Runaway First Lady
I love bad girls.
And the badder, the better!
Show me a leather chick, too much eye-liner, the wrong color eyeshadow, “Really Red” lipstick, and a bad attitude, and I fall apart (think of a cross between Joan Jett, Deborah Harry, and Christina Applegate).
There’s one vixen hovering supreme over all of these, however. Because she was the Original Bad Girl, I am madly in love with Lilith.
The first installment has the Hebrew god, Yahweh (YHWH), creating Adam and his mate at the same time. This passage implies clearly that Adam and the first woman were created concurrently.
This creates a continuity problem in the story. If Adam was “alone” when Eve was made, what happened to the other woman earlier in the narrative who was created at the same time as he was? Or, was that first woman mentioned really Eve and these are just two differing versions of Eve’s creation?
Many Biblical scholars and, more particularly, Hebrew scholars may have an answer for this conflict in the narrative, and it’s a doozy: the woman created in the earlier part of the story was not Eve, but was Adam’s first wife, Lilith.
But, as in all utopian settings, there were troubles afoot. Lilith’s independence and equality caused problems. She refused to kowtow to Adam; although many sources gloss over this, there is enough outside textual context to suggest that Lilith’s beef with Adam did not have to do with his lack of sharing in the domestic chores.
Rather, her complaint had to do with her being required to assume an inferior position during coition. That’s right—Lilith wanted some equal time on top, and she felt demeaned by Adam’s demands for her to always be on the bottom. From Lilith’s viewpoint she was equal in every way, including that one.
So, in short, she left him. Where she went specifically isn’t known (more on the lovely Lilith in a moment).
The Bible carries both creation stories but only mentions Lilith by name one time (in an apocalyptic passage in Isaiah as an image of destruction).
The Jewish people know all about her, though. And here might be the best theory for why Lilith doesn’t figure as prominently in Judeo-Christian tradition as she should.
In ancient times many societies were matriarchal and matrilineal (property and names passed through the female's line and not the male’s). A perfect example of this existed in relatively modern times—in most Native American tribes it was the wife or other women who owned property; when a warrior married, he moved in with her family, not the other way around.
In the earliest Hebrew society, however, patriarchy became the norm. In order to enforce this idea of preordained male supremacy something had to be done with Lilith. She was equal, remember? The ancients couldn’t have their women folk looking toward a historic figure as a shining light of equality – Lilith ran away from Adam, for crying out loud! So, the figure of Lilith was banished from Hebrew teachings and excised from Hebraic religious literature.
Rise of a Demon?
Lilith, to make things even worse, was literally turned from the potential mother of humanity into a witch or succubus who sexually assaulted men while they slept and who stole newborns from their beds. She became a female bogey in Hebrew culture. Stories were made up, legends, of how bad she was, and her name became synonymous with evil and, oddly, the sexually charged forceful vamp.
Christianity largely adopted Jewish traditions and continued female suppression. A Christian example of similar revision concerns Mary Magdalene. In order to diminish her contributions to early Christian teachings (she was, after all, only a woman, what could she know?), she was re-imagined as a prostitute, even though there is no Biblical text to support the idea she was any such thing.
If I had been Adam (and one more time, take a good, hard look at Lilith!) I’m pretty sure I would’ve let her have her way from time to time. [Okay, she would’ve gotten her way all the time with me!]
Additional Lilith lore, by the way, basically has her becoming the first Wonder Woman. She utters Yahweh’s name, acquires the ability to fly, flees over the Red Sea chased by angels [. . . is later in a gunfight at the OK Corral, invented rock ’n’ rock (the Devil’s music!), and is responsible for the evil tragedy of the Police Academy movies. Seriously, Lilith is fascinating!]
Another tradition holds she cursed Adam, swearing vengeance if he remarried, and some scholars believe she turned herself into a serpent and it was she who tempted the naive Eve in the Garden of Eden.
In sum, we have a runaway bride, a super-woman, a character so rich in color and energy it deserves resurrection if for no other reason than to make a really killer big-budget action/adventure film
Lilith: The Return, maybe? I’m thinking Sofía Vergara should play her:
The Real First Lady
Wear it proudly, Woman
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