History of Lilith
The legend of Lilith is predominently Jewish folklore, but it is not limited to the Jewish religion. A description of Lilith can found in numerous other religions such as Greek, Babylonian, and Arabs (Hefner 1). Each religion has their own name for Lilith but the description they give her is one in the same.
Lilith is the first wife of Adam, or Eve's predecessor. She is also the original woman, independent and free, who escaped Paradise because she refused to submit to sexual domination by Adam. Many religious leaders believe the Legend of Lilith threatens their attempt at making women into dependent, monogamous servants of men (Begg 38).
The Jewish religion believes this wild-haired and winged creature has nymphomaniac tendencies (Lilith Magazine). It is said that Lilith is the "seductress of men who sleeps with no woman and/or no moral principle" (Terriza)
The name Lilith comes from the Assyrian-Babylonian word Lilitu meaning "wind spirit".
Lilith as Compared to "Christabel"
The poem "Christabel" displays a woman, Geraldine as a "seductress of men who sleeps with no woman and/or no moral principle"(Terriza). Geraldine's sexuality is her source of power, and she uses this against Sir Leoline, who is a widower, and most vulnerable.
Babylonians describe Lilith as a "lust demoness". Once under her spell the victims become the "bridegrooms of Lilitu" and they are powerless against her until they join their lover in the bosom of death (Terriza1). Geraldine accomplishes the same with "Christabel" when she pretends to be too weak to walk over the threshold into the castle. Christabel then becomes the bridegroom of Geraldine and she is unable to escape her seduction.
It is said that Lilith is a "fiery female spirit" whose powers are at their greatest during a full moon. Lilith's place of rest is with the jackals and goat demons of the desert. In Christabel, Geraldine place of rest was also far away from civilization.
The Jewish religion hopes that someday the Legend of Lilith could be stripped of its demonology and be reared as the first woman on earth, equal to man and a free spirit (Weinberg1).
Lilith in Comparison to Dracula
Dracula was based on a myth or folklore of bloodsucking, seductive, and immortal demons of the night. Vampires are also associated with the night, like Lilith, because they are forced to remain hidden and away from sunlight or they will perish. The darkness becomes the vampires' victim as they leave their coffins in search of soft flesh to sink their teeth into and red blood to drink.
A particular scene in the novel involved the three vampire brides of Dracula attempting to seduce Jonathon Harker in order to "have their way with his body and blood." This establishes the vampires' power as one that is extraordinarily sensual and sexual. The pairing of fear mixed with desire is a central theme of Dracula. Even as the beautiful vampires approach Jonathon's throat with longing, his terror is mixed with lust. The scene conflates sin with sexuality, forming creatures in which evil and lust are united, symbolizing an implicit statement about sexual desire.
Lilith's Jewish myth has been continuously evolving throughout the religion, as well as non-Jewish followers of this "first woman on Earth."Lilith refused to lie with Adam in the missionary position; she felt that she was his equal, which did not warrant her lying beneath him. She fled the Garden of Eden, and became a demon goddess that seduced sleeping men, sucked their blood, and ate their flesh. She received punishment from God, which required her to slay infant children in their cribs. She would also bear monster children, 100 of which she was forced to eat every year.
Lucy, after undergoing her transformation into a vampire bride of Dracula, is also a victimizer of children. Like the other vampires, she preys on the young and helpless. She has also evolved into a very sexual seductress, and she immediately becomes a depraved sexual being preying on helpless men. Her voice is very sexual and she attempts to use her flirtations to seduce the men. Alone, the men would have no chance against her sexual powers, but they must rely on others to acknowledge their weakness and help them resist the beautiful Lucy.
Another parallel between Lilith and Dracula is the importance of religious symbols as a means of protection. Lilith promised the three angels sent to retrieve her that an infant's life will be spared from her wrath if an amulet of the three angels is placed above the crib. Her powers can only be warded off by the mystical means of this religious amulet. Similarly, Christian symbols and faith are mobilized as the most important weapons against the vampires. Many associate protection against vampires with the holding of a cross directly in front of the body. This act is detailed in the opening of the book when Jonathon is traveling through Transylvania. The peasants are making signs of the cross, or holding one in front of their body in a state of fear.
Lilith in Comparison to "Carmilla"
The story "Carmilla" by Sheridan LeFanu, is about Carmilla, descendant of Countess Karenstein and her life as an irreligious, bisexual vampire. Typically, people fear such a creature, but such is not so regarding this woman. She is gorgeous and, despite her homicidal tendencies, people find her irresistible. Carmilla ignores her socially-prescribed role as a wife and mother and dies young to become a vampire.
Lilith, too, was forced into a role, designed by God, which she denied. Because of her denial she became a vampire of the night, nocturnal demon that fed on the lives of young boys. Lilith, because she denied Adam, became known as vampire. Her actions were deemed sordid by the civilized world and thus, she became known as a vampire.
Carmilla, dressed in all white, sneaking around only at night, is the omen of death for those she sees. She attaches onto certain female prey, namely Laura, only to weaken her until death. Much like Carmilla, Lilith is the one who, most persistently, passes through the darkness, getting near to human ear (and bed)(Terriza). Both women prey on those innocently sleeping seeking revenge for the wrongs in which they have been presented.
Images of Lilith
The above image appears courtesy of Collection of Col. Norman Colville. It is entitled: Sumerian or Assyrian Terra Cotta Relief (Burney Relief) ~1950 BC
The image to the right appears courtesy of Karin Boye (1900-1941) © Copyright 1996 Ulf Boye. This piece is called: Lilith.
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