The major cultural transformations related to the passage from matrilineal system to patrilineal one are reflected in the Hebrew myths of Creation. The Bible’s Bookof Genesis has two tales of Creation, intwo different inspirations and literary forms. In the first text, the creation of man and woman is simultaneous, while the second text is organised all around the destiny ofman; itplaces the creation of man before that of woman. The first text corresponds to the Hebrew tradition of the first Eve, Lilith, as indicated in the cabalistic book of Alphabet of ben Sirah.
Lilith and Adam
According to this Talmudic tradition, the two first humans, Lilith and Adam, are equal and have been created joined by the back. Soon a conflict came into sight on the way to make love, on the positions to adopt. This conflict represented, in a symbolic way, that concerning the claims to social dominance. Lilith refused to let her husband be the head of the family because they have been created equal, but Adam maintained with stubbornness that he was the only master. And the situation deteriorated. Since Adam’s obstinacy did not diminish, Lilith invoked the name ofYahweh who granted her wings, symbols of strength, and she flew off the Garden of Eden.
Profoundly pained, Adam pled Yahweh to bring Lilith back to him. The Creator, moved by Adam’s misery, assigned three angels to find the fugitive and to persuade her to go back to her husband. In vain, because, even though Yahweh threatened to make her givebirth to numerous children and that one hundred of her sons would die every day, she remained deaf to her husband’s request. Lilith, this representative of woman-centric and matrilineal values and customs, refused to join her domineering husband and, facing the threat of Yahweh, she wished to die by throwing herself into the Red Sea. To compensate for the rigour of judgement, the three angels granted her all power over the newborn babies for eight days for the boys and twenty days, in the case of the girls. Finally, she fell in love with the master of fallen angels, called Samaël, a supporter of the egalitarian doctrine, which was rejected by the new patriarchal culture. Both lived in the valley of Jehannum, the Hell.
According to an ancient Sumerian tablet, Lilith was a goddess in charge of drawing men to the temple of Goddess Inanna. With the advent of pitiless religion of Yahweh, this young sacred bachelor became a demon symbol of a bad woman. In Kabbalah (mystical aspect of Judaism), one is informed that illegitimate children shall be born because of Lilith. It was necessary to avoid this bad geniein order tomaintain the paternal line of inheritance.
O’Brien, Mary. 1981. The Politics of Reproduction, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London.
Stone, Merlin. 1976. When God Was a Woman, Harvest Books, New York.
Image: Famous relief from the Old Babylonian period (now in the British museum) called the “Burney relief” or “Queen of the Night relief” and depicting Lilith.