Lilith: Ancient Demon, Dark Deity or Sex Goddess?

Lilith: Ancient Demon, Dark Deity or Sensual Goddess?


In some sources she's described as a demon, in others she is an icon who became one of the darkest deities of the pagans. Lilith is one of the oldest known female spirits of the world. Her roots come from the famous Epic of Gilgamesh, but she was also described in the Bible and the Talmud.

In Jewish tradition, she is the most notorious demon, but in some other sources she appears as the first woman created on Earth. According to a legend, God formed Lilith as the first woman. He did it in the same way as he created Adam. The only difference was that in place of pure dust, he also used filth and residue. Traditionally Lilith means ''the night'', and she is related to attributes connected with the spiritual aspects of sensuality and freedom, but also terror.

The ancient demon of 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. The tablet was added to the original text much later, c. 600 BC, in its later Assyrian and Akkadian translations. She appears in a magical story, where she represents the branches of a tree. She is described with other demons, but researchers still argue if she was a demon or a dark goddess. At the same time, she appeared in early Jewish sources, so it is difficult to find out who mentioned her first. However, it is obvious that from the beginning of her existence in the texts she was related to Sumerian witchcraft.

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 Some scholars (e.g. Emil Kraeling) identified the figure in the relief with Lilith, based on a misreading of an outdated translation of the Epic of Gilgamesh.

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 Some scholars (e.g. Emil Kraeling) identified the figure in the relief with Lilith, based on a misreading of an outdated translation of the Epic of Gilgamesh.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

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

A page of a medieval Jerusalem Talmud manuscript, from the Cairo Geniza.

A page of a medieval Jerusalem Talmud manuscript, from the Cairo Geniza. ( Public Domain )

Lilith was known in the culture of the Hittites, Egyptians, Greeks, Israelis, and Romans as well. In later times, she migrated to the north of the Europe. She represented chaos, sexuality, and she has been said to have cast spells on people. Her legend is also related to the first stories about vampires.

The wife of the biblical Adam

Lilith appears in the Bible, in the Book of Isaiah 34:14, which describes the desolation of Eden. From the beginning, she is considered as a devilish spirit, unclean, and dangerous. The Genesis Rabbah describes her as the first wife of Adam. According to the book, God created her and Adam at the same time. Lilith was very strong, independent, and wanted to be equal with Adam. She did not accept being less important than him and refused to lie beneath Adam for copulation. The marriage did not work and they never found happiness. As Robert Graves and Raphael Patai wrote in the book 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.''

Due to the misunderstandings and disappointments related to Lilith, God decided to create a second wife for Adam– Eve.

Lilith, the first wife of Adam.

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

An icon for modern pagans and feminists

Nowadays, Lilith has become a symbol of freedom for many feminist groups. Due to the rising level of education, women started to understand that they could be independent, so they began looking for symbols of feminine power. She also started to be worshiped by some followers of the pagan Wicca religion, which was created in the 1950s.

This appeal was enhanced by artists, who took her on as a muse. She started to be a popular motif in art and literature around the Renaissance period, when Michelangelo portrayed her as a half woman, half serpent being. He presented her around the Tree of Knowledge, and increased the importance of her legend. With time, Lilith became more attractive for the imaginations of male artists like Dante Gabriel Rosetti, who created her image as the most beautiful female being of the world. The author of ''The Chronicles of Narnia'', C.S. Lewis, was inspired by the legend about Lilith in the creation of the White Witch. She was beautiful, but dangerous and cruel. He mentioned that she was Lilith’s daughter and the she was determined to kill Adam and Eve’s children.

Faust and Lilith by Richard Westall (1831) ( Public Domain )

Less romantic pictures of Lilith appeared in the mind of James Joyce, who called her the patron of abortions. Joyce pushed Lilith into the feminist philosophy, and started the process of adopting her as a goddess of independent women in the 20th century. When women started to receive more rights, they started to disagree with the man-concentrated vision of the world, including the Biblical story about the beginning of the life on Earth. The name of Lilith appears as a national literacy program in Israel and the title of a Jewish women's magazine. The ancient Sumerian legendary female demon is one of the most popular topics in feminist literature related to ancient mythology. Researchers still discuss if she was created as a real demon, or as an untrue warning of what may happen if women receive more power.

Featured image: Lilith, satanic looking angel. Source: ( CC BY-NC 2.0 )

By Natalia Klimczak


It never made any sense to me why god would make male & female everything but only Adam no female.for him.They tried to cover it up but to me I felt God made a mistake and then God was not perfect Omni whatever.

God created Adam and Lillith at the same time. Lillith was made from the sub soil, with God;s left hand, the subsoil is dark and a keeper of knowledge and secrets, Adam was made from topsoil, in Gods right hand, topsoil moves and fertilizes, expands and extends...Adam and Lillith grew together in The Garden, as equals created in the image of God, the Divine Feminine and the Divine Masculine..things were fine until Adam insisted that Lillith be subservient to him during lovemaking this was unacceptable because of their equality, Adam went to God and explained that Lillith would not lie down before him, God heard and agreed that something had to be done about her, as she had been seeking the secret name of God,,(a common motif of the ancient Goddess) God called to Lillith and commanded her to lie down before Adam, she refused and before she could be cast out she grew wings and flew over the Garden wall and left of her own accord...she was pursued by three angels and refused to return dwelling in the deserts with the 'demons' and indulging in her free found sexuality....meanwhile Adam mourns the loss of Lillith and complains to God who promptly puts him into a deep sleep, he removes a rib and creates Eve and when Adam awakens he has his wife...HIS feminine...hence Adam will always be betrayed by The Eve because she is not The Feminine, that's Lillith in her desert, Ivory tower, and as Adam remains in his isolated man cave never the twain shall meet, however if we embrace Lillith and restore her to her rightful place as the Archetypal Feminine then the genders will re unite as equals and the Godhead within us all will be one again....

Your explaination makes more since than any of the comments... thank you

My interpretation of the story(ies)are; Adam and Lilith where created from earth(clay) at the same time. Implying that they where to be equals in all things. But for some reason Adam has chosen to believe that he is to be the ‘master’ and complains to God that Lilith will not comply to his demands, or do as he says. Lilith leaves and or is removed from the garden, and God creates Eve from Adam’s rib thus placing him in dominion over Eve.

Fast forward to the eating of the forbidden fruit. Sometimes I think that Adam was the one to eat the forbidden fruit first. Not wanting to be on the receiving end of the wraith of God to much he lies and tells God that it was Eve who ate the fruit first and then tempted him to do the same thing. Either way, having eaten the forbidden fruit truth was revealed. Aware of the truth Adam and Eve perceive their nakedness/ignorance and respond in shame. Shame of having been fooled so easily.

I recall watching a number of years ago a documentry about religion in the Levant. In particular the early beginnings of Christianity. There was an interview section with a Christian scholar. He believed that the idea of marriage between a single man and a single women with the husband/man being the master/boss was a psychological approach which was used to bring about the indoctrination concept of the single Christian God. God at the top, followed by the husband/man/Adam, followed by the wife/woman/Eve. This approach would not allow any 2nd or 3rd wives nor allow any mistresses.

All of this provides, sets the stage for a superior/inferior relationship. A master/slave relationship. With the creation of Eve from Adam’s rib it is the division of the sexes, a divide and conquer approach.

The way I heard it was that Lillith was "Made as Adam was" (from the earth), but doomed herself as a companion with the statement "As you were made to rule over all that came before you, I must have been made to rule over you" Version one gone! Next came Eve from a rib to be equal to Adam and a companion and mate.


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