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Eve tempted by the serpent in a paradise illustrated according to the texts of the Bible. An image showing good and evil in one scene.

Lilith: Ancient Demon, Dark Deity or Sensual Goddess?

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Lilith, an ancient mythological figure and one of the oldest known female spirits in the world, has embodied various roles across cultures. In some sources she has been described as a demon, while in others she was revered as an icon who morphed to become one of the darkest deities of the pagans. While her roots can be found within the famous Epic of Gilgamesh, she was also described within both the Bible and the Talmud.

Within Jewish tradition, Lilith is regarded as the most notorious of demons, which in other sources she was portrayed as the first woman created on Earth. In fact, according to one legend, God formed Lilith as the first woman of the human race, employing the same method as he did with Adam. The only different was that in place of pure dust, he also used filth and residue to create woman.

Lilith's name, derived from ancient Semitic languages, carries profound symbolism. Signifying “the night,” it links her to the darkness and mysteries of the nocturnal realm. This association underscores her connection to primal instincts, including sensuality and freedom, while also evoking a sense of awe and fear, highlighting the complexity of her character across different cultural interpretations.

Burney Relief, Babylon (1800-1750 BCE). Some scholars (e.g. Emil Kraeling) identified the figure in the relief with Lilith, based on a misreading of an outdated translation of the Epic of Gilgamesh. (Aiwok / CC BY-SA 3.0)

Burney Relief, Babylon (1800-1750 BCE). Some scholars (e.g. Emil Kraeling) identified the figure in the relief with Lilith, based on a misreading of an outdated translation of the Epic of Gilgamesh. (Aiwok / CC BY-SA 3.0)

Lilith as the Ancient Demon of the Sumerians

Lilith’s name comes from the Sumerian word lilitu, which meant a wind spirit or a female demon. Lilith was mentioned in the Tablet XII of the Epic of Gilgamesh, a famous poem of ancient Mesopotamia dated back to not later than c. 2100 BC. Tablet XII was added to the original text much later, c. 600 BC, in its later Assyrian and Akkadian translations.

Within these ancient references, Lilith appears in a magical story, where she represents the branches of a tree. She is described along with other demons, but researchers still argue if she was a demon or a dark goddess.

Lilith's presence extends beyond Sumerian mythology; early Jewish texts also feature her prominently, complicating the quest to pinpoint her origin. Yet, from the outset, her association with Sumerian witchcraft is unmistakable.

Within the Babylonian Talmud, Lilith was described as a dark spirit with an uncontrollable and dangerous sexuality, said to have fertilized herself with male sperm to create demons. She was believed to be the mother of hundreds of demons.

Lilith was known in the culture of the Hittites, Egyptians, Greeks, Israelites and Romans as well. In later times, she migrated to the north of the Europe. Within various mythologies and folklore, Lilith represented chaos and sexuality with legends attributing her with casting spells. Additionally, her lore intertwines with early vampire narratives.

Lilith, the first wife of Adam. (Public domain)

Lilith, the first wife of Adam. (Public domain)

Lilith as the Wife of the Biblical Adam

Lilith's presence within Biblical texts, notably Isaiah 34:14, ties her to the desolation of Eden. Here she is portrayed as a devilish, unclean and perilous entity from the outset.

In Genesis Rabbah, a collection of rabbinical commentary on the  Book of Genesis, she is depicted as Adam's initial wife, created simultaneously with him by God. Within these ancient texts, Lilith is described as strong-willed and independent. She sought equality with Adam, refusing to submit to him during intercourse. This assertion of autonomy led to the failure of their marriage, devoid of happiness, as noted by Robert Graves and Raphael Patai in  The Hebrew Myths.

“Adam complained to God: ‘I have been deserted by my helpmeet’ God at once sent the angels Senoy, Sansenoy and Semangelof to fetch Lilith back. They found her beside the Red Sea, a region abounding in lascivious demons, to whom she bore lilim at the rate of more than one hundred a day. ‘Return to Adam without delay,’ the angels said, ‘or we will drown you!’ Lilith asked: ‘How can I return to Adam and live like an honest housewife, after my stay beside the Red Sea?’ ‘It will be death to refuse!’ they answered. ‘How can I die,’ Lilith asked again, ‘when God has ordered me to take charge of all newborn children: boys up to the eighth day of life, that of circumcision; girls up to the twentieth day. None the less, if ever I see your three names or likenesses displayed in an amulet above a newborn child, I promise to spare it.’ To this they agreed; but God punished Lilith by making one hundred of her demon children perish daily; and if she could not destroy a human infant, because of the angelic amulet, she would spitefully turn against her own.”

Within Jewish texts, the narrative recounts that, in response to the misunderstandings and disappointments linked to Lilith, God chose to create a second wife for Adam. This tradition holds that her name was Eve.

Faust and Lilith in an oil painting by Richard Westall in 1831. (Public domain)

Faust and Lilith in an oil painting by Richard Westall in 1831. (Public domain)

Lilith as Icon for Modern Pagans and Feminists

Nowadays, Lilith has become a symbol of freedom for numerous feminist groups. Over the course of the 20th century women came to understand their capacity for independence due to their increased access to education. Consequently, they began seeking symbols of feminine power, which contributed to shifts in societal perceptions of gender roles and empowerment.

Lilith also gained recognition among certain followers of the pagan Wicca religion, founded in the 1950s by Gerald Gardner. This religious movement emphasizes reverence for nature and the divine feminine, aligning with Lilith's symbolism of independence and feminine power.

Lilith’s appeal was further amplified by artists, who found inspiration in her story and took her on as a muse. Lilith became a popular motif in art and literature, particularly during the Renaissance period, exemplified by Michelangelo's portrayal of her as a half-woman, half-serpent figure entwined around the Tree of Knowledge. This depiction heightened the significance of her legend within cultural imagination.

With time, Lilith increasingly captivated the imaginations of male artists such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti, who depicted her as the epitome of feminine beauty. Similarly, C.S. Lewis, author of The  Chronicles of Narnia, drew inspiration from Lilith's legend in crafting the character of the White Witch. Described as beautiful yet dangerous and cruel, Lewis portrayed her as Lilith's daughter, driven by a relentless desire to harm Adam and Eve's descendants.

Less romantic depictions of Lilith emerged in the mind of James Joyce, who labeled her as the patron of abortions. Joyce's association of Lilith with feminist philosophy marked her transition into a symbol of female independence in the 20th century.

As women gained more rights, they began to challenge the male-centric worldview, including questioning traditional Biblical narratives such as the story of Earth's creation. Lilith's name appears in diverse contexts, from being the namesake of a national literacy program in Israel to gracing the title of a Jewish women's magazine.

This ancient Sumerian legendary female demon remains a prominent topic in feminist literature exploring ancient mythology. Researchers continue to debate whether Lilith was conceived as an actual demon or as a cautionary tale warning against the potential consequences of women gaining power.

Top image: A snake and an apple, representing the famous Biblical Garden of Eden scene. Source: Adobe Stock / By XaMaps

By Natalia Klimczak


Abel, E. L. 2009.  Death Gods: An Encyclopedia of the Rulers, Evil Spirits and Geographies of the Dead. Greenwood.

Graves, R. and Patai, R. 2022.  Hebrew Myths: The Book of Genesis. Seven Stories Press.

Hammer, R. J. No date. “Lilith: Lady Flying in the Darkness. The most notorious demon of Jewish tradition becomes a feminist hero” in  My Jewish Learning. Available at:

Howe Gaines, J. 5 January 2024. “Lilith: Seductress, heroine or murderer?” in  Bible History Daily. Available at:

Hurwitz, S. 2009.  Lilith – The First Eve. Daimon Publishers. Available at:

The Gnosis Archive. No date. “The Lilith Myth” in Available at:



Take my pen name Jagganatha, which I use because it represents the destruction of ignorance. IT, in other words, is the title given to an idea, or a number of ideas, and collectively they are become its myth, but there is no such HISTORICAL person as Jagganatha, or of Lillith.
Your ideas and mine are just ideas unless and until we concretize and monetize them, like the Bible, or Harry Potter. According to the Greek Myths, for example Creation was caused by a Mare Farting. Now Creation exists, Almighty God exists, but nothing else with a name is anything more than the result of human ideas. Too bad we murder each other in our millions for mere ideas, but hey, we are only human. NO mythical creatures exist for real, but on occasion are given us as visions of our culturally received religious teachings by Almighty God. However, it has to be here noted that no evidence has ever been produced that confirms God writes divisive, bloody, pompous, heretical, and apocalyptic fantasies like the Koran, the Bible and all the Kabbalistic outpourings at all, let alone the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, but they are great fun to read- like Harry Potter!

She's a prideful, loose, evil demon who equaled herself to God, wait could it be that Lilith is Lucifer???

I prefer sensual Goddess, myself. :). "We twist history into 'history' daily" should be the motto of the controllers. lol. At the same time, being a beacon for feminists, whatever the he11 that represents ;), is sick as well, when their goal is abortion for all. Mental dimwits are the only ones that can't figure out all humans started at conception... you'd think, therefore, all arguments about what is, and when is, a human would be settled. It's a separate being, not the woman's 'growth', or tumor. I'm not religious, but, I'm not ignorant.

Most of my beliefs are based upon bits of information and my own personal views via discovery.

I dont see in the book of Isiah 34:14 that the bible says lillith? I'm confused

<p>In the article God made lilith&nbsp;the watcher of infants so they DON&rsquo;T DIE. But lilith bore demon infants so because she refused to be killed by the angels and tricked them by saying that how could she die when God made her the watcher of infants, that included all infants. Because of her trickery God killed 100 of her demon infants per day, and since she could not herself kill human infants she spitefully killed her own infants. Lilith is the demonic spirit that enters a woman to possess&nbsp;her to kill her&nbsp;baby within, which is why she is the patron of abortion.&nbsp;</p>


Frequently Asked Questions

Lilith, often regarded as a demon rather than a goddess, holds a significant place in ancient mythologies. Across cultures, she embodies themes of independence, sensuality, and rebellion, challenging traditional gender roles and societal norms. This depiction contrasts with her portrayal in Marvel Comics, where she is depicted as a powerful vampire and adversary of characters like Ghost Rider.

In various interpretations, Lilith is attributed with offspring, notably with the biblical figure Samael, according to Jewish folklore. Lilith's offspring are often referred to as Lilin or Lilim. Those that do often characterize her children as demonic, aligning with her association with darkness and chaos. However, other texts, including some versions of the Talmud, do not mention Lilith's offspring, leaving her parental status open to interpretation.

Descriptions of Lilith's appearance vary across cultures and artistic interpretations. She is often depicted as a beautiful yet dangerous figure, with some portrayals featuring wings, serpent-like features, or other symbolic elements representing her association with forbidden knowledge and primal instincts.


Natalia Klimczak is an historian, journalist and writer and is currently a Ph.D. Candidate at the Faculty of Languages, University of Gdansk. Natalia does research in Narratology, Historiography, History of Galicia (Spain) and Ancient History of Egypt, Rome and Celts. She... Read More

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