I am Lilith, returned from the prison of white oblivion,
lioness of the master and goddess of the twin moons.
I gather in a cup what cannot be gathered, and I drink it,
for I am the priestess and the temple.
I leave no drop for no one, lest they think I have had enough.
I copulate and multiply by myself to make
a people from my own,
and then kill my lovers to make way
for those who did not know me.
Joumana Haddad (Dec. 6. 1970 – )
Translation by Henry Matthews
Legend has it that Lilith was Adam’s first wife, created together with him on the Sixth Day and from the same materials. When God created Adam, he was lonely, so God created Lilith from the same dust from which Adam was molded. Adam wished to rule over Lilith, but Lilith, claiming equality with Adam because she was created from the same dust, left Adam and fled the Garden. God sent three angels in pursuit of Lilith. They caught her and ordered her to return to Adam. She refused. Then God created Eve from Adam´s rib so that she couldn’t claim equality and God and Adam were happy. And ever since, Lilith flies around the world, howling her hatred of mankind through the night, and vowing vengeance because of the shabby treatment she had received from God and from Adam. She is also called “The Howling One.”
The legend of Lilith has its roots in the biblical book of Genesis, where two contradictory versions of Creation eventually led to the concept of a “first Eve.”
The first Creation account appears in Genesis 1 and describes the simultaneous creation of both male and female human beings after all of the plants and animals have already been placed in the Garden of Eden. In this version man and woman are portrayed as equals and are both the pinnacle of God’s Creation.
The second Creation story appears in Genesis 2. Here man is created first and placed in the Garden of Eden to tend it. When God sees that Adam is lonely, all the animals are made as possible companions for him. Then Eve is created after Adam rejects all of the animals as partners. Hence, in this account man is created first and woman is created last.
Scholars are not certain where the character of Lilith comes from, though many believe she was inspired by Sumerian myths about female vampires called “Lillu” or Mesopotamian myths about succubae (female night demons) called “lilin.” Lilith is mentioned four times in the Babylonian Talmud, but it is not until the Alphabet of Ben Sira (c. 800s to 900s) that the character of Lilith is associated with the first version of Creation. In this medieval text, Ben Sira names Lilith as Adam’s first wife and presents a full account of her story.
According to the Alphabet of Ben Sira, Lilith was Adam’s first wife but the couple fought all the time. They didn’t see eye-to-eye on matters of sex because Adam always wanted to be on top while Lilith also wanted a turn in the dominant sexual position. When they could not agree, Lilith decided to leave Adam. She uttered God’s name and flew into the air, leaving Adam alone in the Garden of Eden. God sent three angels after her and commanded them to bring her back to her husband by force if she would not come willingly. But when the angels found her by the Red Sea they were unable to convince her to return and could not force her to obey them. Eventually a strange deal is struck, wherein Lilith promised not to harm newborn children if they are protected by an amulet with the names of the three angels written on it.
In an important 13th century Kabbalah text, the Sefer ha-Zohar (“The Book of Splendour”) written by the Spaniard Moses de Leon (c. 1240-1305), it is explained that:
“At the same time Jehovah created Adam, he created a woman, Lilith, who like Adam was taken from the earth. She was given to Adam as his wife. But there was a dispute between them about a matter that when it came before the judges had to be discussed behind closed doors. She spoke the unspeakable name of Jehovah and vanished.”