Daimon Publishers

Lilith – The First Eve
by
Siegmund Hurwitz

Excerpts

Foreword by Marie-Louise von Franz

Although nowadays the call for interdisciplinary scientific study rings out constantly, it is seldom heeded, simply because it is difficult to show oneself competent in more than one field. In the case of the goddess Lilith, this has created additional difficulties because Lilith has become a theme in the feminist-anti-feminist discussion. The result is that psychological studies, when they consider historical material, often suffer from an inability to portray it seriously. And when historians venture psychological interpretations, these rarely go beyond the trivial. Thus, the contribution of Siegmund Hurwitz strikes me as particularly valuable in that he has done justice to the claims of both disciplines. His psychological interpretation of the dreams and active imaginations of a depressive man probes the depths and his portrayal of Lilith as an ancient mythological illustration of the negative anima - in short, as a corrupter of men - is competent and thorough. By combining the experience of a modern man with this historical material, Siegmund Hurwitz sheds new light on both. That is the point of the Jungian amplification method.

That an unbridled life urge which refuses to be assimilated lies hidden behind depression - that "Saturnian melancholy," as it was called in earlier times - seems to me to be a new and important discovery. Siegmund Hurwitz has not only demonstrated this among much else but has also illuminated the manner in which a man can handle his "inner Lilith" so as to find his way out of the Saturnian melancholy.

This book presents us with a gift not only in its new discoveries, but also in providing a means of coping with them.

Marie-Louise von Franz

Chapter 1

1) The Dual Aspect of Lilith

Of all the motifs in Jewish mythology, none - other than that of the Messiah - remains so vivid to this day as the myth of Lilith. She occupies a central place among the demonic images of Judaism because she is by far the most distinctive figure among this religion's numerous evil spirits.

Originally, Lilith was an archaic goddess who, on her very first appearance in the historico-religious tradition, presented just one single aspect: that of a terrible mother-goddess. However, this character changed in the course of the development of the myth. By the time of the Talmudic-Rabbinic and Graeco-Byzantine traditions at the latest, Lilith had acquired a strange dual aspect. Depending on whether she is faced with a man or a woman, one or other side of her becomes more apparent. Faced with a man, the aspect of the divine whore or, psychologically speaking, that of the seductive anima comes more to the fore. To a woman, however, she will present above all the aspect of the terrible mother. As the anima figure, Lilith attempts to seduce not only the first man, Adam, but also all men, even today - because, according to one of Jewish mysticism's ancient traditions, she is immortal. She will meet her death only on the Day of Judgement.

As the terrible, devouring mother, she tries to harm pregnant women and to steal their newborn children. She is always poised to kill the child so that she can drink its blood and suck the marrow from its bones. This aspect of Lilith is already conveyed in early texts, in which she is called "the strangler."

There are definite historico-religious and psychological reasons why the aspect of the divine whore and seductive anima only appeared much later, historically speaking. The feminine always appears first within the development of consciousness in the form of the Great Mother, who is a bipolar, archetypical figure, in that she contains the aspect both of the nurturing, caring mother and of the terrible, devouring mother. The figure of the anima was only detached from the mother figure in a later phase of consciousness.

The figure of Lilith as we encounter her in Jewish literature is, however, by no means restricted exclusively to Jewish mythology. She occurs among both Semitic and non-Semitic peoples - among the Babylonians, Assyrians, Jews and Arabs on the one hand and among the Sumerians and Hittites on the other. But only in Jewish mythology has the Lilith myth existed for more than two and a half thousand years and has even managed to develop still further. Indeed, its radiations can be traced into the most immediate present: even today, for apotropaic reasons, Orthodox Jewish families, especially in the East and South, hang various amulets in the maternity room or round the necks of the mother and her newborn child to protect them from the dangerous machinations of this ill-omened, demonic figure.

The two sides of Lilith had already been personified in Babylonian literature, in the two goddesses Lamashtū and Ishtar, out of which the figure of Lilith crystallized. For this reason, I have designated them as the Lamashtū aspect and the Ishtar aspect.

The Babylonian goddess Lilitū later underwent several strange transformations within the Jewish tradition. First, she lost her original divine character and became a colorless, nocturnal desert ghost.

To attain a deeper understanding of Lilith's transformations, it is necessary to make a short digression into Jewish, and from there back still further into Babylonian teachings on demons. Starting from this point, it is possible to illuminate the two opposing aspects of Lilith.

In Jewish literature, Lilith is one of the numerous demons who are mentioned in the Bible, the Talmud and Rabbinic tradition. But even outside this canonical literature, in apocryphal and pseudepigraphic works, in the Aramaic magic texts of Nippur, in Gnostic and Mandaean literature, as well as later in Jewish Mysticism and Jewish popular belief, Lilith occupies a considerable space.

Jewish demons occur under quite different names. One moment they are described as spirits (Ruchot), the next as pests (Masiqim) and the next as destroyers (Chabalim). They can be grouped under the collective name Shedim, sing. Shed, Aramaic Shida, i.e., demons. Shedim are either benevolent and helpful, or - more frequently - dangerous troublemakers. On the whole, the demons who meet humans and have dealings with them are male, but now and then there are female ones. From time to time, too, there are goblins or poltergeists - generally harmless and benevolent, though in the habit of teasing humans.

The Hebrew word Shed can almost certainly be traced back to the Akkadian word Shedū, which for its part corresponds to the Sumerian word Aladū. In Babylonia, the Shedū was originally a predominantly chthonic deity who was worshipped as a bull with a bearded human head. The ideograms for bull and Shedū are identical. At the same time, however, they are also the same as that for Nergal, the Babylonian rule of the underworld and the kingdom of the dead, so that it may be assumed that the Shedū also had some connection with the souls of the dead.

Since the Shedū is always represented as a winged bull, it is to be presumed that, as well as his chthonic aspect, he possessed a spiritual aspect. Facing the male Shedū is the female Lamassū or Lama, called Kal in Sumerian and whom the Sumerians portrayed as a winged cow. In contrast to the rather negative or ambivalent Shedū, Lamassū is always a kindly and helpful being. Shedū and Lamassū were erected at the gate of the palace of King Assurnazirpal, and on his accession to the throne, King Assarhaddon prided himself on having set up Shedū and Lamassū to the right and left of the palace entrance as guardians of the royal house and tutelary gods of the Assyrian people. The Sumerian Lamassū was later included in the Babylonian pantheon, though in so doing she - like Shedū - underwent certain transformations, because she was changed into a demon and worshipped as the great and terrifying mother-goddess Lamashtū, who has lost almost all her positive features.

a) The Lamashtū Aspect

Lamashtū is one of the two original images that left their mark on the figure of Lilith. She has many features in common with Lilith. Both watch the pregnant woman vigilantly - especially when she is in labor. They try not only to harm her personally, but also to steal her newborn child from her and to kill it. On amulets, both goddesses were named together and enjoined to leave mother and child alone.

A birth scene is depicted in an impression of a Babylonian cylinder seal from the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, published by Stephen H. Langdon and which shortly after was also described by Bruno Meissner. According to an interpretation given by C. Frank, in this scene, a woman in labor is being attacked by demons led by Lamashtū. However, this interpretation is disputed by Meissner.

A few authors have already pointed to a close connection between Lamashtū and Lilith. According to F. Perles, it even appears that:

"... in the Jewish consciousness above all, Lamashtū and Lilith are almost identical."

However, this could hardly be the case, since Lilith - along with her Lamashtū aspect - also has other characteristics that Lamashtū lacks completely. On the other hand, it is true that, in the Lilith myth, the Lamashtū aspect is historically older. For this reason, we ought to consider this Babylonian goddess somewhat more closely.

Unlike other frequently rather hazily portrayed Near Eastern goddesses, the personality of the goddess Lamashtū is defined with absolute clarity. The best sources for an understanding of this figure are the so-called Labartū texts published by D.W. Myhrman. The texts have been corrected and expanded in certain respects over the last few decades.

In these sources, Lamashtū is always invoked as a goddess. Her father is the Babylonian god of heaven, Anū, and thus she is, generally called simply "daughter of Anū." She is the "chosen confidante" of Irnina, a goddess who is related to the Sumerian Inanna and the Babylonian Ishtar.

The Labartū texts say:

"Her abode is on the mountains, or in the reedbeds. Dreadful is her appearance. Her head and her face are those of a fearsome lion, white as clay is her countenance, she has the form of an ass, from her lips pours spittle, she roars like a lion, she howls like a jackal. A whore is she. Fearsome and savage is her nature. Raging, furious, fearsome, terrifying, violent, rapacious, rampaging, evil, malicious, she overthrows and destroys all that she approaches. Terrible are her deeds. Wherever she comes, wherever she appears, she brings evil and destruction. Men, beasts, trees, rivers, roads, buildings, she brings harm to them all. A flesh-eating, bloodsucking monster is she."

In other texts, it says that she watches the pregnant woman most vigilantly and tries to snatch the newborn child from her. Some time before the birth, she appears in the maternity room so as to tear the child from the mother's body. Then she begins to torment the child "now with heat and fire, then with fever and shivering."

Images from a magic conception of the world are the basis of the Babylonian magic and incantation texts against Lamashtū, of which a large number have been preserved. In magic, two elements are almost always combined: on the one hand, the sorcerer-priest - who functions as an exorcist - uses incantations to invoke and conjure the goddess; on the other, certain ritualistic magic practices are involved. That is why, in Babylonia, there was a distinction between shiptū and epeshū, and similarly, in the Greek magic papyri, between logos and pragma.

The magic practices consist mostly in an analogous magic carried out according to precise instructions. Various prescriptions for this are given in the Labartū texts. One, for example, advises making a clay figure of the goddess. Twelve loaves and other foods should then be placed before this figure as sacrificial offerings. The figure of a black dog should be placed before the clay figure. After three days, during which the goddess will leave the body of the person she has bewitched and enter the clay figure, this last should be smashed with a sword and the pieces buried in a corner of the city wall, but not before the whole area has been consecrated with flour water. The provision of a pair of sandals to carry the goddess across the river or the sea is also part of the magic practices, whose aim is to drive away Lamashtū or render her harmless. Other prescriptions recommend the preparation of a ship by the priest, in which a picture of Lamashtū, together with pictures of black and white dogs - animals sacred to Lamashtū - should be placed in the hope that the river will carry the ship, and the goddess, away forever. Other magic practices consist in the making of amulets. These are composed of different-colored ribbons and bands wrapped around precious stones. They were tied round the newborn child's neck, wrists and ankles and were intended to protect it.

Quite specific texts, which the priest recited in an order established by tradition, belong to the invocations and incantations.

In the Babylonian magic and amulet texts, Lamashtū is seldom mentioned by herself. Mostly, she appears with a group of other related gods or demons. In an incantation text against the so-called Uttuke group, it says:

"He, upon whom the evil Uttukū threw himself,
He, whom the evil Alū suffocated in his bed,
He, whom the evil Etimmū overpowered in the night,
He, whom the evil Gallū threatened,
He, whose limbs the evil Ilū tore apart,
He, whom Lamashtū seized and dominated,
He, whom Labashū overpowered,
He, whom Ahhazū held fast, etc."

Among the demons listed, Uttukū and Labashū are known to be fever demons, while Etimmū (alternative spelling: Ekimmū) is some kind of spirit of death. Ahhazū means something like predator, grasper, grabber, while Ilū is the general term for a god or devil. However, it is not easy to tell the individual demons in the group apart; indeed, it is not even possible to say with any degree of certainty what sex they are, which points to the archaic character of this image. Some are neither male nor female, some have changed sex over the course of time. Some seem merely to be different sides of the character of Lamashtū.

What makes these incantation texts particularly interesting are two demons who have a close connection with Lilith, namely Alū and Gallū.

Alū was originally an asexual demon, who later took on female characteristics. Alū is a demon without mouth, lips and ears, half man, half devil. At night, he roams the streets like a masterless dog. Then he creeps into people's bedrooms and terrifies them while they sleep. Alū also appears in Jewish texts under the name Ailo. In these, he is one of the secret names of Lilith. However, in other texts, Ailo is described as the daughter of Lilith, who has had a liaison with a man. That demons have sexual relations with men and produce devil children as a result is an idea which occurs in all the Semitic religions. Thus, for example, the pre-Islamic, Arabic, demon literature contains similar liaisons between men and djinn. This idea is also well-known in the Talmud and in Mandaean Gnosticism. Later, too, the notion was taken up in Kabbalistic literature. According to Kabbalistic belief, demons don't actually have a body of their own, because the Sabbath intervened before its creation. They need a human body in order to reproduce. As a result, Lilith uses the drops of sperm which are ejaculated during sleep or marital intercourse so as to:

"...create a body for herself from the sperm which is dropping into the void."

In this connection, G. Scholem refers to a Kabbalistic rite - part of which is still practised today - which was carried out at burials in Jerusalem:

"Ten Jews danced round the dead man and recited a psalm, which was commonly accepted in Jewish tradition as a psalm of protection against demons."

Obviously, what is involved here is an archaic, apotropaic rite, which is directed at those children of the dead man he fathered by a demon. These congregate on the death of their father and demand their paternal inheri-tance. Now and again, they hurl abuse at the dead man's legitimate children or even attempt to attack them physically. This was also the reason why certain 16th-century Kabbalists forbade the sons of the dead man to take part in his funeral.

Another - female - demon of the Uttukū group, who also has a close connection with Lilith, is Gallū. Occasionally, this name, like that of Uttukū, is used simply as a general term for all demons, and these are called "evil Uttuke" or "evil Galli":

"Gallū, the spirit that threatens every house,
Brazen Gallūs, seven are they,
They grind the land like flour,
They know no mercy,
Rage at the people,
Eat their flesh,
Let their blood flow like rain,
They never stop drinking blood."

In amulet texts, sometimes it is Lamashtū, sometimes Gallū and sometimes Lilith who is invoked and conjured. Gallū later appeared as Gello, Gylo or Gyllou in Graeco-Byzantine mythology, in which Gyllou has become a child-stealing and child-killing female demon. This figure was also taken up by Jewish mythology, as Gilū. Like Ailo, or Alū, Gilū is also a secret name for Lilith. According to Bernhard Schmidt, belief in the Gylloudes is still fully alive in present-day Greece.

The Babylonian magic spells, which were supposed either to drive away the demons who brought illness or other troubles or to render them harmless, had to be recited in a precise order over the individual limbs of the person who had been bewitched, in order to be effective. This is because demons attack only one particular part of the body at any one time - for example, Uttukū the shoulder, Alū the breast, Gallū the hand, Assakū the head and Namtarū the throat. Familiarity with the effects of the demons and, above all, knowledge of their secret names, was supposed to protect people from their machinations.

All magic spells begin formally with the word Shiptū, i.e., incantation. Thereafter, there follow invocations of the various demons or characteristics of a particular demon. Finally comes the demand that they should depart. For example, it says about Lamashtū:

"Shiptū. Lamashtū, daughter of Anū, is her first incantation.
The second: Sister of the gods of the streets.
The third: Sword that splits the head.
The fourth: She who sets fire to wood.
The fifth: Goddess whose face is terrifying.
The sixth: Confidante and chosen one of Irnina.
The seventh: May you be conjured by the great gods:
That you may fly away with the bird of the heavens."

In addition to the Labartū texts, a further series of similar magic and incantation texts was published later by Erich Ebeling.

Sometimes, the amulets against Lamashtū contain similar incantations and sometimes they carry pictorial representations of the goddess. Some of these amulet texts were published by Frédéric Thureau-Dangin. Since then, whole series of similar texts have been discovered in various museums and published. For the most part they are similar to the Shiptū texts which had already been discovered. Thus, it says of Lamashtū:

"Dreadful is she, headstrong is she, she is a goddess, terrible is she. She is like a leopard (?), the daughter of Anū. Her feet are those of (the bird) Zu, her hands are dirty, her face is that of a powerful lion. She rises out of the reedbed. Her hair is loose, her breasts are bare. Her hands are caked with flesh and blood. She forces an entry through the window, she slides in like a snake. She enters the house, she leaves the house again."

The figure of Lamashtū or - as she is also known - of Lammea later entered Greek mythology as Lamia. According to one version, Lamia was a Phrygian queen; according to another tradition, she was the daughter of a king of the Laistrygons in Libya. She was the beloved of Zeus, to whom she bore a number of children. Hera pursued her out of jealousy and envy and killed all her children except Skylla. From grief, Lamia lost her beauty; and out of jealousy of all mothers who had babies, she tried to seize these children. She has the ability to take out her eyes, so that these remain on watch and can keep a lookout for children while Lamia sleeps. Lamia was depicted as a creature with the body of a snake and the head of a beautiful woman. In antiquity, the name Lamia meant - like Lilith - on the one hand a single being, on the other a multitude of female, child-stealing demons. According to Schmidt, even today in Greece there is a belief that:

"If a youth, especially a well-proportioned one, sings or whistles on the beach at midday or midnight, the Lamia of the sea rises out of the deep and tries to persuade him to become her husband and to come into the water with her, through the promise of a blissful life. If the youth refuses, she kills him."
....

Back


Daimon Publishers -> English Titles -> Siegmund Hurwitz

Email: info@daimon.ch