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(More recently, scholars have identified the figure as Inanna.) The Babylonian relief shows her as a beautiful, naked sylph with bird wings, taloned feet and hair contained under a cap decorated with several pairs of horns.She stands atop two lions and between two owls, apparently bending them to her will. is a limestone wall plaque, discovered in Arslan Tash, Syria, in 1933, which contains a horrific mention of Lilith.For in the meantime a dragon had set up its nest at the base of the tree, the Zu-bird had placed his young in its crown, and in its midst the demoness Lilith had built her house.” Wearing heavy armor, brave Gilgamesh kills the dragon, causing the Zu-bird to fly to the mountains and a terrified Lilith to flee “to the desert.” Lilith?

Yet, in her every guise, Lilith has cast a spell on humankind.

The ancient name “Lilith” derives from a Sumerian word for female demons or wind spirits—the , discover the cultural contexts for many of Israel’s earliest traditions. The mighty ruler Gilgamesh is the world’s first literary hero; he boldly slays monsters and vainly searches for the secret to eternal life.) tree, the wood of which she hopes to fashion into a throne and bed for herself.

She makes a solitary appearance in the Bible, as a wilderness demon shunned by the prophet Isaiah.

In the Middle Ages she reappears in Jewish sources as the dreadful first wife of Adam.

At critical junctures in a woman’s life—such as menarche, marriage, the loss of virginity or childbirth—ancient peoples thought supernatural forces were at work.

To explain the high rate of infant mortality, for example, a demon goddess was held responsible.

She is flanked by owls (associated with Lilith) and stands on the backs of two lions (symbols of Inanna).

According to Mesopotamian myths, the demoness Lilith (lilītu or ardat lilǐ) flew at night, seducing men and killing pregnant women and babies.

In the accompanying article, Janet Howe Gaines traces the evolution of Lilith.

For 4,000 years Lilith has wandered the earth, figuring in the mythic imaginations of writers, artists and poets.

Her dark origins lie in Babylonian demonology, where amulets and incantations were used to counter the sinister powers of this winged spirit who preyed on pregnant women and infants.

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