Today is Mother’s Day. It’s a day when we remember our mothers, and the part they played in our lives – from our birth, right up to this day. As Vampyres, we know of the many myths and theories surrounding our origins as an identity. Some among us are Pagan, and some among us are not. Some favor the theory that we originated as offspring of Mundanes and fallen Angels as told of in Jewish scriptures. Others ascribe to the ancient Mesopotamian legends, which it has to be said, tend to be the basis of many Jewish legends and even form the basis of later Christian myth as well. One thing these different tales have in common between them, is the legendary name of Lilith – whom some claim, is the Mother of Vampyres. For some of us, there may be some personal truth in the legends and myths – and while there is little to confirm any of it, the myth and belief itself is dear and deeply spiritual. And why not? It’s Mother’s Day, after all.
“Throughout the realm of shadows there resides, in many forms and numerous names, those creatures who lurk in darkness. A variety of mysterious creatures, similar to the Vampire, exist in the myths and legends of every culture around the world. While the names and attributes of the beings vary, their motivation is quite the same; they live to feed off of the living.” – “Lilith – Mother of Vampires“
Lilith, the goddess portrayed as the mother of Vampyres. Today in our modern world, she is a symbol of the feminist movement – of feminine independence, strength and empowerment. Over the centuries, her name has endured as a killer of infants, a drinker of their blood, a taker of lives, and even as a succubus who comes for men in the night. But is this really the case?
One early reference to Lilith is made in an introduction to the Epic of Gilgamesh:
“After heaven and earth had been separated
and mankind had been created,
after Anûum, Enlil and Ereskigal had taken posesssion
of heaven, earth and the underworld;
after Enki had set sail for the underworld
and the sea ebbed and flowed in honor of its lord;
on this day, a huluppu tree
which had been planted on the banks of the Euphrates
and nourished by its waters
was uprooted by the south wind
and carried away by the Euphrates.
A goddess who was wandering among the banks
seized the swaying tree
And — at the behest of Anu and Enlil —
brought it to Inanna’s garden in Uruk.
Inanna tended the tree carefully and lovingly
she hoped to have a throne and a bed
made for herself from its wood.
After ten years, the tree had matured.
But in the meantime, she found to her dismay
that her hopes could not be fulfilled.
because during that time
a serpent who could not be charmed
made its nest in the roots of the tree,
The Anzu bird set his young in the branches of the tree,
And the dark maid Lilith built her home in the trunk.
But Gilgamesh, who had heard of Inanna’s plight,
came to her rescue.
He took his heavy shield
killed the dragon with his heavy bronze axe,
which weighed seven talents and seven minas.
Then the Zu-bird flew into the mountains
with its young,
while Lilith, petrified with fear,
tore down her house and fled into the wilderness“
In this item it’s already plain to see that she had been given the “bad-girl” treatment – as a thing to be overcome and driven out. And this was before the Hebrews came along and made her out to be all things evil. This begs the question, what was Lilith originally? And if she was “bad” before the Hebrew patriarchy had its way with her, then why does modern archaeology claim otherwise?
According to the site “Lilith – Mother of Vampires” : “The earliest account of these creatures of the night derives from Mesopotamia. Lamatsu was a serpent demon who reportedly stole children from their homes and devoured them. Lamatsu was also responsible for infants who were found dead in their cradles. Another incarnation of Lamatsu appears later, in the guise of Lilith.
In early Hebraic writings, Lilith took the form of a winged demon with the body of a woman with owl-like talons for feet. She was reported to be the first wife of Adam (before Eve was created). Lilith was formed of the same earth from which Adam was created, therefore she considered herself his equal. That being the case, Lilith refused to be submissive. She was subsequently banished from God’s presence to the demon realm. Lilith’s offspring were damned to become demons with Lilith taking the title of “Mother of Demons.”
“The “demonized” Lilith gave rise to other variations of her story. Her transformation from militant woman to demon-mother provided her with many new attributes. Like Lamatsu, Lilith, would steal infants and small children from their beds to devour them. Another variation is her depiction as a Succubus. Lilith would seduce unwary men in order to steal their semen. The men would not survive this encounter. In later versions of this incarnation, Lilith reportedly drank the blood of her victims. She would use the semen to conceive her demon offspring. Her sanguinary talents eventually provided her with another title.
In more contemporary interpretations of Lilith’s story, she is considered to be the earliest account of the Vampire. When Lilith was banished, all of her children were destroyed by God. Lilith’s answered this violent act by vowing to feed off of the children of Adam, namely, human beings.”
Because Hebrew law absolutely forbids the eating of human flesh or the drinking of any type of blood, Lilith’s blood drinking was described as exceptionally evil. To ward off attacks from Lilith, parents used to hang amulets from their child’s cradle.
“Her title as, “Mother of Demons” has been exchanged for the title, “Mother of Vampires.” Her importance to Vampire myths and legends is, then, quite apparent. Without Lilith and her numerous incarnations there might very well be no Vampires.“
Just looking at the topic in this light alone, increases her relevance in birthing the vampire myth as an archetype, even just as a nexus or origin point of the superstition that later became the Greek Strygos, the Roman Strix and the Romanian Strigoi – which ultimately led to the beliefs which underlay the European vampire hysterias following the plague epidemics, and the development of vampire fiction as we know it today – starting with Varney the Vampire, and then, Dracula. Later fascination with the fictional and mythical archetype is also part of what led to the introspection that resulted in people such as Dione Fortune and others, to stumble upon the modern concept of the psychic Vampyre – leading ultimately to the birth of the modern Vampyre Community. Were it not for this trail of events, who knows what we would self-identify as today? As energy feeders and blood drinkers under a different name?
At the heart of the myth, and the name ‘Vampyre’ or ‘vampire’, sits Lilith – a goddess whom many feel rightly deserves the title of Mother of Vampyres. Let’s look closer at Lilith as a Goddess:
The persona of Lilith has so far been shown to date back to a bird-serpent goddess, whose mention and existence as a folkloric figure stretches so far back that it vanishes into the mists of time before our recorded history, which is around 6000 years ago.
According to Wikipedia, “ancient Babylonia had tales of the mythical Lilitu, synonymous with and giving rise to Lilith (Hebrew) and her daughters the Lilu from Hebrew demonology. Lilitu was considered a demon and was often depicted as subsisting on the blood of babies.
“The legend of Lilith/Lilitu (and a type of spirit of the same name) originally arose from Sumer, where she was described as an infertile “beautiful maiden” and was believed to be a harlot and vampire who, after having chosen a lover, would never let him go. Lilitu (or the Lilitu spirits) was considered to be” [a] “night demon and was often described as a sexual predator who subsisted on the blood of babies and their mothers. Other Mesopotamian demons such as the Babylonian goddess Lamashtu, (Sumer’s Dimme) and Gallu of the Uttuke group are mentioned as having vampiric natures.”
The Sumerians portrayed her as a woman with the wings and claws of a bird. Some well known reliefs also show her lower half as being the body of a serpent or a serpent with the head and breasts of a woman. According to some historians and anthropologists, she seems to have also been known by the names Belil-ili, Belili, Lillake, and Ninlil. Some translations of her name range from “screech owl”, to “lilah” which means “darkness” or “night” in Hebrew, to Lilitu which is said to be the Babylonian word for “evil night-spirit.”
Lilith in the time of antiquity was a goddess of agriculture as well as the “hand of Inanna”, and one of her dwelling places was said to be inside the trunk of the Huluppu-tree. She was a goddess who helped women in childbirth, and nursed infants – which shows the later Hebrew version of her to be quite a departure from the original. The goddess symbols of Lilith are the crossroad, owl, serpent, tree, and dark moon.
Looking at these differing depictions – Lilith as a goddess caring for women in childbirth for example, and Lilu or lili as night demons which devoured babies and their mothers, seems to me to be not just a contradiction in cultures or interpretations by these cultures, but a confusion between Lilith as a single persona or deity, and small plural mythical entities or night spirits called “lili” or “lilim”. It would seem logical to me that the two are not the same thing, and that while the ancient goddess was not what the Hebrews made her out to be, they worked to tarnish her name by conflation of her image and name with that of the lesser night demons – in effect, quite literally “demonizing” her.
The Hebrew Lilith that we know today came about when the Jewish patriarchy sought to remake Lilith as being “evil” in order to stop their own people from worshipping her, and also because of the patriarchal society they ruled. Women who dared to stand up to men, and who refused to obey their husbands would not be looked upon with kindness in that society – so it was a way to make her look bad, and evil – and her Godly punishment was to serve as a warning to other females who might have dared to usurp male authority and dominance in Jewish society of the day – and for centuries hence.
The mechanism for this was quite logical and practical: “In Kabbalistic tradition, Lilith was made the first wife of Adam. Some sources say that Lilith was Adam’s spirit wife. Other sources claim that Lilith was fashioned from the earth at either the same time as Adam or before Adam. This made Lilith Adam’s equal.
As Adam’s equal, Lilith refused to lie on her back while Adam took the dominant position in sex (missionary style). Lilith believed that they should make love as equals (the beast with two backs). Adam was adamantly against this, wanting his wife to be submissive, and Lilith left the Garden of Eden.” – Some versions claim that she was driven out and cursed by God, after angels sent after her could not convince her to return to a life of servitude. God is then supposed to have given Adam Eve – “a docile woman of the flesh“.
With the passage of time, Lilith was increaingly portrayed as an enemy of Adam, Eve as well as their offspring. It was also supposedly Lilith in the form of the snake who tempted Eve to eat the “apple”, or the “fruit of knowledge”. The author of one article states that “No doubt the first wife wanted the second wife to see what a jerk Adam was and that Lilith also wanted Eve to open her eyes and come into the fulness of herself, her womanhood.” I could not agree more!
According to some of these Kabbalistic legends, when both Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, “Adam endured a period of celibacy as penance. During this time, Lilith was said to have caused nocturnal emissions from Adam (night hag). She collected his semen and impreganted herself with it, giving birth to demons. These children of Lilith were called Lilin or Lilim, ‘night-demons.'”
It was from this time that goddess who protected mothers and infants, began to be portrayed as a demon who caused abortions and murdered infants in their sleep. “The Jewish people believed that when a baby laughed or smiled in its sleep, it was being entertained by Lilith, and the parents would quickly bop the infant on the nose to distract the infant from the goddess. It was also believed that she came to children in the form of an owl and drank their blood.” As one result, one can expect that owls were probably viewed with suspicion and probably killed on sight for centuries.
Despite the Jewish attempts to erradicate this ancient goddess, she can still be found in her truer, albeit symbolic, form in their literature: “During a protracted and dangerous confinement take earth from the crossroads, write upon it the five first verses of this Psalm, and lay it upon the abdomen of the parturient; allow it to remain until the birth is accomplished, but no longer. . .“
Lilith was also apparently quite a naughty girl – which would no doubt curl the beards of those Jewish priests, who would likely have added some more paragraphs about her wanton sexuality. As the “hand of Inanna,” Lilith would supposedly draw men from the streets and lead them to the temples of the sacred prostitutes. Sexually speaking, as the first wife of Adam, when she refused to lie beneath Adam and be submissive, she chose to be her own person. In ancient patriarchal society, sex was seen as something that should be pleasing to the man only – who really cared if the women found any pleasure in it? Lilith was obviously comfortable with her own sexuality, and this is known to be something that frightened the Jewish patriarch – and even modern patriarchy, who believe that having sex for pleasure, without procreating, was a form of abortion – or which did not contribute to increasing the population of “the chosen”. Even today – and even in South Africa, there are right wing white supremacist groups who share this belief and view contraception, female sexuality, and male impotence (a conflation with homosexuality) as a “threat” to their dominance. Instead of submitting to the will of men, Lilith left Eden and “chose to have sex with “evil” spirits and beget more demons. (Who could blame her?)” Who indeed?
Lilith and her offspring have also a lot in common with the modern archetype of the succubus and incubus or the “night hag who sits on the chests of men and causes them to have perverse dreams so that they will ejaculate.” – in essence, with Vampyres who feed off sexual energies.
Reportedly, she could also take the form of either a man or a woman: “. . .who appear to mankind, to men in the likeness of women, and to women in the likeness of men, and with men they lie by night and by day.” This alone would be enough to cause a patriarch’s beard to curl!
“Men fear Lilith because she knows the power of her sexuality and she knows that her sexuality has power over men. Like Circe, she turns men into beasts or pigs by opening the doorways to their deep and primal sexual desires. Such desires are forbidden by the Jewish and Christian cults. Women, who are like the submissive Eve, also fear Lilith because of the power she holds. But, as has been shown in the myth of the garden of Eden, Lilith is not an enemy of womankind. She holds the ancient fruit of knowledge, the secrets of our deepest sexual nature, and she is willing to offer this fruit to us.“
How did Lilith became portrayed as a Vampyre, and the mother of Vampyres? This portrayal began with the Jewish conversion of Lilith into an “evil” entity that killed infants and drank their blood, and was facilitated by the establishment of the tradition that she was “the first wife of Adam”, who supposedly usurped patriarchal authority, stood against the patriarchal Judeo-Christian God, became a night-spirit / demon herself – and took human male sperm to bear demonic offspring. The fact that Lilith’s origins as a completely different goddess who was a benefactor to women and carer for infants, would also seem to contradict this later (if you will forgive the pun) “re-vamped” portrayal.
Today many, if not most Vampyres, understand that they are energy-feeders – and that while some of us draw this energy from blood, some draw energy from physical contact or psychic means – and still others, from sexual energy. The ties between sexual feeders and the traditions holding Lilith and her offspring as succubi and inccubi, as well as the tradition of the vampire archetype visiting sleeping victims in the night to drink their blood, and being warded off by a special amulet, are not conclusive proof of anything exactly – but they certainly show some of the many reasons why Lilith is such a profound and relevant deity to those who identify Vampyres today.
In the 1990’s and 2000’s, Lilith also became a popular and hyper-real figure in the White Wolf role-playing game “Vampire: the Masquerade” and its several successive incarnations – a game said to be largely inspired by the early modern Vampyre Community in New York City. She is extensively referred to as a proto-vampire in the White Wolf books “The Book of Nod” and “Revelations of the Dark Mother”. Though these are actually gaming manuals, they are extremely well researched, authentic and filled with very beautiful poetry and emotive imagery and symbolism.
Finally, her relevance to modern Vampyres – to some through this fictional portrayal, became cemented in the minds of many – and many real Vampyres today still view some of these works referencing Lilith as the Mother of Vampires as giving form to their hearts desire and expression to their personal spirituality. As Cain, the mythical father of Vampyres says in “The Book of Nod”:
“And with that, the darkness
like a veil
and the only light was
Lilith’s bright eyes.
Looking around me, I knew
that I had Awakened.“
Regardless of how you feel about Lilith, or Lilitu – or what you believe in, about the origins or relevance of Lilith, or about your origins as a Vampyre – SA Vampyre News wishes you – and all the mother-Vampyres – or mothers of Vampyres out there, a very happy Mother’s Day indeed.
“The Book of Nod” – White Wolf Games