The Lilith Archetype

Lilith. The Dark Mother. Mother of Demons. I’ve written previously about the Lilith archetype in relation to the types of protagonists in Angel Lit and the Great Mother archetype. I feel like I’ve made a good case as to why Lilith is an important archetype, and why she’s important to young female readers. Today I want to explore her a little more.

Lilith is most famously the first wife of Adam in Judaism, a figure cast out and demonised for refusing to submit to the will of her husband. But Lilith in religious literature has other origins and other stories too. She is not merely the baby killing demon of the night Judaism painted her to be. Lilith has been seen as a desert spirit, a storm spirit, a goddess, a demon, a human, and a handmaiden to Inanna. In Sumerian literature Lilith plays a role (under the name Lilitu) in the Epic of Gilgamesh and figures of Lilith dating back to ancient Babylon have been recovered. According to Natalia Klimczak from Lilith was a figure in the myths and culture of the Hittite, Egyptians, Greek, Israeli and Roman peoples.

Lilith as the Dark Mother can be known under many other names; Hekate, Kali, Erishkegel, Circe, Medea, The Wicked Witch of the West, Bellatrix Lestrange, Baba Yaga, Maleficent, The Evil Queen. Any dark and powerful figure in the realm of mythology, folklore, fairy tale and fiction is a potential Dark Mother. Whether they are intentionally evil or simply misunderstood these figures are representations of the Dark Mother. The Dark Mother, the Lilith, is a force of nature. She creates as easily as she destroys.

Cyndi Brannen says of Hekate,

               “While there are many different ways of understanding Hekate, there is little
               argument over her status as an ancient, powerful Dark Goddess. She is the night,
               the shadow, and rebirth. She is also the light that leads us through hell. She is
               necessary to guide us through these troubling times.” (Brannen, Nov 2019)

The same can be said of Lilith. Lilith calls us to fight, to become wild and untamable, to take that which we want and deserve, and to be unconquerable.

I believe that the portrayal of Lilith-women, in popular culture like Angel Lit, and in real life (I mean Nancy Pelosi ripping up Trump’s impeachment speech is a bad ass Lilith thing to do, so is calling the speech in question a “manifesto of mistruths”) has been a major turning point for our western culture.

Even before the advent of Angel Lit we had pop culture figures embracing the Lilith archetype and inspiring real women to do the same. Buffy, Zoe Wash, Daenerys Targaryen, Dorothy Gale (hey she killed two powerful witches in her quest to get home), Rowena MacLeod, Brienne of Tarth (okay so there’s a ton of Lilith characters in GOT), Xena Warrior Princess, Mulan, Veronica Mars, Jessica Jones, Katniss Everdeen, Sabrina Spellman (in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina) and Hermione Granger (she broke rules when it suited her and used transfiguration as a form of punishment on adults twice her age while still in school) are all pop culture icons and they all exhibited aspects of the Lilith archetype. In real life we can see the Lilith woman in Rose McGowan, Jacinda Arden, Megan Markle, Tina Fey, Celeste Barber, Kesha and so many more.

They refused to play by the rules. They forged their own way through their worlds. They were unapologetic about fighting for what they believed in, even if it had the potential to get them into dangerous situations. Veronica Mars was nearly murdered trying to find out who killed her best friend, and she made sure the villain got what was coming to them. Hermione Granger uses her wits and her intellect to make her world a better place, not just for herself but for everyone in it, and is not afraid to get her hands dirty to do it. Mercy in the Mercy Series is an Angel who doesn’t display that which she is named for when it comes to punishing a man who has been abusing teenage girls. She uses her powers to blind and maim him while she waits for the police to back her up.

Jaclyn Cherie at Nephilim Rising put it like this “the world is full of angry Women, and the people who love them.”

These characters, and the women inspired by them, are refusing to be subjugated, like Lilith. In Feminist and Rebel Angels I covered some of the popular characters of Angel lit and how they fit the Lilith Archetype. In The Great Mother in YAUF I wrote:

               “The Lilith nature requires women to question everything, to refuse to bow to
               compromising pressures and to refuse to acknowledge a patriarchal authority
               that only serves its own interests.”

In reality it is any compromising pressure that the Lilith woman cannot abide.

Lilith, as an archetype, is at the forefront of our consciousness as a society, even if we don’t realise it. In these times of political upheaval, global pandemics, and social justice movements, the energy of the Lilith archetype is a strong current in our world.

Lilith is the spirit of #metoo and the women coming forward with their heartbreaking stories. Lilith is the women fighting to fix climate change. Lilith is the women fighting for better reproductive health accessibility. The Lilith women are here, they’re angry, and they aren’t going to quietly go away. I don’t know what the future holds but it is being forged right now. Our choices are shaping our future and the characters I’ve mentioned earlier, and many more, have contributed to how women are perceiving the world. There has been a shift in our consciousness and now there is a shift in our actions. For authors like myself it is no longer enough to write about how the future could be, although we will never stop doing this, we must plant the seeds of the future in our stories for other women to read. Writing is no longer enough; our words must match our actions. We, as well as the women we inspire, must water those seeds to make the future better for everyone.  

The Lilith Archetype, and indeed Lilith herself as a character, have been instrumental in inspiring my upcoming series The Lady of Zion. The protagonist Grace Haskiel is an embodiment of the Lilith archetype, a woman who is unapologetic as she attempts to take down the ultimate patriarchal figure, and who sees what she wants and goes after it. Later in the series Lilith herself becomes a vital character guiding Grace and helping to build a better world. 

The Lady of Zion is in Beta Reading at the moment and I’m trying to get it ready to be launched for the 30th of March 2020. 

Some of the sites that were mentioned in this article or inspired it:

Published by bforresterbooks

Indie Author. Lover of all things supernatural, witchy and magical. Obsessed fan of The Wizard of Oz, Supernatural, the works of Tolkien and the Harry Potter Universe. You can purchase my debut novel The Kingston Chronicles at Amazon.

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