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  EDITOR'S CHOICE ARTICLES April/May 1999 Issue  
       
 

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The Dark Goddess Lilith
by M. Kelley Hunter

A female tiger. She is magnificent, powerful. We treat her with respect, awe. She can hurt, but we are allowed to stroke her. She is surrounded by a round enclosure, trapped. A number of male cats come in and rape her. She is covered in blood after the second attack. After, she is left encaged, her heart destroyed. Anyone who approaches her is met by a terrible, hateful, warning snarl. She is dangerous, ferocious, destructive, defensive. Why is one of such a royal upbringing led to this fate?

 
 

 

Thus Lilith entered my dreams. One of the dark goddesses, like Persephone, Hecate, and Kali, Lilith expresses the feminine power of the divine, creative life force. If we follow the mythological trail of these dark goddesses back in time to find the source of their darkness and negativity, we discover not only the possibility of a major shift in the collective human image of the feminine, but also some deep undercurrent of unease that needs to be acknowledged and healed in our personal lives.

Lilith first appeared in Sumerian mythology about 5,000 years ago. As "handmaid" to the Goddess Inanna, Queen of Heaven, she would gather men in from the fields for the sacred rites. In another Sumerian story, Lilith lives in the sacred huluppu tree that Inanna has planted in her holy garden, accompanied by the snake who cannot be charmed and the wild Anzu-bird and her young. These creatures are part of Lilith's untamed nature and have knowledge to give Inanna, who is not yet ready to accept it. So Inanna calls in her brother, Gilgamesh, to cut down the tree. The serpent is killed, the Anzu-bird and its family fly off to the mountains, and Lilith departs for the wilderness.(1)

This story may be the foundation of the most well-known Hebrew myth of Lilith as the first wife of Adam. According to one version of the story, Yahweh creates both Adam and Lilith from earth, but with one important difference: he uses impure sediments to create Lilith, whereas Adam has been fashioned from pure dust. Because of this, Adam expects Lilith to be submissive to him, but, claiming equality, she will not be put beneath him and flies away to lifelong exile near the Red Sea, where she mates with evil spirits and bears scores of demonic children. Meanwhile, Yahweh again tries to create a partner for Adam, this time taking one of his ribs and turning it into Eve - now she is a creation from Adam and not one in her own right, like Lilith. Myth has it that the jealousy and rage generated by Adam's rejection motivate Lilith to come in the night for her revenge, strangling babies and giving men wet dreams to sap their strength. Amulets were worn to ward her off.(2)

Another figure in Hebrew mythology is the Shekinah, God's Beloved, known as Sophia in Gnostic Christianity. She is the Wisdom principle, a feminine aspect of divinity.(3) Later Christians came to call her the Holy Ghost. I see Lilith as the "lower" Shekinah, the root of the tree that seeks sustenance in the soil, while Sophia is the sky-reaching branches and fruits. As the Judeo-Christian religions elevated the masculine aspect of divinity, they de-spiritualized material, sensual reality. The "lower" Shekinah became unclean, unholy. The Hebrews had infiltrated the Sumerian and Babylonian lands, where they became familiar with the Venusian goddesses Inanna and Astarte. These goddesses were celebrated as embodiments of love in a sacred marriage ritual between their priestesses and kings. In these cultures, as well as the Celtic culture, it was the goddess who gave the king his power through her love and special favors, but the cultural transition to masculine gods made these love rites blasphemous. However, the sacred marriage comes down to us even in the Bible, as Solomon's Song of Songs.(4)

This Biblical material was incorporated into a play created by Vermont's Dragon Dance Theater, which is based on the Sumerian myth of Inanna. I played Lilith, creating a character to give voice to my dream and to the pain of the female vital life force betrayed and suppressed, now to be acknowledged and redeemed. I blended material from my dreams, the Biblical Song of Songs, the Gnostic Gospels, and other sources. From this work I learned that Lilith is the Tree of Life, offering true wisdom rather than ego-fed knowledge. She may offer direct experience of wisdom if we can flow with her beyond our fears from the past, beyond our fear of the unknown, beyond even our fear of death.

Working with this Dragon Dance material for eight months was a profound experience that illuminated other facets of my life and relationships, luring me into deeper aspects of my unknown self. This creative work provided a way to process an inner and outer transformation that brought the recognition of some darker emotions, as well as more authentic action from my personal center, a more full expression of sexuality, and the clarification of appropriate levels of intimacy in relationships. It became clear that Lilith challenges both women and men to connect with their instinctive passion for life, for this natural force turns destructive when it is denied, unfulfilled, caged, or exiled. I still give voice to Lilith in the form of a dramatic monologue. The intriguing circumstances that occur whenever I present this piece continue to open me to her timeless mysteries.

Astrologically, there are three Liliths and you need three different ephemerides to find them. She doesn't make it easy. These include the Asteroid Lilith, found orbiting in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter; the controversial Dark Moon Lilith, said to be the Earth's second Moon by those who have claimed to see it over the last four centuries; and Black Moon Lilith, an abstract, geometrical point in space (see diagram *).

Asteroid #1181 bears Lilith's name and orbits around the Sun approximately every four years. I think of the female-named asteroids as aspects of the Great Goddess, and Lilith is one of the most ancient. The asteroid seems to represent split-off, demonized aspects of the feminine, the result of long-standing cultural projections that perceive feminine roles and attributes as shameful, untrustworthy, and dangerous. Our personal Lilith placement may show where we struggle with social judgments that define how the feminine qualities should be expressed in order to "fit in." These cultural projections define us, but are not us. Here we may not be seen clearly. A prominent Asteroid Lilith in the birth chart may indicate a person who does not fit the cultural stereoty pe, leading to some kind of exile from the community.

One woman with the asteroid on her Ascendant has a dark, gloomy visage and her straggly hair adds an unkempt look. She does not speak much and is uncomfortable in social situations. She lives simply in the country and works best in the outdoors. This woman could not and would not conform to social expectations.

The symbol for Asteroid Lilith is a stylized hand that signals warning, greeting, or blessing.(5) Perhaps it is how we approach her that will determine what this hand gesture means. In the classic book, Asteroid Goddesses, Lilith is described as signifying resentment and inner rage; she sets herself apart, flies into exile. She is fiercely independent. She refuses to submit to the assumed authority of another or to compromise her beliefs. Lilith asks us to deal with confrontation and issues of equality in relationship. Her asteroid ephemeris can also be found in this book.(6)

Some say there is a second Moon circling Earth, a mysterious dark moon that is only seen on rare dates when it is opposite the Sun or when its shadowy silhouette crosses in front of the Sun. Although its existence has not been verified, those astronomers who claim to have viewed it say it is one-fourth the size of our familiar Moon and three times as far away.(7) It takes 119 days to orbit Earth, about ten days per sign. This is Dark Moon Lilith. Supposedly sighted as long ago as 1618, this body came to broader attention through the work of astrologer Sepharial in 1918, and more recently through the writings of Delphine Jay, who also published an ephemeris for the Dark Moon Lilith.(8)

Like a dust cloud, Dark Moon Lilith absorbs the light into itself, a very different process from that of our Sun-reflecting Moon. Whereas the reflective Moon represents personal, subjective feelings, the Dark Moon represents a primal, impersonal, creative instinct that seeks identification apart from the physical and emotional realms.

According to Delphine Jay's research, the effect of Dark Moon Lilith is distinctly impersonal. When her expression is self-centered, she can be quite negative; when the emotional content is directed to higher centers, she enhances creative, mental, aesthetic, and even spiritual expression. "Lilith strictly symbolizes the objective thinking approach. Anything else is unsuccessful."(9) The Dark Moon position is where we must grow beyond our habitual patterns of our early Moon conditioning in order to remember the ancient exaltation of our true spiritual parentage.

Perhaps the most subtle and intriguing of the three Liliths, Black Moon is not a physical body but an abstract, geometrical point, like the Ascendant or the Vertex. Because the Moon's path around the Earth is elliptical, as opposed to circular, it has two foci, or centers, the Earth being one and Black Moon Lilith the other. We can also describe this point as the apogee of the Moon's orbit - the place where it is farthest from Earth.

The center of gravity between the Earth and Moon is inside the Earth. As part of the Earth-Moon system, Black Moon is a point or energetic vortex intimately bound to the center of the Earth. Within this context, Lilith is a twin to the core energy of the Earth, the deep heart of fire that feeds and sustains our bodies and the body of the Earth. The creative vitality of the Sun gives life to the Earth and fuels this central core fire.

As a centerpoint of the Moon's orbit, Black Moon Lilith works in relationship with the Earth-Moon system and with the Sun. As a second center of reference, she gives a sense of rhythm to the Earth, taking the dynamics of relationship beyond the personal Moon-Venus energies into more subtle dimensions that are essential to our lives. For this reason Black Moon Lilith has a strong impact on relationship dynamics. Representing the closest reach of the Moon to the Sun, she is also a reference point in our personal lives that brings us into relationship with the heart of our Sun-fueled experience on Earth, an emotional intelligence informed by the wisdom of earthy instinct. Since our culture has lost - even rejected, as Lilith was rejected - this kind of natural wisdom, it is more difficult to tap into and trust it. Relationships that carry the Lilith energy are initiatory, soul-to-soul meetings that open into a deeper center where personal and impersonal experience merge. Can we trust this energy that is unraveling our edges, tapping into such a deep well? Can we trust ourselves?

The Black Moon point is where we are lured into our more self-centered illusions for the purpose of purging negative desires, thereby leading us to the deeper truth within our hearts, the longings and yearnings of our souls. She insists that we feel through, let go, and surrender to something essential and transparent in us that is primary - the bedrock beneath the shifting sands, the passion of the soul.

In Unremembered Country, Susan Griffin beautifully articulates the essence of this core energy: "As I go into the Earth, she pierces my heart. As I penetrate further, she unveils me. When I have reached her center, I am weeping openly. I have known her all my life, yet she reveals stories to me, and these stories are revelations, and I am transformed. Each time I go to her I am born like this. Her renewal washes over me endlessly, her wounds caress me; I become aware of all that has come between us, of the noise between us, the blindness, of something sleeping between us. Now my body reaches out to her."(10)

Like the Moon's nodes, Black Moon Lilith has both Mean and True positions, and the difference between them can be significant, even up to 30 degrees. I understand that most Europeans use the Mean Black Moon. Of course Lilith can be Mean, but I think she is also True. In her True position, she moves very quickly - up to 6¡ per day - and retrogrades often. I will have to do more research before speculating on the meanings of these two positions. Sabian symbols are one way to start. For now, I propose considering a Black Moon corridor, using the section of the zodiac encompassed by the True-Mean section of the chart. For some people Lilith would cover a larger territory, sometimes even expressing through two signs, with transiting planets making a longer passage. Others, with a narrow band of Lilith influence, may have a more focused, intensified experience of her energies.

I find the three Liliths intriguing as a mirror of the triple goddess. Essentially Tantric, Lilith transforms energy to higher octaves. Her impersonal energy opens transparent areas of the mind, not clouded by the weight of collective judgment or the limitations of ego identity. The three aspects vibrate at different frequencies and open channels to clear and spiritualize the emotional body. Dark Moon has the fastest orbital cycle, like clouds passing across the face of the Sun. It represents highly individualized soul desires that are denied satisfaction on a personal level in favor of a higher expression of social and spiritual values. Asteroid Lilith is the most embodied Lilith, and signifies repressed elements, often relating to sexuality, anger, and assertion, that require full, embodied expression. Black Moon is an energy vortex that cuts through the veils of illusion with the sword of truth. Its orbital cycle of eight years and ten months correlates with the Moon's nodal cycles and has a similar karmic impact.

I have been working with all three Liliths in charts to discover how they work together to evoke this deep, dark, mysterious realm of soul. Much work is yet to be done with such new material, but what I have seen so far is quite provocative. Astro-mythologist Demetra George suggests that, although each Lilith contains the entire symbolic meaning of the archetype, each one may also represent different phases of her mythology, in which "the cycle of our Lilith experience is initiated by the asteroid Lilith, developed by the Dark Moon Lilith, and completed by the Black Moon Lilith."(11) I believe this is a good initial approach. Personal life stories will show the intertwining of the three with unique individual coloring.

I've learned a lot from my own experience. I have Asteroid Lilith in Scorpio on my 4th-house cusp. I associate this placement with memories of my mother, a Scorpio, muttering darkly under her breath in the kitchen. It is after cocktail hour and she is cooking while my father calls out instructions from the living room. This inherited, soul-damaging image of the feminine has haunted me in my search for full expression of my feelings and mutual respect in relationships.

I have Dark Moon Lilith in the 4th house, very close to the 5th-house cusp and conjunct Chiron and Sun in Sagittarius. During a New Moon eclipse that fell on this point in my chart, my young son died. The eclipse was conjunct his Sun as well. In earlier times, Lilith was known as a child-killer, her revenge for having had her own children taken away. In the Middle East, amulets were worn to ward off her danger. I had to face and give voice, again and again, to the guilt, emptiness, and release within me that was so deeply stirred by this death. This is when I first began to speak for the Dark Goddess through writing and performance. In another version of her story, Lilith takes children out of this dark, lower world and returns them to the Lord. I came to know my son's death as an initiation, even a gift.

One of my male clients had a fascinating Lilith encounter that helped to transform his experience of life. He has Dark Moon Lilith conjunct an Aries Sun and square Black Moon Lilith, Mars, and Juno in Capricorn. He often confided that he felt emotionally abused by his wife over several years of their marriage. One night he dreamt that a 15-foot scorpion emerged from her vagina, which prompted intensive therapy where he worked through what he called "a murderous rage." Inner visions then revealed the Divine Mother with many faces giving birth to a huge star-like egg. This new and healing female archetype transformed his emotional body, "enabling me to hold the whole," to delight in the "erotic, creative, juicy life force, beyond judgment."

On yet another frequency, and to leave you with a tantalizing thought, as Lilith would, I'd like to mention the possibility of a fourth Lilith. The star Algol in the constellation Perseus has a reputation as the most evil star in the sky. Most often envisioned as the Eye or Head of Medusa, Algol was also called Lilith by Hebrew star watchers.(12) Such an Eye perceives "with an objectivity like that of nature itself and our dreams, boring into the soul to find the naked truth, to see reality beneath all its myriad forms and the illusions and defenses it displays."(13) Lilith indeed. All the better to see you with, my dear.

Read Kelley Hunter's Lilith Monologue

1. Diane Wolkstein and Samuel N. Kramer, Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth, New York, NY: Harper and Row, 1983.

2. Barbara Koltuv, The Book of Lilith, York Beach, ME: Nicolas-Hays, Inc., 1986.

3. Ibid.

4. "The Song of Solomon," The Holy Bible, King James Edition.

5. J. Lee Lehman and Al H. Morrison, Ephemeris of Lilith, New York, NY: CAO Times, 1980. This is probably no longer in print.

6. Demetra George with Douglas Bloch, Asteroid Goddesses, San Diego, CA: ACS Publications, 1986, pp. 301-320.

7. For more details regarding these sightings, see Delphine Jay, Interpreting Lilith, Tempe, Arizona: AFA, 1981.

8. Delphine Jay, The Lilith Ephemeris, Tempe, Arizona: AFA, 1983.

9. Delphine Jay, Interpreting Lilith, pp. 13-14.

10. Susan Griffin, Unremembered Country, Townsend, WA: Copper Canyon Press, 1987.

11. Demetra George, Asteroid Goddesses, pp. 301-320.

12. Bernadette Brady, Brady's Book of Fixed Stars, York Beach, ME: Samuel Weiser, 1998.

13. Sylvia Perera, Descent to the Goddess, Toronto: Inner City Books, 1981, p. 32. [Editor's Note:

We suspect that all known ephemerides for the Black Moon Lilith are now out of print. The good news is that we've included a two-page, 20th-century ephemeris of the Black Moon's Mean positions on pages 23-24 of this issue (web page readers see links above.) The even better news is that a book entitled Asteroid Ephemeris 1900-2050, with daily positions for the four principal asteroids, Chiron, and both True and Mean Black Moon Liliths, will be released by San Diego's ACS Publications in May 1999. There are also two computer software programs, Solar Fire and Janus, that feature the Mean Black Moon, and the Win*Star program calculates the True Black Moon.

© 1999 M. Kelley Hunter - all rights reserved

Kelley Hunter has studied the sky as a professional astrologer, mythologist, and amateur astronomer for over 30 years. She was co-founder of the Roots of Astrology experiential conferences, which were held in Vermont for several years. With degrees in Drama and Depth Psychology, she has counseled and taught adult students at Norwich University and other colleges. In addition to astrological consultations, she now offers a correspondence mentorship program in the language of astrology. Kelley is co-author of the book, Astrology for Women. Contact her at P.O. Box 37, St. John, USVI 00831; 1-888-7ALTAIR, or kellhunter@earthlink.net

 

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