Fear of the Dark Feminine: Lilith

‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’ : Old Testament, Psalms 118 vs 22.

Meister Eckhart: The ground of the soul is dark.

Barbara Koltuv, in her book The Book of Lilith says: ‘Experiencing Lilith in her many forms is part of the process of giving birth to the feminine self‘.

Hannelore Traugott, German Lilith expert:  ‘ .. Lilith…is striving to become conscious again. Let’s call it archaic energy, spiritual femininity, something akin to the wisdom of the goddess. As long as we don’t have access to this energy we experience it psychologically as loss, suppression, isolation, emptiness, addiction and above all, power struggles’.

Lilith is seen as all we are NOT, she who is the container for the dark, earthy creative feminine. We have all sought to repress her through our projections. We have put her out there, as not belonging to us and the hard work is bringing her in again, allowing her her rightful place within our psyches.

Both men and women have suffered because of the repression of the feminine principle. Oddly enough, this served for the arising of ego-consciousness as masculine values of perception, behaviour and feeling came to be of supreme value. Bringing the feminine back into our lives will be a bringing back of the cornerstone that was rejected.

 The ego-consciousness of patriarchy devalued the life-death-rebirth, instinctual values of women. Men took a stand against women for fear of falling prey to their wiles and seductive powers. Mary Magdalene was seen as both prophetess and whore, the Black Madonna covered over and unknown …

The feminine principle stands for all that is life giving as well as life destroying, paradoxical though that may seem. It stands for chaos from which order emerges in a new transformative, transcendent form. It is both joyful and grieving. It is dark and fecund, like the soil of the earth. It embraces ALL in life, and in death. Pain and suffering, sorrow, grief, anger, destruction, wildness, non-conformity, death and darkness are all embraced by Lilith. She also embraces compassion, joy, creativity, light, playfulness, mothering, nurturing, birthing, ugliness and beauty. She devours and she transforms. Nothing is meaningless to her. She knows that ALL is part of the whole of life and death (like Kali). Wanting only the light and the good and the heights is an awful denial of the depths and is overly fixed and one-sided which leaves little or no room for manoeuvre.

This is not a call for a re-emergence of the matriarchal archetype over the patriarchal archetype but for an integration of the two. If these two complementary archetypes are brought into play with each other, each recognising the value of the other, we would be on the way to being more psychologically whole as we become more aware and awakened on a personal and collective level.

Is she calling us to our own darkness and depth? Can darkness and depth be the deep unsolvable mystery of all mysteries? Have we been fleeing from the depths in our desperate desire to reach the heights?

How to integrate these energies is our personal and collective challenge.

It is important to be aware of Lilith’s divine and demonic powers. She is not to be cast out and banished. She needs to be redeemed through our conscious awareness of her. Becoming conscious of the conflict is an achievement.

Thank you for reading! (did you notice the man with the moustache in the middle of the women in the top picture?)





41 Comments on F Fear of the Dark Feminine Lilith

  1. I finally found F! Yay me (and thanks to WP for linking it). So, where to begin. Two things jumped out at me, both rather psychotherapeutic. Polarities. Yin and Yang. Nice sweet me and my inner bitch (whom I love). How validating to read how ancient this reality is. If it began with Lilith, I am in debt. Then I see the Russian matrioshka (stacking dolls) and think of “peeling the onion analogy” — how layered we all are and how life is a journey (for some) to peel away those layers and see what’s at the core. Lots of great stuff here to chew on, Susan. Thanks.

    • Lovely to see you here Janet! Thank you for coming by and your comment – we certainly have the sweet compliant and the bitch residing within or lets say A Mother Theresa and a Medusa at the same time!

  2. Thank you, Susan. My mythology class is studying Kali after working with a few less fierce Hindu Goddesses. Kali has many resonances with Lilith, it’s fascinating to be reading your blog about Lilith while studying the dark feminine in another culture. Kali is fearsome. She’s bloody and destructive in scary ways. Yet Ramakrishna and many others called her Divine Mother and saw her powers of creation and restructuring. I’m glad you’re bringing this up and look forward to your future posts.

    • Thank you Elaine for saying about Kali and her resonance with Lilith. I see it too, and have read of Inanna’s terrifying descent into the underworld – I remember once seeing a play on the art circuit about Inanna – thank G.d we can have a response to them and be moved …

  3. I’ve been out of the loop for a while, Susan, but am catching up now. I love, love, love this post and discussion. You’ve touched on a profound human reality and are eliciting the depth of feeling that goes with it! You’re helping me see how important Lilith is as the archetype of the wounded, but indomitable feminine, and how crucial it is that we bring her out into the open so she can be accepted and integrated. You’re doing a very valuable service to all of us with this series. Thank you.

    • Thank you Jeanie so much for your very kind words. I know from your depthful posts and your wonderful book ‘Healing the Sacred Divide: Making Peace with Ourselves, Each Other & the World’ that you feel similarly about the wound of patriarchy so deeply embedded in our bones. It’s a huge task to continue writing about her in this A-Z series (especially as we’re going away tomorrow down to the sea) but I’ll be continuing to see how we can bring the value of myth into our lives, and how they and Lilith impact currently. Thank you again – I so appreciate your lovely words. I hope this finds you well and in good cheer.xx

  4. Susan your posts are enlightening, I like the way you began with the quote from the Psalms 118… and the whole posts is very thought provoking, it will take many more years for for an integration to take place; while one one level we see the women power rising and on the other side we are experiencing everyday how patriarchy and fundamentalism can cause havoc in the lives of women… loved the images, both the first one and the last one… very cute and colourful. I did not notice the man:) till I ready your last sentence 🙂

    • Thanks Genevive – the wheels turn slowly but turn they do … sometimes it seems as if destruction will overtake any potential integration – I don’t know – maybe we have to reach rock bottom? Maybe not – maybe men and women are waking up – maybe the youth who are standing up will speak for us – though we can each also speak for ourselves and do what we can in our everyday lives ..

  5. Hi, Susan – I join the other commenters who commend you for the rich detail and research that you have been sharing with us.. I too feel that I have signed up for a college course which continues to get more and more intriguing with each class/post. Thank you!

  6. With all the research in each post, it’s possible to think I’m taking a college course here. By the way, the nesting dolls are great, especially the one with the man tucked inside – ha!

    • Oh dear, Marian! So long as it’s only a possibility and not a probability re taking a college course .. 🙂 – I like the ‘touch’ of the man in the middle!

  7. Hi Susan – I suspect I need to make ‘a date’ to return to thoroughly read all of these and check the links too – I’ll learn a lot … thanks for posting these and for the great comments and replies – cheers Hilary

    • As we know, ‘April is the cruellest month’ (TS Eliot from The Wastelands) but I’m thinking of the April A-Z -ers Hilary … little time for anything 🙂 Thank heavens there’s a break on Sunday! Have a great weekend! Susan

  8. Good post but I must admit, I am distracted by several not-so-Lilith pieces. First, the quote from the Old Testament–‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’. I used to love that, forgot it, and am happy you’ve brought it back to me. Second, I think I have the same set of nesting dolls. I used to put them in my classroom for kids to play with, parents would not allow them for fear they’d lose a piece, but I told them not to worry. In all the years I did that, not a single piece was lost.

    • Glad that the OT quote rang a bell Jacqui. And, your saying about your own nesting dolls and parents’ fear and your no fear/no worry is interesting in itself – that you never lost a piece. Is there a message in that somehow?

  9. The mystery of life is in the darkness and depth as well as in the light. Unfortunately we value one over the other…

    • An rabbi from a long time ago said ‘there is no way to the heights except by way of the depths’ – thank you Susan, the light is as important as a way inter alia of shining its light onto the darkness …

  10. When you mention about integration of the two archetypes, I am reminded of Ardhanarishvara which is a composite androgynous form of the Hindu God Shiva and his wife Parvati. Ardhanarishwar also symbolizes that the male and female principles are inseparable and it conveys the unity of opposites in the universe.
    Is that what you mean, Susan?

    • That is so interesting Shilpa thank you. I’m not very familiar with Ardhanarishvara though I know of Parvati and Shiva. Yes, the ancient Hindu Gods have got it right – the unification of the opposites of the male and female principles in the universe so that there is unity and one-ness and no longer a separation..

  11. Your posts definitely are enlightening, and they make me think about all that is taking place in the world now. The Me Too movement here in the states and the women in Middle East countries starting to protest being so controlled by men. Is this simply another repetition of women working to break out of the mold? It will be interesting to see what the future holds for women and the world. Thank you for the insightful post.

    • Thank you Gwynn .. women have always been active in protesting against anything unjust. The #metoo movement has been active here in South Africa as well. Some/many women blame the victim preferring to align to the oppressor … 🙁

      Feminine energy is on the rise inter alia protesting against a certain type of mould (we use a ‘u’ in the spelling!) into which patriarchy has put us. The wheels are turning. Have a great weekend.

      • And yet many of the voices making up the #metoo movement (at least here in the US), along with many other popular movements in the states, seem to be mostly silent on important issues at the root of our challenges, things like unfettered corporate capitalism and consumerism, or Western imperialism and endless war (the US is currently at war in 6 or 7 countries, I believe). Or on the continued bombing, destruction, murder and homelessness of millions of innocent Middle Eastern civilians (many of them women) at the hands of US-led forces over the past 15 years. Or the recent massacre in Gaza, of unarmed Palestinian protesters by a government that enjoys the full support of the US. Or the ongoing McCarthyesque blacklisting and censorship of legitimate, independent leftist news sources that report on these issues and who, because of their reporting and perspectives, were accused of being Russian-propagandists and ‘fake news’ following the US presidential election.

        Lilith’s imagination and rage won’t allow her to remain imprisoned in the box of dogma or authoritative thinking . . . or in the false choices offered up by superficial, academic, lesser-of-two evils thinking.

        We fear her truth because it’s grounded in the beauty of the *real*, and in what’s too terrible for most (men and women) to imagine ~ about themselves, their beliefs, tribes and nations. A conscious and informed Lilith combines critical thought with intuition and visceral knowing, as she constantly challenges the too-narrow doctrine and homogeneous thinking of the group and official narrative.

        Once free and conscious, Lilith wails and weeps, sings and grieves for ALL, including all those who would silence her and who have been most deceived.

        I think (and hope) this is what you were getting at, Susan, and what’s at the heart of your beautiful article.

        • I’m sorry that your post is stacked underneath Gwynn’s & my comment LB – it should be up at the top. I tried to do that but with no success. If you can do it as a stand alone so much the better.

          Well, my heart just sank reading yours – so much that is wrong with the world. It’s a pretty cruel one. I was thinking as I was taking a bath that there are somethings we can do. Don’t support brands that exploit forests or use palm oil in foods. Take any shares out of companies that make weapons of war. Refuse straws and say why. Speak to people who litter and tell them why it’s a shameful thing to do. Everything is political. Lilith is political. We can ask ourselves ‘what is my politic? What do I stand up for? Who do I serve?’

          South Africa where I live has a strong constitution, justice system and a free press. Brave journalists who tell it like it is. Some wimps for sure and some of our news stations are mere propaganda machines. I wonder for how much longer we will have a free unbiased press. At the same time we have those who want to bring this country down. We are active in peaceful protest though there have been times that it has turned very ugly. I wonder if I was oppressed, hungry, dispossessed, if I wouldn’t turn militant. I probably would. Well, I’m none of those things but that doesn’t excuse me from sitting on my perch.

          We need the Liliths of the world who speak truth to power. May I use your last few paragraphs LB in my G post which I still have to draft, which I’ll give my attention to tomorrow afternoon. I will of course attribute them to you. I’d like to use G for Grounded – grounded as in truth and the earth, and grounded as in ‘you’re grounded – you can’t go out’. I’m not sure how to use G – I thought gnosis or growth …

          Jung of course advocated not aligning with group mass thinking. It’s too easy to slip in apathy ..

          Thank you LB for your powerful response. Yes, this is precisely what I was attempting to get at. Thank you for your compliment …

          • Susan ~ I agree. Intentional non-action and withdrawal of support can be a valid (and peaceful) form of dissent and protest. Sometimes it’s more effective than other forms of protest, which are easily exploited.

            It’s why some of us ~those who hunger for a simpler way of life and more peaceful, compassionate and just world~ no longer believe in the legitimacy of our system or so-called ‘democracy, and therefore choose not to feed it with our votes or money ~ the latter when we’re able.

            That said, we live in an interconnected world; most of us reading this enjoy certain modern comforts difficult to give up. I’m complicit too, which is why I choose to remain small and descended, more advocate than activist.

            And yes, feel free to use some of my words if you like. I’m glad they resonated with you.

  12. I’m truly enjoying your exploration of Lilith – it’s taking me in all sorts of directions. But today’s post is like the familiar soup in the Lilith pot that I’m most often stirring.

    I think the Matryoshka images are a perfect illustration for this post.

    • Thank you Deborah. Stirring the pot … makes me think of all the stages of creating & cooking. Cutting, chopping, boiling, steaming, dissolving, essences blending into each other – but let me stop right there before I write a book. Do link onto Andrea’s post below – it would be a wonderful addition to your brew. Also to your name sake Deborah Gregory. Beth is part of the A-Z and her posts are always interesting and food for thought.

      The matryoshka dolls was an inspired choice ..

  13. Dear Susan, This is so inspiring and rich! Please know that you’re feeding this poet’s imagination hugely with your April “Lilith” themed posts!

    Forgive me, I feel wrung out of words (well almost!) today, and so my focus is falling on your images. I would love someone to make one of those wooden dolls and include at least nine unique representations of “Woman” (however defined) … like on a continuum from “Virgin” to “Whore” now that would be awesome.

    It could be a toy for young girls (and boys with a male version) of learning how the “Anima/Animus” develops within ourselves and so much more. The idea makes me think about the different stages a woman has to go through in order (if possible) to reach her “Cronedom” … now there’s a gift I would love to give my grandchildren. In soul, Deborah.

    • Deborah, do link onto Andreas’ link below – you will love it. Your words yesterday were pretty powerful and I’m glad that Lilith is firing your imagination. You would never be wrung out of words, dear poet. If I knew how to do a link to it, I would, but I’m scared of messing up. Likewise with your anima diet posts. Actually all of them. Can you provide it? A link that can just copy and paste? Thank you and have a lovely weekend!And check your name sake Deborah Weber too .. Beth’s are always concise and interesting ..

  14. I really appreciate your comprehensive look at Lilith and her dark realms of wisdom and energy, Susan. I particularly enjoyed this latest writing; I feel it outlines the heart of the matter. Years ago, I made a flower essence kit called the Great Mother. It has eight essence combinations outlining and supporting the journey into and through the dark night of the soul. You may appreciate the story, told as a tone poem rather than ‘traditional’ definitions. Here’s a link. http://ravenessences.com/store/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=35_38&products_id=354

    Thank you again for bringing forward this much needed wisdom at this time in our feminine journey!

    • Thanks you so much Andrea. I’m glad you like it. I’ve just got home, and printed out the pages and I really hope that others do too – it’s pretty profound and beautifully written. Other great goddesses include Ishtar, Isis, Inanna, Kali – as you mention. All are part of the feminine journey as is the dark night of the soul. I honestly hope that others link on to the raven essences. Have a great weekend and thank you again.

      I’m just responding to comments now Andrea, now that I’m home and I reckon that if you hit on the Deborah Weber and Deborah Gregory, Beth Lapin too, you will find rich material..

          • Andrea, thank you so much – your words are beautiful and clearly straight from your heart. I printed a copy for a special person and gave to her this morning; to the others in our small dream group this morning who do not know of my blogging, I suggested they have a look at my post from yesterday .. to check yours and Deborah’s links. I KNOW they will respond to your words in their own way. May I please use an excerpt or a few in upcoming posts of mine? On what they will be I do not know at this stage …I would of course attribute them to you ..

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