Many moons ago, I had an intense personal experience with Lilith: I became her, or perhaps, she became alive within me. In retrospect, it appears Lilith had been bubbling below the surface of my being for some time, impatiently waiting to emerge.
I began to delve deeper into the myths and history of Lilith. And yet, as I went further and further into the rabbit hole, searching for answers about Lilith, the more I came away confused by what I read. Accounts of her myth conflicted, some were mired in controversy, and others seemed to have been fashioned from goodwill and wishful thinking alone. With her stories scattered across thousands of years and dozens of intertwined cultures, religious texts, and folktales, coming to an understanding of Lilith is a daunting task.
Here I hope to provide a starting point - a prolegomenon - that the curious-minded Astrologer can employ as they begin to build a personal connection to the Astrological Lilith.
WHO (OR WHAT) IS LILITH?
So, who - or what - is Lilith? When we invoke her name, of what do we speak?
Therein lies the rub. Unfortunately, for the casual seeker in pursuit of an easy answer, the explanation to this question is not at all straightforward: the answer you'll receive twists and turns depending on who you ask. Lilith's place in history is problematic. Trying to nail down her story - her identity, persona, tales, and significations - is like trying to capture air with a fishing net; no surprises then, that Lilith's ancient predecessors were demons of the dust, wind, and air.
These liloth (Hebrew, for 'spirits') were a host of ghostly entities, including the lilin, ardat-lili, and lilitu, to name just a few, which emerged in the ancient Near East around 2500 BCE as succubi, vampires, night hags, and baby-killers. Sometime during the Hebrew captivity in Babylon (c. 600 BCE), Lilith begins to take form as a specific, defined demoness associated with but separate from her liloth brethren.
Lilith was not, strictly speaking, a deity. There were no temples resurrected in her honor and she enjoyed no ancient cults of worship. In fact, any amulets and objects created with Lilith's image existed to lessen her efficacy, not grow it, and in entire texts, she is intentionally referred to as a nebulous 'she,' out of fear that Lilith, the winged and taloned demon of the night, might be accidentally summoned at the mere mention of her name.
Myths, as Joseph Campbell noted, serve multiple purposes: some explain how the world came to be, while others impart moral lessons. The most noxious employment of mythical storytelling is the enforcement of social order. To that end, it is likely that Lilith and her mythical brood of demon colleagues were initially used to explain traumatic experiences of fertility like miscarriages and stillbirths; later, these tales helped to cement the restrictive Judaic way of life into the psyche of its followers.
Lilith became a warning to the women who heard her stories. Leave, and you will be exiled. Speak out, and you will be punished. If you challenge your husbands and fathers, the myths tell us, you ultimately challenge God, too.
If she was not the first feminist, as Lilith is so often called, maybe she was the first of another kind: a woman that was just 'too much.'
LILITH IN MYTH AND FOLKLORE
There are several myths associated with Lilith which act as the backbone to understanding her archetype. Most important of these are her appearances in the medieval work, The Alphabet of Ben Sira and the ancient Sumerian myth of The Huluppu Tree. While both texts are considered controversial for different reasons, they are integral to understanding Lilith's Astrological significations.
Lilith & The Alphabet of Ben Sira
Many first encounter Lilith in her starring role in an often-cited yet little-understood passage in The Alphabet of Ben Sira, which places her as the first wife of Adam in the garden of Eden.
As the story goes, Lilith was made as Adam's first wife, with both herself and Adam being fashioned from the soil by God's hands. Set down in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Lilith awake to find themselves in paradise. Except, that is, they cannot agree on anything. Adam claims that Lilith must lie beneath him - a euphemism for her sexual subservience - and further implies that this arrangement is appropriate, given that she was made from the Earth's impurities, and not the rich, red clay that begat Adam. In a moment of rage, Lilith screams the ineffable name of God, which only she knows, and disappears to a cave near the Red Sea where she cavorts with lascivious demons, breeding hordes of demon-children.
Adam is not so much bereft as annoyed that his help-meet has left, and so he sends up a complaint to God: 'Sovereign of the Universe! The woman you gave me has run away.' God agrees that this turn of events is most disagreeable, and jumps into action, dispatching three angels to negotiate with Lilith for her return.
The three angels find Lilith in the Red Sea, water being the trapping place of all demons, and ask her to come back; she refuses. When they threaten her with the death of one hundred of her children daily if she does not return, she refuses again. Lilith tells the three angels that she was created only to cause harm to newborn children, but promises that if she comes across an amulet or inscription of their three names that she will leave the child be. Lilith never returns to the Garden of Eden and spends her days plotting against pregnant mothers, newborn children, and men who dare to sleep alone.
That is where our tale ends, but its influence carried on for several hundred years before and after, with many amulets, bowls, and knives inscribed with the names of the three angels, and always, 'Out, Lilith!'
This story embodies the core of Lilith's story as it is most popularly known. What many have missed, however, is that The Alphabet of Ben Sira was likely never intended to be a serious religious text - it is satire. Although The Alphabet of Ben Sira was lightly adopted by a handful of Rabbinic scholars, it is not considered a serious Judaic text; some even consider it anti-semitic. The story preceding Lilith's describes how to kill a man using egg yolks; the story after focuses on how to cure a rather unfortunate character who farts one thousand times every hour. An earlier episode in The Alphabet depicts a grandfather accidentally impregnating his daughter in a hot tub incident. If one were searching for the ultimate feminist superhero narrative, this text would not likely be the first choice.
All of that said, the myth of an original, feistier Eve almost never fails to strike a nerve with the modern female reader. Lilith in this iteration refuses to disappear anytime soon. In fact, this tale of patriarchal comeuppance has inspired magazine titles, women's circles worldwide, and most famously, the Lilith Fair music festival.
Lilith & The Huluppu Tree
Lilith's other well-known appearance occurs in the ancient Sumerian myth The Huluppu Tree.
In the time before time as the world comes into being, Inanna finds a single willow tree - the huluppu - on the river bank of the Euphrates. Plucking the tree from the river, Inanna returns to her holy garden with the tree in tow, intending to grow it to a grand size suitable for carving a bed and throne.
After ten years, however, the tree does not grow. Inanna realizes that a trio of terrifying guests have taken up residence within her beautiful willow tree: a serpent sits coiled at its roots, an Anzu bird and its young perch in its branches, and right in the middle, none other than 'the dark maid Lilith' has built her home in its trunk.
This was all too much to bear for Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth. She cried and cried, but the serpent, Anzu bird, and Lilith would not leave her tree. Inanna asked her brother the Sun God for help, but he 'would not help his sister Inanna.' Turning in desperation to Gilgamesh, Inanna recounts her tale once more, pleading for assistance.
Gilgamesh enters Inanna's holy garden and using his ax, strikes the serpent, killing it. The Anzu bird and its young fly off to the mountains, and Lilith flees to the desert, those 'wild, uninhabited places.'
Now, the tree is ready: Gilgamesh sees to it that Inanna will have both her bed and her throne.
Some scholars have suggested this myth is a metaphor for the rising patriarchy's assassination of feminine, matriarchal power and its role in religion. When Gilgamesh kills the serpent (with his spectacularly phallic ax), they propose that he symbolically kills feminine wisdom and sexual power.
Others still have noted a connection between the bodily chakra system and the huluppu tree, whereby the serpent represents the kundalini coil sitting at the root chakra, Lilith the solar-plexus chakra, and the Anzu bird the crown chakra. Does Lilith represent a block in the system Gilgamesh must dismantle for the benefit of Inanna's spiritual progression? Does Lilith's anger keep the young maiden Inanna from accessing the powers of her sex (serpent) and spirit (Anzu bird)?
More likely, this myth acted as an instructive tale to women that certain sacrifices would be expected of them if they wished to continue to enjoy their positions of privilege - the bed and the throne.
Some now refute the translation of this myth and most specifically, the inclusion of Lilith, asserting that the original Sumerian text was mistranslated. It is possible that instead of Lilith as a specific demoness, the myth invokes one of her lil (air spirit) predecessors. Lilith is not mentioned by name anywhere else in ancient Sumer.
LILITH IN ASTROLOGY
Including Lilith in one's Astrological studies opens a dimension of themes which are not otherwise available through the traditional planets.
Attempting to work with Lilith, however, can be a non-starter for many. Even if you beat your way past the intimidating depth of Lilith's history, you must now decide which Lilith points to use and what they mean, with sparse resources to guide you on your way.
There are four Astrological points associated with Lilith: Asteroid Lilith, True or Osculating Black Moon Lilith, Mean Black Moon Lilith, and the Dark Moon or Waldemath Lilith. Some Astrologers only use one of the Lilith points in their work, which is often the mean Black Moon Lilith; others follow Kelley Hunter's suggestion that the entire area between the positions of mean and true Black Moon Lilith in a natal chart can create a 'Black Moon corridor' of influence. Demetra George, asteroid extraordinaire, has proposed that the three Lilith points (Asteroid Lilith, Dark Moon Lilith, and Black Moon Lilith, in that order) act as an astrological triptych, outlining the progression of Lilith's mythical narrative, whilst also connecting Lilith to the ancient symbology of the threefold Triple Moon Goddess.
While it's my opinion that all of the Lilith points can act as a gateway of inspired self-discovery, I must admit that I'm partial to the 'true' Black Moon Lilith as I feel its wild nature best reflects Lilith's uncontainable energy. To that end, I am indebted to the works of Tom Jacobs and Juan Antonio Revilla, who have brought the true Black Moon Lilith to its rightful place in Astrological study.
In my view, Lilith is a lunar heroine. If the solar heroes such as Gilgamesh and Hercules must vanquish an external enemy and save the day, Lilith as a lunar heroine follows in the path of Inanna and Psyche as she leads us to vanquish our internal enemies - and save ourselves. This is a test of body and soul, rich with wisdom and wildness; hers is a journey to the depths of the dark, rich Earthen core that resides within each of us, a place ruled by instinct alone.
Like the Moon, Lilith teaches the importance of death and eventual rebirth, or as Rumi once mused about the darkness of the New Moon, she 'teaches gradualness and deliberation and how one gives birth to oneself slowly.'
Asteroid Lilith (1181)
Asteroid Lilith was discovered in 1927; it is one of the many asteroids scattered in a belt of small objects between Mars and Jupiter. Though asteroid 1181 was not purposefully named after Lilith as we know her (it was in fact, named after a French composer, nicknamed 'Lili'), it has been adopted by Astrologers as one of several Lilith points in use. It's important to know that asteroid Lilith is also the only physical celestial object associated with Lilith. Asteroid Lilith's orbital period is roughly four years and four months, spending about four months in each sign.
With asteroid Lilith, we meet Lilith in the Garden of Eden as she rages against Adam's suggestion that she accepts her role as subordinate help-meet. Here, Lilith is unafraid and unrepentant: she is completely unconcerned with partnering and decidedly uninterested in compromise. Lilith willingly chooses self-exile instead of resigning herself to a life half-lived. She is certain of her value and ready to go to any lengths to prove to herself and others how deep her belief lies.
The struggle with asteroid Lilith is to move past the rage and into true power: while Lilith successfully flees an undesirable, untenable, and humiliating situation, as Judith Plaskow states, 'Lilith by herself is in exile and can do nothing.' Fleeing one's oppressor and claiming one's power may sometimes seem as if they are the same thing, but often, they are not. Asteroid Lilith may force us to wake up and smell the non-compromise, a necessary step on the path towards standing more firmly in our power. And when we operate from that space, there is no need to flee.
Some Astrologers have noted that asteroid Lilith may be connected with an activist mentality; strong Lilith placements in a chart can indeed indicate a vocal, upstart personality that 'rages against the machine' and takes it to the streets. As asteroid Lilith is the only tangible celestial object associated with Lilith's archetype, it's also possible that we may initially relate more easily with asteroid Lilith by house, sign, and aspect than Black or Dark Moon Lilith, which are more nuanced.
Asteroid Lilith's symbol was designed to resemble an upraised hand, an appropriate icon that easily connects with Lilith's rejection of Adam's dominance (a progenitor of 'talk to the hand'?).
Asteroid Lilith's themes: refusal, non-submittal, non-compromise, fleeing one's oppressor, fight-or-flight moments, standing up to power dynamics, active/vocal involvement in freedom movements, collective anger and rage, feminine rage associated with patriarchal suppression, the resulting emotional-physical-psychic ramifications of rape culture, sexual anger associated with sexual repression, the resulting dynamics from unsatisfying or hurtful sexual encounters, the wild, volatile sexual nature of women that finds little expression in modern patriarchal society, claiming one's spiritual connection to a higher power on one's own terms (as Lilith did when she pronounced the ineffable name of God), a man's raging inner anima, preferring self-exile to self-editing (even to our detriment), uncontainable rage that isolates.
Dark Moon Lilith
There is another lesser known point associated with Lilith called the 'Dark Moon' or 'Waldemath' Lilith (h58). The Dark Moon Lilith is not a physical object like asteroid Lilith, and nor it is a calculated celestial point like Black Moon Lilith; the Dark Moon Lilith is a hypothetical - but as of yet, unproven - secondary satellite to the Earth gliding somewhere beyond the Moon, hidden in a dust cloud. Similar to mythical Lilith, it is hard to pin down the Dark Moon Lilith, which has a troubled history of
discovery and loss.In the 1600's a Jesuit Astrologer believed he had found a satellite beyond the Moon, but later found his curious, hazy sightings were to be blamed on a faulty lens in his telescope. Though he eventually realized the error, he had already recorded his sightings and distributed an ephemeris amongst his colleagues; this same ephemeris was resurrected, updated, and re-distributed over 300 years later by a French occultist, who named this dust cloud-cum-satellite Lilith. Over time, similar sightings were recorded which matched the ephemeris, but it has since been mathematically shown that the existence of such a satellite is impossible. Dark Moon Lilith's orbital period is a swift 120 days, making its transits of each sign only ten days.
With Dark Moon Lilith, we have reached the place of Lilith's' exile: she has vacated the oppressive pretend-perfect garden of Eden in favor of the arid desert lands sitting next to the Red Sea, the 'wild, uninhabitable places' mentioned in the ancient myth of Inanna & The Huluppu Tree. For the Western mind, the desert is akin to death, but for the people who live in and among those shifting sands, the desert is a holy, silent place where one seeks spiritual respite; as Antoine de Saint-Exupery said, 'what makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.' Here, Lilith seeks exactly this: a deep, vast well in which to wash away her pains.
And yet, the desert is still a place our projections go to die: without flora, fauna, or the mirror of society and its infinite distractions, we are left with only ourselves.
Dark Moon Lilith can describe by house, sign, and aspect where we need to go, psychically but even physically, to reach this kind of release. All of us, in one way or another, hold an innate release valve for offloading the toxic inner material that builds up over time and calcifies within the psyche. Part of the process of working with Dark Moon Lilith is recognizing as we heal from our rage that much of what we have built up as our 'story' is an unhelpful narrative of victimization masquerading as fact. We may need to let go of our fantasy version of events to find peace. If we do not, we may find ourselves cycling endlessly between the rage of Asteroid Lilith and the self-exile of Dark Moon Lilith, forever finding the reasons for our pain in other people, and unable to heal its true source within ourselves.
Dark Moon Lilith's symbol is a circle with a dash running across it, associating the Dark Moon Lilith's with it's invisible (non-existent?) not-Moon dimension.
Dark Moon Lilith's themes: internal conflict, deeply-rooted psychic pains and wounds in need of purging, unconscious indulgence of shadow material, the need to meet one's demons, removing one's self from society to lick wounds and find healing, distorted thinking, fantasies of rage, revenge, and retaliation, being overpowered by the toxic subconscious, the need to sit with pain and see it for what it is, working through feelings of shame and indignation, one's experience of the Terrible Mother, the experience of the brutal, dead places within us and others.
Black Moon Lilith - True and Mean
Black Moon Lilith, which comes in two variations: 'true,' sometimes called 'osculating' (h13), and 'mean' (h21). Mean Black Moon Lilith is the more popular of the two and is often the default point generically labeled as Black Moon Lilith in Astrological reports online. Some Astrologers use both points while others have a preference between the two; my preference is for the true Black Moon Lilith.
To explain the difference between these two points, we'll need to clarify what Black Moon Lilith is and is not.
Sometimes, Black Moon Lilith is mistakenly called the Dark Moon or is referred to simply as the 'lunar apogee,' which is instead the point during the Moon's orbit of Earth where it is furthest away from Earth and appears smallest in the sky. Black Moon Lilith is something entirely different.
As Johannes Kepler famously discovered, all orbits are elliptical, and elliptical orbits have two focal points, not one as we may imagine. In the case of the Earth and Moon, where the Moon orbits the Earth in an elliptical fashion, the Earth is one of the focal points; Black Moon Lilith is the other focal point. This has been described as a 'ghostly twin' to our planet as the focal point has gravity and weight, but sits like an invisible sister to Earth.
If this sounds confusing, well, it is. Astronomers were not even able to accurately predict the position of this second empty focal point until the 1990's, and there is still disagreement as to how these points should best be calculated.
Due to the orbital impacts from other planets in the solar system, the 'true' Black Moon Lilith's position wobbles back and forth wildly, jumping in space unpredictably in a non-linear, catch-me-if-you-can fashion. Mean Black Moon Lilith is just what it says on the tin: it's the averaged out, buttoned-up, contained version of true Black Moon Lilith. Further, true Black Moon Lilith retrogrades back and forth, skipping through the zodiac, while mean Black Moon Lilith steadily plods along and is never retrograde. Black Moon Lilith's orbital period is roughly eight years and ten months, spending about nine months in a sign. Interestingly, this orbital period creates a symbolic connection with the Moon's Nodes, which have a cycle almost exactly twice that of Black Moon Lilith.
By the time we reach Black Moon Lilith, she has moved from being unconscious of her power and therefore overpowered by an external force (asteroid Lilith) to being unconscious of her shadow material and overpowered by internal forces, culminating in a purging of inner toxicity (Dark Moon Lilith). Lilith fled Adam (asteroid Lilith) and then herself and her deepest subconscious pains (Dark Moon Lilith); now, Lilith is ready for something different - she is ready to return fully to herself, in the conscious embodiment of her power and her pains. Lilith re-emerges from the waters of the Red Seas fully upright, rooted in the understanding of her body as the ultimate expression of her feminine wisdom. Sex is now a delight as a spontaneous expression of her instincts; partnership is now a delicious accouterment to the sacred inner marriage already flowering within her chest. Carl Jung said that Lilith was a 'shamanistic anima' that could help the repressed feminine reach great wisdom and understanding; if there is such a point to be found Astrologically, it is the true Black Moon Lilith.
And yet, as with all Lilith points, there is a challenge: Black Moon Lilith is often described as being 'cutting,' or having the same laser-like eyes of Ereshkigal, the mighty Goddess of the Underworld who splits men asunder with a knowing glance. Negotiating transits and happenings with Black Moon Lilith can at first be counter-intuitive: as she uses her cutting motions to detach us from what no longer serves us, our attachment response might kick in, wishing to hold on just a little bit longer. It can often feel like we are being pulled away from the things we want when in fact we are being sliced free from stagnancy and pushed towards growth. In the masculine, linear world of the West, this may feel especially problematic if we have been cultured to imagine life as a grand escalator which continually moves up, never stopping, never changing course. Integrating successfully with one's Black Moon Lilith may require giving way to a lunar mindset, which gracefully allows for an unfolding cycle of life, death, and rebirth.
Black Moon Lilith's symbol is a black waning Moon sitting atop the cross of matter, connecting Lilith with a lineage of dark, lunar Goddesses, such as Hecate, Ereshkigal, and Kaali, and grounding her lunar wisdom into our Earthly realms.
Black Moon Lilith's themes: radical, wild femininity that radiates or emanates from deep within, femininity as an emanation and not a projection that seeks to please, ruthless self-individuation, fantastically embodying the lunar/non-linear mentality, conscious and embodied power, sex as an act of divine creation, comfort in the state of ecstatic-orgasmic being, the body as a source of infinite wisdom and grace, graceful acceptance of what no longer serves us, achieving the sacred inner marriage of anima and animus/the feminine and the masculine, intuitive connection to our creative/sexual processes and their wild nature, swift identification of falsehoods in ourself and others, the ability to cut away at the falsehoods until all that remains is the essential, core, wild self - nothing more, nothing less.
This post, long though it may be, is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to studying Lilith and her significations in Astrology.
Lilith may come to you one day, as she did to me, in a vision. She may inhabit your dreams with her serpentine slithering, or you may meet her in the waking world in the form of a would-be oppressor. You may even find her in that place which reflects everything and hides nothing: the mirror.
However you find her - the 'when' being inevitable - I hope that you willlook past the immediate dust, demons, and death. I hope that you will invite Lilith in, sit her down, hear her woes; I hope you will see everything she is and is not, and understand how her story has been twisted throughout time.
I hope, too, that you will offer the same kindness to yourself.
- Lilith: Healing the Wild by Tom Jacobs
- Juan Antonio Revilla's exhaustive explanation about true Black Moon Lilith
- The Book of Lilith, Barbara Koltuv
- The Hebrew Goddess, Raphael Patai
- Lilith, the Second Eve by Sigmund Hurweitz
- Rabbinic Fantasies: Imaginative Narratives from Classical Hebrew Literature by David Stern & Mark J. Mirsky
- Jewish Magic and Superstition: A Study in Folk Religion by Joshua Trachtenberg
- Lilith's Cave: Jewish Tales of the Supernatural by Howard Schwartz
- The Great Mother: Analysis of an Archetype by Erich Neumann
- Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of an Image by Anne Baring & Jules Cashford
- Living Lilith: Four Dimensions of the Cosmic Feminine by Kelley Hunter
- Mysteries of the Dark Moon by Demetra George