Many people know the story of Adam and Eve and how they came to be in the Garden of Eden. However, most people do not know that Lilith was Adam’s first wife. In many modern religious texts, Lilith is called the serpent. While little is known about her, she holds great importance in history.
The Lilith Portrayed in Folklore
In Jewish folklore and mythology, Lilith is a raven-haired demon who often appears nude. She seduces unsuspecting men and uses their “spent seed” to spawn demon babies. She also preys on helpless infants in revenge for what God’s angels did to her.
Although Lilith’s name is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible once, over the centuries, she has been cast as the rebellious first wife and the demon king, Samael’s soul mate. Today, she is seen as a feminist icon who believed in equality and women’s rights.
Let’s take a look at who is Lilith in the Bible, and in particular, the famous Adam and Eve story.
Lilith’s controversial character is mostly talked about in Jewish folklore. Her name does not appear in the Torah but is mentioned several times in the midrashic text. Her literature, history, and symbolism are debated among intellectuals, feminists, and Jewish scholars.
She has multiple origin stories, but the widely popular one is as the first wife of Adam. According to the story about the Garden of Eden, God created Lilith from dust as a companion for Adam. However, problems arise between the couple when Adam exercised his dominance over her.
Another story is that Lilith refused to have sex with Adam when he commanded her to lie beneath him. She argued that they were equal since God had made them from earth’s dust; therefore, she would not lie beneath him. When Adam disagreed, Lilith ran away to seek independence. When Adam told God what happened, God sent angels Sammangelof, Sansenoi, and Senoi to bring her back here. They found Lilith in a cave, surrounded by children, and she refused to return to the Garden. The angels warned Lilith that they would kill 100 of her children daily for her disobedience if she did not return. Lilith still refused and faced the wrath of the angels.
In revenge, Lilith is said to kill infants and rob children of their life. It is believed that male children after birth might become a target of Lilith’s wrath for eight days and females for twenty days. Lilith mostly stole the lives of children at night. She would spare those who wore the amulets of the angels.
Once the angels departed, Lilith decided to return to the garden. Upon arrival, she saw that God had gifted Adam with another wife ― Eve. In revenge and jealousy, Lilith stole Adam’s seed while he was sleeping. With his seed, Lilith bore earth-bound demons called Lilium to replace the children the angels had killed.
Based on this version of who is Lilith in the Bible narrative it is also believed that Lilith is responsible for night emissions and erotic dreams in men. Another theory is that Lilith gets impregnated by these erotic dreams and masturbation, creating more demons.
Now that you know who Lilith is and her origin story, let’s take a look at her symbols and sigils:
Lilith as a Power Symbol
Lilith’s symbols have various meanings. As a result, different groups see her as a symbol of female power and destruction. Many see her as the first independent woman to be created on earth, which is why she holds such importance and power.
In the original story, she does not allow Adam to dominate her, flees, and suffers the consequences of her actions. In some versions of the story, it is believed that Lilith sexually assaulted Adam. Since she steals the seed of men, the Jewish halakhic law does not allow men to masturbate.
Lilith has a controversial image. On one side, she embodies women’s empowerment; on the other, she is a demoness. Those who do not like the demonic side of Lilith call her vengeful towards children and men and wicked. While Lilith’s story is accurate, the moral has been construed negatively to the point that she is praised and hated.
In the story of Adam and Eve, Lilith’s role is described clearly in various religious traditions. She challenges the oppressiveness in the world. However, she steals children’s lives, representing madness accompanying her exclusion and solitude.
Despite her downfalls, Lilith is still a symbol of power because of the air of mystery around her and how she survived.
Myth of Lilith
Lilith’s name first appeared in an ancient Sumerian epic called “Gilgamesh and the Huluppu Tree.” The epic was written in 200 BCE Babylonia when the Sumerians reigned. The poem tells a story about a devilish Lilith who builds a house near the Euphrates River in the Huluppu Tree during the creation days. When Gilgamesh slays the dragon, Lilith’s companion, she tears her house down and runs.
There are plenty of other books and religious scrolls in which Lilith is mentioned. Perhaps, the most well-known and accurate one is in the Bible in Isaiah (34:14).
According to the Jewish tradition, it is believed that Lilith could shift shapes. She was labeled as a demon who had the power to change her physical features and turn into a woman. There have been many TV series made on Heaven and Hell that have captured this detail. For example, in Supernatural, we see Lilith turning from a baby to a little girl and finally into a seductress. She then seduces other women’s husbands and steals their seed to get pregnant.
Kabbalah’s foundational book Zohar describes Lilith as a temptress who uses her evil charms to seduce men and birth demonic babies. Since Lilith chose herself above Adam, the first man, she is called the first feminist.
Symbols of Lilith
The question of who is Lilith is best answered by her symbols. She is depicted in Gothic and Medieval art as a nude-winged, tattooed body woman with reddish hair. Sometimes, she’s shown in front of a mirror, having no reflection. There are several symbols and sigils of Lilith that are explained below:
Serpents shed their skin now and then, symbolizing transformation, healing, and rebirth. Lilith is since portrayed as a rebel and trailblazer, making her a powerful archetype. In Biblical terms, the snake/serpent shows Lilith’s cunning side and her power to destroy and deceive.
Black Moon Lilith is a Glyph, which is a term used in astrology. It describes the location on a person’s birth chart, representing a point on the moon’s orbit based on how far it is from the earth. The glyph is in the shape of a crescent moon with a cross underneath. This represents mind and matter. In astrology, Lilith represents a person’s dark side, which is related to shadow work.
In Hebrew, Lilith means “night creatures,” “screech owl,” “night hag,” or “night monster.” The owl first appeared in Isaiah (34) in the list of animals created by God. Since then, Lilith has been linked with different birds, primarily birds of prey.
Dark Moon’s energy is empowering, creative and rebellious, and all of these are associated with Lilith. Many people use it as a symbol in cults to work with Lilith. Those who feel one with the energy of Lilith and like to embody her essence often have an image of the Dark Moon on their jewelry.
There is also Black Moon Lilith, which represents the primitive impulses of a person, such as repressed sexuality. The rebellious part of Lilith, which is norm-defying, often exposes a person’s vulnerable, emotional and sensual side, which is why people are not willing to open up that easily in front of others.
There are two important Lilith sigils and a Grand Seal, which includes the primary sigils and a few more. These sigils signify femininity, rebellion, beauty, freedom, strength, and courage.
Names of Lilith
Throughout history, Lilith has been given many names. Some have origin stories, and others are based on her symbols. Here are a few popular ones:
- The First Feminist
- Demon of Screeching
- Screeching Owl
- Night Monster
A few other names that have been mentioned in the Folk-lore of the Holy Land include:
- Amiz Raphi
Lilith and Satan
After abandoning the Garden of Eden, Lilith’s next journey is described in the Zohar. It elaborates on Lilith’s birth story and how she came to be in Eden. The word Zohar means “Splendor.” It is a Hebrew title given to the Kabbalistic Tome, which was compiled by Moses de Leon (1250–1305) in Spain.
To the Kabbalists, who are members of the Medieval School of Mystical Thought, the Tome’s allegorical and mystical interpretations are considered sacred in the Torah. The Lilith mentioned in Zohar is Genesis’s (1:27) rereading:
“And God created man in His image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them”
As you can read, there’s a shift in pronouns from singular or plural. Based on this, the Talmud talks about the first human being and suggests they were androgynous, single creatures with two separate halves.
The intention behind the first creations was to produce a male and female. However, only one male was created – Adam. Centuries later, the female was created and separated.
The female, in this case, was made from a part of the male. The story goes that God cast a spell to put Adam to sleep and then sawed off his rib to create his bride. Hence, Lilith was conceived from Adam. After fleeing the Garden of Eden, Lilith wandered at night time, seducing sons of men and defiling them. It is believed that Lilith’s promiscuity will continue until God destroys evil in the world.
Zohar’s final tale about Lilith is about her relationship with the evil named Asmodeus or Samael. In the myth, Samael is the personification of evil and is associated with Satan. He is the leader of fallen angels and forms an unholy bond with Lilith. Together, they embody the dark and deprivation.
In many stories, Lilith and Samael produce a demonic brood that darkens the earth with evil. To ensure their evil doesn’t take over the good, Samael is castrated, causing Lilith to dally with innocent men and satisfy her passion.
The tragic telling of who is Lilith in the Bible’s Adam and Eve story has two ends ― one where she was cast in a dark light for speaking up her mind and taking a stand and the other, where she is labeled as an evil seductress causing perverted distraction and destruction.
Lilith was known to rule side by side with Satan. She did not care about the aftermath she left in her wake after seducing men and killing children. All she wanted to do was quench her thirst for revenge and the pain she felt at the hands of the angels who killed her children. Hence, she controlled the people around her through demonic possessions.