There is a story you may or may not have heard before. You won’t find it in the Bible but it has been discussed by biblical scholars for centuries. My Protestant, Christian schooling taught me that God created Adam and then created Eve from Adam’s rib. These teachings tell us two things: firstly, that God created man, but creating woman was a bit of an afterthought and, secondly, that the first two people on earth were called Adam and Eve.
It is a story, of course, and stories are powerful, especially when they are re-told over and over again. But there is another part to this story that deserves to have some air time: the story of Adam and his first wife, Lilith.
In the beginning God created ‘Adam’. Adam (or ‘Adamah’ which means [of the] earth) was both masculine and feminine, male and female. As Adam wandered around the Garden of Eden, they (neither he nor she, but two genders in one) saw that all the other creatures existed in pairs. Adam was lonely and one version of the story says that they went around seeing if any of these other creatures might somehow be a (sexual) fit. I won’t linger on the bestiality version; I prefer the version where lonely Adam has a talk with God and explains how much they would appreciate a mate and the chance to be part of a pair. God takes on board Adam’s request and, with a little bit of magic, separates Adam into two: one half masculine and the other half feminine. Adam – the man – is now faced with his other half: a woman called Lilith.
Adam and Lilith lived together in the Garden of Eden. They spent their days luxuriating in paradise, and everything they could want was there for them: perfectly ripe fruits, beautiful sunrises and sunsets, and animal friends (who were all much relieved that Adam had stopped making his unwanted advances). Lilith and Adam made love every day, their perfect bodies moving in harmony, their cries of pleasure ringing around the garden. All was well until Adam began to make inappropriate demands during their lovemaking. Up until then they had taken equal turns at being on top during sex. Up until then, everything about their relationship had been equal. They were, after all, two equal halves of one whole. But Adam began to get other ideas. He liked being on top and he began to try and dominate Lilith more and more. Lilith had not forgotten their equal status and gently but firmly reminded Adam of this. “It’s my turn,” she told him. “You had your turn yesterday and will have it again tomorrow. But today is my turn.”
If only Adam had listened to Lilith, harmony would have been restored in the garden once again. But he couldn’t get it out of his head that Lilith was ‘his’ and, as such, she should be subservient to him. Each time Adam attempted to assert his unfounded superiority, Lilith would assert her equality. They started to argue about everything: what to eat, what to ask God for next, and – always – whose turn it was to be on top.
Eventually Lilith’s patience ran out and she issued Adam with an ultimatum: “Treat me with the respect I deserve or I will leave.”
“You can’t leave,” Adam sneered, “there is nowhere else for you to go.”
“We’ll see about that,” Lilith retorted, and walked away from Adam and out of the Garden of Eden. Yes, Lilith decided that she would rather be on her own than spend the rest of her life with the only man on earth – especially when that man failed so spectacularly to honour and respect her. The Garden of Eden was paradise, but she chose to leave that too. How could it be paradise when she was considered to be less than her male counterpart? Rather than stay and forever be subjugated by her other half, Lilith set off on her own desire line and walked out of the garden.
God, meanwhile, having seen all that was going on but refusing to intervene, watched Lilith walk away. He called out to her, “You can go but you have to promise me one thing.”
Lilith turned around and looked at him suspiciously, “What is this one thing?”
“If you are no longer to be Adam’s wife – and I can see you’ve made that decision so don’t worry, I’m not going to try and get you to change your mind -”
“Too right you won’t,” Lilith muttered under her breath.
“- you must take on the role of protector of children,” God finished.
“Err, you do know that there are no children,” Lilith replied, stating what – to her – was blindingly obvious. “Adam and I are the only people on earth and we haven’t had kids so, you know, being the protector of children isn’t going to keep me that busy. But yeah, whatever, I’ll do it. Can I go now?”
“Yes, off you go,” God sighed. “Just watch out for the demons, it’s teeming with them out there.”
And, with that, Lilith continued on her desire line and walked further and further away from her original home.
God had warned her of the demons but Lilith wasn’t scared. She knew that ‘demon’ was simply a word used to describe any creature that God hadn’t made during his seven day creativity fest. She carried on walking until she came to the Red Sea.
The story continues with Lilith entering a cave and meeting a demon. They have (consensual) sex and Lilith bears one hundred, immortal, demon babies every night. She is happy with her new lover, her cave, and her hundreds of babies, but Adam, meanwhile, has begun to feel lonely again and begs God to make Lilith return to him. God knows there’s no chance she will ever come back, unless he threatens her with something really terrible. He sends three angels to visit her, along with his own ultimatum: “Come back to Adam and to the Garden of Eden, or else your demon children will become mortal and one hundred of them will die every day!”
What was Lilith to do? Go back to Adam and his misogynistic ways? Or watch one hundred of her children die each day? “I agreed to be the protector of children in return for my freedom!” Lilith screamed to God. “How can you now threaten me with this?” God did not answer.
Betrayed by her husband and now betrayed by her God, Lilith raged at them both. Her eyes flashed with fire – like those of her demon lovers – and she roared into the night as her children began to die.
This is where the story traditionally ends: Lilith’s once wild and free nature has been turned into something to be feared. As the years go by, the story tells us, she takes her revenge by killing new, mortal infants (and is blamed for cot deaths and stillbirths). She seduces men in their sleep and steals their seed. She becomes a demoness and a succubus. The moral of the story is clear: to be a woman in control of her own destiny, and her own desires, is to be a woman who must be punished and kept in her place. This is the lesson we are meant to take away. Don’t demand, don’t expect to be treated equally and, above all, know that – if you will insist on walking your own path – there will be dire consequences.
The conclusion of the story introduces one additional character. In the Garden of Eden, the sexually desperate Adam begs God once more: “Please give me another woman!” God can’t split Adam into two again, so this time he takes one of Adam’s ribs and, with another bit of magic, uses it to create a whole new woman: Eve. She is ‘born’ from him, reassuring Adam that she is ‘his’ and won’t be independently-minded like his first wife. Eve must be compliant, the perfect feminine partner to Adam’s masculine self. She must bear his children and always be happy in the missionary position. In other words, she must not be another Lilith. (We know the story continues with Eve finally walking her own, apple-flavoured, desire line, but this is where we leave Adam, Eve and the Garden of Eden, and return to the true version of Lilith’s ongoing story…)
What is the truth when it comes to storytelling?
Who can claim that they hold another’s true story when everything we see and experience is clouded by who we are, what has gone before, and what we hope for in the future?
And what is a story anyway? Why is it being told? Why now? Why by that person?
As I write this, the media is full on ongoing #MeToo stories. We know that women’s stories have been untold for too long. We know that stories can be twisted and buried and deliberately mis-understood in order to keep women down.
I have chosen to re-tell Lilith’s story because her story is our story. I don’t believe Lilith turned into a cruel and heartless demoness who murdered children and raped men. I believe that version was told to deter us and keep us in fear, and sought to blame and shame women. I also believe that now is the time to step out of those shadows, tell the stories, and walk the paths that we know are true.
Lilith: what happened next?
Lilith had no regrets about her decision to leave Adam. Sure, she missed the Garden of Eden and all the wondrous things it contained, but she knew she couldn’t have sold out herself – and especially her sexual self – in order to remain there. Living with the demons, she was able to explore many different aspects of her sexuality. Although we call them demons and associate that name with all kinds of terrible things, they were simply other creatures living outside of the Garden. The original Greek word for demon – daimon (or in Latin, daemon) – did not have any of the negative connotations that later came to be associated with demons. Daemons were majestic spirits, facilitators of divine inspiration. Neither inherently good nor bad in character, they were simply ‘other’. Angels were ‘others’ too. (I appreciate here that many of us – myself included – are influenced by our prior understanding of the binary of good and bad, angels and demons. Moving beyond binary thinking is one of the aims of this book and a theme that we’ll come back to. We tend to think of angels as always good, but in the ‘original’ story three angels visited Lilith and threatened her with the death of her children. Even if they were acting as messengers of God, such a threat wasn’t exactly a nice thing to do. Surely they would have refused the job if they were only capable of ‘good’? Let’s continue with the story…)
Lilith lived alongside the daemons, learning more about them, and herself, in the process. One of the things she quickly learned was how to stop having children. If she did not give birth to one hundred daemon babies every night, there were no longer one hundred of her children to be killed every day. She missed having them around, but it was a small price to pay to stop the suffering. In this way she also lived up to her side of the deal she’d made with God: she protected the children.
The daemons loved and appreciated Lilith. They treated her as an equal, and respected her choices about when she wanted to have sex, who with, and in what way. Lilith could quite happily have remained there forever, but she couldn’t forget where she’d come from. At night she dreamt about the Garden. She didn’t care much what happened to Adam, but she did care about his legacy to the world. If Adam and Eve were to have children together, how would those children be raised? Where would they learn about equality? And who would teach them to respect not only women, but all the other beings and creatures who lived on the earth?
One day Lilith left her cave by the Red Sea to find out what was happening in her old home. The world was now crowded with people. The Garden had been destroyed long ago, and replaced with phallic, high-rise, concrete buildings. The animals she had loved and cared for were being exploited for their flesh, their babies, and even the very skin off their backs.
Rage flashed in Lilith’s eyes once again. How could Adam and Eve have allowed such plundering and devastation of their home? How could the human population have got so out of hand? This, Lilith concluded, is hell on earth. She opened her mouth to scream out her fire and anger but, just as she began to exhale, she noticed something curious. In amongst all the tarmacked roads and pavements, weaving across occasional patches of grass and the last, remaining areas of forest, there was a network of paths. Some were straight lines, others meandering routes or spirals; some were well-trodden, others still new and fresh. When Lilith looked closer, she saw women walking the paths. And, when she looked even closer, she saw something of herself in each of their faces. Some of the women looked confident and determined, some looked scared and full of trepidation, others looked joyful and ecstatic. But what they all had in common was that they were moving: all placing one foot in front of the other. They were each walking their own desire lines.
On seeing these courageous women, Lilith’s anger dissipated and was immediately replaced by compassion. Now, as she looked closer still, she saw it wasn’t just women who were walking: men and non-binary folk were there too, all walking their true paths. The paths were about exploring and expressing their truest selves. Paths that were about authentic sexuality and intimacy. Paths that were about compassion for all living creatures. Paths that were about equality, understanding, and love.
Lilith could hardly believe what she was seeing: Adam and Eve had created good in the world after all. What can I do, she wondered, to help amplify this goodness? What can I do to help more people walk their truth? Humans, she reasoned, have been lost for too long. It is time for them to bring back heaven on earth.
As Lilith looked around at the bigger picture once again, she paused for a moment to reflect. Lilith was once accused of being sexually wanton, of not caring about her partners, and of wanting it all. That old story was so far from the truth it was almost laughable. Yes, she was a sexual woman, and she knew that sexual energy is ultimately creative energy. How could humans create a better world if they failed to explore and express their true sexual essence (not the version they had been sold, but rather their authentic and innate inner power and desires)? There was so much that needed to be put right in the world. Maybe, Lilith thought, I can help with one thing to begin with. I can help more women feel inspired and empowered to follow their own desire lines. I can help them explore their sexual energy so that they can be more of who they truly are and create what they are here to bring into the world: fairness, love, compassion, and the joy of embodied and full self-expression.
Embodying the Lilith archetype
This brings us to the present day, to all those who embody the Lilith archetype and who live and walk amongst us. Including you.
Lee Coleman, astrologer on Straightwoo.com, describes Lilith consciousness as an emanation – not a mirror. In other words, Lilith is not about reflecting what other people want her to be, but rather about radiating who she truly is. Instead of reflecting what society expects to see, she smashes the mirror. Lilith follows the wild rhythms of her body. She is non-linear, more lunar than solar, and more yin than yang. She is changeable, dynamic, wild, and free. She is led by her impulses. Lilith is the ultimate desire line walker.
Before choosing to smash the mirror, Lilith purposefully examines the pre-assigned pavements and pathways to determine whether they suit her or not. In most instances she will make her own paths. That is her default. Her very nature requires that she walk her own desire lines: she is so aware of her desires, she can taste them and name them, and she chooses to walk them. She needs to make her own way in life.
We are always in a position of choice too: do we choose to follow our desire lines, or do we choose not to? How do we navigate that choice? What if a desire line takes us away from an earlier promise to another? Or if we know the path will upset or offend our parents, our church, our community?
There’s a part of Lilith in all of us. When we read her story, we learn more about our stories too. And, when we tell our stories, we tell her story too. Lilith’s first, brave desire line led her out of the Garden of Eden. She knew she could not be her fullest and truest self in that situation, and she knew she desired equality and respect in her sexual relationship. In other words, she desired her full expression. This is just one story. You will have many of your own. What desire lines have you already walked? And where will your next one take you?
Ready for more?