According to the Zohar: Genesis XXXII, in the section entitled A FURTHER SYMPOSIUM OF RABBI SIMEON’S STUDENTS, the group of Rabbis are discussing the period of time after the Fall of man. Rabbi Simeon explains that, “Adam as stated was separated from his wife a hundred and thirty years, during which time he begat demons and elementals that swarmed throughout the world.” These demons were conceived particularly by Naamah and Lilith. While the only reference in the New Jerusalem Bible to Lilith implies a demon or mystical creature (Isaiah 34:14), the reference to Naamah identifies her as the sister of Tubal-Cain (Genesis 4:22), the great-great-great-great-granddaughter of Cain. In this timeline Adam fathers all the Canaanite demons through Eve’s great-great-great-great-great-granddaughter Naamah and fathers the non-Canaanite demons through Lilith, who in some stories is getting revenge on her replacement, Eve, and in others is an immortal demon from the beginning and was not the “first Eve.” Even figuring a very young age for giving birth (which did not seem to be the case in ancient biblical times) Naamah could not have been born less than 75 years into the proposed 130 year separation. Supposedly then it would have been Lilith that was mothering the demons that Adam was begetting for most of the time. (Again, other than the quickest reference to the name, none of this appears in the Torah or the Bible.)
While Adam was going through his sinful period, Eve was struggling with her own temptation. As Rabbi Simeon explains to his students: “the first children brought forth by Eve were begotten by Somoal [Samael the archangel] who appeared to her riding on the back of a serpent….” This means that neither Cain nor Abel was a son of Adam.
This reverses the relationship between Adam and Lilith placing it after the introduction of Eve and the expulsion from Garden of Eden rather than in the Garden and before Eve’s creation. It also takes away the legitimate “first wife” status and reduces the relationship as well as the character of Lilith, Adam, and Eve to one of absolute immorality involving demons.
In discussing Lilith and Naamah’s unique nature, Rabbi Simeon also reveals the following:
Said Rabbi Abba: “Seeing that demons and elementals are subject to death, wherefore do Naamah and Lilith continue to exist through the ages?”
Rabbi Simeon replied: “All demons and elementaries do indeed die, but Naamah and Lilith together with Agereth, daughter of Mahlath their offspring, abide in the world until the day that the Holy One will banish and drive all evil and impure spirits out of the world.
Therefore, according to the Zohar, Lilith is one of a select few demons who cannot die until the Holy One banishes all evil from the world. She is one of the ONLY true immortals.
Lilith owes some of her demon status to other cultures including the Sumerian, Mesopotamian, and Babylonia civilizations.
In Sumeria, Lilith’s name is Lilitu and she is a protector and a fertility goddess as well as a dark maiden. One of the earliest recorded mentions of Lilith is in the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh (and you will meet him in my book) in relation to the Huluppu-Tree. This occurs in Tablet XII. Here she is in opposition to the Sumerian Goddess Inanna who wishes to build her home in the huluppu tree. Unfortunately a dragon or a snake (depending on the interpretation) had built its nest around the trunk, a bird known for mischief had placed its young in the branches, and Lilith had built her house in the middle of the tree.
Inanna weeps over the fate of her tree and Gilgamesh becomes the hero by driving the three invaders from the goddess’ tree. In the epic, Lilith is associated with darkness, with opposition to good (the goddess Inanna), and with the serpent/dragon.
Still the Sumerian legends see her more kindly than others, even making her a tragic figure. Following is the last stanza from an epic poem regarding Lilitu. Charles Alexander Moffat translated the poem. He admits to taking some poetic license in updating certain archaic language for clarity sake. To read the entire poem or go to the website for more information go to the Sumerian Legend of Lilitu.
Lilitu wept for the great prince
But the great prince remained dead
Saddened Lilitu knew she could never love
No mortal man could taste her kiss and live
Her tears brought life, but her kiss brought death
Here is a beginning to the succubus legend and even to the vampire legend. Loving her requires your life.
Hebrew and Babylonian Legend
Babylonian legend was not so kind. Lilith fully evolves into a demon. Once Israel went into Babylonian captivity, she followed her host country’s example and the Lilith/Inanna legends penetrated even deeper into the Hebraic consciousness.
Let us go back for a moment to the story of Lilith as the first wife of Adam. When she fled the Garden, God sent three angels after her. These were Senoy, Sansenoy, and Semangolef. In the Alphabet of Jesus Ben Sirach, Lilith responds with the statement that God created her to destroy children. “If the infant is male, I have dominion over him for eight days after his birth, and if female, for twenty days.” The eight days corresponds with the time of circumcision.
In order to appease the angels and convince them to leave her alone, she promises to pass by any child that wears an amulet inscribed with the names of the three angels or that has the names of the three angels nearby.
The mortality rate in newborns and birthing mothers was high during those times and nations blamed Lilith for these deaths.
Jews living in Babylonian during the third through seventh centuries A.D. created magic incantation bowls, in direct disobedience to Hebraic law, using a human skull as the magic item. (Talmudic law prohibited the touching of human bones so using a human skull would seem to show extreme desperation.) Many bowls, inscribed with the words “Adam and Eve out Lilith” served as protection again the death and misfortune that she brought. (Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 2009, vol.35, no.2 by Dan Levene)
The article is available to members of the Biblical Archaeology Library.
Archeologists discovered simpler bowl in Persia (no skulls this time) used to exorcize Lilith. Some bowls exorcised Lilith by way of divorce. In one particular instance, Lilith is divorced from the couple and commanded to “Hear it and depart from the house and dwelling of this Geyonai bar Mamai, and from Rashnoi his wife, the daughter of Marath.” The incantation listed below is the translation listed in Raphael Patai’s book The Hebrew Goddess of the depicted plate. Note that mention is specifically made of her attacking and killing children and causing the hearts of men to go astray – functions of the succubus aspect and the vampire aspect.
More information about this and other Lilith incantation bowls is available at Jewish and Christian Literature
You are bound and sealed,
all you demons and devils and liliths,
by that hard and strong,
mighty and powerful bond with which are tied Sison and Sisin….
The evil Lilith,
who causes the hearts of men to go astray
and appears in the dream of the night
and in the vision of the day,
Who burns and casts down with nightmare,
attacks and kills children,
boys and girls.
She is conquered and sealed
away from the house
and from the threshold of Bahram-Gushnasp son of Ishtar-Nahid
by the talisman of Metatron,
the great prince
who is called the Great Healer of Mercy….
who vanquishes demons and devils,
black arts and mighty spells
and keeps them away from the house
and threshold of Bahram-Gushnasp, son of Ishtar-Nahid.
Amen, Amen, Selah.
Vanquished are the black arts and mighty spells.
Vanquished the bewitching women,
they, their witchery and their spells,
their curses and their invocations,
and kept away from the four walls
of the house of Bahram-Gushnasp, the son of Ishtar-Nahid.
Vanquished and trampled down are the bewitching women —
vanquished on earth and vanquished in heaven.
Vanquished are their constellations and stars.
Bound are the works of their hands.
Amen, Amen, Selah.
Far more modern than incantation bowls, many amulets have survived from the 17th and 18th centuries to testify of Lilith’s reputation and the people’s fear. Generally all include the names of Adam and Eve and command Lilith to leave. Some are worn around the neck; others are placed on the walls.
One beautiful example is from 1832. Etched in copper, it identifies Lilith specifically as the first Eve. “Let Lilith, the first Eve, out (of this territory), (in the name of) Sinoy (Sanoy), Sinsnoy (Sansenoy), and Smangaluf.” This refers directly back to the legend of Lilith fleeing the Garden and refusing to return. Sinoy, Sinsnoy, and Smangaluf are the angels that receive her promise not to harm any child that wears an amulet bearing their names or that has their names around them. The amulet then cites a story only found on such items:
In the name of the Lord, God of Israel, who dwells between the cherubim: While Elijah, of blessed memory, was on his way, he met evil Lilith and all her group (of demons). He asked them: where are you going? And they answered: we are going to the house of so-and-so (female) to harm her and her newborn child. Then, Elijah excommunicated them and they pleaded with him and asked him to release them. Thus, (Elijah) made them swear in the name of God of Israel, that whenever the following names (would be mentioned) – not one of them would have the power to enter the house of the birthing mother, and to harm her or any of her family members. And these are the names (of Lilith): Lilith, Abitu, Obizo, Amzarpho Hakesh, Oram, Ikphudo, Ayelu, Tatruta, Klicht, Av’maktah, Shetra’kh, Za, Tiltui, Fitashi.
A complete description and interpretation of the amulet can be found at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem website.
Another interesting amulet doesn’t name Lilith but evokes the names of the three angels that ward off Lilith. “In the name of/Sanvi, and Sanasanvi/And Smengelef.” In this case, the amulet was especially created for a woman named Hannah for protection during and after childbirth. Again, there is no mistaking the connection to Lilith because of the invoking of the three angels associated with her promise.
Information about this amulet is available at Practical Kabbalah.
Incantation Bowls and Amulets were not the only methods of seeking protection against Lilith. In his book Abraham to America: A History of Jewish Circumcision, Eric Kline Silverman gives many examples of the great lengths people went to protect their infants. In addition to the bowls and amulets, these included magical circles, esoteric phrases, and henna patterns, and rituals.
Moroccan Jews waved a sword about the child’s room as if to slay invisible adversaries or tossed a knife against the wall while chanting…. In Kurdistan, Jewish infants slept in the laps of elderly women; midwives slapped mothers, then clapped three times, declaring “Depart, Lilith.”
Even music was a protection. In the Dead Sea Scrolls, “Songs of the Sage” (4Q510) is a hymn against demons and specifically lists Lilith. The translation is from The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English edited by Geza Vermes. Remember that the scrolls are made up of fragments and bits are missing.
… praises. Ben[edictions for the K]ing of glory. Words of thanksgiving in psalms of… to the God of knowledge, the Splendour of power, the God of gods, Lord of all the holy. [His] domini[on] is over all the powerful mighty ones and by the power of his might all shall be terrified and shall scatter and be put to flight by the splendor of the dwel[ling] of his kingly glory. And I, the Master, proclaim the majesty of his beauty to frighten and ter[rify] all the spirits of the destroying angels and the spirits of the bastards, thed demons, Lilith, the howlers (?) and [the yelpers …] they who strike suddenly to lead astray the spirit of understanding and to appal their heart and their… in the age of the domination of wickedness and the appointed times for the humiliation of the sons of ligh[t], in the guilt of the ages of those smitten by iniquity, not for eternal destruction but for the humiliation of sin. Exalt, O just, the God of marvels. My psalms are for the upright… May all whose way is perfect exalt him.
Even the lullaby was a form of protection, a spell commanding “Lilith abi” or “Lilith go away.”