Lilith was originally a demonic Sumerian night spirit, who preyed on women and young children. She often appeared as a beautiful woman, sexually preying on men as they slept. She was associated with the wind and with eagles and other birds of prey.
Lilith as a person is not mentioned in the Bible, although the word appears in the book of Isaiah in a poetic passage describing the destruction of Edom: "The wild beasts of the desert shall also meet with the wild beasts of the island, and the satyr shall cry to his fellow; the screech owl [liyliyth] also shall rest there, and find for herself a place of rest." (Isaiah 34:14 KJV) Other versions translate the word as "night creature", "night hag" or "vampire".
Over time, Lilith developed two aspects: the slayer of newborns, and the seducer of men. There was a Hebrew tradition that an amulet bearing the names of three angels, (Senoy, Sansenoy, and Semangelof, if you're taking notes), would protect a newborn boy in the crucial eight days before his circumcision. Some passages in the Dead Sea Scrolls identifies Lilith with the warnings in the Book of Proverbs against seductive women.
In the Middle Ages, Lilith became attached to the idea that Adam had a first wife before Eve. The account of Adam and Eve in Genesis chapter 2 places the creation of Eve some time after Adam was formed; but chapter 1 suggests that Man and Woman were created at the same time. Rabbinical scholars resolved this apparent contradiction by postulating two wives. According to legend, Lilith was created at the same time as Adam, but because of this, she refused to submit to Adam and things didn't work out. She fled from Adam, forcing God to try again with Eve. Medieval Jewish and European folklore held that Lilith became the mother of all sorts of demonic creatures.
In more recent centuries, Lilith's seductive attributes have become emphasized over her stealing-the-breath-of-infants ones. Modern feminists have admired her independence and insistence on equality with men and have associated her with other ancient goddesses like Isis and Ishtar; claiming that she was originally a goddess of childbirth who was vilified when patriarchal religions gained ascendancy.
Game and Story Use
- Lilith could appear in a fantasy or occult-based game.
- She could be a demon
- She could be a goddess
- She could be a sorceress