Gnostic Studies on the Web

Those interested in the Lillith myth might also find interesting a
discussion of Gnostic creation mythology and the unique Gnostic
reading of the Book of Genesis:  The Genesis Factor: Gnostic
Creation Mythology.

Subject: Lillith

From "Hebrew Myths" by Robert Graves and Raphael Patai:

Some say the God created man and woman in His own image
on the Sixth Day, giving them charge over the world, but
that Eve did not yet exist. Now, God had set Adam to
name every beast, bird and other living thing. When they
passed before him in pairs, male and female, Adam
--being already like a twenty-year-old man-- felt
jealous of their loves, and though he tried coupling
with each female creature in turn, found no satisfaction
in the act. He therefore cried: "Every creature but I
has a proper mate!" and prayed God would remedy this
injustice. [1]

God then formed Lilith, the first woman, just as He had
formed Adam, except that he used filth and sediment
instead of pure dust. From Adam's union with this
demoness, and with another like her named Naamah, Tubal
Cain's sister, sprang Asmodeus and innumerable demons
that still plague mankind. Many generations later,
Lilith and Naamah came to Solomon's judgement seat,
disguised as harlots of Jerusalem. [2]

Adam and Lilith never found peace together, for when he
wished to lie with her, she took offence at the
recumbent position he demanded. "Why must I lie beneath
you?" she asked. "I also was made from dust, and am
therefore your equal." Because Adam tried to compel her
obedience by force, Lilith, in a rage, uttered the magic
name of God, rose into the air and left him.

Adam complained to God: "I have been deserted by my
helpmeet." God at once sent the angels Senoy, Sansenoy
and Semangelof to fetch Lilith back. They found her
beside the Red Sea, a region abounding in lascivious
demons, to whom she bore 'lilim' at the rate of more
than one hundred a day. "Return to Adam without delay,"
the angels said, "or we will drown you!" Lilith asked:
"How can I return to Adam and live like an honest
housewife, after my stay beside the Red Sea?" "It will
be death to refuse!" they answered. "How can I die,"
Lilith asked again, "when God has ordered me to take
charge of all newborn children: boys up to the eighth
day of life, that of circumcision; girls up to the
twentieth day. None the less, if ever I see your three
names or likenesses displayed in an amulet above a
newborn child, I promise to spare it." To this they
agreed; but God punished Lilith by making one hundred of
her demon children perish daily; [3] and if she could
not destroy a human infant, because of the angelic
amulet, she would spitefully turn against her own. [4]

Some say that Lilith ruled as queen in Zmargad, and
again in Sheba; and was the demoness who destroyed Job's
sons. [5] Yet she escaped the curse of death which
overtook Adam, since they had parted long before the
Fall. Lilith and Naamah not only strangle infants but
also seduce dreaming men, and one of whom, sleeping
alone, may become their victim. [6]


[1] Divergences between the Creation myths of Genesis I
and II, which allow Lilith to be presumed as Adam's
first mate, result from a careless weaving together of
an early Judean and a late priestly tradition. The older
version contains the rib incident. Lilith typifies the
Anath-worshipping Canaanite women, who were permitted
pre-nuptial promiscuity. Time after time the prophets
denounced Israelite women for following Canaanite
practices; at first, apparently, with the priests'
approval -- since their habit of dedicating to God the
fees thus earned is expressly forbidden in Deuteronomy
XXIII:18. Lilith's flight to the Red Sea recalls the
ancient Hebrew view that water attracts demons.
"Tortured and rebellious demons" also found safe
harbourage in Egypt. Thus Asmodeus, who had strangled
Sarah's first six husbands, fled "to the uttermost parts
of Egypt" (Tobit VIII:3), when Tobias burned the heart
and liver of a fish on their wedding night.

[2] Lilith's bargain with the angels has its ritual
counterpart in an apotropaic {1} rite once performed in
many Jewish communities. To protect the newborn child
against Lilith --and especially a male, until he could
be permanently safeguarded by circumcision-- a ring was
drawn with natron, or charcoal, on the wall of the
birthroom, and inside it were written the words: "Adam
and Eve. Out, Lilith!" Also the names Senoy, Sansenoy
and Semangelof (meanings uncertain) were inscribed on
the door. If Lilith nevertheless succeeded in
approaching the child and fondling him, he would laugh
in his sleep. To avert danger, it was held wise to
strike the sleeping child's lips with one finger --
whereupon Lilith would vanish.

[3] 'Lilith' is usually derived from the
Babylonian-Assyrian word 'lilitu,' 'a female demon, or
wind-spirit' -- one of a triad mentioned in Babylonian
spells. But she appears earlier as 'Lillake' on a 2000
BC Sumerian tablet from Ur containing the tale of
_Gilgamesh and the Willow Tree_. There she is a demoness
dwelling in the trunk of a willow tree tended by the
Goddess Inanna (Anath) on the banks of the Euphrates.
Popular Hebrew etymology seems to have derived 'Lilith'
from 'layil,' 'night'; and she therefore often appears
as a hairy night-monster, as she also does in Arabian
folklore. Solomon suspected the Queen of Sheba of being
Lilith, because she had hairy legs. His judgement on the
two harlots is recorded in 1 Kings III:16. According to
Isaiah XXXIV:14-15, Lilith dwells among the desolate
ruins in the Edomite Desert where satyrs ("se'ir"),
reems {2}, pelicans, owls {3}, jackals, ostriches,
arrow-snakes and kites {4} keep her company.

[4] Lilith's children are called 'lilim.' In the _Targum
Yerushalmi_, the priestly blessing of Numbers VI:26
becomes: "The Lord bless thee in all thy doings, and
preserve thee from the Lilim!" The fourth-century AD
commentator Hieronymous identified Lilith with the Greek
Lamia, a Libyan queen deserted by Zeus, whom his wife
Hera robbed of her children. She took revenge by robbing
other women of theirs.

[5] The Lamiae, who seduced sleeping men, sucked their
blood and ate their flesh, as Lilith and her
fellow-demonesses did, were also known as 'Empusae,'
'forcers-in'; or 'Mormolyceia,' 'frightening wolves';
and described as 'Children of Hecate.' A Hellenistic
relief shows a naked Lamia straddling a traveller asleep
on his back. It is characteristic of civilizations where
women are treated as chattels that they must adopt the
recumbent posture during intercourse, which Lilith
refused. That Greek witches who worshipped Hecate
favoured the superior posture, we know from Apuleius;
and it occurs in early Sumerian representations of the
sexual act, though not in the Hittite. Malinowski writes
that Melanesian girls ridicule what they call 'the
missionary position,'{5} which demands that they should
lie passive and recumbent.

[6] 'Naamah,' 'pleasant,' is explained as meaning that
'the demoness sang pleasant songs to idols.' 'Zmargad'
suggests 'smaragdos,' the semi-precious aquamarine; and
may therefore be her submarine dwelling. A demon named
Smaragos occurs in the _Homeric Epigrams_.

- pps 65 - 69

{1} Apotropaic. "Intended to ward off evil."

{2} Reems. Thanks to Diccon Frankborn (
for the following:

The reem -- properly, re'em, pronounced roughly "ray-em" -- was
the aurochs, the largest and most dangerous wild ox that ever

{3} The owl is particularly sacred --if that's the right word-- to
Lilith. A Sumerian relief, now popularly available in
reproduction, shows her with owl's feet, standing on the backs of
a pair of lions and holding the Sumerian version of the Ankh in
each hand.

{4} Kites. A carrion-bird, related to the vulture.

{5} Now you know where the term comes from!

Love is the law, love under will.

- Christeos Pir

... And the just man rages in the wilds where lions roam.