The Mother of All Monsters

26 Nov

Those of you who watched the most recent series of TV show Supernatural may or may not have realised that the season’s ‘Big Bad’ Eve (the so-called ‘Mother of All’ monsters) is based on one of the world’s most ancient, pervasive and terrifying myths. Just as the belief in a ‘Divine Feminine’ is common to many religions and mythological systems, so a corresponding belief in an all-powerful dark goddess or female spirit of evil can be found in almost every culture. There is the vile child of Loki, Hel, who rules the Norse underworld; the demon goddess Tiamat from Sumerian mythology; the vampiric Lamia from the myths of the Greco-Roman world; The Morrigan, a female Celtic harbinger of doom; the bloodthirsty Hindu goddess Kali; and Christianity, Judaism and Islam all refer to the monstrous Lilith, mother of demons.

Lilith is perhaps the darkest and most terrifying character referred to above and the earliest references to her are in Babylonian texts almost three thousand years old. She is commonly believed to have been Adam’s first wife, created from the same earth as him rather than from one of his ribs, like his second wife Eve. Supposedly, Lilith left Adam after she refused to become subservient to him and then would not return to the Garden of Eden after she mated with the archdemon Sammael. Since then she has appeared as the shape-changing adversary of the Mesopotamian hero Gilgamesh and was venerated by demon-worshipping Shedim cults who regularly practised human sacrifice during the Dark Ages. There is an ongoing scholarly debate as to whether the concept of Lilith occurs in the Bible but what is known is that she is referred to explicitly in the Dead Sea Scrolls, which warn that she is a presence that may tempt men into damnation. The two primary characteristics seen in the legends about Lilith are that she is the incarnation of lust, causing men to be led astray, and, even more disturbingly, that she kidnaps and kills children. She is also strongly associated with black magic and the more destructive side of witchcraft.

There are many similarities between Lilith and the Greco-Roman myth of Lamia, who was also a child-stealing demon goddess. She has different, conflicting origins and is described in Classical mythology as having a human body from the waist up and a serpentine body from the waist down. Lamia is often regarded as the Queen of the Damned – the mother of vampires and succubi – with an insatiable sexual appetite and an unquenchable thirst for blood. Despite all of this Lamia is sometimes seen as a figure deserving sympathy as she was only turned into a monster by her grief at the discovery of her dead children, who had been killed by the goddess Hera in revenge for Lamia sleeping with her husband Zeus. This theme of vengeance for the sins of men or male gods is common to Lilith and Lamia’s fellow dark goddesses The Morrigan, Kali and Hel.

Altogether different is Tiamat, a primordial chaos monster and mother of both gods and demons. Unlike the other goddesses referred to above Tiamat is almost never depicted in any form even approaching human but instead as a serpent, dragon or other monster. Not strictly evil as such, Tiamat is the embodiment of primal chaos and is both unpredictable and untamed. Whilst she is a powerful enemy, she is believed to be benevolent to those who worship her, that is as long as they give themselves to her completely – body, mind and soul. Although the myth of Tiamat relates that she made war upon all the other gods at the beginning of time and was slain, still her spirit lives on, too powerful to be vanquished, and is constantly straining to shake the foundations of the earth and shatter the pillars of creation.

As the old saying goes ‘Hell hath no fury…’!

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4 Responses to “The Mother of All Monsters”

  1. poemsandponderings November 26, 2011 at 3:00 pm #

    Ah, thank you. On the TV show “Cheers”, Lilith was ‘Frasier’s’ wife and I tip my hat to the writers of that show, I had no idea of the reference to a demonic feminine spirit. How clever of them. Again, thank you for this bit of enlightenment.

    • anilbalan December 2, 2011 at 7:57 am #

      Yes, ‘Frasier’ was always one of the cleverest sitcoms!

  2. Raymond Frazee November 27, 2011 at 1:43 pm #

    Lilith is one of my favorite characters. It’s amazing as to how, by not playing submissive to her “husband”, she ended up “sleeping around” and brought about a universal of badness. I’m surprised she’d not used as a warning more these days.

    • anilbalan December 2, 2011 at 7:57 am #

      A really interesting point, thanks

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