Probably the goddess with the worst reputation in our series is Lilith. If you’ve heard of her, it was likely not in the context of ‘goddess’ anything. I’m going to make this post a short one simply because the Lilith myths are wide, varying, and deeply involved in language, culture, and religious texts, that to step towards the deep would be to fall into the abyss and down the rabbit hole.
Lilith is said to have been Adam’s first ‘wife,’ and the first woman even before Eve. Obviously, this is not in text found in the Christian bible. It is an ancient myth with origins from Mesopotamia and ancient Babylonia and the Kabbalah. As the first woman, Lilith was made from the dust of the earth just as Adam was. Lilith is also the first woman accused of ‘asking too many questions.’ When Adam wanted to ‘lay’ with her, Lilith questioned why she was forced to lay on her back. She wanted a position that embodied the equality between them, where neither was literally above or atop the other. Not only questioning, Lilith actually refused to lay with Adam in the missionary position. Enraged, Adam resorted to name calling, saying she was made from the filth of the land, the manure, while he was made from the pristine earth *insert eye-role.* The couple never found peace together and eventually Lilith deserted Adam and the Garden of Eden. Some say she was cast out, others say she chose to leave.
Another important aspect of the Lilith myth, and the last I’ll touch on here, is Lilith as the serpent. Perhaps Lilith does make an appearance in the Christian Genesis story after all. Many depictions of the serpent in the garden that tempted Eve feature Lilith as the serpent. Some even go so far as to say Eve and Lilith became friends and lovers! In this version of the myth, “… the exiled Lilith is lonely and tries to re-enter the garden. Adam does everything he can to keep her out, inventing wildly untrue stories about how Lilith threatens pregnant women and newborns. One day Eve sees Lilith on the other side of the garden wall and realizes that Lilith is a woman like herself. Swinging on the branch of an apple tree, a curious Eve catapults herself over Eden’s walls where she finds Lilith waiting. As the two women talk, they realize they have much in common, ‘till the bond of sisterhood grew between them.’ The budding friendship between Lilith and Eve puzzles and frightens both man and deity.”
Eve has a bad reputation of her own, as anyone who grew up in the Christian church knows well. As if the menstrual cycle is something to be ashamed of and not the source of woman’s life-giving power, Eve is generally *blamed* for women’s menstrual cycles, pain in childbirth, and the reason *girls don’t like snakes* (I like snakes). Oh, and “original sin.” I imagine Adam screaming, “She made me do it with her feminine wiles!”
With memes that read, “Always be Lilith, never Eve” floating around on social media, Eve seems to get the flack from both sides. She is sometimes painted as innocent, naive, obedient. But is it really fair to call the woman who defied the one rule of Eden obedient? Make no mistake, Eve has a bad bitch energy all her own. Was she bewitched and beguiled by Lilith the serpent? Or did she know exactly what she was doing?
Lilith and Eve inspire us to question the status quo, depreciate ignorance in favor of knowledge and empathy, and to create peace, friendship, and love with those we are taught to compete with. Women are often made to believe we must compete with other women for male attention, beauty, vocation, and more, so normalizing female partnership is an important message for our culture. “Once a source of fear, Lilith has been transformed into an icon of freedom. While some disapprove of this widespread embrace of a former demon, Lilith’s rehabilitation makes sense. The frightening character of Lilith grew, in part, out of repression: repression of sexuality, repression of the free impulse in women, repression of the question ‘what if I left it all behind?’”