In the beginning, God created...
Myths and legends are funny things. They are usually born out of chronicles about actual people or events, but by the time the tales have morphed and entered into the realm of folklore they have often transformed into narratives that reveal more about the people who are telling the story than they do about the people in the story.
The legend of Lilith began somewhere amongst the ancient Sumerian and Babylonian peoples. Lilith was originally their mysterious goddess of the night. The name “Lilith” in ancient Assyrian meant “screech-owl”, which is another mysterious and raucous creature of the night.
Over time the legend of Lilith began to change to reflect the fears of people that grew out of the night. Lilith took on an air of sexual mystery and malevolence as she was turned into a succubus that men could blame for their nocturnal emissions. Before long anything that went bump in the night got laid at Lilith’s doorstep.
By the time the legend of Lilith reached the ancient Hebrews and became incorporated into the Judeo-Christian mythology that we know today the story had taken a very interesting turn. The Hebrews gave the Lilith story a twist that seems to do more to expose their own Freudian slip than it does to unveil the mystery of Lilith herself.
This new “biblical” legend had it that Lilith was the first woman and first wife of Adam, before Eve arrived on the scene. Both Lilith and Adam were created together, on the sixth day, from the same dust of the Earth. Lilith was created independently from and equal to Adam, which is where the trouble began.
The most commonly reported point of contention in the Garden of Eden between Adam and Lilith was that Adam always liked to be on top when making love, which Lilith had a problem with. This was of course merely a symptom of some deeper differences, but it was this issue that supposedly caused the rift in the end.
After a particularly fierce argument which Adam attempted to win by an act of marital rape, Lilith had taken all she was going to take and she decided to leave. When God tried to interfere by forbidding Lilith to leave, she flew into a rage and uttered the powerful and unspeakable “Name of the Almighty”, which had some sort of disempowering effect on God and off she went to live in the wilderness with the plants and animals, thus becoming the first Earth Mother.
Feeling a bit sorry for himself, Adam complained to God that he had been abandoned, so God sent three angels to persuade Lilith to return home. According to Adam’s version of events the angels told him that they found her on the shores of the Red Sea in a place inhabited by demons with whom they said Lilith was adulterously involved and that she was giving birth to hundreds of little demons every day.
It may be of interest to note here that later on in the same book, when Moses gets to the Red Sea these demons seem to have vanished as Moses makes no mention of them being in the area. So maybe Adam was exaggerating a bit about what his estranged wife was up to in an attempt to get a bit of sympathy for himself in the media.
As the story continues, the three angels tried to coax Lilith into returning to Adam. When this didn’t work the angels threatened to kill Lilith if she did not return, but rather than back down, Lilith got ready to rumble. The angels tried, but failed to kill Lilith, for she had acquired some sorcerous survival skills during her exile. Having failed to kill Lilith, the angels then set about slaughtering her children instead.
So much for God's concept of marriage counseling.
Having failed in the attempt to reconcile the original pair God then provided Adam with a new mate in the form of Eve whom God fashioned from one of Adam’s ribs. This would make Eve the first trophy wife.
Lilith however, like most maltreated wives wasn't about to let the matter end there. According to the original version of the story, Lilith was said to have returned to the Garden of Eden in the form of a snake. A spokesman for snakes however denied that any snakes had been involved and in a subsequent version of the story Adam claimed that Lilith had returned in the form of a serpent instead. Seeing how it is that even to this day people cannot agree on exactly what a serpent is, this version of the story is the one that has stuck.
The story goes on to say that Lilith took Eve aside and that Lilith persuaded Eve to eat the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge which then awakened Eve to the realization that what was going on in the Garden of Eden was all an illusion. A modern version of events would probably have it that Lilith persuaded Eve to take a women’s studies course at the local community college which awakened Eve to the realization that she shouldn’t be accepting less pay as a woman for doing the same job as a man. Either way, the party was over and God voided Adam and Eve’s lease, casting them out of the Garden of Eden and into the wilderness where Lilith was already homesteading.
Which is supposedly how we all ended up in the mess we find ourselves in today;
"it was the woman's fault".
Ever since this eviction from "Paradise" the patriarchal churches have vilified and defamed Lilith as demon and pariah, but what exactly was Lilith's crime?
Undiplomatically, Lilith had asserted the claim she and Adam were created equally and should be treated equally, thereby challenging outright the male hegemony on which these churches have based their authority.
Lilith is the primeval free spirit and to some, the first feminist, an idea that still does not go over well today. The message in the story of Lilith, the "screech-owl", is about having a voice and using it. Lilith continues to speak and sometimes even scream against the continued misogynistic calumny that is railed against her.
This Goddess refuses to go quietly away.
Within the goddess cultures the women were the goddess' earthly guardians and goddess worship was the archetype of early tribal spirituality. Women were seen as the maintainers of the Life Force and they were worshipped in the form of the Triple Goddess; as Maiden, Mother and Crone and in the three faces of the Moon. In the Goddess Clans the women were entrusted with overseeing all aspects of communal husbandry. They raised the children, cultivated the crops, maintained the fires, tended to the animals and gathered plants for healing and ritual use. Those things that were seen as gifts coming from the goddess were the sacred trust of the women of the tribe.
These emissaries of the goddess provided the vital link between the tribe and its harmony with nature. With sacred rituals, the priestess channeled the creative energy of the Goddess into the world. It was the women shamans and medicine women who sustained the communion with nature and kept open the path between the individual, the tribe and the Cosmos.
Pagan High Priestess Lianna Costantino offers a hand shake to a North Carolina Bible Believe who refuses her peace gesture while angrily shouting passages of the Bible at her.
The Goddess cultures suffered the ruthless oppresssion of the patriarchal religions. They enslaved the goddess people, subjugating them to the power of the masculine. A harsh and discriminating sky-god was introduced, abrogating the influence of the goddesses and the new male priests, usurping the role of the priestesses, established an intolerant and domineering male hegemony over the people. Whereas the guardianship of the land had always been the role of women in the goddess cultures, new forms of marriage were enacted in order to shift the succedaneum of land inheritance to the male, which became the foundation of man's power and political authority. Woman, in the personification of Eve, was condemned for the fall of mankind from the sky-god's grace and women became religiously bound as the property of men.
The world is being reawakened to the vital part that duality plays in Nature and the spiritual poverty that exists without it. It is the reemergence of the spirit of the Goddess that will be the catalyst in reclaiming this harmonic duality. It is the time to reintegrate the balance of the male and the female principles, the Sun and the Moon, the yang and the yin. Within all of us the Goddess Energy of Mother Earth is struggling to be emancipated so that we may return to a harmony with nature and with our "Mother Earth"