The Other Eve?
Why was there another Eve?
Posted May 15, 2012
In a previous post, “All About Eve,” we pondered Eve’s desire for the knowledge of good and evil, which has always been interpreted as carnal knowledge, despite the fact that the knowledge of good and evil implies the desire for consciousness—i.e., to know, to be conscious of, what is good and what is evil. Without that knowledge, mankind is radically diminished. Without the knowledge of good and evil is there a conscience, are we even human? Does the knowledge of good and evil make us more godlike?
Jewish mythology presents us with another Eve—Lilith, Adam’s first wife who refuses to be subservient and leaves him when he tries to dominate her. Because Lilith is a rebellious female figure, she is anamathetized. She is labeled a demon of the night, is said to give birth to demons, to seek the death of newborns, and to cause wet dreams. For centuries, amulets were placed in the room of newborns to protect them from Lilith. One theory is that Lilith - abi! (Lilith - begone!) evolved into lullaby although the OED gives Latin and French origins for lullaby.
The Lilith of Jewish mythology actually derives from much older traditions dating back to Sumeria and our earliest records of civilization in the Near East. One theory postulates that she originally represented the Mother Goddess and that she was demonized when society became patriarchal as opposed to matristic and egalitarian.
Over the centuries, Lilith gradually became a symbol for psychological dynamics—the divine whore, a symbol of terrifying sexuality for men, and the horrifying mother for women.1 Mothers and wives can be good and bad. One incarnation for either is not enough; therefore, we have Lilith and Eve. The Virgin Mary represents yet another biblical aspect of femininity—immaculate and divine.
Understandably, like Eve, Lilith has never been a popular name. Eve, however, is gaining in popularity as we saw in “All About Eve.” Lilith is also gaining a bit in popularity as the essence of the name continues to evolve as society does also. Lilith was revived in the Romantic era with Goethe’s Faust and by the Pre-Raphaelites. She has remained a central figure in the occult—in the kaballah and modern occultism. Feminists have also adopted her as a heroic figure. Lilith appears throughout popular culture in everything from novels to comics, video games, and a movie. More and more books are appearing with Lilith in the title. The fact that both Eve and Lilith are gaining in popularity suggests that the extreme associations to both names may be moderating—that, fortunately, our ideas about women are changing.
1Siegmund Hurtwitz, Lilith, the First Eve: Historical and Psychological Aspects of the Dark Feminine (Einsiedeln:Daimon Verlag, 2009) p.31.