Lilith: End of All Flesh, End of Days

A mystery of mysteries: Out of the power of the glow of Isaac’s noon (i.e., the Gevurah), out of the dregs of the wine, there emerged an intertwined shoot which comprises both male and female. They are red like the rose, and they spread out into several sides and paths. The male is called Samael, and his female [Lilith] is always contained in him. Just as in the side of Holiness, so in the Other [Evil] Side as well, male and female are contained in one another. The female of Samael is called Serpent, Woman of Harlotry, End of All Flesh, End of Days.

Rashi to b. Sanhedrin 109a

Of Lilith’s several contradictory origin myths, I find this one the most fascinating. Here Lilith is no mere human, but from the beginning She is a mighty Power, existing within Creation, but not created by God…

The above passage is quoted from The Hebrew Goddess by Raphael Patai. It is itself a quotation of Rashi, a medieval commentator on the Talmud and the Hebrew Scriptures, here remarking on a passage in the Talmud’s Tractate Sanhedrin. But what does Rashi mean?

Rashi’s text states that “the power of the glow of Isaac’s noon” is the Sephira Gevurah, better known in Western Occultism as Geburah, meaning “Strength”. Another name for Geburah is Din: “Justice”. According to Wikipedia — points off for my use of Wikipedia, but the following description is useful here — “Geburah is understood as God’s mode of punishing the wicked and judging humanity in general. It is the foundation of stringency, absolute adherence to the letter of the law, and strict meting out of justice.” It is associated with the planet Mars and the color red (like Mars, blood, and wine).

“The dregs of the wine” — this indicates the most worthless and repulsive aspects to be found in Geburah. Such aspects of the ten Sephiroth are generally known as the Qliphoth, the “husks”, “peels” or “shells” of the Sephiroth. In other words, “the dregs of the wine” is the spiritual garbage of Geburah. The evil aspects of Geburah. But — how can God create something with an evil side, something with such “dregs”? The answer is (somebody correct me if I’m wrong) that in Kabbalistic and rabbinical thinking God is not omnibenevolent. God can do and create evil. As it says in the Book of Isaiah:

I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD [Yahweh] do all these things. — Isaiah 45:7 (King James Version)

Rashi continues — there emerged an intertwined shoot which comprises both male and female… But it seems God did not create Lilith and Samael. They arose from the Qlipha of Geburah — i.e., its evil, darkest and worst aspects — almost as if They evolved there the way life evolved on Earth. Patai describes this version of Lilith thus:

a divine entity which emerged spontaneously, either out of the Great Supernal Abyss, or out of the power aspect of God (the Gevurah or Din), which manifests itself chiefly in the divine acts of stern judgement and punishment. This stern, punitive aspect of God, one of His ten mystical attributes (Sefirot), has at its lowest manifestation some affinity with the realm of evil referred to as “the dregs of the wine”…

Another, slighltly different version of this origin story, says Patai, explicitly names Samael as one of Qliphoth that temporarily hid the light of Geburah at the moment of Creation. The light of this Sephira named Strength broke forth, shattering the Qliphoth, one of which was Samael, and He in turn brought out another Qlipha, who was Lilith Herself. Thus, according to this myth, Samael and Lilith can be regarded as titanic Powers emerging from the harshest, least pleasant of the Qliphoth, or as Qliphoth themselves.

What about the intertwined part, though, which comprises both male and female?  Why is Samael’s female [Lilith] always contained in him? Fortunately the answer is contained in this snippet of Rashi’s commentary. Just as in the side of Holiness, so in the Other [Evil] Side as well, male and female are contained in one another. God is seen as comprised of both male and female: Yahweh and the Shekinah, usually translated in Christian Bibles at least as the glory of the Lord. But the Shekinah is much more than than the shine (the literal, etymological meaning of glory) of Yahweh. She is regarded to the present day in some branches of Judaism as the consort of Yahweh and also regarded as part of Divinity Itself, although separate from Yahweh. Despite the demonization long before in the days of Hebrew polytheism of Yahweh’s original consort, the Goddess Asherah, he still — even to this day — has, perhaps must have, the companionship of a Divine female.

What does that have to do with Samael and Lilith? —It means that Samael and Lilith are mirror images of Yahweh and the Shekinah. That they are, when you get right down to it, the God and his Divine consort of the Other [Evil] Side (and Divine Consort means Goddess and nothing but Goddess, I mean come on!). Just as Yahweh and the Shekinah must always be bride and groom, so must Samael and Lilith. And what about the contained in him part? — that can be regarded as hyperbole, as exaggeration. Because in closely related lore and myth, since the destruction of Herod’s Temple in 70 CE., the Shekinah has remained in mournful exile upon Earth, while Yahweh sits in Heaven — but He still might well not be alone after all (more on that later)… This sort of comparison of Samael and Yahweh is undoubtedly what gave rise to Samael’s title The Other God. Or maybe the title The Other God gave rise to this sort of myth: Who can say? Likewise, the comparison of Lilith and the Shekinah is the reason why, for example, in the writings of Kabbalist cum Rabbi Isaac Hacohen from the 13th century it states that “Lilith is a ladder on which one can ascend the wrungs of prophecy.” —Clearly he viewed Lilith as a source of what Christian theology calls revelation, and what today’s pagans and polytheists call Unverified Personal Gnosis, or UPG for short.

But wait! There’s more!

First I have a confession. I don’t really understand the difference between the Matronit and the Shekinah. Mention of the Matronit is coming up. Perhaps the Matronit is a more personalized way of conceiving of the Shekinah — the word, though Hebrew, clearly contains the root of the Latin word for mother: mater, matris. I don’t think I’m wrong if I conflate the Shekinah and the Matronit as one and the same. If I am wrong, I’m in good company because many writers conflate them. Patai sees a slight difference that eludes me … enough, you get the point I hope.

So when the Shekinah remained on Earth and Yahweh returned to Heaven after the destruction of the Second Temple, I hinted that Yahweh might not have remained alone. Who could possibly be more fitting, in a delightfully twisted sort of way, to take the Shekinah’s place than Lilith Herself? Of course that’s exactly the story other myths tell. Patai writes —

The Zoharic idea [is] that the most terrible outcome of the destruction of the Temple and the exile of Israel was that because of them [i.e., Israel, the now exiled Jews] God was forced to accept Lilith as his consort in place of the Matronit…

Of course the mythographers rail against this state of affairs. When the Messiah comes —

Those Messianic days will mark not only the reunion of God and the Matronit and the rejection of Lilith, but also the end of Lilith’s existence. For, although Lilith has existed since the sixth or even fifth day of Creation, she is not immortal.

Alas, the Messiah is a no-show, whether you’re a Jew and deny Jesus as Messiah or Christian and affirm him as Messiah. Neither the Second Coming, nor the First, are happening. As Ronald Reagan famously once said: “Mistakes were made.” Maybe the Lilith-Yahweh-Matronit soap opera is a mere figment, a not-even-a-myth. If not, it looks like Yahweh is stuck with Lilith forever. Despite the protestations of the pious, I somehow suspect that having Lilith as consort for all eternity has its perks for the old Semitic Deity…

—Two more things are left to be discussed. —First, I’ve related these tales in the manner of those who don’t believe in them at all. Yet I’m a sorceress, I work with spirits, I pray to Gods and Goddesses and assorted other non-physical Entities. I summon angels and demons and they come and speak with me. I’m a believer. I believe that Lilith and Samael exist, and Yahweh and the Shekinah to boot. This begs the question Which of all these stories about Lilith are true and which aren’t?

Lilith exists, I accept that as a fact. To deny it would be to deny my own lived experiences and betray all that I am. What are we besides the sum of our memories of our lived experiences plus some genetics thrown in? Nothing. I won’t be a nothing: I won’t deny my lived experiences. So I claim Lilith lives. If one accepts Lilith as a living Being, then the answer to the above question becomes None of all these stories about Lilith need be true.  If every tale told of Her is a figment, She still exists. And yet because we can learn so much about Her nature from these myths, there must be a connection. Either She Herself inspired the myths or some of the myths really are true. We’ll never know if any of the myths are true. And if some are true we’ll never know which ones those are. Still Lilith lives, the myths still teach.

Which of all these stories are true and which aren’t? isn’t actually a very important question after all.

The second thing is the remaining sentence from the Rashi quotation that began this entry. The female of Samael is called Serpent, Woman of Harlotry, End of All Flesh, End of Days. —Serpentalthough medieval iconography very often shows Lilith as the Serpent who tempted Eve, Rashi was a Jew. I believe he would have denied the truth in the doctrine of the Fall. The snake would have been neither Lilith nor Samael nor Satan to Rashi. In other myths about Samael and Lilith they are given the names of Slant Serpent and Tortuous Serpent. But I haven’t read up on that for over a year, not since the last time I read The Hebrew Goddess. So I can’t explain or expatiate Serpent right now.  —Woman of Harlotry … that one’s easy. Lilith as succubus. Lilith as the seductrix of Adam. Lilith as the corrupter of men’s moral qualities and stealer of a certain bodily fluid.

End of All Flesh, End of Days … these two are hard. As Kabbalistic and rabbinical thinkers believed that Lilith would be destroyed when the Messiah came, they could not have taken these epithets at face value. It could be simply extreme hyperbole: Lilith is in fact a very dangerous Spirit. But calling Her basically the end of all life and the end of all time — I can’t believe these epithets are just meaningless hyperbole, they’re too poetic and evocative.

Like so much about Lilith, on this point I have no clue.

Lilith: Lore

Image

This is the first installment of an open-ended series on Lilith. I’ll write chunks intermittently when I conceive of those chunks till I have nothing left to say. —Notice that I capitalize Her pronouns. That’s because She’s what I call a Benefactor, or rather Benefactress, of mine. She is not my Patroness or Matron Goddess or Demoness. My Patron, Patroness or Matron Goddess is Hekate. If anyone says They are the same Entity, or different aspects or Paths of one Entity, I will beat that person with a pipe, an old one made out of lead. Such a level of ignorance irks me. We are not dealing with two entities who are somehow obviously intimately intertwined here, as is the case for example with the Goddess Astarte and the demon or, better, daimon, Astaroth. At least that’s my opinion on the matter.

Disclaimer. I take no responsibility for stupidity. If you are a misogynist, if you are the type of man who calls women “bitches”, or if you’re a man who has ever physically or emotionally abused a woman, or if you’re motivated out of mere curiosity, then do not attempt to contact Lilith. She is not a mere demon, She is not confined to the triangle of your Circle of Arte (no demon is actually, any of them might appear at any point around your Circle). She is, in my opinion, a vastly greater Power than that.

On the other hand, She can be especially tender towards male-to-female transsexuals, effeminate homosexuals (and heartfelt blessings to you if that describes you!) and of course abused or battered women. She finds some of Her adherents in the BDSM community/communities, some amongst the various vampire groups, both of the psychic variety and the sanguinary.

So who is Lilith? And what is Lilith? —One thing is certain. You won’t find out — not conclusively, not for certain — from Her lore. Unlike many spirits or Gods, there is no single, coherent narrative to be found in the web of lore concerning Her. Her stories, legends and lore are often mutually contradictory, and much of it is of questionable reliability — so anything you think you know might not be true. Then again it might be true. Those statement apply to me also, and to any of Lilith’s devotees. And yet still, from the tangled weave of Lilith’s lore and legendry, I believe much can be pieced together to give one an idea of Her at least, of Her personality, of Her quiddities and qualities, of Who and What She is. Only nothing will be certain except one’s own undeniable, lived experiences of Her presence. —The richest single source, at least in English, concerning Her is The Hebrew Goddess, by Raphael Patai, which contains a chapter solely on Lilith. Much but by no means all of what I have to say here will be derived from that source.

If you only know one thing about Lilith then it’s probably the tale of Her as Adam’s first wife. She was, according to The Alphabet of Ben Sira, created from the same clay as Adam and was thus Adam’s equal, not his subordinate as was Eve, who was later created from Adam’s rib after this first failed attempt of Yahweh’s at wife-making. —But Lilith and Adam did not get along at all because She refused to lie beneath him when they were having sex. Adam strongly preferred the missionary position it would seem, because he was “the superior one”. Lilith would have nothing of that. When Adam insisted and then complained to Yahweh, Lilith uttered the Ineffable Name of God and flew away from Eden (and by the way, She thus forsook Paradise for the sake of Her personal sovereignty and freedom). Yahweh sent three angels to attempt to retrieve Her. If She came back, Lilith would be judged as good after all. If She refused, Yahweh would destroy one hundred of Her children every day. The angels found Her in, or more likely over, the middle of the Red Sea. They threatened to drown Her in the waters — which you will notice was not part of their original mandate — if She would not return. Lilith claimed then to have been created only to kill babies, to have the power to destroy infant boys within the first eight days of birth, infant girls within the first twenty. The angels again tried to force Her to return to Eden. Lilith again swore by the Ineffable Name of God, but this time She swore that if She saw the angels’ names on an amulet placed near or over an infant, that She would have no power over it to destroy it. She also swore to accept Yahweh’s destruction of one hundred of Her children every day. This must have satisfied the angels because they disappear from the story at this point. For your information, the angels’ names are SNVI, SNSVI and SMNGLOF. If you know the Hebrew alef-bet, you can now make your own anti-Lilith amulet, because She will see the amulet and keep Her oath, according to Ben Sira, so called. I actually have no idea if such an amulet works or not, but if you know how to do magic, it probably will reduce the terrible possibility of SIDS. These angels’ names are more familiarly known as Senoy, Sansenoy and Semangelof. —This story was expanded upon — Lilith being named as the mother of all demons (this explains how Yahweh can destroy one hundred of her children per day, and also Lilith’s famous wailing, the eerie croons of the owl, as Her lamenting Her lost children), Lilith being named as the wife of Samael who is called leader of “the Satans” and the Poison of God and the Other God, Lilith as the Qliphotic Ruler of Gamaliel, the dark counterpart to the Sephira Yesod, etc., etc. — in later Jewish rabbinical and Kabbalistic sources and the Hermetic Qabalah.

There are a number of problems with this story. It’s likely not even a myth. It’s probably fiction. According to Patai, The Alphabet of Ben Sira was quite possibly intended as a parody of rabbinical and post-Talmudic writings, and barely made it into the “canon”, so to speak, of Jewish literature. An acquaintance on FaceBook once said she regarded myths about the Gods as fanfic. But a lot can be learned about the Star Trek universe from its fanfic. Does The Alphabet of Ben Sira lack even that authority?  Also, SIDS will someday be explained by science and Lilith will be absolved as the direct or final cause of it.

But can Lilith be absolved as the original or first cause of SIDS? Is it not possible that “Ben Sira”, the anonymous author writing under a pseudonym, possessed an Unverified Personal Gnosis (UPG) of his own? As we shall see in follow-ups to this first installment, Lilith was viewed by at least one major rabbinical writer as a “path to the Highest Knowledge”, for those who are wise enough to learn Her lessons without being seduced by Her. And, after all, this is the single most widely known story about Lilith, and as such it has gained much from the corroborating gnosis of Her followers and worshippers.

Although I do not believe that Lilith’s origins are human — I believe She is a Godlike being or at least one with the power of a God and probably coeval with the Multiverse itself — I do believe we have here in Ben Sira’s small book a case of Peer-Corroborated Personal Gnosis. If so then there are lessons to be learned from this mere story.

As asked above, can Lilith be absolved as the first or original cause of SIDS, even though it’s quite impossible that She’s the final cause? I think not. Lilith’s devotees are, when they speak of it, almost, if not quite, unanimous in stating that Lilith has no love for small children or for human procreation. This explains Lilith’s tenderness towards male-to-female transsexuals and to effeminate homosexuals, incapable of procreation or with no desire to procreate. And has Lilith not become a feminist icon of women’s rights and freedom and an object lesson for the same in today’s field of post-Jungian psychology? Also Lilith seems to operate under a strict moral code of Her own devising. She keeps her oath, the story tells us. We humans are not stupid apes (not that apes are really stupid at all). We humans know things. We are Gods or at least demigods clothed with flesh. We each of us possess a spark of the Divine within. “Ben Sira’s” story should be taken seriously, though with a large grain of salt. The fiction has with time become a myth, with all of a myth’s authority, as hard to parse out that may be.

What else can we glean from this story? To my mind, the crux here is the way Lilith refused to submit to either Adam’s or Yahweh’s will and forsake Her own. She preferred to utter the Ineffable Name of God (ineffable — not to be spoken because of its holiness, hence Her utterance of it constitutes blasphemy, but what a powerful blasphemy! — She grew wings!) and thereby to forsake Paradise itself for the sake of absolute freedom.

I imagine the pic at the top of this post as Lilith just having fled the Garden, it’s walls behind Her, in despair for what She has just lost, indecisive as to where she will fly on her not-angel wings.

More to come…