Lilith appears in Jewish, Sumerian, Arabian and even
Teutonic legends. She's also present in many Jewish books, such as Talmud,
Sefer-ha-Zoar or Splendour Book and Midrash.
Many tales concerning Lilith seem to attest to the man's anxiety about
women that cannot be kept under control (because of this, Lilith is also
considered a feminism symbol).
According to the Jewish tradition, Lilith was the first wife of Adam,
before Eve. They say she was Caine's mother, not Eve.
Since Lilith was created from the same source of Adam, both having
been formed from the ground, they were equal in all ways (some books
talk about "sediments and dirt" in order to point out her negative
features). When he tried to make her submit to his will, she rebelled
and flew away (Lilith didn't want to lie under him during sexual relations,
because she considered that position as "insulting"). She went
near the Red Sea and coupled with the Djinns, giving birth to a lot of
demonic children (called Lilim).
God, in order to try and convince her to come back to Adam, sent three
Angels to reason with her (Sanvi, Sansanvi and Semangelaf), but Lilith
refused to return. The Angels punished her by exterminating nearly all
her sons. Lilith swore deadly hatred to the man's sons: they narrate
she strangled new-born childs in their cradles and tormented sleeping
men, after having had mortal embraces with them.
Lilith in Jewish Mysticism
According to Jewish folklore, Lilith was the first wife of Adam. She
was banished from the Garden of Eden when she refused to make herself
subservient to Adam (specifically, she refused to get into the missionary
position with him during sex). When she was cast out, she was made into
a demon figure, and Adam was given a second wife, Eve, who was fashioned
from his rib to ensure her obedience to her man. The following is an
excerpt from a Jewish folktale that describes some of the evils attributed
" The wife brought the mirror and all of the fine furnishings in the cellar
to her own home and proudly displayed it. She hung the mirror in the room of
their daughter, who was a dark-haired coquette. The girl glanced at herself in
the mirror all the time, and in this way she was drawn into Lilith's web....
For that mirror had hung in the the den of demons, and a daughter of Lilith had
made her home there. And when the mirror was taken from the haunted house, the
demoness came with it. For every mirror is a gateway to the Other World and leads
directly to Lilith's cave. That is the cave Lilith went to when she abandoned
Adam and the Garden of Eden for all time, the cave where she sported with her
demon lovers. From these unions multitudes of demons were born, who flocked from
that cave and infiltrated the world. And when they want to return, they simply
enter the nearest mirror. That is why it is said that Lilith makes her home in
" Now the daughter of Lilith who made her home in that mirror watched every
movement of the girl who posed before it. She bided her time and one day she
slipped out of the mirror and took possession of the girl, entering through her
eyes. In this way she took control of her, stirring her desire at will.... So
it happened that this young girl, driven by the evil wishes of Lilith's daughter,
ran around with young men who lived in the same neighborhood."
From "Lilith's Cave," Lilith's Cave: Jewish tales of the supernatural,
edited by Howard Schwartz (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988)
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Other folktales describe of how Lilith captured Jewish babies in the
night and ate them, and how she led young girls and young husbands astray.
Although Lilith was demonized by early Jewish culture as a symbol of
promiscuity and disobedience, many modern Jewish feminists see Lilith
as a positive figure, a model of woman as equal to man in the creation
story. For further reference, please check out the pages I have listed
below, or read the introduction to the collection of stories in Lilith's
Cave (see above).
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Treatise on the Left Emanation
R. Isaac b. Jacob Ha-Kohen
Tr. Ronald C. Kiener
Joseph Dan, ed. The Early Kabbalah, (New York: Pauilist Press, 1986),
exerpted from pp. 172-182). Used by permission of the translator.
The Treatise on the Left Emanation was written in the first half of
the 13th century, and it, along with writings of R. Isaac's brother,
R. Jacob, seems to have exerted significant influence on R. Moses de
Leon, the author of the Zohar. It is enough later than the Alphabet of
b. Sira for the author to be familiar with that tradition, but it betrays
no apparent knowledge of it. This could mean that b. Sira was unknown
to R. Isaac, but it could just as well mean that he found it less than
useful (or even offensive -- see Eliezer Segal's Critique of the Alphabet).
Scholem argues that b. Sira is a major source for Lilith material in
the Zohar, but my inclination is to see this text as much more influential
in that regard. [AH]
6. I will now set down the names of the princes of jealousy and enmity. Yet
since their essence and their service is true and pure, their mouths are
free from mendacity and neither lies nor falsehoods pass between them.
The first prince and accuser, the commander of jealousy, is evil Samael, accompanied
by his retinue. He is called "evil" not because of his nature but
because he desires to unite and intimately mingle with an emanation not of
his nature, as we shall explain.
The second prince is called his deputy, and his name is Za'afi'el, accompanied
by his entourage.
The third prince is called third-in-command, and his name is Za'ami'el, accompanied
by his staff.
The fourth prince is Qasfi'el, accompanied by his retinue.
The fifth prince is Ragzi'el, accompanied by his staff.
The sixth prince is 'Abri'el, accompanied by his staff.
The seventh is Meshulhi'el, accompanied by his staff. These latter comprise
the delegation of evil angels.
19. In answer to your question concerning Lilith, I shall explain to you the
essence of the matter. Concerning this point there is a received tradition
from the ancient Sages who made use of the Secret Knowledge of the Lesser Palaces,
which is the manipulation of demons and a ladder by which one ascends to the
prophetic levels. In this tradition it is made clear that Samael and Lilith
were born as one, similar to the form of Adam and Eve who were also born as
one, reflecting what is above. This is the account of Lilith which was received
by the Sages in the Secret Knowledge of the Palaces. The Matron Lilith is the
mate of Samael. Both of them were born at the same hour in the image of Adam
and Eve, intertwined in each other. Asmodeus the great king of the demons has
as a mate the Lesser (younger) Lilith, daughter of the king whose name is Qafsefoni.
The name of his mate is Mehetabel daughter of Matred, and their daughter is
This is the exact text of what is written in The Chapters of the Lesser
Palaces as we have received it, word for word and letter for letter.
And the scholars of this wisdom possess a very profound tradition from
the ancients. They found it stated in those Chapters that Samael, the
great prince of them all, grew exceedingly jealous of Asmodeus the king
of the demons because of this Lilith who is called Lilith the Maiden
(the young). She is in the form of a beautiful woman from her head to
her waist. But from the waist down she is burning fire--like mother like
daughter. She is called Mehetabel daughter of Matred, and the meaning
is something immersed (mabu tabal). The meaning here is that her intentions
are never for the good. She only seeks to incite wars and various demons
of war and the war between Daughter Lilith and Matron Lilith.
They say that from Asmodeus and his mate Lilith a great prince was born in
heaven. He is the ruler of eighty thousand destructive demons and is called "the
sword of king Asmodeus." His name is Alefpene'ash and His face burns
like a raging fire ('esh). He is also called Gurigur, for he antagonizes
and struggles with the prince of Judah, who is called Gur Aryeh Yehudah (Lion-cub
of Judah). From the same form that gave birth to this war-demon another prince,
a prince whose root is in Kingdom, was born in heaven. He is called "the
sword of the Messiah." He too has two names: Meshihi'el and Kokhvi'el.
When the time comes and when God wishes, this sword will leave its sheath
and verses of prophecy will come True: "For My sword shall be drunk
in the heavens; Lo, it shall come down upon Edom" (Isaiah 34:5). "A
star rises from Jacob" (Numbers; 24:17). Amen. Soon in our days may
we merit to see the face of the Messiah our righteous one; we and all our
22. I shall now teach you a wonderful innovation. You already know that evil
Samael and wicked Lilith are like a sexual pair who, by means of an intermediary,
receive an evil and wicked emanation from one and emanate to the other. I
shall explain this relying on the esoteric meaning in the verse "In
that day the Lord will punish with His great, cruel, mighty sword Leviathan
the twisted serpent and Leviathan the tortuous serpent"--this is Lilith--"and
He will slay the dragon of the sea" (Isaiah 27:1).
As there is a pure Leviathan in the sea and it is called a serpent,
so there is a great defiled serpent in the sea in the literal sense.
The same holds true above in a hidden way. The heavenly serpent is a
blind prince, the image of an intermediary between Samael and Lilith.
Its name is Tanin'iver The masters of tradition said that just as
this serpent slithers without eyes, so the supernal serpent has the image
of a spiritual form without color--these are "the eyes." The
tradiationists call it an eyeless creature, therefore its name is Tanin'iver.
He is the bond, the accompaniment, and the union between Samael and Lilith.
If he were created whole in the fullness of his emanation he would have
destroyed the world in an instant. .
When the divine Will arrives and the emanation of Samael and Lilith weakens
the emanation achieved by the blind prince, they will be completely annihilated
by Gabriel prince of Strength, who instigates war against them with the aid
of the prince of Lovingkindness. then the verse which we have expounded according
to its secret meaning will come true....
24. I found written in the name of an ancient traditionist and in the name
of the perfect Hasid of blessed memory that Lilith is also Taninsam.
They said that this name is based on the serpent who is in the image of an
intermediary between Lilith and her mate. He will eat deadly poison at the
hands of the prince of Strength; it is an elixir of life for all whose inclination
overcomes them. Then he participates with Michael, the prince of Lovingkindness,
in defeating the rule of evil in heaven and on earth. Then the verse will
come true: "For His Lovingkindness has overcome us; the truth of God
endures forever. Hallelujah" (Psalms 117:2).
The secret of the covenant of salt (melab) is the kingdom of the accompaniment
of beauty Therefore they hinted with secrets regarding the salted fish
[Leviathan] to feed the righteous in future time. Happy is he who understands
these things as they are.
. Literally "blind serpent."
. Rabbi Judah the Hasid?
. Literally; "poisonous serpent," but also "blind" (suma').
. See Numbers 18:19.
. Malkhut Leviat Hen.
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We come now to the Zohar, which is perhaps the most important
of the "founding" texts, for it contains references to Lilith
in all of her various guises, including the three which have been illustrated
in some of the earlier works of reference. The mentions of Lilith in
the Zohar are even more important because, for the first time, Lilith
is not simply mentioned incidentally, but, rather, she becomes a character
in her own right, whose story is often told in elaborate detail. Some
history of the Zohar is necessary before considering Lilith's appearances
The Zohar translates as "[The Book of] Splendor" or "Brightness," and
is itself a collection of several books or sections. Its contents span
everything from short midrashic statements to mystical teachings, references
to religious terminology, assessment of the problems of the infinite,
the divine emanations, and others. The main part of the Zohar is "a
kabbalistic Midrash on the Torah, mixed with short statements, long expositions,
and narratives concerning Simeon b. Yohai and his companions. Some of
it consists also of common legends" (Encylopaedia Judaica 1194).
Jewish tradition taught that the Zohar was written in Israel by the
Tanna Rabbi Simon Bar Yohai in the second century. "Thirteen years
in a cave . . . a father and a son alone . . . and the Zohar took form," goes
the traditional tale (Luzzatto xxix). It was believed that Yohai was
hiding from the Roman armies in a cave in the mountains, alone with his
son, for thirteen years. The lore associated with the Zohar stated that
the book remained hidden for a thousand years when, at the end of the
13th century, Rabbi Moses Ben Shem Tov de Leon (of Spain) discovered
the manuscript and made it known (Gutwirth 22).
It has since become accepted knowledge that this legend was merely legend.
Says Encyclopaedia Judaica: "The Zohar with its various strata was
without doubt composed in the years that immediately preceded its publication,
since it is impossible to uncover any section that was written before
1270" (1209). The actual author of this work was the Spanish kabbalist
Moses b. Shem Tov de Leon, and it is believed that Simon Bar Yohai was
simply a pen name taken by Leon in order to make a pretention of antiquity.
Because the Kabbalah -- and, thus, the Zohar also -- is rooted in oral
tradition, it is extremely difficult to determine when this mystical
Jewish doctrine originated. Although the Zohar was not made public until
l290 and, as previously stated, not written until shortly before that
time, the stories and teachings contained within had indeed been gestating
through oral tradition for centuries.
The Zohar itself draws on a number of literary sources as well as oral
ones, including the Babylonian Talmud, the complete Midrash Rabbah, and
a number of smaller Midrashim, including the Alphabet of Ben Sira. While
the Zohar attempts to conceal its referral to such real literary sources,
it contains a vast fictitious library of pseudo-sources which it emphasizes
as the source of its information, likely in order to help establish a
Lilith appears in the Zohar a number of times incidentally, but there
are four passages in which an aspect of Lilith is extensively drawn upon.
Her first Zoharic appearance describes her in the guise for which she
first became known, that of a strangler and murderer of children, and
also ties together her other facets as well. This is recorded at Zohar
I, 19b and reads:
" And God said, Let there be lights . . . " (Genesis 1:14). "Lights" is
written defectively, meaning that croup was created for babies. After the illumination
of the first light was concealed, a shell was created for the kernal, and this
shell spread and produced another shell. When she emerged and ascended and descended,
and came to "the tiny countenances," and wished to join herself to
them, to take shape within them, and never to leave them. But the Holy One, blessed
by He, took her away from there, and brought her down below when He created Adam,
in order to regulate this world. When she saw Eve, who was attached to Adam's
back, and whose beauty was like that of the realms above, and when she saw her
perfect image, she flew from there and wished, as at first, to join herself to "the
The keepers of the celestial gates did not allow her to approach. The
Holy One, blessed be He, upbraided her and dispatched her to the depths
of the sea, and she dwelt there until Adam and his wife sinned. Then
the Holy One, blessed be He, brought her out of the depths of the sea,
and she rules over all infants -- "the tiny countenances" of
mankind -- who deserve to be punished because of the sins of their fathers.
She goes to and fro in the world, and comes to the terrestrial Garden
of Eden, and sees the Cherubim guarding the gates of the Garden of Eden,
and she dwells there by the flaming sword, because she originated from
the side of that flame. When the flame turns she flees and goes through
the world, finding infants who ought to be punished, and she smiles at
them and kills them. This happens when the moon is on the wane, and the
light diminishes. And this is the meaning of me'orot (lights). (The Wisdom
of the Zohar 540-541).
Like much of the Zohar, this passage is rather difficult to follow
for one who is not familiar with Cabalistic works. A discussion of some
footnotes to the passage may prove helpful. First, the seemingly odd
idea that "lights" was written "defectively" in the
place of "croup," stems from the fact that "me'orot," or
lights, was written in such a way that it could be read as "me'erat," or
curse (540, footnote 49). The identification of the "she" with
Lilith is inferred because it is she who is said to asphyxiate babies
with the croup (540, footnotes 50, 53). These "tiny countenances" are
identified as Cherubim, and Lilith's desire to "join herself to
them" is related to the idea that "the powers of 'the other
side' constantly desire to assume human form" (540, footnote 54).
The passage "When she saw Eve . . . she flew from there," is
elaborated on in commentary as follows: "It was Lilith's intention
to associate with Adam, and have intercourse with him, but the sight
of Eve's beauty caused her to flee from Adam, and so she tried once more
to associated with the Cherubim" (540, footnote 56). In this passage
alone, therefore, Lilith is portrayed in all her guises at once: she
is a child-slaying demoness, associated with Adam, who wants to seduce
him into copulation in order to create demon offspring. This represents
the first unification of all the facets of the Lilith legend into one
Lilith's second appearance in the Zohar is at Zohar I 148a-148b, Sitrei
Torah. Here she is the "female of Samael," King of the Demons.
She is seductive and beautiful and, after seducing men, she kills them.
The passage reads:
The secret of secrets: From the strength of the noon-flame of Isaac, from the
wine lees, a naked shoot came forth, comprising together male and female,
red like a lily, and they spread out on several sides, down several paths.
The male is called "Samael," and his female is always included
with him. Just as on the side of holiness there are male and female, so on
'the other side' there are male and female, included one with the other.
The female of Samael is called 'snake,' 'a wife of harlotry,' 'the end of
all flesh,' 'the end of days.' Two evil spirits are attached to one another.
the male spirit is fine, the female spirit spreads out down several ways
and paths, and is attached to the male spirit.
She dresses herself in finery like an abominable harlot and stands
at the corners of streets and highways in order to attract men. When
a fool approaches her, she embraces him and kisses him, and mixes her
wine lees with snake poison for him. Once he has drunk, he turns aside
after her. When she sees that he has turned aside after he from the way
of truth, she takes off all the finery that she had put on for the sake
of this fool.
This is the finery that she uses to seduce mankind: her hair is long,
red like a lily; her face is white and pink; six pendants hang at her
ears; her bed is made of Egyptian flax; all the ornaments of the East
encircle her neck; her mouth is shaped like a tiny door, beautified with
cosmetic; her tongue is sharp like a sword; her words smooth as oil;
her lips beautiful, red as a lily, sweetened with all the sweetnesses
in the world; she is dressed in purple, and attired in thirty-nine items
This fool turns aside after her, and drinks from the cup of wine, and
commits harlotry with her, completely enamored of her. What does she
do? She leaves him asleep on the bed and ascends to the realms above,
accuses him, obtains authority, and descends. The fool wakes up, thinking
to sport with her as before, but she takes off her finery, and turns
into a fierce warrior, facing him in a garment of flaming fire, a vision
of dread, terrifying both body and soul, full of horrific eyes, a sharpened
sword in his hand with drops of poison suspended and dripping from it.
He kills the fool, and throws him into Gehinnom. (The Wisdom of the Zohar
While Lilith is not explicitly named in this passage and a modern reader
unfamiliar with the Zohar may need to rely on the footnote (35) for this
mystery woman's identity, the description makes it clear that Lilith
is the obvious reference, and anyone familiar with Cabalistic teachings
-- and, therefore, with the Zohar -- would have been able to identify
this "female" of Samael (the Devil) as such.
This passage is particularly important because of its association of
Lilith with the snake. The footnote explains: "Samael is like the
soul and Lilith like the body. Deeds are wrought by Lilith with the power
of Samael" (538, footnote 36). The idea that Lilith and Samael,
her "husband," are linked in such a way is a concept familiar
to Cabalistic teachings. As a footnote to a different passage, it is
explained that "the soul was the product of intercourse between
male and female in the sefirot, so that it comprised both male and female,
for Adam and Eve were originally created joined together" (539,
This joining together of Adam and Eve was not seen as some sort of spiritual
link, as may be inferred today, but, rather, it was believed that they
were actually one androgynous being. This idea, which seems to be in
conflict with other facets of the creation story, is explained as follows: "The
female was attached to the side of the male until after Adam named all
the animals. Then God cast Adam into a deep slumber, and severed the
female from Adam's side. God adorned her like a bride, and then brought
the woman to Adam" (Koltuv 8). It is touched on further in the Zohar
at Zohar I 34b, which states, "I have found it stated in an old
book that this female was none other than the original Lilith who was
with him and conceived from him" (from Koltuv 8). While this reference
at Zohar I 34b definitely introduces a contradiction between whether
the androgynous Adam consisted of Adam and Lilith or Adam and Eve, a
reconciliation of these passages is not necessary to this study.
What is necessary is to notice the idea of the male and female being
one. This is important in that since "the female of Samael is called
'snake'," and since Samael himself represents the Devil -- Satan
-- it makes sense that the snake and Lilith would become combined in
both literature and art. This can be seen in a number of artifacts, dating
from 1400 onward, where the snake that seduces Eve into eating the forbidden
fruit has the face (and hair) of Lilith (see illustrations 4-12). It
is highly likely, therefore, that this passage represents the origin
of such a unification.
Lilith's next appearance in the Zohar recounts the story of creation
with Lilith arising as the first wife of Adam. Told in Zohar III, 19a,
the passage reads:
Come and see. From the crevice of the great deep, above, there came a certain
female, the spirit of all spirits, and we have already explained that her
name was Lilith. And at the very beginning she existed with man. When Adam
was created, and his body had been completed, a thousand spirits from the
left side gathered together around the body, each one wanted to gain entry
to it, but they were unable to, and in the end the Holy One, blessed be He,
rebuked them. Adam therefore was lying down, a body without a spirit, and
he had a green pallor, and all these spirits were hovering round him. At
that moment a cloud descended and drove away all these spirits. Concerning
this moment it is written 'And God said, Let the earth bring forth a living
soul' (Genesis 1:24). We have already explained that the female became pregnant
by the male in the soul of Adam and produced the spirit that was comprised
of two sides, as was proper, so that it could be breathed into Adam. This
is the meaning of 'and He breathed into his nostrils the breath [or soul]
of life, and Adam became a living soul' (Genesis 2:7) - a really living soul.
Whoever has doubts about this because he does not know whether it refers
to the life below or the life called 'Israel,' or whether it is male or female,
should notice that it does not say 'the living soul,' but 'a living soul,'
without qualification, which signifies everything. When Adam arose his wife
was fastened to his side, and the holy soul that was in him spread to this
side and to that, and nourished both sides, because it was comprised of both.
Subsequently, the Holy One, blessed be He, split Adam, and prepared his female.
This is the meaning of 'And the Lord God constructed the side . . . ' (Gen.
2:20 - 'the side' we have explained before, as it is written 'the side of
the tabernacle' (Exodus 26:20). 'And He brought her to Adam' (Gen. 2:22)
- attired as a bride for the wedding canopy.
When Lilith saw this she fled, and she is now in the cities of the
sea, and she is still intent on injuring mankind. When the Holy One,
blessed be He, destroys wicked Rome, and it becomes an eternal desolation,
He will bring up Lilith and settle her in the ruins, because it will
be desolate forever. This is the meaning of 'Lilith shall repose there,
and find her place of rest' (Isaiah 34:14). (The Wisdom of the Zohar
The idea of Adam and Eve being joined is further explained, through
footnote, in this section. Footnote 48 reads: "'Side in both quotations
is Hebrew zela. In Genesis 2:22 it is usually translated 'rib,' but the
point to be made here is that Eve was created by splitting Adam and shearing
off a whole side which then became Eve" (540). This helps to substantiate
the idea that the female half of Adam was indeed Eve, rather than Lilith.
A final reference to Lilith is taken from Zohar III, 76b-77a. While
the portion from 76b has little, if nothing, to do with Lilith, it is
worth quoting if only for its reference to the sexual relationship between
Eve and the snake. It reads:
After the snake had lain with Eve and cast filth upon her, she bore Cain. From
here all the generations, the wicked of the world, draw their origin, and
to the generation of the demons and the spirits they owe their being with
all their characteristics. Therefore the spirits and the demons are half
like human beings below and half like angels above. Similarly, when the other
spirits were procreated by Adam, they too were of this nature, half from
below and half from above. After they had been procreated by Adam, he produced
from these spirits daughters who resembled in beauty both the upper and the
lower worlds. Therefore it is written, "the sons of God saw the daughters
of man that they were fair . . ." (Genesis 6:2), and they all went astray
There was a certain male, who came into the world from the spirit on
the side of Cain, and they called him Tuba-cain. And a certain female
emerged with him, and human beings go astray after her, and her name
is Naamah. From her other spirits and demons came forth, and they are
suspended in the air, giving information to others who are below them.
This Tubal-cain brought weapons of war into the world. And Naamah makes
a roaring noise and cleaves to her forces, and she still survives. And
her dwelling is among the breakers of the great sea, and she goes out
to mock at human kind, warming herself on them in dreams with human desire,
and cleaving to them. She receives this desire but no more, and she becomes
pregnant through this desire and brings other kinds of demons into the
world. The sons that she bears to mortal men present themselves to the
females among mankind and they become pregnant by them and bear spirits.
They all go to Lilith first and she rears them. She goes out into the
world in search of babies, and when she sees human babies she attaches
herself to them, seeking to kill them, and to absorb the spirits of these
human babies. She goes off with this spirit, but there are three holy
spirits who are gathered there. They fly in front of her and take the
spirit from her and present it to the Holy One, blessed be He. And there
they teach the babies in His presence.
It is for this reason that the Torah warns people: "Sanctify yourselves
and be holy" (Leviticus 20:7). And it is true that if a man is holy
during intercourse he need not be afraid of her, for then the Holy One,
blessed be He, will summon the three holy angels that we have mentioned,
and they will protect the child and she cannot harm him. This is the
meaning of "No evil shall befall you, and no plague shall come near
your tent" (Psalm 91:10). Why? Because "He will give His angels
charge over you" (Psalm 91:11). And it is written "Because
he has loved me, I will deliver him" (Psalm 91:14). But if man is
not holy and draws out a spirit from the side of uncleanness, she will
come and mock at the child. And if she kills him she will absorb the
spirit and will never be separated from it.
You might object and say that the others whom she kills, but whose spirits
are taken by the three holy angels who are assembled before her, cannot
have been formed from the side of uncleanness. And, if that is so, by
what right did she kill them? In these cases, man has not sanctified
himself, but neither did he have the intention of defiling or of becoming
defiled. Therefore she has the power to control the body but not the
spirit. (The Wisdom of the Zohar 542-543)
The seemingly insignificant beginning of this passage brings to light
a rather odd notion: the idea that "the snake had lain with Eve" and
was the father of Cain. While this would make sense in explaining Cain's
wicked actions, it raises an important question: is this snake Samael,
is it Lilith, or is it an androgynous assimilation of both Samael and
Lilith? The footnote answers this question by explaining that "the
snake that lay with Eve was Samael, and he was an angel that had fallen
from the upper realms [the Devil]" (542, footnote 67). The fact
that Lilith as snake is always oriented toward Eve in the art that postdates
the Zohar seems to suggest, however, that -- regardless of the intention
of this passage -- some believed that it was Lilith as snake who had
a relationship with Eve (note especially illustration #12)
The section of this passage where Lilith is mentioned, however, does
not even mention the idea that Lilith was associated with Adam. Instead,
it focuses on her malevolence toward infants and her succubae traits,
for it explains that if the man is not holy during intercourse, then
his child will indeed be taken by Lilith when it is born.
In conclusion, Lilith appears in the work of the Zohar in all of her
guises, sometimes individually, but usually all at once. More importantly,
all of the passages which make reference to Lilith allow for the possibility
that she is indeed all three of the myths rolled into one. It is this
idea which took the firmest hold, perhaps because it offered a way to
clear up the discrepancies from having various myths or perhaps because
the Zohar itself became more popular than any of the preceding works
which dared to mention her at length.
When the letters of the name of Adam, descended below, together in
their completeness, the male and the female were found together, and
the female was attached to his side, until God cast a deep slumber upon
him and he fell asleep. And he lay in the place of the Temple below.
And the Holy One, blessed be He, sawed her off him, and adorned her as
they adorn a bride, and brought her to him.... In an ancient book I found
that this [refers to] the primeval Lilith who was with him and conceived
from him, but was not a helpmeet for him.... (Patai81:454)
Come and see: There is a female, a spirit of all spirits, and her name
is Lilith, and she was at first with Adam. And in the hour when Adam
was created and his body became completed, a thousand spirits from the
left [evil] side clung to that body until the Holy One, blessed be He,
shouted at them and drove them away. And Adam was lying, a body without
a spirit, and his appearance was green, and all those spirits surrounded
him. In that hour a cloud descended an pushed away all those spirits.
And when Adam stood up, his female was attached to his side. And that
holy spirit which was in him spread out to this side and that side, and
grew here and there, and thus became complete. Thereafter the Holy One,
blessed be He, sawed Adam into two, and made the female. And He brought
her to Adam in her perfection like a bride to the canopy. When Lilith
saw this, she fled. And she is in the cities of the sea, and she is still
trying to harm the sons of the world. (Patai81:455)
The remedy against Lilith is this: In that hour in which a man copulates
with his wife, he should concentrate in his head on the holiness of his
Master and say this:
O you who are wrapped in velvet,
You have appeared!
Neither come nor go!
Neither you nor yours!
Go back, go back!
The sea is raging,
Its waves call you,
I hold on to the Holy One,
Wrap myself in the King's holiness.
Then let him cover his head and his wife for one hour, and do thus
each time for three days of the receiving. For a grafting which is not
received within three days will not be received at all. But in the book
which Ashmodai gave to King Solomon it says for thirty days, and it says
that after he finished the act he should sprinkle clear water around
the couch. (Patai81:463)
After the primeval light was hidden, a husk was created for the brain,
and that husk spread out and brought forth another husk which was Lilith.
And when she emerged, she went up and went down towards the little faces,
and wanted to attach herself to them and be shaped after them, and did
not want to depart from them. But the Holy One, blessed be He, removed
her from there and placed her down below. When He created Adam, in order
to perfect this world, as soon as Lilith saw Eve affixed to the side
of Adam, and saw in them the beauty of the Above, and saw their perfect
image, she flew off from there and wanted, as before to attach herself
to the little faces. But the guardians of the gates of Above did not
Let her. The Holy One, blessed be He, rebuked her, and cast her into
the depths of the sea, and she remained dwelling there until Adam and
his wife sinned. Then the Holy One, blessed be He, brought her up from
the depths of the sea and gave her power over all those children, the
little faces of the sons of man, who are liable to punishment because
of the sins of their fathers. And she went and roamed the world. She
approached the gates of Paradise on earth, and saw the Cherubim guarding
the gates of Paradise, and sat down facing the Flaming Sword, for she
originated from that flame.
When that flame revolved, she fled. And she roams in the world, and
finds children liable to punishment, and caresses them, and kills them.
And all this is because of the diminishing of the moon which reduced
its light.... When Cain was born, she could not attach herself to him.
But later she approached him and bore spirits and winged demons. For
130 years Adam had intercourse with female spirits, until Naamah came.
Because of her beauty the sons of God went astray after her, 'Ussa and
'Azael, and she bore from them, and from her spread evil. spirits and
demons in the world.... (Patai81:454f) And she goes and roams the world
at night, and makes sport with men and causes them to emit seed. And
wherever men are found sleeping alone in a house, they [these spirits]
descend upon them and get hold of them and adhere to them and take desire
from them and bear from them. And they also afflict them with disease,
and the men do not know it. And all this is because of the diminishing
of the moon. (Patai81:461)
On this last paragraph, see the Seductress passages
For 130 years Adam kept separate from his wife and did not beget. After
Cain killed Abel, Adam did not want to copulate with his wife. Rabbi
Yose said: "From the hour in which death was decreed upon him and
upon the whole world, he said 'Why should I beget children for terror?'
and instantly separated from his wife." And two female spirits [Lilith
and Naamah] would come and copulate with him and bear children. and those
whom they bore are the evil spirits of the world who are called the Plagues
of Mankind. And they lead the sons of man astray, and dwell in the doorway
of the house, and in the cisterns and in the latrines.... But if the
holy name Shaddai with supernal crowns is found in the doorway of a man's
house, they all flee and go away from there. And we have learned that
in the hour in which man descended to the earth in the supernal image,
in the image of the Holy One, and the higher and lower beings saw him,
they all approached him and proclaimed him king over this world. After
the Serpent mounted Eve and injected filth into her, she gave birth to
Cain. From thence descended all the wicked generations in the world.
And the abode of demons and spirits is from there and from his side.
Therefore, all the spirits and demons have one half from man below, and
the other half from the angels of the supernal realm. Thereafter Adam
begot on those spirits daughters who are the beauty of those above and
those below. And all went astray after them. And there was one male who
came into the world from the spirit of Cain's side, and they called Tubal-Cain.
And a female came forth with him, and the creatures went astray after
her, and her name was Naamah. From her issued other spirits and demons.
and they hover in the air and tell things to those others found below.
And this Tubal-Cain brought weapons of killing into the world. And this
Naamah became aroused and adhered to her [evil] side. And to this day
she exists, and her abode is among the waves of the great sea. And she
comes forth, and makes sport with the sons of man, and becomes hot from
them in the dream, in that desire which a man has, and she clings to
him, and she takes the desire and from it she conceives and brings forth
other kinds [of spirits] into the world. And those children whom she
bears from the sons of man come to the women, and they conceive from
them and bear spirits. And all of them go to Lilith the Ancient, and
she rears them.... (Patai81:456f) And she goes out into the world and
seeks her children. And she sees the sons of man and clings to them,
in order to kill them, and to become absorbed into the souls of the children
of the sons of man, and she goes off with that child. But three holy
spirits arrive there and fly before her and take that child from her
and place him before the Holy One, blessed be He, and there he studies
before Him. Therefore the Tora warns, Be sacred (Lev. 19:2). If a man
is holy, he is not harmed by her, for the Holy One, blessed be He, orders
those three holy angels whom we have mentioned, and they guard that child,
and she cannot harm him. But if a man is not holy, and draws a spirit
from the impure side, then she comes and makes sport with that child,
and when she kills him she penetrates that soul [which departs from the
child] and never leaves it.... (Patai81:466) At times it happens that
Naamah goes forth into the world to become hot from the sons of man,
and a man finds himself in a connection of lust with her, and he awakens
from his sleep and takes hold of his wife and lies with her. And this
desire comes from that lust which he had in his dream. Then the child
that she begets comes from the side of Naamah, for the man was driven
by his lust for her. And when Lilith comes and sees that child, she knows
what happened, and she ties herself to him and brings him up like all
those other sons of Naamah. And she is with him many times, but does
not kill him. This is the man who becomes blemished on every New Moon,
for she never gives him up. For month after month, when the moon becomes
renewed in the world Lilith comes forth and visits all those whom she
brings up, and makes sport with them, and therefore that person is blemished
at that time. (Patai81:457f)
And that spirit which is called Asirta becomes stirred up...and goes
to the female who is beneath all females. And she is Lilith the mother
of demons. And a man may become stirred up by that evil spirit called
Asirta, which attaches himself to that man and ties himself to him permanently.
And on every New Moon that spirit of evil appearance becomes stirred
up by Lilith, and at time that man suffers harm from the spirit, and
falls to the ground and cannot get up, or even dies. (Patai81:462)
R. Yitzhaq said: From the hour in which Cain killed Abel, Adam separated
himself from his wife, [and] two female spirits came and copulated with
him, and he begot spirits and demons which roam in the world. And this
should not be difficult for you [to understand], for when a man dreams,
female spirits come and play with him and get hot from him and thereafter
bear [those demons] which are called the Plagues of Mankind. And they
turn into a likeness of men, but they have no hair on their head....
And in a similar manner male spirits come to the women of this world
who become pregnant from them and give birth to spirits and all of them
are called Plagues of Mankind. After 130 years Adam clothed himself in
zeal and had union with his wife and begot a son and called his name
One day the companions were walking with Rabbi Shim'on bar Yohai. Rabbi
Shim'on said: "We see that all these nations have risen, and Israel
is lower than all of them. Why is this? Because the King [God] sent away
the Matronit from Him, and took the slave woman [Lilith] in her place.
Who is this slave woman? The Alien Crown, whose firstborn the Holy One,
blessed be He, killed in Egypt. At first she sat behind the handmill,
and now this slave woman inherited the place of her mistress." And
Rabbi Shim'on wept and said: "The King without the Matronit is not
called king. The King who adhered to the slave woman, to the handmaid
of the Matronit, where is his honor? He lost the Matronit and attached
Himself to the place which is called slave woman. This slave woman was
destined to rule over the Holy Land of below, as the Matronit formerly
ruled over it. But the Holy One, blessed be He, will ultimately bring
back the Matronit to her place as before. And then, what will be the
rejoicing? Say, the rejoicing of the King and the rejoicing of the Matronit.
The rejoicing of the King because He will return to her and separate
from the slave woman, and the rejoicing of the Matronit, because she
will return to couple with the King. (Patai81:468)
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 Shekhinah, the openign to the realm of the sefirot, which are the
object of mystical faith. [Matt:227].
 The same phrase appears in rabbinic literature to describe Rabbi Akiva's
successful journey into the mystical orchard; see Tosefta, Hagigah 2:4; Shir
ha-Shirim Rabbah 1:28. [Matt:227].
 Here we find another perspective on Adam's sin: he was seduced by demonic
and sexual forces; cf. Zohar 1:140b; 2:245a. [Matt:227].
 E.g. Lilith. [AH]
. The Zohar associates Haran with haron, "wrath". cf. 1:78b (Sitrei
. According to Matt::227f, both Isaac and the dregs mentioned here alude
to power and judgment overcoming love and mercy. This imbalance, according
to the passage, is at the root of the origins of the demonic. [AH]
. Red symbolizes the power of the left and the demonic [Matt:228]
. On Lilith = Serpent = Woman of Whoredom see 'Emeq haMelekh 23c-d. [AH]
The Zohar links sin, lust, and death. All these are the works of Lilit acting
in consort with Sama'el. The phrase "woman of whoredom" is from Hosea
1:2; "end of all flesh" is from the story of the Flood, Genesis 6:13;
cf. Zohar 162b-63b. [Matt:228]
. corresponding to the number of lashes administered by the court according
to rabbinic law; seee Deut. 25:3; Mishnah, Makkot 3:10. Lilit's allurements
soon turn into punishments. [Matt:228]
. Cf. Talmud Bava Batra 16a, where Satan's itinerary is described: "He
descends and leads astray, ascendas and arouses [God's] anger, obtains permission
and takes the soul." [Matt:228]
 Note the shift from feminine pronouns to masculine. Patai's translation
(Patai81:461f) keeps the feminine pronouns throughout. I have not checked the
Hebrew, but I suspect that that Matt is following it and Patai has corrected
what he perceived to be an error. If Matt is correct, then this is another
instance of gender mixture between Lilith and Samael. See my note on Bacharach,
'Emeq haMelekh 23c-d. Matt simply comments "Lilit becomes Sama'el" (228)[AH]
. He exposed himself to demonic and sexual temptation as part of his journey
of transformation. [Matt:228]
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Bacharach, 'Emeq haMelekh, 102d-103a
The Alien Woman is Lilith, and she is the sweetness of sin and the
evil tongue. And from the lips of the Alien Woman honey flows. And although
the Impure Female has no hands and feet for copulation, for the feet
of the serpent were cut off, nevertheless the Female in her adornments
looks as if she had hands and feet. And it is the mystery of her adornments
that she can seduce men.... And she leaves the husband of her youth [Samael]
and descends and fornicates with men who sleep below in the impurity
of spontaneous emission, and from them are born demons and spirits and
Lilin, and they are called the Sons of Man. (Patai81:462ff)
Bacharach, 'Emeq haMelekh 23c-d
This passage is interesting because it is one of the few places where
we get a textual connection (however problematic) between Lilith and
the Serpent of the Garden of Eden [see also Zohar, Sitre Tora, 1:148a-b].
This connection is perhaps strengthened by Christian iconography (see
the pictures collection), but can hardly be regarded as conclusive. While
contacts between Jewish and Christian mystical and alchemical specualtion
did exist, the pervasiveness of the iconagraphic symbol is such that
we would have to posit a much more widely circulated Christian version
of the story that we would obtain from elite mystical cross-talk. The
other problem with this story is the gender confusion. At first we assume
that the Lilith-Serpent's 'seduction' of Eve is intellectual. Then we
find out that not only did the Serpent have sexual intercourse with Eve,
but that Eve was a virgin at the time and it is that union, specifically
the Serpent's semen, that is the etiology of menstruation! Finally, Adam
has sexual contact with his wife, but it is while she is still polluted
by her menstruation/adultery. That impure act generates magical power
for Lilith who is now able to have sexual dominion over Adam as well,
bearing demon children from him. There is however one problem. If Lilith
is female (she is!) and Lilith is the Serpent, as we are told in this
passage ('Woman of Harlotry = Lilith), how can she have intercourse with
Eve. This is not simply lesbian sex, in the strictest sense, because
she injects semen into Eve. There is at least one parallel passage in
which the serpent is identified with Samael and Cain is the result of
the union. In this case, Samael being male, the gender problem does not
arise. It may be possible to solve the problem in the following text
(and coincidentally harmonize it with the Samael version) by reference
to the tradition, mentioned above, that Lilith and Samael were at one
time, like Adam and Eve, an androgynous pair. This may well be reading
more into the text than we should, however, at least from the standpoint
of scholarship (homilists may do what they please). It is never-the-less
clear from the following that Adam and Eve are not viewed as joined in
that fashion at the time the events are transpiring.
And the Serpent, the Woman of Harlotry, incited and seduced Eve through
the husks of Light which in itself is holiness. And the Serpent seduced
Holy Eve, and enough said for him who understands. An all this ruination
came about because Adam the first man coupled with Eve while she was
in her menstrual impurity -- this is the filth and the impure seed of
the Serpent who mounted Eve before Adam mounted her. Behold, here it
is before you: because of the sins of Adam the first man all the things
mentioned came into being. For Evil Lilith, when she saw the greatness
of his corruption, became strong in her husks, and came to Adam against
his will, and became hot from him and bore him many demons and spirits
and Lilin. (Patai81:455f)
Bacharach, 'Emeq haMelekh, 179d-180a
The Lilin multiply like humans, eat and drink and die. And they are
from the six earths which lie beneath us. And Lilith came against the
will of Adam and became hot[C] from him. And they [the inhabitants of
Adama, the second from below of the seven earths] are always sad, full
of sorrow and sighs, and there is no joy at all among them. And those
cohorts can fly up from there to this world on which we stand, and they
become harmful demons. And then they return there and offer prayers to
God, the Creator of the world.... (Patai81:469)
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Zechariah 5:5-11 reads:
Then the angel who talked with me came forward and said to me, "Look
up and see what this is that is coming out."
I said, "What is it?"
He said, "This is a basket coming out." And he said, "This is
their iniquity in all the land." Then a leaden cover was lifted, and there
was a woman sitting in the basket! And he said, "This is Wickedness." So
he thrust her back into the basket, and pressed the leaden weight down on its
Then I looked up and saw two women coming forward. The wind was in
their wings; they had wings like the wings of a stork, and they lifted
up the basket between earth and sky. Then I said to the angel who talked
with me, "Where are they taking the basket?"
He said to me, "To the land of Shinar, to build a house for it; and when
this is prepared, they will set the basket down there on its base." [NRSV]
 The author identifies the "two women" mentioned by Zechariah
with Igrat and Naamah, just as he identifies "Wickedness" with
Lilith. [Patai, n. 11]
 On BlindDragon as the sexual go-between for Lilith and Samael see Lilith,
Samael and BlindDragon"
 One of the divine attributes. [Patai, n. 12]
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Kabbala: Lilith as God's Consort
In this striking passage we see Lilith becoming the consort of God!
This resulting from God's regular consort, the Matronit, being in exile.
While they are apart, the Matronit is abused by the left emanations (bad
guys) while Lilith takes her place at God's side. Keep in mind here that
'God' in this context refers to one of the emanations of God, not the
absolute (Ein Sof). Of course, it would be tempting to combine this with
the 'Adam's first wife' streams of the tradition, leaving us with a story
in which Lilith is at first rejected by Adam only to be elevated to be
the mate of God himself. I suspect, however, that these stories come
from different places and cannot be justifiably combined.
The Alphabet of Ben Sira is the earliest form we know of the Lilith
legend familiar to most people (that is, to most people who are familiar
with Lilith at all). It is here that we find Lilith as Adam's first wife.
Scholars tend to date the Alphabet between the 8th and 10th centuries,
CE. Whether the story itself is older, or, if so, how much older is not
possible to say. Amulets like the one described in the first paragraph
are, of course, much older. The author of the Zohar, R. Moses de Leon,
was aware of the Alphabet's version of Lilith, at least according to
Gershom Scholem (Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, p. 174), but he also
knows other, probably older, Lilith traditions which do not mesh well
with this one. No attempt is made, apparently, to harmonize them. For
one of these other traditions, and comments on whether the author was
familiar with the Alphabet, see Treatise on the Left Emanation. The idea
of Eve having a predecessor is also not new to Ben Sira, and can be found
in Genesis Rabbah . But those traditions make no mention of Lilith, and,
in fact, do not mesh well with Ben Sira's version of the story. [AH]
Soon afterward the young son of the king took ill, Said Nebuchadnezzar, "Heal
my son. If you don't, I will kill you." Ben Sira immediately sat
down and wrote an amulet with the Holy Name, and he inscribed on it the
angels in charge of medicine by their names, forms and images, and by
their wings, hands, and feet. Nebuchadnezzar looked at the amulet. "Who
"The angles who are in charge of medicine: Snvi, Snsvi, and Smnglof.
After God created Adam, who was alone, He said, 'It is not good for man
to be alone' (Gen. 2:18). He then created a woman for Adam, from the
earth, as He had created Adam himself, and called her Lilith. Adam and
Lilith began to fight. She said, 'I will not lie below,' and he said,
'I will not lie beneath you, but only on top. For you are fit only to
be in the bottom position, while am to be in the superior one.' Lilith
responded, 'We are equal to each other inasmuch as we were both created
from the earth.' But they would not listen to one another. When Lilith
saw this, she pronounced the Ineffable Name and flew away into the air.
Adam stood in prayer before his Creator: 'Sovereign of the universe!'
he said, 'the woman you gave me has run away.' At once, the Holy One,
blessed be He, sent these three angles to bring her back.
"Said the Holy One to Adam, 'If she agrees to come back, fine.
If not she must permit one hundred of her children to die every day.'
The angels left God and pursued Lilith, whom they overtook in the midst
of the sea, in the mighty waters wherein the Egyptians were destined
to drown. They told her God's word, but she did not wish to return. The
angels said, 'We shall drown you in the sea.'
"'Leave me!' she said. 'I was created only to cause sickness to
infants. If the infant is male, I have dominion over him for eight days
after his birth, and if female, for twenty days.'
"When the angels heard Lilith's words, they insisted she go back. But she
swore to them by the name of the living and eternal God: 'Whenever I see you
or your names or your forms in an amulet, I will have no power over that infant.'
She also agreed to have one hundred of her children die every day. Accordingly,
every day one hundred demons perish, and for the same reason, we write the angels'
names on the amulets of young children. When Lilith sees their names, she remembers
her oath, and the child recovers."
Eliezer Segal's Critique of the Alphabet as a Lilith source.
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Yalqut Reubeni, B'reshit 34b
In the beginning the Holy One, blessed be He, created Eve, and she
was not flesh but the scum of the earth and its impure sediments, and
she was a harmful spirit [i.e., Lilith]. And the Holy One, blessed be
He, took her away from Adam and gave him another in her stead. (Patai81:453)
Meir Arama, Sefer Meir T'hillot, p. 91b
And know that the kabbalists have written that the woman from the land
of Egypt whom his mother took for Ishmael was the daughter of Kasdiel
the Egyptian sorcerer. And when Ishmael divorced her, according to the
instructions of his father [Abraham], as it is mentioned in the Pesiqta,
she was pregnant. And she bore a daughter, and she was Mahalath daughter
of Ishmael. And the mother and the daughter participated in that desert
in many sorceries. And a spirit ruled over it, Igratiel by name. And
that spirit was attracted to Mahalath, who was very beautiful, until
she conceived from him and bore a daughter, and called her name Igrat,
after the name of the spirit. And thereafter Mahalath became the wife
of Esau, and she left the desert. Not so her daughter Igrat, for she
and Naamah and Lilith and Nega' rule over the four tequfot [the two solstices
and the two equinoxes]. And they said that Lilith fornicates with all
men, and Naamah only with the Gentiles, and Nega' only with Israel, and
Igrat is sent out to do harm on the nights preceding the Sabbaths and
Wednesdays. And behold, Lilith is the scant measure that is abomination
(Mic. 6:10), which Igrat and Naamah carry to the Land of Shinar, as Zechariah
(5:11) said. And about this it is said to the fearers of God, neither
shall any plague [Nega'] come nigh thy tent (Ps 91:10). (Patai81:459f)
Direct Talmudic References
b. Erubin 18b
Rabbi Jeremia ben Eleazar said, "During those years (after their
expulsion from the Garden), in which Adam, the first man, was separated
from Eve, he became the father of ghouls and demons and lilin." Rabbi
Meir said, "Adam, the first man, being very pious and finding that
he had caused death to come into the world, sat fasting for 130 years,
and separated himself from his wife for 130 years, and wore fig vines
for 130 years. His fathering of evil spirits, referred to here, came
as a result of wet dreams.
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