Unveiling Lilith: Ancient Origins to Modern Witchcraft

October 15, 2023

Unveiling Lilith: Ancient Origins to Modern Witchcraft

Unveiling Lilith: Ancient Origins to Modern

As we journey closer to Samhain, the veil becomes thinner, and the Northern Hemisphere becomes darker, there is one particular deity that urges our attention: Lilith. Her origins stretch far back into antiquity, and her mythology has evolved over the centuries through many different cultures. She earns the title “Queen of Demons” through her pernicious and lascivious folklore.

Lilith Origins and Mythology

Ancient texts dating back to around 2000 B.C. suggest that Lilith has her origins in the lilitu of ancient Sumerian mythology.These were demons of the vampire or succubus variety, and they would haunt people in their sleep, often spawning demonic children. The Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh details each class of lilitu and narrates folk tales of their interactions with humans.  

In Syria, Lilits were referred to as “divine flyers”, and depicted as winged sphinxes. The Syrians pronounced incantations to banish these demons out of the room where a woman was in child labor. In general, these early iterations of Lilith were considered entities of chaos and malevolence by ancient peoples. They were considered a danger to anyone sleeping alone, but they were particularly
harmful to female-bodied people during certain times of their sexual cycles: during virginity, menstruation, and up to an hour after childbirth.

Lilith, Judaism, & Christianity

The name Lilith is mentioned several times in the Talmud and the Christian Bible. One of the most well-known citations is in Isaiah 34, verse 14: “The wild cat shall meet with the jackals, And the satyr
shall cry to his fellow, Yea, Lilith shall repose there And find her place of rest”. The verse references the day of judgment when the earth shall be turned into a desert, where Lilith resides. This association with Lilith and the desert originates from the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh. Her appearance in the prophecy of Isaiah tells us that Lilith was a well-known figure in the 8th century when this text was written and that she was a demonic entity. 

It wasn’t until the medieval period that Lilith became associated with the Creation story. The Alphabet of Ben Sira is the first
text to name Lilith as Adam’s first wife. Lilith refused to lay with Adam, seeing herself as Adam’s equal and not subservient to him. In protest, she spoke the magical words of God and flew away to the Red Sea, where she bore her “demonic brood”. This is where Lilith gets her title of “The Queen of Demons”. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Lilith’s story was re-popularized, but her characterization as a succubus or vampire evolved into a fallen woman or seductress, a fearful symbol of sin and evil.

Lilith as a Figure in Modern Witchcraft

In our modern world, many are interested in reframing Lilith’s story as Adam’s first wife through a more feminist lens. She is a woman brave enough to take her destiny into her own hands, and therefore a symbol of female empowerment and independence. For others, her associations with sex and promiscuity make her a deity of female sexual pleasure and sensuality. Modern pagans often call upon Lilith for boldness, sexual liberation, and to reclaim one’s personal power. If you feel called to work with Lilith, you may use ingredients such as willow, dragon’s blood, or frankincense in your spell work. Wine and aphrodisiacs are also appropriate offerings. You may lay out statues of Lilith on your altar, or icons of owls will invoke her energy as well. If you are unsure of where to start on
your journey with Lilith, you can try out our Lilith Offering & Spell Kit, which has all the tools you need to get started. You can find it in our online shop, or you can come visit our store and talk to a member of staff who can give you more guidance.