Wednesday, October 11, 2017

HGB Ep. 226 - The Legend of Lilith

Moment in Oddity - How Whitstable Came To Be

There was a time long ago, when Canterbury was a great center of pilgrimage. With the arrival of so many people, came lots of money. And sometimes lots of money brings sin. For Canterbury, it became quite rich and very sinful. It was so bad there that the Devil himself felt justified in carrying the village off to Hell. But he was unable to do that for one reason. Prayers were being offered up at the shrine of Thomas a Becket. One night, the priests were derelict in the duties and forgot to pray. The Devil took his chance and swooped up a great number of homes and dropped them into the sea on the north coast of Kent. He grabbed a second armful and dumped them in the same place. Now the cathedral had these bells in it and one was called the Great Harry. St. Thomas himself ran to the Sacristan and told him in a vision to ring that bell. The man obeyed and the sound startled the Devil, causing him to drop his third armful of homes. These landed on the coast. This became the town of Whitstable and they say you can still see the other homes that were dropped under the water. There are many stories of sunken cities in history, but the Devil being the actual cause is strange. And while this might be legend, people have inhabited the Whitstable area since Paleolithic times, so the fact that they even made up this legend about their origins, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - The Twilight Zone Premieres

In the month of October, on the 2nd, in 1959, the television show "The Twilight Zone" premiered. The show was an anthology series, featuring a different story each week with a host of famous actors starring as various characters. The series was created by Rod Serling who was a screenwriter, playwright and producer and has become most well known for his narration of The Twilight Zone. Serling had developed a pilot for what would become The Twilight Zone and submitted it to CBS. It was called "The Time Element" and featured a man who had vivid nightmares of the Pearl Harbor Attack. A twist at the end reveals that the man had died at Pearl Harbor and a psychiatrist that he was talking to is actually having the dreams about him. CBS didn't think the premise would do well, so they handed it over to Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball for their "The Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse." Television watchers went nuts and gave CBS so much positive response that they agreed to let Serling go ahead with the pilot for The Twilight Zone. The series aired for five seasons with 156 episodes. most written by Serling. There have been attempts to revive the series, but none has been successful. The series continues to run in syndication.

The Legend of Lilith

Lilith is an enigma. Did she ever actually exist? And if she just was a mythological character, which description of her is accurate? Was she just the shunned first wife of Adam? Was she a demon hellbent on killing babies? Was she a demon in the form of a succubus? Was she a vampire? Or is she simply a model of feminist power worthy of worship in goddess religious practices? On this episode, we are joined by listener Jaime Burcham to explore the different theories on Lilith and get to the heart of the legend of Lilith!

In many circles, Lilith is the oldest female spirit in the world. The most ancient culture to have written records is that of the Sumerians. The Sumerians emerged in Southern Mesopotamia around 5,000 years ago. They were named for their area of habitation, Sumer. Sumer was divided into states and each had its own temple dedicated to a specific patron deity for that state. It is thought that Lilith's name has its origin in the Sumerian language. They called her "Lilitu," which means wind spirit. This was not a good spirit. She was thought to be a demon. The first literary appearance of Lilith is in Tablet XII of the Epic of Gilgamesh that dates back to 2100 BC. In the tale, Lilith is one of three creatures who haunt a great Huluppu tree that could be found in a garden made for the gods. The other two creatures are a bird and a snake. The bird is at the top, Lilith is in the middle and the snake is at the foot of the tree. The hero of the story, Gilgamesh, kills the snake and frightens the other creatures who flee the garden. It's possible that the idea that Lilith was the serpent in the Garden of Eden and that she can fly like a bird with wings, comes from the Epic of Gilgamesh.

Robert Graves and Raphael Patai wrote in the book The Hebrew Myths, ''Adam complained to God: 'I have been deserted by my helpmate.' God at once sent the angels Senoy, Sansenoy and Semangelof to fetch Lilith back. They found her beside the Red Sea, a region abounding in lascivious demons, to whom she bore lilim at the rate of more than one hundred a day. 'Return to Adam without delay,' the angels said, `or we will drown you!' Lilith asked: `How can I return to Adam and live like an honest housewife, after my stay beside the Red Sea?' 'It will be death to refuse!' they answered. `How can I die,' Lilith asked again, `when God has ordered me to take charge of all newborn children: boys up to the eighth day of life, that of circumcision; girls up to the twentieth day. None the less, if ever I see your three names or likenesses displayed in an amulet above a newborn child, I promise to spare it.' To this they agreed; but God punished Lilith by making one hundred of her demon children perish daily." So basically, the angels decided to not return Lilith to Adam because she would kill his offspring.

Jewish tradition makes her far more than just a tempting snake. She was the first wife of Adam, created in the same way that he was, from the dust of the Earth. This made her equal to him. She demands to be treated equally and when Adam tries to subjugate her, she rebels and is either thrown out of the garden or leaves of her own will. This is not what makes Lilith go to the Dark Side, so to say. It seems that her very essence was infiltrated by darkness from her creation. As though some bit of filth was mingled in with the dust from which God created her. For this reason, she is not only seen as independent in sexuality and spirit, but she brings with her, terror. In this Jewish tradition, her name means "the night."

This darkness within manifests in Lilith's sexuality. She is either thought to have mothered demons by mating with the Devil or fertilized herself in some way with male sperm to create demons. Legend claims that she has mothered hundreds of demons. There are claims that she could cast spells on people and brings with her chaos. Muslim beliefs go with the story that Lilith left Adam and slept with Satan, creating the Djinn. The Testament of Solomon is an apocryphal book and not consider canon, but there is a reference to Lilith within that continues the idea that Lilith is some kind of demonic force. The book was written between 200 and 600 AD.  Lilith is portrayed as a demon who strangles children during childbirth. Solomon gets a hold of her and strips her of her power by binding her hair. He then hangs her before all the people. Lilith is also mentioned in the Dead Sea Scrolls found at Qumran. The Qumran sect was fascinated by demonology and thus, Lilith appears in the Song for a Sage, which was thought to be a hymn used during exorcisms. Here is that passage: “And I, the Sage, sound the majesty of His beauty to terrify and confound all the spirits of destroying angels and the bastard spirits, the demons, Lilith. . ., and those that strike suddenly, to lead astray the spirit of understanding, and to make desolate their heart.”

Numerous examples of talismans and amulets exist that were intended to protect babies from Lilith.  Frequently amulets were place in the four corners and throughout the bedchamber. If a child laughed while sleeping, it was taken as a sign that Lilith was present. Tapping the child on the nose, it was believed, made her go away. her daughters the lilim haunted men for over a thousand years. It was well into that Middle Ages that Jews still manufactured amulets to keep away the lilim. Supposedly they were lusty she-demons who copulated with men in all their dreams, causing nocturnal emissions.
Incantation bowls feature Aramaic spells inscribed on them to provide protection from Lilith. One of these bowls is now on display at Harvard University’s Semitic Museum and reads, “Thou Lilith. . .Hag and Snatcher, I adjure you by the Strong One of Abraham, by the Rock of Isaac, by the Shaddai of Jacob. . .to turn away from this Rashnoi. . .and from Geyonai her husband. . .Your divorce and writ and letter of separation. . .sent through holy angels. . .Amen, Amen, Selah, Halleluyah!” The inscription is meant to offer a woman named Rashnoi protection from Lilith. The Greeks adopted the belief of the lilim, calling them Lamiae or Daughters of Hecate. Likewise the Christians adopted the belief, calling them harlots of hell, or succubi, the counterpart of the incubi. At one time, monks protected themselves from these Lilith-like creatures by sleeping with their hands over their genitals and clutching a crucifix.

 Lilith started making appearances later in art. For example, Michelangelo portrayed her as a half woman, half serpent being. He placed her at the Tree of Knowledge. Dante Gabriel Rosetti portrayed her as the most beautiful female being in the world. The White Witch in ''The Chronicles of Narnia'' was inspired by the legend of Lilith. The White Witch is the daughter of Lilith and thus she is focused on killing the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve. In our modern era, Lilith has enjoyed a resurgence and has become a symbol of feminine power and is worshiped in some circles of Pagan spirituality, particularly Wicca. Astrology interprets Lilith as signifying one's hidden nature, so most likely, their dark side. It is said that she is in the unconscious where psychic demons breed in the darkness of ignorance. When Lilith appears in the natal chart, it is to be used to bring to the conscious mind, any self-defeating patterns of behavior.

Did Lilith ever actually exist? Could she have formed as some kind of tulpa because of the stories and beliefs about her that have carried through for centuries? What are your thoughts about Lilith? Is she some kind of demonic vampire hellbent on killing babies or is she a symbol of female power that scared patriarchal societies? Could she be both? That is for you to decide!

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