Demonic figure in Jewish folklore. She seems to have originally
been a storm demon and was later associated with the
night. At a very early period, she was seen as one of several
vampire demons in ancient Sumer. In the Gilgamesh Epic (approximately
2000 B.C.E.), she is pictured as a vampire harlot;
though a beautiful young woman, she is unable to bear children,
her breasts are dry, and she has the feet of the nocturnal
In the Talmud, Lilith is given a new mythological life as the
supposed first wife of Adam. Following an argument over who
should have the dominant position during sexual intercourse,
Lilith left and became a promiscuous wanderer. She mothered
many children, called the lilim. She also encountered three angels
sent by God, with whom she negotiated an agreement. She
became a vampiric demon attacking children but would stay
away from any child wearing an amulet with the name of three
angels—Senoy, Sensenoy, and Semangelof.
Over the centuries Lilith was gradually transformed into a
whole legion of beings who functioned as incubi and succubi,
attacking men and women who were engaged in normal sexual
activity. They gathered the men’s sperm to father more demonic
offspring. They inflicted women with barrenness and miscarriages
and sucked the blood of children. A special anti-Lilith
ritual was developed to banish them from homes and force
them to go naked into the night.
The myth was active in the Jewish community through the
centuries and flourished during the Middle Ages. It survived
into the nineteenth century among conservative Jewish communities.
A remnant of the story remains in the amulets with
the name of the three angels, sometimes used by people who
know little of the Lilith story.
In the early 1990s the Lilith myth was adopted as part of the
Midnight Sons, the supernatural stories of the Marvel Comics
Graves, Robert, and Raphael Patai. Hebrew Myths The Book
of Genesis. Garden City, N.Y. Doubleday, 1964.
Patai, Raphael. The Hebrew Goddess. New York Ktav Publishing
House, n.d.