21.6: Lilith and Lilith Again

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Lilith was the first woman created alongside Adam as his equal before she quarreled with him and flew away, leaving Adam to ask God for a second wife, Eve. Belief in Lilith is based, in part, on midrash or commentary on the gaps and seeming contradictions in the Bible. Genesis says that the first man and woman are created together as equals and then in the story of Eden, it says that God created Eve after Adam by forming her from his rib. Midrash resolves this contradiction by arguing that these are two different women and the first was Lilith. Her legend also stems from stories of ancient demons, shaping contradictions in and around Lilith herself. In our episode on the djinn, we discussed the possibility that Lilith was the mother of that race of non-corporeal beings and in our episode on sex demons, we wondered whether Lilith might be the original succubus. Jewish tradition has long held that Lilith was responsible for childhood illnesses like diptheria but the Zohar also associated her with nocturnal emissions and nightmares. In the twentieth century, she has come to be regarded as a feminist icon and even a goddess in neo-pagan circles.