“From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night, Good Lord, deliver us!”
Early Scottish prayer
Fear of the dark is an ancient emotion that still runs deep in all of us. When we can’t determine what is beyond our five senses, we start to imagine all sorts of horrid things that might drag us off into the night. To make ourselves feel better, we often use talismans and charms to ward off evil and avoid bad luck. It might be noted that rabbits have never been especially fond of that practice.
Talismans are imbued with magical powers we could never understand and certainly don’t want to question. Combined with prayers, spells and various other devices, we push back on the occult world as best we can. Humans are ill-prepared to deal with powerful supernatural beings without some sort of help. The ancient Hebrews knew that and used a talisman for protection from a demon named Lilith, notorious for stealing the life from newborn children.
According to Hebrew legend, Lilith was Adam’s headstrong first wife who wanted to be his equal and refused to lie under him. Adam wanted things his way, she wanted things her way, and she finally left Eden of her own free will. Interestingly, her voluntary departure enabled her to retain her immortality unlike Adam and Eve. She eventually found a more zesty and appealing, if considerably less sophisticated, husband from the underworld and starting spawning babies by the hundreds.
Adam whined and complained to God that he wasn’t, you know, getting “serviced” regularly and God told Lilith to knock off the adultery stuff and go home or he’d take her demon offspring away. By now Lilith was feeling pretty full of herself, literally, and told God what he could do with his garden and the guy in it. God didn’t have a big sense of humor and acted on his word. Lilith then retaliated by taking the lives of newborn human babies. God sent three angels to “put the muscle” on her and she finally agreed to spare human children if they had the Hebrew amulet or a sign nearby that warned her off. The Hebrews, no strangers to family squabbles, lost no time in making lots of amulets. One such amulet still exists and is currently on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
The legend of Lilith has roots and connections as far back as Babylonia and even Sumer, one of the earliest civilizations located in what is now southern Iraq. Descriptions of Lilith can be found in legends throughout the Middle East, Mexico, Greece, India, Europe, Asia and even among the Native Americans of North America. Despite all that her story was left out of the canonical Bible except for a brief reference in Isaiah. One possible reason for the omission might be that her legend also credits her with arousing grown men in their dreams and causing them to have nocturnal emissions. Supposedly, monks of the Middle Ages would sleep with their hands on their genitals to protect themselves from Lilith. Sure, we believe that.
Lilith has been the inspiration for artists and writers for centuries. Next time we will show some of the famous artwork created about Lilith, and of course her story was the basis for my new book, Stepping Out of Time, for which there is an unashamed plug at this end of this post. Until next time, say your prayers, hold tight your charms and talismans and keep the lights on.
Read about Lilith in Stepping Out of Time,
available in print and for Kindle on Amazon.com