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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Lilith

A Bit of Black Flame about Lilith.....I've worked with Lilith extensively and know a few things about her.The earliest surviving mention of Lilith’s name appears in Gilgamesh and the Huluppu-Tree, a Sumerian epic poem found on a tablet at Ur and dating from approximately 2000 B.C.E. The mighty ruler Gilgamesh is the world’s first literary hero; he boldly slays monsters and vainly searches for the secret to eternal life.a In one episode, “after heaven and earth had separated and man had been created,” Gilgamesh rushes to assist Inanna, goddess of erotic love and war. In her garden near the Euphrates River, Inanna lovingly tends a willow (huluppu) tree, the wood of which she hopes to fashion into a throne and bed for herself. Inanna’s plans are nearly thwarted, however, when a dastardly triumvirate possesses the tree.Then in steps Lilith: “Inanna, to her chagrin, found herself unable to realize her hopes. For in the meantime a dragon had set up its nest at the base of the tree, the Zu-bird had placed his young in its crown, and in its midst the demoness Lilith had built her house.” Wearing heavy armor, Gilgamesh kills the dragon, causing the Zu-bird to fly to the mountains and Lilith to flee “to the desert.”Originating about the same time as the Gilgamesh epic is a terracotta plaque, known as the Burney Relief, that some scholars have identified as the first known pictorial representation of Lilith. (More recently, scholars have identified the figure as Inanna.) The Babylonian relief shows her as a beautiful, naked sylph with bird wings, taloned feet and hair contained under a cap decorated with several pairs of horns. She stands atop two lions and between two owls, apparently bending them to her will. Lilith’s association with the owl—a predatory and nocturnal bird—bespeaks a connection to flight and night terrors.The Tetragrammaton is considered “the name that comprises all” (Zohar 19a). In the Bible’s burning bush episode of Exodus 3, God explains the meaning of the divine name as “I am what I am,” or “I will be what I will be,” a kind of formula for YHWH (vuvh), associated with the Hebrew root “to be.” The whole of the Torah is thought to be contained within the holy name. In The Alphabet, Lilith sins by impudently uttering the sacred syllables, thereby demonstrating to a medieval audience her unworthiness to reside in Paradise. So Lilith flies away, having gained power to do so by pronouncing God’s avowed name.In the Gilgamesh and Isaiah episodes, Lilith flees to desert spaces. In The Alphabet of Ben Sira her destination is the Red Sea, site of historic and symbolic importance to the Jewish people. Just as the ancient Israelites achieve freedom from Pharaoh at the Red Sea, so Lilith gains independence from Adam by going there.YHVH tells Adam that if Lilith fails to return, 100 of her children must die each day. Apparently, Lilith is not only a child-murdering witch but also an amazingly fertile mother. In this way, she helps maintain the world’s balance between good and evil.A very Luciferian act indeed.Three angels are sent in search of Lilith. When they find her at the Red Sea, she refuses to return to Eden, claiming that she was created to devour children. Ben Sira’s story suggests that Lilith is driven to kill babies in retaliation for Adam’s mistreatment and God’s insistence on slaying 100 of her progeny daily.To prevent the three angels from drowning her in the Red Sea, Lilith swears in the name of God that she will not harm any infant who wears an amulet bearing her name. Ironically, by forging an agreement with God and the angels and using the name, Lilith demonstrates that she has power over YHVH and can Bind him to her will.A theory about the creation of this Lilith story, is that Ben Sira’s tale is in its entirety a deliberately satiric piece that mocks the Bible, the Talmud and other rabbinic exegeses. Indeed, The Alphabet’s language is often coarse and its tone irreverent, exposing the hypocrisies of biblical heroes such as Jeremiah and offering “serious” discussions of vulgar matters such as masturbation, flatulence and copulation by animals.A parable by Judith Plaskow Goldenberg shows a more Luciferian view of Lilith. At first Goldenberg’s fanciful tale follows the basic Ben Sira plot line: Lilith dislikes being subservient to Adam, so she flees Paradise and her absence inspires God to create Eve. But in Goldenberg’s retelling, the exiled Lilith is lonely and tries to re-enter the garden. Adam does everything he can to keep her out, inventing wildly untrue stories about how Lilith threatens pregnant women and newborns. One day Eve sees Lilith on the other side of the garden wall and realizes that Lilith is a woman like herself. Swinging on the branch of an apple tree, a curious Eve catapults herself over Eden’s walls where she finds Lilith waiting. As the two women talk, they realize they have much in common, “till the bond of sisterhood grew between them.” The budding friendship between Lilith and Eve puzzles and frightens both man and deity.And then there's the Zohar...but that's for another post. Copyright 2015 Vincent Piazza

1 comment:

  1. Quite well done. Extensive research and good organization.

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