for four thousand years. But that is the nature of Goddesses and Gods. --Shy David, Lilith Pages.
Though Lilith is still not a spirit to be invited into the infant nursery room, she grew in popularity among women at the end of the 20th century. I started stumbling across Lilith's story circa 1980's retold or re-examined from a Goddess-worshiping Feminist point of view.

Lilith was not the cuddly protective "mom" who wanted all her daughters married in a happily-ever-after storybook fantasy. The daughters of Lilith were witches--or they were the supernatural lilim (succubi), who had their way with men. In either case, the daughters of Lilith were not domesticated women. Furthermore, Lilith's level of personal power was enticing to many young women. Lilith did what she wanted, never mind what everybody else wanted.

For example, there is Lilith magazine, the USA's independent non-profit Jewish women's quarterly, which is named after the legendary predecessor of Eve, who insisted on equality with Adam. Since 1976, Lilith magazine has been a unique voice, speaking out on the interrelationships of Jewish identity and feminism, and serving as a resource center and as a catalyst for action on behalf of Jewish women.

Another example, Sarah McLachlan founded the "Lilith Fair" tour in the 1990's as a chance for female musicians to take center stage. McLachlan created the event, because she was frustrated with the music industry's emphasis upon male performers. McLachlan also took the name Lilith from the medieval Jewish legend of Lilith, Adam's first wife. Lilith Fair raised over $10M in its first three years for women's charities throughout North America and ran from 1997 to 1999.

Judika Illes explained that Lilith is a spirit who demands recognition. As she wrote in her Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses, "She has dominion over sexual desire, erotic dreams and sacred sex magic." (p. 638) In the 13th century, "Spanish Kabbalists described Lilith as a ladder on which one can ascend to the rungs of prophecy." (Illes, p. 639)

Lilith represented an archtype of a powerfully sexual woman, refusing to submit to a husband that someone else had chosen for her. She is the "bad girl" because she is independant of any one man. She successfully initiated the first divorce. Lilith chose wilderness and desolation over safe domesticity--and she was never repentent for it.

On top of everything else, this spirit used the secret name of an all powerful deity to grow her own wings. She paid no mind to this deity's plan for her to be a domesticated wife.

Lilith was a powerful spirit; she had claws; she had wings; she had freedom. Since she was immortal, and was probably always a Goddess, she would never grow old and sick or weak. She could never be vulnerable.

copyright 2013 Myth Woodling

Sources and reading, plus image links

Margi B. Modern Quotes and Interpretations of Lilith, 2003-2008, acccessed on 7/23/13

Shy David, Letter to JBL Statues: Lilith Pages, March 27, 1998 CE, accessed 7/17/13.

Shy David, Lilith Pages,accessed 7/17/13.

Shy David Pictures Of Lilith: Lilith Pages, accessed 7/17/13.

Moses Gaster, Ilchester Lectures on Greeko-Slavonic Literature and Its Relation to the to the Folk-lore of Europe During the Middle Ages: With Two Appendices and Plates, 1887.

Alan Humm, Overview of Lilith , accessed 7/23/13, on Alan Humm's Lilith.

Alan Humm, Photo of a prophylactic magical bowl with Lilith in the center; these magical bowls, also known as "demon bowls" or "incantation bowls," were used to trap spirits or ward them off, accessed 7/23/13 on Alan Humm's Lilith.

Alan Humm, Another photo of a prophylactic magical bowl with Lilith in the center, accessed 7/23/13 on Alan Humm's Lilith.

Alan Humm, Translation of texts in "demon bowls," accessed 7/23/13 on Alan Humm's Lilith.

Judika Illes, Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses, 2009.

Samuel Noah Kramer, "Gilgamesh And The Huluppu-Tree: A Reconstructed Sumerian Text." Originally Assyriological Studies of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago 10, Chicago: 1938.

Charles G. Leland, Aradia or The Gospel of Witches, 1899.

Sabina Magliocco, Who Was Aradia? The Pomegranate: The Journal of Pagan Studies, Issue 18, Feb. 2002, accessed 10/13/07.

Protective spell amulet, accessed 7/23/13

Herbert Pilch, Orality and Literacy in Early Middle English, 1996, p. 135. Pilch recounted the story of Saint Taurinus and the temple of Diana.

Meg R, The Lilith Project: Origins: Isaiah 34:14, part of The Lilith Project 10/4/08, accessed 7/17/13.

Renée Rosen, The Goddess with No Tradition: My Personal Thealogy of Lilith, on Renée Rosen's "The Lilith Shrine, my online shrine to my role model as an uppity jewish woman." accessed 7/23/13.

The Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses in the Appendix titled Sefer Schimmush Tehillim, or the magical uses of the Psalms, accessed 7/17/13.

Sacred Source, Lilith plaque 5" x 6". This plaque is a beautiful copy of the "Burney relief" also known as the "Queen of the Night relief," which is sold at Sacred Source, P.O. Box 163WW, Crozet, VA 22932; phone:1-800-290-6203; email: spirit@sacredsource.com; Request a free catalogue, tell them Myth Woodling from "The Goddess Aradia and other subjects" sent you.

Taurin d'Evreux, Wikipedia L'encyclopedie, last modified April 6, 2013, accessed 7/28/13.

Christopher LCE Witcombe, Eve and the Identity of Women: 7. Eve & Lilith , accessed 7/17/13.

Acknowledgments and thanks

I would like to express my thanks to two authors: Judika Illes and Sabina Magliocco. Judika Illes provides a much more in depth picture of Lilith in her Encyclopedia of Spirits than I do here. I urge anyone interesting in knowing more about Lilith to read her section in that book. However, I wish to thank her for a particularly useful discussion we had during which I brought up the connection Leland had postulated between Lilith and Aradia. I commented that I wondered how a Semitic spirit of the desert would end up in either ancient Etrusca (Northern Italy) or ancient Rome. Judika Illes explained that the legends of Lilith came to Rome and into the rest of Italy with the Jews. In particular, Lilith was known to take the form of a black cat.

Dr.Sabina Magliocco has provided plenty of scholarly based information on Aradia. In particular, she discussed the connection between Italian legends of Erodiade/Herodiade, as a witch queen who led the night flight, and the Aradia of Leland's text. Her writings on this subject illuminate how Erodiade/Herodias evolved in Italian follore from the biblical Herodias.

Predictions and disclaimers

Prediction 1: I predict that someone will read this page about Lilith and will let me know that I have no idea what I am writing about because my sources are all outdated and that most sources of information claiming to give accurate information about Akkadian and Babylonian "demons" previously used to define Lilith are now suspect.

Disclaimer 1: I read mid-Eastern history and Feminist literature on Lilith mostly in the 1980's/90's. Most of mid-Eastern history was published about 10-20 years before that. I'm not claiming what I've read is the most up-to-date, nor am I claiming my sources haven't been overturned by some important bit of modern scholarship of which I am unaware. (One day, there may be archaeological discovery involving a Hebrew inscription clearly dated to before the "Babylonian Captivity" or "Exile of the Jews" which definitely linked the name of Lilith in Hebrew lore as one of the "harmful spirits." If such an item is found, THAT discovery would indicate that Lilith was always a spirit associated primarily with Jewish culture.)

This page sought to give brief discussion of Leland connecting Herodias and Lilith, but I also wanted this page to provide a brief overview about what sundry folks thought about who was this spirit called Lilith.

In the meantime, I will briefly quote Dr. Alan Humm who has a PhD in Religious Studies, and certainly has far more knowledege than me:

Lilith is the most important of a small collection of named female demons in Jewish legend. Historically, she is actually older than Judaism (at least Judaism as defined as a post-restoration phenomenon). Her earliest appearance is probably in ancient Sumer. Although it is far from certain, she may be a minor character in a prologue to the Epic of Gilgamesh. In the ancient world she also sometimes appears in magical texts, amulets, etc., intended to thwart her activities. She appears once in the Bible (Isaiah), in a context that associates her with demons of the desert, and again in some Dead Sea Scroll passages clearly based on the Isaiah reference.

We see somewhat more of her in late Roman/early medieval Judaism. She appears frequently on prophylactic magical bowls. In this context, she is clearly associated with childbirth (e.g. as a threat), and perhaps also as a succubus against which men need protection. In these bowls she is often countered by invoking the powers of her nemesis angels: Snvi, Snsvi, and Smnglof (we don't know what vowels to use with these names, but presumably they were intended to be pronounceable). She also shows up in the Talmud, and is clearly linked with the demonic world. Here also, her role as succubus begins to take clear shape. --Alan Humm, Overview of Lilith, accessed 7/23/13, on Alan Humm's Lilith.

Contact Myth Woodling at jesterbear @verizon. net if you have other interesting information about Lilith.

Prediction 2: I also predict that someone else will contact me to tell me that I should absolutely not be doing any spirtitual with Lilith because Lilith is very dangerous. Someone once told me that Lilith would likely end up cursing me with with infertility if I did spirtitual or magical work with Lilith.

Disclaimer 2: I do not regularly invoke Lilith. I do not view her as my patrona or my matron deity. Lilith is a powerful and fascinating spirit, and I find all the lore and legends surrounding her amazing.

copyright July 2013, Myth Woodling

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