Lilith – the Original First Lady?

Lilith (John Collier painting)

Lilith (John Collier painting)

What happened when the first man told his wife she had to be submissive to him?

In many religious sources, Eve (or Khavah in Hebrew) is supposedly the wife of Adam, who is described in Islamic, Christian and Jewish creation myths as the first man. Yet in early versions of the Jewish Talmud, Eve is Adam’s second wife. The story runs that Adam was created from clay alongside Lilith – his first wife.

Like a far more modern woman, when Adam decided he was superior to his wife, Lilith told him to get stuffed. She wasn’t the submissive sort. Then she left him for either the archangel Samael or Lucifer – details vary as to who it was, but as it was the first rebound relationship in religious texts, his identity probably wasn’t too important to Lilith.

Modern Woman in the First Millennium

I like to base my fiction on historic sources – in this case, from both the Dead Sea Scrolls and a Jewish text over a thousand years old. Given the Alphabet of ben Sirach is definitely out of copyright, I can post a translation of the passage on Lilith here:

After God created Adam, who was alone, He said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone’. He then created a woman for Adam, from the earth, as He had created Adam himself, and called her Lilith. Adam and Lilith began to fight. She said, ‘I will not lie below,’ and he said, ‘I will not lie beneath you, but only on top. For you are fit only to be in the bottom position, while am to be in the superior one.’ Lilith responded, ‘We are equal to each other inasmuch as we were both created from the earth.’ But they would not listen to one another. When Lilith saw this, she pronounced the Ineffable Name and flew away into the air. Adam stood in prayer before his Creator: ‘Sovereign of the universe!’ he said, ‘the woman you gave me has run away.’ At once, the Holy One, blessed be He, sent these three angels to bring her back.

Said the Holy One to Adam, ‘If she agrees to come back, fine. If not she must permit one hundred of her children to die every day.’ The angels left God and pursued Lilith, whom they overtook in the midst of the sea, in the mighty waters wherein the Egyptians were destined to drown. They told her God’s word, but she did not wish to return. The angels said, ‘We shall drown you in the sea.’

‘Leave me!’ she said. ‘I was created only to cause sickness to infants. If the infant is male, I have dominion over him for eight days after his birth, and if female, for twenty days.’

When the angels heard Lilith’s words, they insisted she go back. But she swore to them by the name of the living and eternal God: ‘Whenever I see you or your names or your forms in an amulet, I will have no power over that infant.’ She also agreed to have one hundred of her children die every day. Accordingly, every day one hundred demons perish.

Lilith in Myth

In the Songs of the Sage in the Dead Sea Scrolls, Lilith is named as a demon. She pops up in various mythology as a demon who steals children, a succubus, some sort of monster who comes in the night and various forms of demons. In once translation, she even gets called a vampire. She was long believed to be responsible for men having wet dreams.

Lilith has been described as the Etruscan deity Lenith, a woman without a face who waited at the gates of the underworld with Persephone and Hecate.

She’s been described as Satan’s wife, mistress and grandmother – though I hope for Satan’s sake that she wasn’t all three!

An interesting superstition is that when a baby laughs in its sleep, Lilith is nearby.

She’s associated with various deities and demons throughout recorded history – including Lamashtu and Lamia.

Lilith in Mel Goes to Hell

Lili other duties lowest resLilith is Lucifer’s mistress and one of the senior demons in Hell, which naturally entitles her to be one of the senior managers in the HELL Corporation in the Mel Goes to Hell series. She’s also Mel’s boss, inventing odd tasks to make Mel’s work day Hell and deriving considerable enjoyment from it.

Of course, Mel being the angel she is, she’s supposed to endure this with a smile and her usual angelic patience.

What neither of them counted on was that Mel and Lili, as she’s known in the office, look similar – making Mel very much Lucifer’s type. As he’s had Lili for millennia, his eye is most certainly caught by the fresh-faced angel.