Based on a terracotta relief from Sumer, circa 1950 B.C.
Lilith can be found in Sumerian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Caananite, Persian, Hebrew, Arabic and Teutonic mythology. She has the epithets ‘Dame Donkey-Legs, Vixen Bogey, Blood Sucker, Woman of Harlotry, Alien Woman, Impure Female, End of all Flesh, End of Day, bruha, strega, Witch, hag, snatcher and enchantress’. Also serpent, donkey, owl, screeching night-jar, strix and the ‘soul of every living creature that creepeth’.
Lilith is very much equated with owls, she is a shape-shifter and can turn herself into a screech-owl. Owls are creatures of the night (although they can see and hunt during the day despite popular opinion); they have fantastic eyesight and hearing. The ridged edge of their feathers and the velvety growth on them enables the owl to fly silently and to swoop on her prey in surprise. They have access to and strength in a realm that other creatures don’t.
In Jewish Mythology Lilith was the first wife of Adam, she was beautiful and seductive. However, she refused to be subserviant to Adam but insisted on being on top during sex. Adam refused to grant her equality and she flew off to the Red Sea where she collected a family of demon children around her. God would not accept such rebellion and sent three angels to bring her back to Adam to be a good wife but she refused. She was a rebellious character, living her own life and staying true to herself, yet being defamed and demonized as a result. She is related to darkness but is not evil, rather is outside the concept of black and white, good and evil.
She was said to steal men’s semen via nocturnal emissions (succubus motif) in order to create a demon brood and of snatching away new-born babies – girls until the 21st day and boys until the 8th day of death were considered her prey. The 8th day is the day of circumcision for a boy in Jewish tradition.
Originally Lilith was considered to have devine character, she was considered a Shedim. Later on the Shedim were ‘demonized’, were demoted to the rank of demons or evil spirits. This process is a familiar one that occurs with the rise of a new religion, where ‘older’gods are devalued and demonized. As Judeo-Christian religion perceives the feminine as dangerous, goddesses such as Lilith became sources of evil influence.