Disclaimer: So, I am in the process of making this huge post on the goddess Ishtar in a modern interpretation. In the meantime, I wrote a modern view of Lilith as a goddess of Neopaganism, combining what I learned and UPG. I have published this on Wiccan Together and Tumblr. But this seems a better place for such a modern view. It’s aimed at Neopagans who know that Lilith is not an ancient goddess of anything, and have trouble placing her for their own personal usages. It does not rely so much on comparing her to other goddesses, it mostly relies on interpreting her own vast mythos.
It’s my own personal view, but feel free to use this in your personal practice or expand on such. I am perfectly comfortable with it and I want to make it available for anyone to use. Thanks! 🙂
Warning! Extremely long post!
There is many modern interpretations of Lilith and while I’ve written extensively on the subject of Lilith over the past few years, most of it was concerning a factual point of view and other people’s’ interpretations. These are my own personal views on Lilith, the dark goddess.
My views of Lilith have evolved from a more traditional point of view, that was staunch on her being a demoness, to accepting the more modern interpretations of her character. This took a lot of time, almost a decade, of dealing with my personal experiences with Lilith herself and me rethinking what I had previously thought over time. I had realized how much she had benefitted me, as I started to grow into an adult. (I will get on more about that later in the article.)
Major concerns about worship
I understand she is not a goddess for everybody and there are many reasons for this. I will cover two major factors here that I have encountered. The first major factor I noticed about Lilith that people have the most difficult time with is that of her child killing aspect. (This is one factor I will admit to having for along time.) While this aspect was used to blame SIDS on in medieval and ancient times, I will not romanticize it. It is true, Lilith can be a child killer. (In the same vein, we could call her a “rapist”.) However, this aspect is a later development to the character of Lilitu and Lilith. It is most certainly a characteristic that she inherited from Lamashtu. It is not a deniable part of her character, though for some it overshadows everything else. I find this problematic, as many may point the finger at Yahweh for killing children, other gods have been said to do such ill behavior. This includes the dark goddess Hekate who sends evil spirits out on people, and monsters such as Lamia who eats children, but Hekate can also protect people from them. This does not make these gods “unworshipable” nor does it make them have no benevolent aspects. (I also want to note that I do not personally think Lilith is a goddess that anyone under 18, or more preferably 20, should worship since her character is very sexualized. She certainly is not a goddess of children as some assert or a goddess for children.)
The second major reason people are hesitant is because she was not originally a “goddess” but rather a “demon”, or more accurately, a spirit, which is a better term for what the ancients considered her. The reasoning that she should not be considered among deities. I find this to be the most problematic because if we are approaching Lilith from a more pagan view, then it should be noted that ancient pagans were known to worship people as in the case Egyptian Imhotep, various emperors, and oddly, even George Washington in some Americanized Shinto traditions in Hawaii. Furthermore, many cultures had words for divine spirits and gods that were the same. Shintoism does this with “kami” which can be used to refer to both and the ancient Aztec word “teotl” functioned similarly.
Now where does that leave Lilith in her connection to divinity? What makes her a “divine spirit”? In two major places; ancient Mesopotamia and Jewish mysticism/Judaism. In the ancient near east, Lilitu was certainly molded after an aspect of the sex and war goddess Inanna/Ishtar called “killili”, which is why the Burney relief was so controversial in it’s identity. (It could be Ishtar, it could be Lilith.) Ishtar sent Lilitu out to “lead men astray” and mostly, she has a sexualized character like Ishtar. (She is also Ishtar’s handmaiden.) She is an embodiment of the kilili aspect of Ishtar. But “Is she is Ishtar herself? is entirely different question. I do not think they are exactly the same. They’re definitely related in my own opinion, as I work with both. (I think it’s like how you have the main Aztec god Tlaloc, and he has divine spirits that help him that look like him called Tlaloque that function similarly.)
The other cue of divinity of Lilith is in Judaism or more specifically Jewish mysticism, as you know, Lilith was used to explain Genesis’s dual passages about male and females being created. The first passages details the sexes being created at the same time, and the latter one states it was later with Eve. Now, the Zohar, is a Jewish mysticism book that is essentially biblical commentary and expands on Lilith’s mythology. In the Zohar, Adam and Eve are created in the “image of God” and later it states, Samael and Lilith are created in the image of Adam and Eve. (This means they are also made in the “image of God”.) Lilith and Eve represent dual characteristics of the female aspect of God, in a similar way that Adam and Samael represent God’s male half.
Lilith: Goddess of….
As we have got the hard parts out of the way… What exactly is Lilith to be considered the goddess of? She was never historically worshiped by people. There are no temples or inscriptions to go by. In both medieval, and the ancient times, had some views of her that could be construed as quite sexist. Views on sexuality and women have changed considerably over the centuries. Lilith was originally used to demonize women and sex, because the cultures she was in were very “conservative”.
Another problem is there is so many different answers to what Lilith covers! I am sure if you ask many different people of different religions or beliefs, because Lilith is worshiped among a diverse group of people, you will get many different answers. People from Wiccans to Satanists love Lilith, people from very different paths. Some may take a more Kabbalah stance, while others revel in her ancient past. Even still, there are people, like myself who use a mix of these mythologies. I am willing to offer my own personal views on Lilith, I have not seen people cover some of the themes I ascribe to her. I figure that this can be used to help worshipers of Lilith, those who want to be closer to this dark goddess figure but do not romantanize her to the point of denying her myths. (Note: These are the major aspects and associations I consider her with, there may be others I forgot to add or maybe something pertaining more personally to the readers that I skipped over.)
- Lilith is a goddess of knowledge. This comes from me personally working with her and her Kabbalah mythology. In some myths, Lilith was the one who tempted Eve of the fruit of knowledge of good and evil, the snake of the tree. (As you probably know, serpents are ancient symbols of wisdom.) Similarly, a story of her and king Solomon has him outwitting her and being granted powerful knowledge from this. (As the Queen of Sheba.) In her ancient past, she was associated with owls and while this is more from the Greek side of things, we can still use owls as symbols of wisdom and not just of the underworld. Likewise, Lilith’s element is wind/air. This element is connected to all things mental and especially intelligence. Even more astounding is that as a literal figure, Lilith is one of the oldest surviving in the world. Coming from the first civilization of Sumer, to modern times. She must be wise and knowledgeable about humanity.
- Lilith is a trickster goddess. (Something almost unheard of because most trickster gods are male.) Not just from the riddles that were posed by the Queen of Sheba, or the deciet she used against men in Jewish lore, but you can see it nowadays in how many people confuse her and Ishtar, or confuse her myths with other goddesses. Some even say she is an ancient Sumerian goddess demonized by men or a goddess older than Ishtar. From my personal experience, she used to “trick” me such as saying she was “God”(?) at some point, I don’t really know why. But it really helped me in the end when I saw the truth. Through her trickery I gained so much knowledge of ancient religion and Kabbalah, because I wanted to study more of it. I learned of civilizations I never even heard of before and I learned the origins of the Hebrew religion that became Judaism.
- Lilith is a witch goddess. This is more from traditional Jewish folklore, but Lilith is undoubtedly considered a witch and her female children are well versed in witchcraft, too. She fits the image of a traditional witch, not the crone image nor the romantic Neo-Wiccan image, but one of the seductress who uses her power and deceit against men. An independent woman who will not be tamed, she travels through the other worlds and searches for prey. Even her red hair is a trait of a witch. (She is certainly a model for witches of the female variety.)
- Lilith is a goddess of sexuality. I am fairly certain almost all people who worship Lilith can agree on this. She is the divine whore for Ishtar, but she was also made after the aspect of Ishtar that is a divine whore. Therefore, Lilith is a patroness of prostitutes, similar to Ishtar and Aphrodite. She represents carnal desires and wantonness. She can be lewd, crude, and unacceptable to society’s rules about sexuality. She is a symbol of freedom and liberation of one’s desires. She is wild. On the sexuality side, I also believe Lilith can help get over sexual abuse that people suffer. Lilith may benefit those who are gay, lesbian, bi, and trans, in my own opinion. In the Kabbalah specifically, Lilith was originally a hermaphrodite in some versions and seduced Eve as a female. (Ancient myths state a male version of Lilith who seduced women was call Lillu. Whether or not Lilith is the same as the male being, is up for debate.)
- Lilith is a goddess of death. Not just of the obvious child death, Lilith would be a symbol of sin in Kabbalah which equates to death. There she is married to the angel of death, Samael. She and Samael symbolize the tree of knowledge of good and evil, which is the opposite of the tree of life that promises immortality. Mankind is always seeking the tree of life, but forsaking the tree of knowledge. The tree of life may promise a certain kind of power, however, it is not realistic. The tree of knowledge, though, offers the power of knowledge which can be used to stifle death as well. For myself, I likewise consider Lilith a goddess of abortions, because of her aspects and also because abortions give women freedom over their bodies. Lilith represents the power to choose and in that choice, it is bodily autonomy. Similarly, I believe Lilith can help those who have suffered miscarriages or child death, recover from the loss of a child.
- Lilith is a goddess of the wilderness and animals. This is an oft ignored aspect, but Lilith from her early days of Lilitu and her later days in the Zohar is always associated with the wilds and wild animals. This comes into play as she is associated with owls. In ancient near east lore, owls are associated with the wilderness, abandoned places, ruins, isolated places, cemetaries, wild animals, evil spirits, the underworld and death. All of these attributes are still a part of Lilith. You see that with the Isaiah passage about her hanging out with other wild beasts, and it is a part of the narrative with Mesopotamian lore as well. My experience with Lilith has taught me how much she knows about the wilds and the wild beasts. I have asked her, for example, what kind of birds Anzu birds of Babylonian myth were since they have so many theories as to what they are. (She had told me the eagle identification is correct.)
- Lilith is a maiden and a mother, but never a crone. In the Babylonian days Lilith was described as a infertile maiden (unmarried young woman) and in the Zohar she is said to look about “20 years old”. She is always described as beautiful and young in nearly all her myths. There is no myth I have ever come across, modern or ancient, that pits her looks as anything less than a charming, pretty, young woman. Her mother aspect is the dark aspect that you see as the child killer or the one willing to abandon her young to be slayed in exchange for her own independence. (She preys on pregnant women or mothers at times too, though this is rare behavior.) She is harsh to her children, she teaches them strict and hard life lessons, but they learn. However, Lilith is eternally youthful and will not ever reach the crone stage. She could be applied to either the maiden aspect or a dark mother aspect of the Goddess, but never the crone aspect for she is never old and haggard.
This is just my personal experience as to why I choose to indulge myself into Lilith and her symbols. I cannot speak for anyone else on the matter and I am not trying to “convert” anybody. I am just sure some people wonder why anybody, or just myself, would worship Lilith. So,I will share some personal experiences, which is something I do not do often….
My first real experience with Lilith as a goddess was when I was basically still a Neo-Wiccan. (And I am now still, but I left it for some time to “find myself”.) I had been a Neopagan at that point for two years. I was reading a book on a few different religions and it had her listed as a “Hebrew” goddess, which I guess now looking back you could make that claim. Something drew me into trying it out, but then I remembered that I stopped believing in anything Hebrew/biblical/etc at the time, which is a stupid belief I picked up as a teenager from some Neopagan book I cannot remember. (Originally I was a Christian, so it was me trying to “let go”.)
I had some beliefs about Lilith before that I picked up before paganism and before I was really into feminism. I was about 14 at the time and I didn’t know much. I remember watching the history channel and how one woman explained Lilith and praised her for standing up for herself. I picked up on this idea, briefly. My mother took me to a church and somehow the topic came up, and I said Lilith was great, happily. The pastor looked at me and said “No. No. She really is not.” which come to think of it I think tainted my view of her for along time because I felt bad, like I had done something wrong for going against the church basically.
After the stint when I was 18, I forgot for awhile until Lilith started visiting me regularly in my sleep when I was about 19. She “tricked” me a few times, by her claims which I researched and found out were not true. I grew to distrust her and every ounce of me tried to resist her and in my opinion, “go against my nature”. I studied her obsessively for a few years and for along time. I bought a lot of books on her and through my studies I also came to learn about Ishtar, Asherah, Astarte, Kali ma, ancient Sumer and Babylonia, etc. I read just about everything about Lilith good and bad. But I still held onto these “conservative” views about her, not about being a woman or sex, I could care less. I just could not get over the child killing aspect of it all and her trickery, even though all of it benefited me. I lashed out at her online, and her followers trying to tell them she is a demon all the time. Emphasizing her evil traits. I was mean to her and abusive, when she was not to me and I shouldn’t have been looking back. I feel bad about it now because she showed a ton of patience with me, I don’t know why.
Well, in 2007 I was dabbling in different philosophies and religions, I took up “Aztec reconstructionism”, which was one of the biggest mistakes of my life but I learned a lot from it. I kept trying to be someone I was not to “fit in” with people who did not even like me for who I was. (They weren’t nice people.) Why? I have no idea why, really, I guess I just wanted to fit in. I worshiped Tlaloc for years, and here is the kicker, he had child sacrifice performed in his name. That was worse than what Lilith does really! (Also, I am still into Santa Muerte who is just as dark as Lilith is.) She does not tell people to kill children for her! I loosened up about Lilith but something still bothered me.
Namely, my spirit animal, you see is a white owl and I consider Ishtar/Aphrodite/Isis like my mother. Now every thing I researched about Lilith would have made me associated with the same things because in most cultures white is the color of death and owls symbolize death/underworld, evil spirits, abandoned places, prostitution in Babylonia etc. (In ancient times, even owls were sometimes called “lilitu”, so it made Lilitu the spirits or spirit and Lilitu the owls a confusing thing! This would mean that I too, was a “lilitu”.) Owls are almost universally associated with witchcraft, vampirism, and as death omens. Pretty much also stuff I am associated with it. I did not want to admit how much “in common” Lilith and I had, but it just kept piling up. Even with the Solomon story she is said to have “hairy legs” and having a lot of body hair (Like Esau) was an ANE symbol of an evil or dark spirit. I suffer from hirtuism, so that always stuck in my mind. On top of the fact, that originally my hair was strawberry blonde until I got older and red heads are associated with like the god of chaos Set and witchcraft. (Now it’s dyed red, haha.)
You’d think this would be a wake up call to me, eh? Like all the puzzle pieces fit into place… Nope. I stubbornly clinged to the old gods, of which now I am only loyal to a few. That religion messed me up and was about just as bad and unhealthy for me as Christianity. It made me distressed and any religion that isolates you and causes you distress, is not “healthy”. I left. Did a ritual and I found out I am very eccletic and do not fit anywhere. Wicca is my thing. (Took years to stop pretending to be someone I am not.) I have always maintained being a witch throughout my spiritual and religious endeavors, because that is who I am and Lilith is a part of me as well as being one of the best things that ever happened to me no matter how much I resisted, in the beginning. After all that I decided it was time to break taboos. All the beliefs I was determined to cling to had fallen apart on me and I can worship Lilith if I want. I am free. I am not a slave anymore.
I should not hold the child thing against her nor should I be afraid something “bad” is going to happen to me for embracing Lilith. Plenty of people worship Lilith, and nothing “bad” happens to them because of it. In fact all the bad things she did, usually happens to people who do NOT worship her. (Mostly, Jews, I guess? Idk, but it seemed like they were a target way back when.)
I stared into Lilith and I stared back into myself. She showed me who I was and who I should be. How I should be free and value my independence…. How to stand up to people and assert myself. She helped me over come abuse on emotional, verbal, and sexual level, and helped show me that those unhealthy people I do not need to be around. As she is also a part of my identity, she is likewise separate from it. I am a Lilith, as she is a Lilith. I value the wilderness, nature, animals, death, and knowledge as she does. As part of the Craft, I too, am constantly studying and gaining wisdom. I am always learning and growing. I am wild. My only regret is I wish I had realized this sooner and stopped resisting so much.