Understanding Lilith

The following article is the first of a two part series I penned on the dark goddess Lilith for Spiral Nature, seen by many as the premiere outlet for occulture in the digital age, which went live in September of 2018. Understanding Lilith was presented free to view, while the much more in depth sequel, Approaching Lilith, was for subscribers only. Both were heavily edited to better fit the tone of the site, though the versions I am sharing here at The Vulpine Portfolio will be the original, uncut texts. While I no longer work with the mother of the succubi there is no denying the deep respect I still hold for this most capricious and primal of entities. In many ways the bonds we forge with our gods and goddesses are similar to that of lovers, if not deeper still.

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Understanding Lilith
In Defence Of The Screech Owl
By Gavin Fox

There seems to be a stigma associated with seeking out and approaching Lilith in the modern era. Some more puritanical voices in the magical movement cite this kind of operation as unbecoming of a serious sorcerer and as such the domain of younger practitioners who have yet to gain any real respect for the great work. True, the internet is full of articles explaining how to obtain sexual favours from the children of this dark goddess, the incubi and succubi, and gaining such an imaginary playmate is as far as most magickians will choose to explore the subject. Unfortunately, in doing so they miss the fact that her burning sexuality is but a means to an end, and one that hints at a deeper current of self determination through pleasure.

Unlike many who choose to seek out this darkest of goddesses, my motivation was not just sexual. While exploring her carnal associations did neatly counterbalance my own lack of confidence, it was actually Lilith’s more rebellious aspects which convinced me that I should try and make contact in the first place. My path to enlightenment was already a strange one long before we began working together. Growing up in an overtly agnostic household, there were few of the barriers put upon my reading that those who had a more religious upbringing would encounter. Yet for all this freedom I soon realised that reality was unfathomably dull, and sought to see how far I could bend it towards something more interesting through sheer willpower alone.

In Lilith I recognised a spirit who experienced this same dissatisfaction. As the first wife of Adam she had refused to lie beneath him during intercourse, citing their similar origins as proof of her equality. Retreating from Eden to the banks of the Red Sea, she sought out the companionship of either Asmodeus or Samael, depending on the legend, and bore them the very same children who become the incubi and succubi of Medieval myth. Sadly, this carnal union was not to end well, as her former lover had called upon his God to bring her back to the garden and angels were dispatched to enforce these demands. Again she stood up to patriarchal authority, and as punishment was forced to watch as hundreds of her offspring were murdered each and every day.

It seems that Lilith had fallen afoul of the same misogyny which has always typified the attitude of Abrahamic religions towards unashamed femininity, and her apocryphal fall from grace would cement this into the cultural consciousness for centuries to come. Soon mythology would begin to grow up around her unchecked. Some tales name her as the serpent, tempting Eve to take a bite of the fruit of knowledge as vengeance for her excommunication and damning humanity in retaliation for the continued slaughter of her own offspring. Others cast Samael and Lilith as a counter creation to that of Adam and Eve, a hermaphroditic genesis required to balance the divine and infernal forces in the material and spiritual realms respectively.

Of course, Lilith originally belongs to a vibrant body of ancient Middle-Eastern folklore now mostly lost beneath the sands of time. What little is known of her earlier incarnations seems to indicate a similar preoccupation with sex and mysticism, though disputes her role as one of the first humans. She is mentioned on Babylonian amulets and charms relating to pregnancy, reinforcing the prevailing idea that she must be held at bay for the child to survive, and as a thief of both semen and life force. We also see her mentioned as a spirit who was forced out from her home and into the desert by the Sumerian hero Gilgamesh at Innana’s request, and sadly this outcast aspect seems to have become a prevailing theme in the centuries that followed.

Perhaps it is here that the seeds which would lead to Lilith’s modern crossover into vampirism were first planted, while her position as a mythological figure from the very dawn of civilisation would automatically promote her to queen among such lesser spirits too. It is safe to assume that she has always been an adversarial entity, a dark mother to the numerous monsters that haunt our collective nightmares, and as such is it little wonder that those with an interest in pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable would be drawn into her cold embrace. But she does not stand alone in her rebellion. As previously mentioned initial efforts to approach Lilith will inevitably involve encountering those very same children, at least in the first instance, and it is here that most practitioners are happy to stop.

Of course, the existence of the incubi and succubi can be explained through purely biological means if one wishes to do so. As with any religion which enforces strict sexual taboos upon its congregation, the Abrahamic obsession with disallowing both masturbation and premarital relations is at odds with one of our deepest animalistic needs. Those who suffered from regular nocturnal emissions would require absolution from the resulting sin, and if the whole event could be reframed as yet another front in the war between good and evil then all the better. But the role of nonhuman entities in such matters cannot be completely disproven, nor should the possibility of said repression creating tulpas who would go on to feed in a similar way to Lilith and her children be discounted either.

Though some sources claim that Incubi are male and succubi female, in truth both may in fact be the same spirit and therefore gender fluid from a human point of view. Indeed some scholars cite these entities as guilty of first stealing semen from sleeping men before impregnating young women with it elsewhere in the same night. This also seems to infer that just being carried within one of Lilith’s children was enough to taint this seed and allow yet another demonic influence into the world. Such children, or cambions, would be destined for either greatness or disaster depending on the time period in which the congress occurred. Luminaries such as Merlin, Martin Luther and even Plato were supposedly sired in such a way, though to what extent otherworldly blood actually flowed within their veins remains in question.

While the actual methodology involved in working with such a pantheon of inhuman spirits will be covered in my companion article, Approaching Lilith, it is worth noting the intense effort required to contact and begin a relationship with this most mercurial of goddesses in the first place. She is not simply the head of a supernatural escort agency, and her interests do not end with sexual matters. Hers is the cold caress of anarchic rebellion coupled with the warm touch of unchecked passion, as well as a Promethean desire for recognition and change. Like her offspring Lilith’s sexuality itself is in flux, a fact that should speak to those who have found comfort by being blatantly honest about the needs of their own flesh, and to follow in the footsteps of the screech owl is to be forever out of step with perceived normality from that point on.