Bad Girl: The Power of the Lilith Archetype

Takiyasha-hime, the sorceress, is shown carrying a sword in one hand, a bell in the other, and a torch in her mouth; the toad, her familiar, is shown in the inset with her father, Taira no Masakado. She shares the qualities of defiance, Self-confidence, and acceptance of darkness that Lilith does. Illustration by Toyohara Chikanobu 1884 {{PD}}

Lilith is an attractor—it’s one of those qualities we almost hate to recognize in her, as it’s so much easier to call her a bad girl; we’re much more comfortable dismissing her as a problem, rather than recognizing that there are things about her that draw us to her, things we might like to have or be ourselves. She is said to sleep with demons—but isn’t that what a patriarchy that had been defied would say about the one who defied it? It’s undeniable that her dark qualities have a hypnotic pull; she is the shadowy alley we enter, the deep beyond the cliff’s edge that tempts us to step over, the lightless closet into which we reach, because we want to know. That was said to be Eve’s sin, a desire to know; it’s also said that Lilith returned to the Garden of Eden as the serpent who famously offered the Apple of Knowledge to Eve, hesitant, I-came-from-the-rib-not-made-of-an-equal-portion-of-creation-‘dust’-as-was-his-first-wife. Lilith is something more: she’s the woman (or the anima in men) that knows who she is: an equal to anyone else, in that most important sense of the word, the one describing our equality at the level of our basic humanity—and by seeing herself as equal, she succeeds in claiming equal rights, she succeeds in claiming the right to know, and asks permission from no one to do so.

She is said to steal (and steal the life from) sleeping babies—and though I haven’t heard this specific connection anywhere else, that made me think she may rule SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and other ‘mysterious’ childhood deaths. Roman myth blames her for miscarriages and stillbirths; in that culture her figure seems to have been drawn from the Greek Lamia, a Lilith-like figure who gave birth to a class of child-stealing demons. The Romans also cast this Lilith-figure as the daughter of Hekate, with Hekate sometimes sending her daughter’s demon offspring to haunt travelers on the road (remember, Hekate is the wayshower, the one who stands at the crossroads and oversees travelers). In all the stories, no matter their cultural origin, Lilith is described as a demonic (or demon-associating) figure that drains the blood of men—this probably makes her the source of the succubus legends of the medieval era.

Lilu means ‘spirit’ in Akkadian, the ancient language of Mesopotamia, and the male lili and female lilitu are found in Babylonian incantation texts, while later legends speak of the vardat lilitu, the ‘maiden spirit’, which compared closely to the stories of Lilith found in the Talmud. So, we can reasonably extrapolate that many cultures share the idea of a Lilith-like figure that carries the culture’s patriarchal slant on the empowered woman as bringer of havoc and death, and that is portrayed as one who takes life or the life-blood of human beings against their Will—again, with an emphasis on her compelling, even irresistible, nature.

The association of Lilith with sex is, I think, almost inadvertent; it seems that in any culture that wants to control behavior, certain fears are invoked, and linking sex and death is one of the most basic ways to tie together a primal urge with a primal fear, in the hope of preventing free sexual expression—so when characterizing Lilith in a patriarchal society where defiance is the worst crime, and death treated as the ultimate punishment, equating defiance with death brings sex along for the ride, so to speak. It’s worth noting, though, that the ‘crime’ the Lilith of the Garden of Eden is charged with, just after her insistence on equality and her banishment, is sex with demons. Sounds to my mind much more like a smear campaign than anything else, where all the cultural taboos are pinned to those figures whose behavior most threatens cultural stability (and so the power elite).

‘Lilith’ John Collier 1887 {{PD}}

Which brings to mind the question, what is Lilith’s real power? In demanding equality she became a screen for projection of all that the social sphere deemed undesirable—and so Lilith may speak much more of the power others attribute to those things they think they are not. She is a catch-all for everything deemed ugly and wrong, everything termed degrading to the feminine ideal within a culture. But with high Self-esteem as her hallmark, the source of her compelling and attractive nature may lie within us: she is an attractor because she has declared herself free and equal in a way we all desire to be, as well.

I considered using as our example the Countess Bathory, about whom I’ve written before, and the ‘witches’ tried in Salem; both received projections based in equal parts fear of these women’s potential, real-world power and the need to see evil ‘out there’. The Countess was charged with bathing in the blood of virgins in order to remain youthful, though I think it was more about the death of her husband, her rulership of a prime piece of real estate, her army, and her refusal to marry any of the local nobles. The ‘witches’ showed possibility as good examples both as victims of mass hysteria and of Lilith-like charges such as flying through the night, consorting with demons, and sucking the life from babies in their cradles, but accurate birth info is almost non-existent.

Finally I decided to look at someone history has of late reconsidered: Lucrezia Borgia (18 April 1480 ntk Subiaco Italy OR 19 April 1479 12:30 PM Sobiaco Italy) has been type-cast through the centuries as a Lilith-like woman: a political machinator, poisoner, and power-mad to her dying breath—but in modern times we’ve come to believe she was likely more of a pawn of her powerful and wealthy family than a schemer herself. Her name was at one time code for a woman who would do anything to get what she wanted. Here again we have the example of the woman scapegoated, this time possibly by her own family, asked to carry the projection of their misdeeds.

There are two proposed dates: the 18th is the commonly accepted date, while the 19th is proposed by AstroDataBank, with the 18th in 1480, the 19th 1479. The reasoning for the time of birth as about 12:30 PM was sound to me, but the source for the contradictory date of the 19th didn’t strike me as reliable—the author made strenuous objection to material written by contemporaries of the Borgias, and that seems unsound, especially considering this individual (R. Sabatini) has a birth year of 1875!—so could not possibly have firsthand knowledge, and in this kind of situation, that’s really all I can go on. So, I chose 18 April 1480 at 12:30 PM, from a contemporaneous account of the birth. This chart also to my mind fits the modern idea of Lucrezia as more of a victim than a perpetrator, with a wide conjunction of Chiron, Venus, and Black Moon Lilith in Pisces in the 8th; that’s a recipe for receiving the projections of others, for being seen as a wounder, greedy, evil, ruthless, as using relationships and resources to harm, labels awarded just for behaving in ways contrary to the Renaissance female ideal.

This cluster in Pisces is opposed Lucrezia’s retrograde Saturn, pitting her against the establishment—and Black Moon Lilith is out-of-sign opposed to her retro Pluto, suggesting that her behavior as a woman (conjunction to Venus) takes a Lilith-tinge as she is pitted against Power in its most compelling form. If the birth time is right (or even close to it) this places Pluto in the 3rd, implying that the local environs were swarming with Plutonian figures—and it makes Pluto ruler of the 4th of family.

This portrait is of Lucrezia Borgia, but it is found in many versions; in some she holds flowers rather than a cross (or as in this one, a combo cross-stiletto, Renaissance efficiency in a nutshell!) one breast is exposed, and the necklace and headpiece vary. I liked this necklace, as a serpent is so Lilith-projection-like.

Also notable are the conjunction of Zeus (ambition), Vesta (what’s sacred, home and mate), and probably the Moon, all in Leo in the 1st but above the Whole Sign Ascendant, suggesting lessons of honoring the ambitions and family were likely inculcated early, through the unconscious, carried there, reinforcing conscious behavior and attitudes along these same lines. Her 10th House Taurus Sun squares this grouping, supporting the idea that these attitudes were taught, not innate, while Neptune-Juno-Uranus conjunct and all retrograde in Sag in the 5th imply knowledge was seen as a creative tool, used to empower and perhaps to deceive or gain advantage by surprise.

Mars is also in Sag in the 5th, stationary retrograde, ruling the 9th. With a Pope for a father (Alexander VI) this could point to the way her actions were controlled by the Pontiff and Church; it could also, along with Neptune-Juno-Uranus, describe how sex and romance (Mars/ 5th), if we can call it that, involved in her three marriages, all arranged by her father/ family/ church (9th), may have played out. Certainly, having children (the 5th) gave her what power (Juno) she had, as did her beauty (seen as an asset by others—Neptune rules the 8th). After eight difficult pregnancies (the difficulty suggested by the stationary retro Mars, Uranus, and Neptune) she died from complications suffered during the last birth, in 1519, at the age of 39. Black Moon Lilith is also body of latest degree in this chart, which is a strong argument for her being perceived as a Lilith-like Being, as defined by the cultural definition of Lilith, rather than the one we’re discussing here, where she receives projections for her independent stance.

The other potential chart, for 19 April 1479, seems to describe a woman who is more like the vengeful, duplicitous figure we’ve come to know in popular culture: the Sun-Venus conjunction in Taurus in the 10th fits a beautiful woman known for that beauty, and the Sedna-BML conjunction square the Midheaven from the 7th suggests others might’ve seen her as a powerful Lilith figure, in touch with instinct and dark urges—but from her point of view, she may have seen those qualities in others, rather than herself. The biggest piece of the puzzle that doesn’t fit, to my way of seeing things, is the Saturn-Pallas-Juno-Pluto conjunction in the 2nd in Virgo; all bodies are retrograde except for Pallas, which is stationary retro. This could describe a tremendously powerful individual—or one whose natural wisdom, power, and skills are repressed, with this latter especially likely if she lacked material power, which she did. Reinforcing this idea is Zeus all on his lonesome in the 1st but above the horizon, sextile Jupiter (she might only realize ambitions through the social sphere)—and this contradicts the 2nd House stellium, if she’s seen as the actively scheming woman of legend. That chart also has Jupiter (the social sphere) opposed her 5th House Uranus-Neptune, negating the role those difficult pregnancies and births served for her publicly. Though there’s much to be said for this chart, it doesn’t convince me as the one for 1480 does.

What have we discovered about the ‘real’ Lilith? That she’s a ‘bad girl’, but only if you are a supporter of the patriarchy, if you don’t believe in equal rights for all, and if you fear a woman’s true depth of expression, including her sexuality. The glyph for Black Moon Lilith is a dark crescent Moon with a cross beneath.