June 29, 2022

About Lilith and Self-Repression in Women

I first met Lilith (a legendary character from post biblical literature) while doing some supplemental reading for a theology course. In the article “The coming of Lilith: Toward a Feminist Theology” authored by Judith Plaskow, Lilith is described as a “demon of the night” who according to rabbinic legend was Old Testament Adam’s first wife.

That night, after reading the article, I had what Carl Jung termed a Doppelganger dream (two representatives of the dreamer appearing in the same dream). In the dream, Ali A and Ali B were two little girls of about four years old. A was dressed in a pale pink, stiffly starched pinafore. B was dressed in torn jeans and on her feet she was wearing sneakers with big holes. She looked untidy-even dirty.

The two girls were sitting at an outside table playing scrabble. In the dream, A was busy assembling words such as good, quiet, polite and kind. Each time A finished a word, B would reach out and scatter the letters to the ground. Frustrated, A reached over and shoved B off her chair. B fell down, but dragged herself up and swept all the letters off of the table.

A then calmly entered a big white house and returned with a gun. She filled B with several rounds of bullets, stamped on the body until it was flat. Then, she folded the body into a square package and tossed it into a gutter.

When I awakened from the dream, I had no idea what the dream was telling me and made no connection of the dream to the Lilith article. It was several weeks later while listening to Dolores Williams, an Africa American Womanist theologian, speak about her “search for Hagar” (Old Testament Sarah’s Egyptian slave maid) and how this text became a powerful paradigm for Womanists that I began making connections between the article about Lilith and my dream.

I suspected that the legend of Lilith was a powerful paradigm for me. What were her characteristics that made it impossible for her to remain in Adam’s garden and why did I toss her in the gutter?

I told my sister who was a Jungian Analyst about the dream and she gave me an article published in The Quadrant-a journal of the C.G. Jung Foundation. The article was written by another Jungian analyst-Barbara koltov. The title of the article was simply-Lilith.

I only read to page three; my eyes were riveted to the description of Lilith: “It is said that Lilith has the form of a beautiful woman from the head to the navel, and from the navel down she is flaming fire.”  I had painted that picture many, many years before while attending a convent boarding school. It was Lilith. I would guess that the nuns tossed my painting as I never saw it again.

Reading further, I learned that the legend of Lilith, found in Arabic, Assyrian, Babylonian, Canaanite, Hebrew, Persian, Sumerian and Teutonic mythology abounds with her characteristics. She is the embodiment of rebelliousness and assertiveness. Lilith is instinctual, earthy, prophetic, intuitive, fiery, dark, a seductress, desolate and full of rage. She is powerful.

In the article, Koltov reminds her readers that the traditional patriarchal mode of dealing with such a counter-force that derives her energy from opposition has been to suppress-or cast her out. As my dream suggests, I took that part of my feminine nature, that part of me that wants to make trouble and cause chaos, and threw it in the gutter-out of Adam’s garden.

Is it any wonder? After all, there is ever in the consciousness of a small child the need to feel safe and consequently the tendency to deny or split-off what appears to be unacceptable. I am certain that as a child of a patriarchal culture, I learned early on that the characteristics of Lilith were unacceptable. However, sometimes our psyche urges us through dreams, meaningful coincidence and illness to exteriorate what lies within.

Several months after my encounter with Lilith, my body, through illness, presented me with another image that punctuated the repression of my rebellious and assertive characteristics. I learned that I had a melanoma near my right jaw. While under local anesthesia, I can remember that as I lay on the table and the surgeon made his incision, I had an image in my mind’s eye of my jaw as a channel lock-locked in a position of about one-third open. As the surgeon continued working, although I could not feel anything, it “felt” as if a pin had been removed from my jaw and I would finally be able to open my mouth fully.

It was at that moment that I knew that Lilith’s energy that had been walled off for so long was finally going to be available to me. I had been holding dear to false security for too long. Thanks to many meaningful coincidences, I welcomed that part of me, the part that I tossed into the gutter, back home.

It is still a struggle. But when I feel that energy-mostly my fiery anger with cruelty to animals (e.g., the hideous and unnecessary drowning of “pesky” beavers in Essex), the cynical and scandalous disregard of our military, the politically inspired obtrusion, aimed at low information voters, that there is a “war on women” and dopey academic elites who indoctrinate our children and grandchildren with the “joy” of Socialism and the ruse of human-caused climate change (aka, Global warming), I am no longer polite or taciturn.  To ignore those feelings would simply be an out-picturing of a once deeply embedded false belief that my full feminine nature is not worthy of my deepest respect.

These are a few of my hot-blood issues. I suspect that there are legions of women, particularly from the over-fifty crowd, who experience this brand of self-repression; the anger wells-up, the blood begins to boil, but the fire in the belly is quickly extinguished for fear of being labeled “bossy,” bitchy or aggressive. I say self-repression as it seems unproductive to keep chiseling and growling about our American men who made the mistake of also being born into a patriarchal culture. Oppressing them as we feel or felt oppressed is not the answer.

Old School feminists, who achieved much for American women, made the mistake of projecting their dissatisfaction outward onto our guys and launched a war on the men in this country. For the past forty plus years, there has been a concerted effort to demonize, infantilize, feminize and over-medicate American men and boys.

It appears to me that as long as we project dissatisfaction outward onto the men in our society, we are using a neurotic means of attempting to overcome the uneasiness of self-repression. Yes, we were born into a patriarchal culture as were our men, but the path to wholeness is to pay attention to our own unique inner-drama by listening to what our psyche is trying to communicate to us through dreams, meaningful coincidences, illness and that fire in the belly.