Lilith ~ A study

Picture credit ~

10/25/08 ~ The greatly respected community figure Hellkat opened the following discussion at Lady CG’s Smoke & Mirrors

the enigmatic figure of Lilith is sure to provoke different associations with nearly everyone – occultists, vampires, roleplayers, historians etc.
some claim her to be the mother of all demons, some to be the mother of all vampires. some claim other things.

in this posting, I will try to refrain from occult references in order to keep this a purely historical and philological article, whoever is interested in a discussion, please let your voice(s) be heard.

where to start?

it is well-known that in ancient Sumer, the goddess Inana(k) was worshipped as the queen of the sky (her name comes from the Sumerian construction *nin-an-ak, which litteraly means ‘lady of the sky’); she was associated with the planet venus, and her dual nature as the morning- resp. evening star was well known at that time.
during the reign of the dynasty of Akkad, Inana(k) was fused with the semitic goddess Ishtar in such a profound way that it is nigh to impossible to distinguish between those two goddesses. Ishtar, as a semitic goddess, was not only the lady of love and sex and fertility (as Inana(k) had been), but also the lady of war and death.

an example from a hymn to Inana/Ishtar:

At your battle-cry, my lady, the foreign lands bow low. When humanity comes before you in awed silence at the terrifying radiance and tempest, you grasp the most terrible of all the divine powers. Because of you, the threshold of tears is opened, and people walk along the path of the house of great lamentations. In the van of battle, all is struck down before you. With your strength, my lady, teeth can crush flint. You charge forward like a charging storm. You roar with the roaring storm, you continually thunder with Iškur. You spread exhaustion with the stormwinds, while your own feet remain tireless. With the lamenting balag drum a lament is struck up.
My lady, the great Anuna gods fly from you to the ruin mounds like scudding bats. They dare not stand before your terrible gaze. They dare not confront your terrible countenance. Who can cool your raging heart? Your malevolent anger is too great to cool. Lady, can your mood be soothed? Lady, can your heart be gladdened? Eldest daughter of Suen, your rage cannot be cooled!
(Inana B, lines 20 – 41)

here, the war-like character of the ‘compound-goddess’ can clearly be seen. please bear in mind the parts I underlined, this will be important later.

in one of the earliest dated versions of the epic of Gilgamesh (the correct reading of his name seems to be Bilgames [Selz in passim ], a female entity is mentioned who dwells in the sacred tree of Inana/Ishtar. she is described as having the wings and the claws of an owl, but otherwise looking like an alluring woman. the name given to her in this (Sumerian) composition is ‘kisikillila’ (*ki.sikil-líl-ak), which means ‘maiden/young woman/pure woman (evtl. virgin?) of the wind’.

in later versions of this small myth, written in Akkadian, we come across the ‘Ardat-Lilî’.
according to my CDA (see literature below), page 182:
lîlu, f. lilîtu, and ardat lilî – storm demons.

here, the ‘LÍL’ of Sumerian, which can mean wind, storm, breath, odem etc. is still recognised for what it is, the logogram for said Sumerian word.

we can identify the kisikillila as belonging to Inana/Ishtar through the Sumerian symbolism. in the tree she occupied, there also dwelt a snake (in Sumerian, Inana(k) is written with the logogram DINGIR.MÙSH, DINGIR being the ‘divine determinative’, MÙSH meaning ‘snake’ – think kundalini…) and an Imdugud/Anzu, a being which originally was part of the storm-god’s (Ishkur) entourage, but later became a general apotropaic being, well fitted to the semitic perception of Inana/Ishtar.
nonetheless, the kisikillila was seen as merely a lesser, more destructive aspect of Inana/Ishtar, not as a full-blown aspect. in latter times (around 1800 BCE) it became demonised.

However, as Sumerian died out as a spoken language roughly 2000 BCE, a lot of the sumerograms weren’t recognised for what they originally were, as Akkadian (resp. its two main dialects, Babylonian and Assyrian) replaced Sumerian as a spoken language. as it was with Latin in the middle ages, hardly anyone could really speak it, but nearly all of the cultic and religious hymns/songs/texts were written in (often poor) Sumerian.

in the Syrian area, the goddess we today know as Ishtar was worshipped under the name of ‘Ashtart(e)’, her male counterpart being ‘Ashtar’ (the -t- infix refers, in old semitic languages, to the female form of the noun).

those people who later came to invent monotheism as we know it, were acquainted with the Gods and Goddesses of Babylonia/Assyria (Diaspora, for example). also, earlier, these people received a steady influx of west-semitic groups, such as the Amorites, who brought their beliefs with them. as such, the ‘Iraelites’ were subject to a broad religious influence.

when the philosophy of Zoroatrism (roughly 700 or 600 BCE, no one is really sure about that) reached the Levante and the Libanon/Antelibanon, the people who would later embrace a strict monotheism were exposed to a dualistic view of the world. everything that was needed its counterpart.

ever wondered why the prophets in the old testament go into nearly hysterical fits when raging against the erecting of ‘stones’ on high places, or against ‘idols’? originally, the monotheistic god JHVH was imagined as having a female companion – Asherah (read the stories about Solomon). although appearing as a male name at first when only versed in really old semitic languages, the language of ancient Hebrew developed without much contact to the outside. they soon lost the -t- – female infix. thus, Asherah is the female form, and she became the consort of JHVH, the ‘god of the gods’ (old semitic il ilu, which can easily be rendered into Ellil, which was the semitic version of Enlil – the hypothesis goes that Ellil was incorporated into the Sumerian pantheon when the first semitic settlers came to Sumer, and the Sumerians changed the name so that they could make any sense of it – but that’s just a sidenote, and has yet to be proven).

so, in the beginning, that what we see as the first monotheism in the world wasn’t a monotheism at all, but could be called ‘monojahwism’ – the worship of JHVH alone (including, in the beginning, his female counterpart Asherah), but still recognising that other gods exist.

with the ‘deutoronomic revolution’, a part of the priesthood scholars of the ancient near east and ancient biblical studies like to call the ‘JHVH alone!’-movement, gained power (probably around the time of Joshija). complete with a patriarchal system of life, the female part of their god was demonised.

‘Asherah’s and ‘Lilith’s were the first to fall to that regime. both are etymologically connected to Ishtar (and her appearance as the Lilitu, the original kisikillila), and were both identified with the worst aspects of female existance.

here I want to note that Inana/Ishtar NEVER was a mother goddess. she embodied the female force per se, but not the life-giving mother aspect. although she had sex with nearly every male major god of the pantheon, she never gave birth, and was always considered to be ritually pure (that is, a ki.sikil).

W. Fauth demonstrated convincingly in his article from 1986 that it is highly probable that a secondary semantic transfer from Sumerian ‘LÍL’ (wind, storm, breath, air) to Semitic *ljl ‘night’ took place during the final demonisation of the Lilitu and her male counterpart, the Lili(m/n) .

in ancient mandaean scripts, the Lilitu is connected to the ruach (female!), which would later be translated as the ‘holy ghost’ in the bible. her later, demonised aspect resulted from a strongly negatively coloured re-connection to Ishtar/Asherah; in this context, she’s explicitely named as the ‘Ishtar of Hierodules’; she became the epitome of destructive female sexuality, feeding on male partners till they, eventually, faded away (metaphorically speaking) because of her attention.

Lilitû, since that time, always had a strong connection to the sphere of sexuality and death. in various pre-rabbinic texts, they are connected to the old Sumerian God of the netherworld, Nergal . but already in the neo-babylonian Maqlû-text (which is, rather poorly and most of the time falsely printed in the so-called Simon-‘Necronomicon’), the aggressive sexuality of these beings is mentioned.

they can, according to the various texts W. Fauth collected, invade a human beings dreams in order to drain him/her (there are female and male Lilitu/Lilim), haunt their dreams (sleeping dreams and waking dreams).

it was also believed that a Lilitu or Lilim/n was able to enter the body of a young human (read: teenager; Lilitû only being able to ‘enter’ females, and vice versa) and ‘possess’ her/him. symptoms of such a possession:
cramps, disorientation, shivering, and the urge to drink human blood or feed on human flesh (the latter case is attested in only two texts Fauth has researched, the majority – 74 – mention only the urge to drink blood).

of course, if an exorcism didn’t work, the poor person was stoned to death and burnt afterwards.

comments, opinions etc. would be appreciated. as mentioned in the beginning, I refrained from looking at the historical/philological phenomenon of Lilitû and their male counterparts from an occult perspective, just wanted to give you some of the facts history and philology have discovered.
any discussion is welcome.

main literature:
Innsbrucker Sumerisches Lexikon, 1990
A Concise Dictionary of Akkadian, 2nd corrected printing, 2000 (CDA)
Lilits und Astarten in aramaeischen, mandaeischen und syrischen Zaubertexten, 1986 (W. Fauth), in Welt des Orients XVII
Untersuchungen zur Goetterwelt des altsumerischen Stadtstaates von Lagash, 1995 (G.J. Selz) (UGASL)


On around March 12th, of 2011, after reading some “strange” ideas that connected Lilith with vampirism and vampires I decided to undertake my own “quest” in search of the “real” Lilith

Lilith has always been a favourite when you ask anyone about “vampyre deities”. During the compilation of the information I presented in the God/ Goddess of vampires thread I found no indication that she was imbued with the attributes common to a deity however, there is an apparent connection to vampyrism in some fashion.

I studied, further, the legends and lore associated with Lilith, in her many forms, in order to determine if there is a case for her to be considered a deity. (I use the term her advisedly since, as HellKat pointed out there is usually no specific attachment of gender).


As HellKat pointed out:
in one of the earliest dated versions of the epic of Gilgamesh (the correct reading of his name seems to be Bilgames [Selz in passim ], a female entity is mentioned who dwells in the sacred tree of Inana/Ishtar. she is described as having the wings and the claws of an owl, but otherwise looking like an alluring woman. the name given to her in this (Sumerian) composition is ‘kisikillila’ (*ki.sikil-líl-ak), which means ‘maiden/young woman/pure woman (evtl. virgin?) of the wind’.

in later versions of this small myth, written in Akkadian, we come across the ‘Ardat-Lilî’.
according to my CDA (see literature below), page 182:
lîlu, f. lilîtu, and ardat lilî – storm demons.

here, the ‘LÍL’ of Sumerian, which can mean wind, storm, breath, odem etc. is still recognised for what it is, the logogram for said Sumerian word.”

One item that I am following up on in particular is the mention of “Lilith” in connection with the Gilgamesh epic of Sumerian origin.

In his Dictionary of Gods and Goddesses, Michael Jordan lists “Lilith” as a Goddess of Desolation but only after she was driven from the Goddess Inana’s holy tree by the Sumerian hero God.

In using the name Lilith, Jordan has transcribed from the (according to Sumerian texts) name Lilitu and written it as Lilith. The name Lilith appears to post-date the Sumerian accounts but I will need to discover the Sumerian texts that gave rise to this tale.
Be that as it may, there definitely appears to be a solid link to the fact that Lilitu was once regarded as a deity since she was notated as being Inana’s handmaiden, or, the “hand of Inana”.


Lilith – The truth behind the legends?

For the last four weeks or so I have been investigating the legend of Lilith. I have reviewed dozens of sources from translations of the Mesopotamian heroic tales to the Dead Sea Scrolls. I have hunted up links and clues across a wide range of resources and I would like to present, in two parts, what I have discovered and what I have concluded.

There are two very important things that I have learned during this project:
1) The translations from Sumerian to Babylonian-Akkadian, to Hebraic and then to English are fraught with discrepancies.
2) That Lilith is not a singular entity but a polyglot of many ancient concepts.

Firstly then, allow me to present, in as concise a form as I could manage, the development of the Lilith legend.

In the matter of Lilith


To begin with it is a fact that Lilith has over 100 names and variations in myths ranging from Ancient Sumeria to Jewish Mysticism, from tribal Malayasia to myths about the Third Millenium. The question is; “Is Lilith, or was she ever, a goddess?

According to Siegmund Hurwitz, the figure of Lilith first appeared in a class of wind and storm demons or spirits as lilitu, in Sumer, somewhere around circa 4000 BC. The phonetic name Lilith is traditionally considered by many to have originated (as lilit) in ancient Israel, and to have pre-dated at least 700 BC

The earliest traces of an entity that resembled what knowledge we have of Lilith was  discovered on a stone artifact (The Burney relief) that dated back to around 2500 BC.

In this time frame the tale that gave rise to the perceptions of a “Lilith-like” entity was of the epic hero warrior Gilgameš, the tale was of  Gilgameš and the Huluppu Tree.

After heaven and earth had been separated
and mankind had been created,
after Anûum, Enlil and Ereskigal had taken posesssion
of heaven, earth and the underworld;
after Enki had set sail for the underworld
and the sea ebbed and flowed in honor of its lord;
on this day, a huluppu tree
which had been planted on the banks of the Euphrates
and nourished by its waters
was uprooted by the south wind
and carried away by the Euphrates.
A goddess who was wandering among the banks
seized the swaying tree
And — at the behest of Anu and Enlil —
brought it to Inanna’s garden in Uruk.
Inanna tended the tree carefully and lovingly
she hoped to have a throne and a bed
made for herself from its wood.
After ten years, the tree had matured.
But in the meantime, she found to her dismay
that her hopes could not be fulfilled.
because during that time
a dragon had built its nest at the foot of the tree
the Zu-bird was raising its young in the crown,
and the demon Lilith had built her house in the middle

Excerpt from the translation from the tale of Gilgameš and The Hulu-ppu Tree By Samuel Kramer

This translation may be inaccurate in the sense that the name Lilith was transmuted from the word “ki-sikil-lil-la-ke.” ~ it has been conjectured that Kramer may have been focused on the “lil-la” segment of the word in his attempts to translate the meaning. Further to this, the main body of evidence for the translations hinges on the article named The Burney Relief.

According to some sources:

The LÃL-demoness referred to was not a deity.

(usually Kisikillila, the term “lillake” would be written LÃ-L-LA-KE, which would indicate a genitive construction, and as the genitive postposition of Sumerian is /-ak/, we would have Lil-ak-e (/-e/ being either the ergative postposition or the terminative-ablative postposition) and hence doesn’t make sense grammatically)


Picture credit ~

In the (Burney) relief itself the figure is adorned with a four-tiered headdress of horns, topped by a disk. This is a sign of a high-positioned deity in the pantheon. Demons were never depicted with horned crowns.

The connection to Inana is in the Lions on which the female figure’s bird’s feet rest.

The owls flanking her were always connected with the night and darkness and the netherworld. The pattern of scales on the lower base of the relief is a representation of the term Kur, which not only means “mountain, foreign land” but also “netherworld, underworld”.

The bird’s feet are a clear iconographic detail that points to a negative connotation of the female entity depicted.

The wings the figure has are drooping downwards. At the time this plaque was fashioned the drooping wings were a sign of an association with the netherworld.
The entity holds two rods and rings. Those are iconographic symbols of judgment and justice. Usually, the only deity depicted with one of those ring-and-rod-symbols was the sun-god, Utu/Shamash.

The female entity holds two of them, which shows that she holds even more power of judgment about humanity than the sun-god, who was the general deity of justice. The doubling of the rod-and-ring-symbol, together with the night-imagery, points to the entity being Ereshkigala – as Queen of the Netherworld, she has not just power over the living, but also over other deities and the dead. She is the ultimate judge.


Stylistic comparisons place the relief at the earliest into the IsinLarsa (beginning ca.1940 BC) period, or slightly later to the beginning of the Old Babylonian (beginning ca.1830 BC) period.

Lamashtû or Labartu (in Sumerian Dimme) was a very similar Mesopotamian demon to Lilitû, and Lilith seems to have inherited many of Lamashtû’s myths.

Lamashtû was considered a demi-goddess and daughter of Anu, the sky god. Many incantations against her mention her status as a daughter of heaven and her exercising her free will over infants. This makes her different from the rest of the demons in Mesopotamia. Unlike her demonic peers, Lamashtû was not instructed by the gods to do her malevolence; she did it on her own accord. She was believed to seduce men, harm pregnant women, mothers, and neonates, kill foliage, and drink blood and was a cause of disease, sickness, and death. Here then we see the first indications of the entities connection with vampirism in the drinking of blood. There are, however, no indications available that she did this in any particular way.

Some texts mention Lamashtû as the hand of Inanna/Ishtar in place of Lilitû and Ardat-lili.

This period pre-dates the ancient Assyrian accounts that originated, and developed, between 1363 and 612 BC.


Stephen Langdon (1914) claims that Babylonian texts depict Lilitû as the sacred prostitute of the goddess Ishtar, the Assyrian and Babylonian counterpart to the Sumerian Inanna. Hurwitz similarly claims that older Sumerian accounts assert that Lilitû is called the handmaiden of Inanna or “hand of Inanna”. Sumerian texts allegedly state,

Inanna has sent the beautiful, unmarried, and seductive prostitute Lilitû out into the fields and streets in order to lead men astray.”

That is why Lilitû (Līlīṯu in Mesopotamian texts) is called the “hand of Inanna”.


The Assyrian lilitû

These demonic entities were said to prey upon children and women and were described as associated with lions, storms, desert, and disease. Early portrayals of such demons are known as having Zu bird talons for feet and wings. They were highly sexually predatory towards men but were unable to copulate normally. They were thought to dwell in waste, desolate, and desert places. Like the Sumerian Dimme, a male wind demon named Pazuzu was thought to be effective against them.

This could well have been the beginning of the assimilation of the earliest “Lilith” accounts with developing folklores. However, the nature of these entities was still demonic.

One source states that:

The oldest known term relating to Lilith would be the Sumerian word “Lili” (plural “Lilitu”), which seems to imply the same definition as our word “spirit.” In many ancient cultures, the same word for “air” or “breath” would also be used for “spirit.” The very word “spiritus” is one such example. The Hebrew “ruach” is another. Therefore, the Lilitu were either a specific type of demon, or were simply “spirits” in general.” Again, demonic entities but there is no proof linking the term “Lili” to the word “Lilith”; it could amount to the same as linking the word “game” and “gamete”.

While characteristics of the lilitû may well have been applied to the first descriptions of Lilith herself there is no supporting evidence to suggest that Lilith was, in fact, a “Lili” in earlier times.


The vardat lilitu demons:

The word lilu means spirit in Akkadian, and the male lili and female lilitu are found in incantation texts from Nippur, Babylonia ca. 600 BC, in both singular and plural forms. Among the spirits the vardat lilitu, or “maiden spirits”, bear some comparison with later Talmudic legends of Lilith. Again the comparison is tenuous and it seems that only some of the attributes of the vardat lilitu were conferred upon the later “Lilith”.

In one Sumerian legend/ tale an entity named Lilitu is presented as an agricultural/fertility goddess.


Sumerian  (Hebrew translation)

Before the stars were born

Before people built great cities

The great mountain Atlen shook

And bled fiery blood

As it gave birth to Lilitu 

The land all around burned

Many animals and people died

When Lilitu opened her eyes

Lilitu saw the ashes of her birth

And wept tears like rain 

Lilitu’s tears became rivers and streams

Flowers grew where Lilitu walked

Trees grew where Lilitu sat

The ashes became fertile soil

And an orchard became Lilitu’s home 

In Lilitu’s orchard many animals are

People came to live in paradise

Lilitu gave them grain and taught them to harvest

Lilitu made bread and beer

The people rejoiced, ate and drank

Excerpt from an ancient Hebrew version of the Sumerian legend of Lilitu.


The Utukku:

In Mesopotamian mythology, the utukku (Akkadian; also: Udug – Sumerian) were a type of spirit or demon that could be either benevolent or evil. In Akkadian mythology, they were referred to as utukki, were seven evil demons who were the offspring of Anu and Antu. They were siblings of the Anunnaki. They were in the service of the underworld, and were required to fetch home the fruit of the sacrifices and burnt offerings, which generally consisted of the blood, liver, and other “sweetmeats” of the sacrificed animal.

The evil Utukku were called Edimmu or Ekimmu; the good Utukku were called shedu. One of the best known of the evil Utukku is Alû.


Gallû and Alû

Alû was originally an asexual demon, who took on female attributes, but later became a male demon. Alû liked to roam the streets like a stray dog at night and creep into people’s bedrooms as they slept to terrify them. He was described as being half-human and half-devil. He allegedly appears in Jewish lore as Ailo; here, he is used as one of Lilith’s secret names. In other texts, allegedly, Ailo is a daughter of Lilith’s that has had intercourse with a man.

Gallû, is of the Utukkû group. Gallû’s name, like Utukkû, was also allegedly used as a general term for multiple demons and later, supposedly, Gallû appears as Gello, Gylo, or Gyllou in Greco-Byzantine mythology as a child-stealing and child-killing demon. This figure was, likewise, adapted by the Jewish chroniclers as Gilû and was also considered a secret name of Lilith’s.

Again the thread of adaptation plays its part in divesting earlier demons of their attributes and assigning them to known, or reinvented, entities… such as Lilith.

Eberhard Schrader (1875) and Moritz Abraham Levy (1885) suggest that Lilith was a goddess of the night, known also by the Jewish exiles in Babylon. Schrader and Levy’s view is therefore partly dependent on a later dating of Deutero-Isaiah to the 6th century BC, and the presence of Jews in Babylon which would coincide with the possible references to the Līlītu in Babylonian demonology. However this view is challenged by some modern research such as by Judith M. Blair (2009) who considers that the context indicates unclean animals.


The Talmud Bavli (Babylonian Talmud)

The Talmud Bavli consists of documents compiled over the period of Late Antiquity (3rd to 5th centuries). The most important of the Jewish centres in Mesopotamia during this time were Nehardea, Nisibis, Mahoza, Pumbeditha and the Sura Academy.

Talmud Bavli comprises the Mishnah and the Babylonian Gemara, the latter representing the culmination of more than 300 years of analysis of the Mishnah in the Babylonian Academies. Tradition ascribes the compilation of the Babylonian Talmud in its present form to two Babylonian sages, Rav Ashi and Ravina. Rav Ashi was president of the Sura Academy from 375 to 427 CE.  The work begun by Rav Ashi was completed by Ravina, who is traditionally regarded as the final Amoraic expounder.

There are three references to Lilith in the Babylonian Talmud in Gemara on three separate Tractates of the Mishnah:

Rab Judah citing Samuel ruled: If an abortion had the likeness of Lilith its mother is unclean by reason of the birth, for it is a child but it has wings.” (Babylonian Talmud on Tractate Nidda 24b)

“[Expounding upon the curses of womanhood] In a Baraitha it was taught: She grows long hair like Lilith, sits when making water like a beast, and serves as a bolster for her husband.” (Babylonian Talmud on Tractate Eruvin 100b)

“R. Hanina said: One may not sleep in a house alone [in a lonely house], and whoever sleeps in a house alone is seized by Lilith.” (Babylonian Talmud on Tractate Shabbath 151b)


Once again it can be clearly seen that the “Lilith” referred to in this work was of demonic qualities. The next source of information came in the form of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The scrolls are considered, most likely, to have been written by the Essenes during the period from about 200 B.C. to 68 A.D.

The Dead Sea Scrolls contains one reference to Lilith:

In Songs of the Sage (4Q510-511) fragment 1:

And I, the Master, proclaim the magesty of his beauty to frighten and ter[rify] all the spirits of the destroying angels and the spirits of hte bastards, the demons, Lilith, the howlers (?) and [the yelpers…] they who strike suddenly to lead astray the spirit of understanding and to appal their heart and their… in the age of domination of wickedness…”
– from Geza Vermes’ translation, in Martinez’s translation “Lilith” is pluralized.


Here again it must be questioned whether the translation is literal or associative.

In the Isaiah scroll 34:14, lilit in 4Q510 is singular, this text cautions against the presence of supernatural malevolence and assumes familiarity with Lilith; distinct from the biblical text. The text serves in the same capacity as An Exorcism (4Q560) and Songs to Disperse Demons (11Q11). The text is thus, to a community deeply involved in the realm of demonology, an exorcism hymn.


In the Great Isaiah Scroll we find:

They shall call her nobles to the kingdom but there will be no one there, and all of her princes shall be [] nothing. (13) and there shall come up
13. in her palaces, {&waw&} thorns, nettles and briars in her fortresses and it shall be a dwelling for monsters and the abode of owls.
14. (14) And the wild beasts of the deserts and the islands shall join together there and the wild goats and they shall call to each other, even there the screech owl will alight and find 15. a rest for themselves. (15) There shall the great owl make her nest and lay and hatch and gather under her shadow , even there shall be gathered
16. vultures each to her neighbor

Wherein, Lilith is afforded the cognomen of “the screech owl”. Clearly, it can be seen that Lilith is transmuting further from the deific image and is being demonised even further by being given a name of one of, what the authors termed, “the eight unclean animals”.


The Book of Zohar  100 AD

The key work of Kabbalah is the Zohar—the “Book of Splendor.” The contents of this book were alleged to have been first revealed by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai in approximately 200-100 BC , while he lived in a cave, hiding out from the Romans. Rabbi Moses de Leon (1240-1305), a Spanish rabbi, was the first to publish the Zohar, though he never claimed to be the author.

According to the Zohar, two female spirits, Lilith and Naamah found Adam, desired his beauty which was like that of the sun disk, and lay with him. The issue of these unions were demons and spirits called “the plagues of humankind” The added explanation was that it was through Adam’s own sin that Lilith overcame him against his will.


Another version that was also current among Kabbalistic circles in the Middle Ages establishes Lilith as the first of Samael’s four wives: Lilith, Naamah, Igrath, and Mahalath. Each of them are mothers of demons and have their own hosts and unclean spirits in no number.


Alphabet of Ben Sira  800 – 1000 AD

In Jewish folklore, from the 8th–10th Century Alphabet of Ben Sira onwards Lilith becomes Adam’s first wife, who was created at the same time and from the same earth as Adam. This contrasts with Eve, who was created from one of Adam’s ribs.

In this folk tradition that arose in the early Middle Ages Lilith, a dominant female demon, became identified with Asmodeus, King of Demons, as his queen. Asmodeus was already well known by this time because of the legends about him in the Talmud. Thus, the merging of Lilith and Asmodeus was inevitable.

The Story of Lilith according to the Alphabet of Ben Sirra

Soon afterward the young son of the king took ill, Said Nebuchadnezzar, “Heal my son. If you don’t, I will kill you.” ben Sira immediately sat down and wrote an amulet with the Holy Name, and he inscribed on it the angels in charge of medicine by their names, forms and images, and by their wings, hands, and feet. Nebuchadnezzar looked at the amulet. “Who are these?”

 “The angels who are in charge of medicine: Snvi, Snsvi, and Smnglof. After God created Adam, who was alone, He said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone’ (Gen. 2:18). 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, and for the same reason, we write the angels’ names on the amulets of young children. When Lilith sees their names, she remembers her oath, and the child recovers.

Trans. Norman Bronznick (with David Stern & Mark Jay Mirsky)


In the 13th Century writings of Rabbi Isaac ben Jacob Alfasi ha-Cohen, for example, Lilith left Adam after she refused to become subservient to him and then would not return to the Garden of Eden after she mated with archangel Samael. This seems to be a fairly common view of the story of Lilith but only one that was generated with the advent of Christian/ Judaeic and Hebrew writings. It would therefore seem more than likely that the “story” was generated from a polyglot of ideas gleaned from earlier similar tales.


Medieval references:

The Medieval period began around 800 AD and ran to around 1599 AD.

The first medieval source to depict Adam and Lilith in full was the Midrash A.B.K.I.R. (ca. 10th century), which was followed by the Zohar and Kabbalistic writings. Adam is said to be perfect until he recognizes either his sin or Cain’s fratricide that is the cause of bringing death into the world. He then separates from holy Eve, sleeps alone, and fasts for 130 years. During this time Lilith, also known as Pizna, desired his beauty and came to him against his will.


The Kabbalah

(Hebrew:‎ lit. “receiving”; usually transliterated with a ‘K’ to distinguish from other, derivative traditions outside Judaism)

Kabbalah/Kabala is a discipline and school of thought concerned with the mystical aspect of Rabbinic Judaism. Its full theosophical system emerged in 11th-13th century Southern France and Spain, later being recast in 16th century Ottoman Palestine, though incorporating earlier Jewish mystical forms.

Kabbalistic mysticism attempted to establish a more exact relationship between Lilith and the Deity. With her major characteristics having been well-developed by the end of the Talmudic period, after six centuries had elapsed between the Aramaic incantation texts that mention Lilith and the early Spanish Kabbalistic writings in the 13th century, she reappears, and her life history becomes known in greater mythological detail.

Even within the Kabbalah there are numerous accounts of “Lilith”

One tale mentions her creation as being before Adam’s, on the fifth day, because the “living creatures” with whose swarms God filled the waters included none other than Lilith.

Another version, related to the earlier Talmudic passages, recounts how Lilith was fashioned with the same substance as Adam was, shortly A third version states that God originally created Adam and Lilith in a manner that the female creature was contained in the male. Lilith’s soul was lodged in the depths of the Great Abyss. When God called her, she joined Adam. After Adam’s body was created a thousand souls from the Left (evil) side attempted to attach themselves to him. However, God drove them off. Adam was left lying as a body without a soul. Then a cloud descended and God commanded the earth to produce a living soul. This God breathed into Adam, who began to spring to life and his female was attached to his side. God separated the female from Adam’s side. The female side was Lilith, whereupon she flew to the Cities of the Sea and attacks humankind.

Yet another version claims that Lilith was not created by God, but emerged as a divine entity that was born spontaneously, either out of the Great Supernal Abyss or out of the power of an aspect of God (the Gevurah of Din). This aspect of God, one of his ten attributes (Sefirot), at its lowest manifestation has an affinity with the realm of evil and it is out of this that Lilith merged with Samael.

An alternative story links Lilith with the creation of luminaries. The “first light,” which is the light of Mercy (one of the Sefirot), appeared on the first day of creation when God said “Let there be light.” This light became hidden and the Holiness became surrounded by a husk of evil. ”A husk (klippa) was created around the brain” and this husk spread and brought out another husk, which was Lilith.


With so many accounts available the tangled web that is the history of the entity named “Lilith” becomes even more uncertain but the factors that define these “Lilith’s” can almost all be found in accounts of much greater antiquity. It seemed that everyone was putting their own “spin” on the Lilith story.

Tree of Life (Kabbalah):

Lilith is listed as one of the Qliphoth, corresponding to the Sephirah Malkuth in the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. The demon Lilith, the evil woman, is described as a beautiful woman, who transforms into a blue, butterfly-like demon, and it is associated with the power of seduction.

Again the demonic reference is plainly upheld. The Kabbalistic account goes on to say:

The Qliphah is the unbalanced power of a Sephirah. Malkuth is the lowest Sephirah, the realm of the earth, into which all the divine energy flows, and in which the divine plan is worked out. However, its unbalanced form is as Lilith, the seductress. The material world, and all of its pleasures, is the ultimate seductress, and can lead to materialism unbalanced by the spirituality of the higher spheres. This ultimately leads to a descent into animal consciousness. The balance must therefore be found between Malkuth and Kether, to find order and harmony.


In “The Oldest History of Lilith”, Mary Lynn states:

Diane Wolkstien makes note that Lilith does not appear in any other Sumerian/Babylonian cuneiform texts found thus far. She also goes on to say that she sees Lilith in “The Hullupu Tree” as one of a triumvirate of “sexual, lawless creatures who live outside the bounds of the Sumerian community, and seeks power only for themselves.”


Donald MacKinzie says that Lilith is the babylonian Lilithu, the feminine form if lilu (Sumerian lila), a kind of shape-shifting demon. (Myths of Babylonia and Assyria, 67-68) Unfortunately, he leaves this statement pretty much at that as he compares the various demons’ actions to the demons of Indian mythology, and a variety of  other ways.

Samuel Noah Kramer sites that “Lilith is actually a loan word that goes back to the Sumerian Lil, which has a semantic range corresponding with the Hebrew ruach, ‘wind,’ ‘spirit,’ ‘demon.'” (From the Poetry of Sumer, 22). He also says in “Sumerian Mythology” that another title Lilith held was “Maid of Desolation,” (NB: Not Goddess of…) which is another variation of the “dark maid” translation found in “The Hullupu Tree.”

According to Buffie Johnson, Lilith is the former Queen of Heaven who has now become the “Maiden of Darkness,” although how so she does not explain.

In “The Rebel Lands: An Investigation in the Origins of Early Mesopotamian Mythology,” J. V. Kinnier Wilson proposes in great detail the theory that the origin of the early gods is found in nature, most notably the effects and after- effects of seismic activity in the area currently known as Iraq and Iran.

He goes on to say that the Sumerian word lil means “wind,” “spirit,” “demon,” “nothingness,” and lilla (Akkadian lilu) specifically means “gas-demon.” He explains that Lillith may have been all actuality a gas-demon in mythology, but in reality she was probably either natural gas itself, and/or a column of natural gas that had been lit. He also says that he believes that the snake at the base of the hullupu tree was probably oil, and the Anzu-bird was a dust cloud. (57-58)

Before discounting this theory, one thought to consider is the later mythology/beliefs of Lilith’s alleged power; wasn’t she able to kill people in their sleep? And just how poisonous is natural gas?


In “When God was a Woman” Merlin Stone points out that Lilith was the “Hand of Inanna” (an epithet also given to lilitu in the Mesopotamian) who went to go out to gather men from the streets before taking them to the temple for ritual sex. (58)

(Note: Hurwitz similarly claimed that older Sumerian accounts assert that Lilitû is called the handmaiden of Inanna or “hand of Inanna”)

Sumerian texts allegedly state, “Inanna has sent the beautiful, unmarried, and seductive prostitute Lilitû out into the fields and streets in order to lead men astray.” That is why Lilitû is called the “hand of Inanna”

She cites her source as being a Sumerian cuneiform tablet fragment. Unfortunately, her book seems highly biased due to its innumerable inaccuracies just in the Sumerian section alone, and I suspect that it was written to be aimed at an audience immersed in the women’s movement in 1976, its publication date.


Johnson, Buffie. “Lady of the Beasts: Ancient Images of the Goddess and Her Sacred Animals.” New York: Harper and Row, 1988.

Kramer, Samuel Noah. “From the Poetry of Sumer.” Berkley: University of California Press, 1979.

“Sumerian Mythology: A Study of Spiritual and Literary Achievement in the Third Millennium BC.” New York: Harper and Brothers, 1961.

MacKinzie, Donald A.. “Myths of Babylonia and Assyria.” London: The Greesham Publishing Company.

Stone, Merlin. “When God Was a Woman.” New York: Dial Press, 1976.

Wilson, J.V. Kinnier. “The Rebel Lands: An Invesitgation into the Origins of Early Mesopotamian Mythology.” Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979.

Wolkstein, Diane, and Samuel Noah Kramer. “Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth: Her Stories and Hymns from Sumer.” New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1983.

Further References:

The Lilith Shrine

History of Kabbalah: The Story of The Book of Zohar

Century One Bookstore

The Lilith Gallery of Toronto

Charles A. Moffat

The Historical Lilith

Alan Humm’s Lilith Home Page

The Routledge Dictionary of Gods, Goddesses, Devils and Demons. Manfred Lurker

Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd. London,1987.

Dictionary of Gods and Goddesses 2nd Ed. Michael Jordan.

Copyright : 2004, 1993 by Michael Jordan. Facts on File Inc. New York.

The White Moon Gallery

Deliriums Realm

The Dead Sea Scrolls: The Translation of the Great Isaiah Scroll by F.P. Miller

The Story of Lilith – According to the Alphabet of Ben Sirra

Trans. Bronznick, Stern & Mirsky


In conclusion:

Time to share the conclusions that I have come to about Lilith in light of the research I have done. Am I right? Have I discovered the truth?… Unknown but for what it’s worth this is where all my thinking, reading, checking and cross-checking has brought me. As always, any questions, input and additional information are always welcomed.

Since the earliest recorded histories there have been Goddesses of multiple capacities and sometimes the benevolent is combined with the more malign in a single entity.

I believe that the name “Lilith” was derived from earlier, similarly spelled names such as Lil, Lilitu, Lilla, Lilu etc. but this was simply a handy semantic association since the evil demons of antiquity already bore parts of the eventual name. However, the similarities do not end there.

With the beginning of the Biblical (read Hebrew/ Judaeo-Christian writings) the patriarchal, biblical view that saw Eve succumbing to the serpent’s suggestion in the Garden of Eden, women became the “negative” influence and within this framework the writings were expanded to include Lilith to give further strength to the correctness of those assertions. When the character of Lilith came to be described she was made even more malevolent by the inclusion of some nasty tid-bits that were drawn down from knowledge of, or loosely translated, antiquated demons.


In effect, in my opinion, Lilith only became Lilith at the time of the first Hebrew biblical writings and was an amalgam of the attributes of a variety of much older known demonic spirits. Thus, Lilith herself could not have been a ‘goddess’ previously since from her appearance in these writings she was thoroughly demonized.

Lilitu was goddess, a goddess of Agriculture and Fertility but Lilith was not, in fact , Lilitu.


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