A: Adam’s first wife, Lilith

In the ongoing April A-Z posts I’ll be writing about Lilith, first wife of Adam, in the Garden of Eden. In my retelling of the biblical story, you’ll gain a broader view of the first two women, Lilith & Eve. Both trailblazers. I’ll focus on Lilith. Hopefully we’ll have a better idea of the value of this myth. While myths and fairy tales may be ancient stories, they are also contemporary ones. The dynamics underpinning them are similar today. The time, place and circumstance may be different but the psychological dynamics and their after-effects are universal.

My posts will not exceed 500 words. It is a stretch and a bit unrealistic to give an overview of Lilith in the A-Z, so my posts will hint at the complexity of this mythological figure and how she is present in our lives, today. 

According to the Midrash*, Lilith was born at the same time as Adam, from the same dust and clay and they were born equal. They were happy in Paradise, until Lilith felt she did not want to always be in the supine position when making love. She wanted to experiment but Adam refused, not wanting to give up his ‘superior’ position. Her pleas to Adam were ignored and he begged G.d to make her obey him. This angered Lilith, and she called upon G.d to intervene in the impasse. G.d also did not listen; this further angered Lilith and she blasphemed against Him. He, in turn, aghast at her blasphemy, ordered her out of Paradise into the Depths of the Red Sea. 

Banished, exiled …

Dr. Susan E. Schwartz, Jungian Analyst resident in Paradise Valley, US., gave a talk many years ago to the Jung Centre here in Johannesburg on ‘Marriage & Divorce & the Nature of Unresolved Psychological Issues therein’. I’m quoting from her transcript –

‘The Adam & Lilith story represents a stereotype of the masculine and feminine in relationships we see today. Adam expresses no curiosity about Lilith’s needs. He complains to G.d the authority to correct Lilith and make her obey him. The two never work it out, learn nothing about communication skills and separate in mutual frustration. Later, G.d gives Adam another wife and we see the same unresolved issues of the original situation appearing again. Ignored, psychological elements tend to return – Eve also thinks for herself and challenges the masculine status quo by listening to the snake, eating the apple and encouraging Adam to do the same’.

‘Unresolved issues‘ – in our everyday lives. Do they remain unresolved only to ourselves or do we carry them forward in our relationships where they impact negatively, and we wonder why. Too often we do not know where to look for the source of ongoing difficulties within our relationships, whether between parent and child, spouse or partnership or friendships that always seem fraught with ongoing unresolved dramas.

*midrash – an ancient commentary on part of the Hebrew scriptures, attached to the biblical text. The earliest Midrashim come from the 2nd century AD, although much of their content is older.

*picture at top – I bought this print many years ago in an art museum in London when visiting. The original painting is by John Collier 1887.

Thank you for reading!

 

53 comments on “Adam’s first wife Lilith”

  1. So often I’ve read essays and stories that essentially pit Eve and Lilith against one another – Eve the meek but weak wife, susceptible to the wiles of the serpent vs. Lilith the strong, independent woman or dangerous demon (or both). It’s fascinating to look at them from the perspective of their similarities (their intelligence, strength and insistence on free will), and also to consider Adam’s unwillingness or inability to learn from his experience.

    • Thanks Kern for coming by! Great to see you here – in my W post going up later today I do a Wander with Lilith, Eve & Adam – earlier women writers who wrote about Adam & Eve .. And to see their (Lilith & Eve’s) similarities –

  2. I wasn’t familiar with Lilith and her story, Susan. Thank you for enlightening me. The commentary in the comments is interesting too. I enjoyed reading your post.

  3. Ah, Lilith. I always wonder how the Hebrew stories mesh with writings about Lilith in the older Inanna stories from Sumeria (Mesopotamia) where Inanna is given a huluppu tree to tend in her garden. Lilith makes her home in the trunk, the Anzu-bird (whatever that may be) raises its young in the branches, and a serpent nests in the roots. “Oh, how Inanna wept!” She calls on her brother Gilgamesh who struck the serpent and made the bird fly away. “Lilith smashed her home and fled to the wild, uninhabited places.” Gilgamesh makes a throne, a bed, and a crown for Inanna from the tree. My source is ‘Inanna: Queen of Heaven and Earth by Diane Wolkstein and Samuel Kramer. As I read about Lilith in your upcoming posts, I’ll wonder about this ancient snippet about Lilith from Sumeria ~2000 BC. I look forward to reading on. Thank you, Susan.

    • Inanna with Lilith as handmaiden is how I remember her descent Elaine. I’m not sure I remember about the huluppa tree. You describe the tree and the bird and the serpent so well, I have the image/picture in my mind! Poor Lilith being banished from the trunk of the tree! I will look it up, thanks for that link.

      Thank you for coming by and this lovely comment, widening the lens of Lilith’s lands –

      • Susan, I don’t think Lilith is ever associated with the descent or called the handmaiden of Inanna. Inanna had a companion and trusted female friend (her “sukkal”) named Ninshubur who helped Inanna in many ways including making sure Inanna returned from the Underworld. Inanna was associated with the evening Venus in the West and Ninshubur with the morning Venus in the east. Maybe you’re thinking of that?

        • I’ll have to do some checking on that Elaine thanks. Inanna’s handmaiden was indeed Ninshubur though I’ve heard reference to Lilith being there as well …I’ll definitely check on where I ‘heard’ that 🙂

          • Found this today … From The Myth of the Goddess: Anne Baring pg 510 – ‘So, Lilith, in Hebrew myth, gathered around her all the associations of night and death without repose. The Hebrew image of Lilith could have been based on the the images of Inanna-Ishtar, portrayed as the goddess of the Great Above & the Great Below, but understandably debased, seen from the point of view of a people forcibly transported to Babylon’ ..

            Above that bit of writing is the same story you excerpted from Walkstein & Kramer … xx

  4. I’m not familiar with this myth either, Susan. Thank you for sharing this with us!

  5. I somehow identify more with Lilith than Eve. Maybe it’s because she knew when to cut her losses and head out. Looking forward to more posts, Susan!

  6. I’ve always found Lilith’s story a powerful one, Susan, and I know that she has moved from being a succubus, a demon who preys on pregnant women and newborns to being a strong feminist figure, You’ve brought another layer of meaning to her story. Well done!

  7. What a great start Susan, I’m very much looking forward to reading more about the mythical and inspirational Lilith! If you haven’t already read Penelope Farmer’s amazing short novel, “All About Eve” (which includes Lilith as one of the main characters) you’re in for a real treat! I feel a reread of your amazing first book, “In Praise of Lilith, Eve And The Serpent In The Garden Of Eden and Other (wonderful!) Stories” coming on! Just love the “seductive” header image you’ve used, perfect! Warm and wild blessings, Deborah.

  8. This is a great and educating post, Susan. I will look forward to learning more. It is very interesting to see that often a relationship between parent and child is carried into the adult relationship that the child eventually takes on. Some families listen to the younger generation and some do not. I believe that impacts our relationships as adults. Congratulations on taking on the A to Z again this year Susan. I’ll look forward to reading.

    • Thanks Gwynn for coming by. Unresolved baggage can’t just disappear and we bear the wounds from aeons past. But we can break the pattern by acknowledging and addressing them in our everyday lives by really seeing how we interact with those that we’re in contact with – eg adult to adult.Our buttons get pressed at every turn …We can access our dreams as well to listen to the message ..

  9. An interesting start to the Challenge! I’ve heard of Lilith, but never really knew much about her. Sounds like I’ll be hearing much more in the days to come. Enjoy B thru Z!

  10. Oooh, I’m going to settle in and enjoy your coverage of Lilith this month Susan. There’s so much to explore in this story, and it’s so relevant for these times. You’re setting the tone for a fabulous A-to-Z April. 🙂

    • O my stars Deborah … just back from a walk and was wondering about the enormity of it all – but your comment is encouraging thank you 🙂

    • Thanks Susan for coming by – your comment is encouraging… and I have you to thank for putting me ‘in touch’ with Lilith all those years ago.

  11. Wow Susan, this is going to be very interesting, and I will be looking forward to plenty of learning from your post, thanks for sharing. I am excited about the other alphabets.

  12. Hi Susan – I can see I’m going to be learning here … what a fascinating A-Z this is going to be … cheers Hilary

  13. This should be interesting. I’m familiar with the mythology. In fact I’ve got a still to be read book on my shelves on this very topic.

    Have a great A to Z!

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

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