Monday, May 15, 2017

[AVW015] Lilith, Demoness of the Night (The Shadow) Part One

Previous: [AVW014] Rethinking the Heronie (The Persona)

"I defy you! I hold myself against you! What I choose to be, you cannot change. I will not be what you think me—what you say I am!"

George MacDonald, Lilith, a romance

The Story in a Nutshell

Lilith comes to us from the weird word of Jewish and pre-Jewish Mesopotamian demonology. There are hundreds of individual variations of her story, so we'll look at one generalized version.

When God made Man in the Garden of Eden, He also made a woman from the same dirt. This was the first woman, for as Genesis 1:27 says, "God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." This initial act of creation, however, was not the creation of Eve - she is formed from Adam's rib in chapter 2.

There was another woman before Eve, a first woman named Lilith who was made from the dust of the earth, just as Adam was. She was an equal creation to Adam, and thus chafed under his authority.

"For why," said she, "Should I be subject to this man, who was made from the same dirt as I?" And so, refusing to lie with Adam or bear him children, she instead fled from the Garden of Eden.

Unlike Eve, who sinned and yet may be "saved through childbearing," Lilith chose to lie with the Serpent and became the mother of a race of monsters. She herself became a demoness, reigning over such evils as abortion, miscarriage, cradle death, sorcery, and witchcraft. It is even said that she rapes men at night in their sleep, using their seed to conceive more demons.

The word "Lilith" does actually appear in Isaiah 34:11 as part of a prophecy of the destruction of Edom:
"But the pelican and the porcupine shall possess it,
Also the owl and the raven shall dwell in it.
And He shall stretch out over it
The line of confusion and the stones of emptiness."
The Hebrew term translated as "owl" is in fact "Lilith," a name thought to derive from various Mesopotamian demons. It's actually kind of fun to look at the various terms Bible translators have used for Lilith, ranging from "night monster" to "vampires" to "night creature." The Latin Vulgate uses the term "lamia," a similar female monster that drinks blood and has the tail of a snake, and the Septuagint uses "onocentaur," a half-man half-donkey monster.

In modern times, Lilith has become something of a Feminist icon, standing as a symbol of sexual promiscuity and resistance to male authority. The baby-murdering and Satan-fucking are presumably a plus as well.

Join us for more after the jump.

“Before her, cast from an unseen heavenly mirror, stood the reflection of herself, and beside it a form of splendent beauty. She trembled, and sank again on the floor helpless. She knew the one that God had intended her to be, the other that she had made herself.”
-George MacDonald, Lilith

The Archetypes

In looking at Lilith, it would be hard not to see the Shadow, an important Jungian archetype. The Shadow is the aspect (/aspects) of the self that are pushed down, ignored, isolated, and forgotten. It is the pieces of the self that are most difficult to see because we do not wish to see them. Indeed, many times, we succeed at becoming temporarily incapable of seeing them.

Now these Shadow aspects of the self can become suppressed for a variety of reasons. One reason is social conformity - I may have a deep seated desire to dress up in a fur suit and rub my crotch against passing pedestrians, but society in general looks down on this. Another reason may be religious taboo - I may have a deep seated desire to eat human meat or fondle goats or switch jobs, but if the local gods do not allow this, I must suppress these desires.

In essence, the energy of the libido (for Jung, this is as much mental energy as sexual) is directed to an object or behavior (black leather, goat fondling), but this energy is prevented from being manifested in real-world behavior. It is pushed further and further into the underground of the mind, becoming alien from our self-image.

After all, if I have never murdered, how can I see myself as a murderer? Or even someone who wants to murder? Murderers are bad people. Perverts are bad people. Baby-killing Satan-fucking witches are bad people. I am a good person; how then could these desires exist within me?

In other words, the Shadow is the aspect of the Self that has become the Other. By not acknowledging these aspects of ourselves, we force a division in the mind. But deep down at the source, in the original spring of the libido, these things are ourselves.

I stress this because the usual role of the Shadow is the villain, the scapegoat. The natural human impulse is to overthrow and destroy the Shadow, to kill it and bury it deeper this time. But this is also why the villain is so often a dark mirror of the heroine (or else a hideous, inhuman, unnatural monster). The mind betrays us: the villain is ourselves, as we do not want to see us.

What is Lilith to Eve? Sure, one bears human children and one bears monsters, but Eve's firstborn is the first murderer. And a race of monsters is born from the line of Cain as well. Lilith spurns Adam, but Eve also rebels against the authority of God and leads Adam to sin ("And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression"). She too is seduced by the Serpent.
The difference is, what is latent in Eve is expressed openly in Lilith.

The danger of the Shadow is not that it exists within us, but that it can erupt from inside in strange and terrifying ways. Pent up energy has a way of breaking forth in messy and inconvenient ways. Like an army of monsters erupting from the earth or a demoness raping by night, these hidden aspects can attack at any time, and usually at the worst times.

This is why for Jung, the important thing is not to overcome and destroy the Shadow, but to reintegrate its energy into the consciousness. This does not mean succumbing to it and running out and murdering babies and fondling goats, for the Shadow itself is no more real than our conscious selves. The goal is to rehabilitate and restore, to be conscious of the dark nature without being enslaved to it.

Next time, we will talk about Lilith in relation to games, storytelling, and game mechanics.

Next: [AVW016] Lilith, Demoness of the Night (The Shadow) Part Two

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