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Jewish folklore says Adam had a wife before Eve. Her name was Lilith. She was made at the same time as Adam. According to the book of Genesis: “God created mankind in the divine image, male and female God created them.” Yet, if you remember, in the 2nd Chapter of Genesis, Adam’s wife Eve was created later, from his rib.
In Jewish folklore, rather than submit to Adam’s will, Lilith fled the Garden of Eden for the wilderness. There she took up with the Archangel Samael, whose name means Venom of God; an accuser, seducer and destroyer who is also the Archangel of Death. When God sent angels to bring her to heel, Lilith refused. So God created Eve in recompense for Adam’s loss. Eve he made from Adam’s rib, or side (the Hebrew word means either), to ensure her subservience.
Lilith was not above returning to the garden for revenge. In serpent form, she tempted Eve to pluck and eat the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Reading the story in another way, perhaps Lilith by offering the fruit to Eve simply intended to liberate her successor from blind, unwitting bondage. Yet her defiant act backfired. As God banished the sinners, He took care to make woman subservient to her husband.
In Jewish myth Lilith became a female demon, and was identified with the screech owl. She devoured new-born boys and seized men at night as they slept alone. Her name means ‘night creature’ and encompasses being hag ridden, nightmares, and all forms of night terrors.
It is likely Lilith predates Jewish folklore by millennia. Blood sucking female demons with similar names to Lilith were know in ancient Sumer and Babylon, where they often took the form of birds, or beautiful women with bird’s legs and wings. Much of this part of the Genesis story is believed to derive from Sumer. In the more ancient Epic of Gilgamesh the Goddess Inanna has a tree with a serpent in living in its roots, a bird in its boughs and a female demon in its trunk.
The Ancient Greeks knew Lilith as Empusa, a daughter of the witch goddess Hecate, with flaming red hair and wearing brass high heeled shoes. Empusa seduced young men as they slept before feasting on their blood. The Romans called her Lamia and claimed her lower half was a serpent. In addition to seducing young men and drinking their blood, she also devoured children. Later she became the bird-like strix, from the word ‘to scream’; a name still given to owls in Romania.
Christians claimed Lilith was the first succubus – a female demon who visits sleeping men to steal their seed. She became the queen of witches and the mother of vampires. Romanian folklore is quite explicit about the link between witches and female vampires. And let me tell you, there are some very strange female vampires that haunt the male imagination.
Moravian vampires only attack while naked. Albanian vampires wear high heel shoes. The Roma Gypsies believe female vampires can lead an ordinary life and even marry. But will eventually kill their husbands with their insatiable sexual desires.
The story of Lilith and her brood illustrates a very ancient deep-seated fear of female sexuality. The ancient Greeks and Romans thought women, not men, were the voracious sexual predator of the species; as shown in the story of the nymph Salmacis. They believed a man’s blood and semen contained Vir (the root of the modern word virility), a quality of health and strength which women drained; unmanning a man and leaving him weak, or worse feminine.