Giving Lilith Her Due

Lilith Fair has announced its 2010 tour dates and excited fans are already purchasing tickets. Lilith Fair is a collection of women artists who share a stage to showcase the female contribution to contemporary music and donate a considerable share to charity. The event name, of course, is taken from the mythological character of Lilith. Popularized as a rare example of “Hebrew myth,” Lilith is a character who likely derives from ancient Mesopotamia, although her origins are obscure. Best known as “Adam’s first wife,” her somewhat sexy story in Judaic tradition evolved into Lilith being the original woman. Unlike Eve she was created simultaneously with Adam. Things were fine until she wanted to be on top during intercourse – males were not made to be dominated, according to patriarchal old Adam, and Lilith ships out to shack up with Satan. She is demonized (literally and figuratively) and becomes the “night hag” that snatches babies and claims the first right of intercourse with every male (an etiology for nocturnal emissions). She becomes the mother of demons.

This story shows all the traits of a late development, but the idea of a strong female figure in Eden is an appealing one. Lilith has come to represent the empowered female, and the modern trend towards accepting her as an icon of feminine independence is apt. Long ago I was intrigued by the female side of the story. Perhaps because I was raised primarily in a single-parent family for my formative years, I have always wondered about the disparity in our “advanced” culture that still considers the male as the “default” model with the female as kind of an adjunct after-thought. This fascination led me to the study of goddesses in the first place, culminating in a doctorate on Asherah. In the Bible men have Adam, Noah, Moses, David, and countless other role-models – even God himself according to standard interpretation. Why not admit the goddess?

It is telling that when Lilith becomes too powerful she is presented as evil. Anthropological explanations have little to offer by way of adequate explanations for such a development. Not to blame biology (or to lay claim to an excuse), but Frans de Waal’s Inner Ape demonstrates that males are hopelessly paranoid about showing weakness. Female primates tend to express their power by group cohesiveness while males try to blunder their way to the top with brute individualism. Adam had nothing to fear from Lilith. To those who perform in Lilith Fair, I only have to say, “Rock on!”

One thought on “Giving Lilith Her Due

  1. Henk van der Gaast

    Samuel hid her…Ben Sira gave her power.
    I liked her power, femininity with clout.

    Long may she reign, strike a coin for Lilith!

    You can tell she is “up there” with lahamu/laham in my geneses…

    Mind you, I do wish there was a bit more emphasis in mythologies for the original gods and their other incarnations as original creations…

    Let us make them in our image….


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