Lilith's Origin

By Earl Wajenberg (


I like the general idea that Lilith doesn't follow the rules for human/celestial distinctions because she never ate of the Tree of Knowledge. Also, since Eve was made from Adam's rib, she and Adam might have been much more alike than Adam and Lilith. So, from the perspective of Eve-descended humanity, Lilith is just Something Else, sui generis, not "human" in our sense, not celestial, just Lilith.

There is, though, an underlying reason for the disconnect. The whole idea of Lilith as Adam's first wife is relatively late, being invented in the Middle Ages. Lilith dates back a long time before that, but her legend was simpler then; she was just the Dark Female, a demon representing the evil side of femininity, who seduced and killed young men, and slaughtered babies.

Another recent addition to the legend of Lilith is to identify her with the Serpent in the Garden of Eden. If you look at the picture of the Temptation by Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Cistine Chapel, you will see the Serpent painted as a sort of snakey mermaid. Lots of other, lesser pictures of the scene show the Serpent with a woman's head. In the 19th century, Dante Gabriel Rosetti wrote a rather steamy poem about Lilith, in which she apparently started out as a serpent, took or was given human shape to have an affair with Adam, and did the Temptation out of jealousy when Eve was created.

The original legend of Lilith as Adam's wife comes from a collection of tales called "The Alphabet of Ben Sira," and there is a copy at:

A discussion of the history of this story is at:

A copy of the Rosetti poem is posted in the IN archives at:

I will post any of these three to the list or to individuals from the list on request.



Back to the INC Mainpage.
Back to the Adventures page.

Elizabeth McCoy <>
Archangel of Archives