Lilith (2008) 5x7x1 inches. Collage on book.
I hadn’t given a whole lot of thought to Lilith. But I had given her a little thought over the years and I never really understood how she and the Serpent were connected. According to Old Testament mythology, Lilith was Adam’s wife before Eve. How could there be a woman before Eve if Eve was crafted out of Adam’s rib? Well, apparently, God had another woman all along, and she was a free-spirit from ancient Babylon.
Lilith is also cast as an incarnation of the Biblical Serpent. So Lilith went from first wife to ex-wife to Serpent, and now I understand why. In Adam and Eve – though he knew better by John Erskine (Bobbs-Merrill Co., Indianapolis, 1927), Lilith outwits Adam in every aspect of survival craft, including love-making. Here is her take on bedding:
Lilith had built herself a shelter near the hilltop, a tent of broken boughs, a couch of green branches, hemlocks covered with grass. Adam was inclined to stay outside the tent, fearing a trap, but the bed lured him for a moment. He felt it with his hand.
“Try it,” said Lilith. “It’s not bad.”
He stretched out on it, very seriously. Lilith from her doorway laughed at him. She laughed deep in her throat and the sound was agreeable. He got up and joined her outside.
“It’s extraordinary,” he said. “Where did you find it?”
“I made it myself. Come and sit down.”
“If you don’t mind, I’ll stay here,” said Adam, choosing a smooth rock several yards off. She laughed again.
“How did you think that out so quickly?” he said. “For several days I’ve put my mind on it, but got no further than hay.”
“Oh, I didn’t think it out,” said Lilith. “The ground was hard, and I wanted something soft, the branches looked soft–so I pulled them off a tree.”
“I’m relieved to hear that,” said Adam. “It’s an elementary kind of perception, more instinct than reason. I’m for reason myself.”
“I’m for a comfortable bed,” said Lilith.
This cut-out book is an homage to Lilith, who never had to bear the shame of a fig leaf. I have used a mulberry leaf instead, a symbol of wisdom and patience.