The story of Lilith. A Goddess, a demon, a succubus, and above all else, a woman. A defiant one. If you idealize Lilith, you idealize this defiance. It is her defining trait in Judaism and is reflected in Christianity as the woman that wouldn’t lie beneath Adam. The first wife.

“In modern mythology, Lilith has become a symbol to many feminists of the independent woman, who refuses to submit to the control of men.“

The Lilitu: The Best of Sundari Prasad

By Sundari Prasad

This narrative is strong. And even as I think of it I feel the small but present disagreeable part of my being react somewhat violently. The thought of acting against my nature, allowing the dark willful part of myself to be aroused is seducing within itself. Lilith is my personal demon of desire.

But who is the woman that holds these titles? Goddess, demon, succubus. Where did she come from? She is not some new girl who has just arrived in town. Bringing a whirlwind of baggage and disruption. No, she’s been here, within us all since civilization gathered the will to write our story. If we open her book, peel back her pages, and look past her dressing- we can see that it all started with, “Lil…”

The oldest story in the book

In this story, the earth separated from the heavens and a strong south wind uproots a great tree. This tree ends up in the garden of the most worshipped Goddesses in ancient Mesopotamian culture, Inanna. If you’re not familiar with Inanna, think of her as the Sumerian equivalent to Aphrodite. Inanna wanted to make a throne of this tree, but there was a bird in its branches, a snake among its roots, and a Lilitu inside that she, in all of her power, could not cause to vacate. Her brother, Gilgamesh, comes to her aid and scares the bird and the snake away. Lilitu knows her time is up and destroys the tree upon her exit…Lilith later becomes the hand of Inanna and so much more.

The carved imagery you see me replicate above is of a great Goddess from Ancient Mesopotamia. Which great Goddess she is, will probably never be known, although, I would guess it represents part of them all. But with the bird at her feet and wings on her back, this stone imagery titled, The Queen of the Night Relief, may very well be the first likeness of Lilith.

Demon Woman

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Lilith first appeared in a class of wind and storm demons as Lilitu, in Sumer, circa 3000 BC.   The female demon Lilitu appeared to men in erotic dreams. She was thought to be a bearer of disease, illness, and death. The Assyrian Lilitu were said to prey upon children and women.  These demons were associated with lions, storms, desert, and disease. Early portrayals of such demons are shown having Zu (Anzu) bird talons for feet and wings. 

Lilitu were highly sexually predatory towards men but unable to copulate normally. Lilith was described as having no milk in her breasts and being unable to bear children.  Lilitu dwelt in desolate, desert places.  Lilith is also associated with the names Lalu (wandering about) and Lulu (lasciviousness). Babylonian texts depict Lilith as the prostitute of the goddess Ishtar (Inanna).

Older Sumerian accounts assert that Lilitu is called the handmaiden of Inannaor “hand of Inanna“. The Sumerian texts state: “Inanna has sent the beautiful, unmarried, and seductive prostitute Lilitu out into the fields and streets in order to lead men astray”.