Lilith is a figure associated with Jewish and early Christian folklore, and is said to be the very incarnation of Lust. There are multiple possible origin stories for Lilith's own character, but one of the most popular story seems to be that she was the first wife of Adam. While God fashioned Adam out of dirt, Lilith was said to made from mire which made her especially fertile. The story goes on to suggest that she refused to be subservient to Adam because (as Lilith saw it) she was created of the same earth that Adam was — and was thus equal with him. When God denied this she proceeded to kill hers and Adam's children. This got Lilith kicked out of the Garden of Eden, she turned to The Dark Side and went on to give birth to countless numbers of demons with Asmodeus.
In case you're wondering, no, this is not grounded in Jewish or Biblical canon in any way (except, and only except, two items: (1) God is mentioned creating the first Woman twice, although the common interpretation is that the second is a more detailed retelling of the same event, and (2) A "lilith" or "lilit" is mentioned in a list of beasts in Isaiah 34:14—and given that the other creatures mentioned in that line are wolves and goats, most scholars are pretty sure Isaiah was discussing screech owls). The earliest known reference to this story comes from the Alphabet of Sirach, a probably satiric work dated around the 8th century AD, long after the stories of Adam and Eve. However, the character of Lilith would have such an influence in the Judeo-Christian folklore of its time (as in the Kabbalah) that it became practically an ancient example of Ascended Fanon.
While the Lilith from the Sirach was possibly a reference to Lilu or Lilitu, a baby-eating demon race from Sumerian Mythology, this was all forgotten once she was established as Biblical Fanon in Middle Ages. Later, in the High Middle Ages and Renaissance, she was often identified with the Serpent of Eden, which is why, for instance, the 'Temptation scene' painted by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel shows the serpent as a sort of snaky mermaid, handing the apple to Eve. Dante Gabriel Rossetti used this as the inspirations for his poem "Eden Bower," in which we see Lilith plotting to transform herself back into a serpentnote and spoil Eden. Originally, however, she was simply a predator demoness and mother of other demons.
Has been featured rather extensively in several pop culture works. Considering the legend about her relationship with Adam was written in about the 9th century A.D., Values Dissonance is definitely in play in regards to that particular bit of lore. Whether or not her turn towards evil was due to this is entirely up for debate. The Rule of Cautious Editing Judgment is likewise in full force.
List of tropes specific to this character:
- Adapted Out: The child-murderer part or her story is typically excised whenever Lilith is portrayed positively in media.
- A Kind of One:
- On Babylonian incantation bowls, lilith were a group of malevolent spiritual creatures, mentioned alongside hags and ghouls. Specifically, lilith were the servants of the demon king Bagdana and could be male or female.
- The Mandean Ginza Rba also refers to liliths, which fell down and did not arise, as a group. They are listed alongside amulet-spirits, idol-spirits, shedim, devils and thieves.
- Animal Motifs: Originally associated with owls. Later became associated with snakes due to syncretism with the Serpent in the Garden of Eden; nowadays, expect more reptilian than avian Liliths.
- Anti-Villain: Some see her as this. Being kicked out of a paradise generally tends to help your case, as does the fact that what she did "wrong" is nowadays considered to be a virtue (i.e. choosing freedom over being a slave).
- Characterization Marches On: Lilith first pops up as a kind of Sumerian demon(s) first, is later developed as a creature of a desert, oand finally undergoes a critical story change in the Middle Ages, invoking her as the first wife of Adam (that particular text might have been satirical'', with jokes and references to masturbation, but it was taken seriously by both Christian and Jewish scholars later on).
- Child Eater: Depending on the Writer. In the later versions where she is Adam's first wife she merely causes disease in his children and their children should they survive.
- Composite Character: Her character and role are a melting pot of influences. She clearly takes after the lilu (also called lil, lili and lilitu) from Akkadian mythology, demons related to illness, night and owls, but also has common elements with Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of sex and war (to the point the famous avian demoness from the Burney Relief was always believed to be Lilith, before scientists decided it was actually Inanna). Combine all that with the mysterious Biblical first woman mentioned above, as well as ancient Jewish traditions about how wasted semen gives birth to demons, and you will get Lilith as we know her today.
- Create Your Own Villain: Although really, God handing you the short end of the stick and then replacing you is still undeniably sympathetic.
- The Dark Side: Nothing else on the subject needs to be said, really.
- Demon Lords and Archdevils: Often, the more modern the story is, the more likely she is to be one of the top dogs. When the demon lords are associated each with a deadly sin, she will usually be the one representing lust.
- Depraved Bisexual: Recorded as sleeping with men... and Eve, apparently.
- Depending on the Writer: Lilith is a pretty flexible storytelling tool, and has been variously portrayed as a Child Eater, a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds, an Anti-Villain, an Anti-Hero, a fully-heroic feminist icon, and everything in between.
- Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: The Zohar says anyone raped by Lilith or any of the other three demon queens only has themselves to blame because they could only be overcome if they were too sinful. Lilith needed help from Naamah to overtake Adam at least but was able to take Cain by herself.
- Fair for Its Day: Her most widely known origin story was, once again, written in the Early Middle Ages. Keep in mind that women didn't have as many rights back then as they did even in the mid-1800s, so this trope is naturally par for the course.
- The Fair Folk: According to one of many versions, these were her children.
- Four Is Death: Kabbalah has Lilith as one of Samael's four demon queens, along with Naamah, Eisheth and Agrat.
- Horny Devils: Widely considered to be one of the very first succubus, if not the first.
- Mirror World: The Kabbalistic work Treatise on the Left Emanation has Lilith and Samael as counterparts to Adam and Eve only in the spiritual realm rather than the physical one. After Samael and Lilith end up sinning against God and are banished from a kind of paradise, they engineer the temptation of Adam and Eve so they will suffer the same fate.
- Monster Progenitor: Of the demonic lilim.
- Mother of a Thousand Young: Apparently is capable of producing enough milk to feed 100 baby demons per day. How she finds the time to seduce and rape mortals AND nurse 100 baby demons is never explained.
- Multiple-Choice Past:
- Some Kabbalistic texts cannot decide if Lilith started as Adam's wife or was a demon all along that came to Adam at night (her name is related to the Hebrew word for night) and preyed sexually on him to give birth to demons. The existence of this kind of succubus progenitors predates the "Lilith, Adam's wife" legend altogether and might have served as an inspiration for Lilith.
- Lilith is counted in Kabbalistic Zohar as one of the four angels of prostitution, that is, Samael's demon queens. This seems to imply she is a spirit and not a woman-turned-devil in this version, although some have interpreted she might retain her origin while the other three are straight spirits. The author of the Zohar, Moses de Leon, was aware of her contradictory origin stories.
- Name's the Same:
- By the 1990s scholars such as David Noel had come to the conclusion that the Mesopotamian Lilu and Lilitu and the Jewish Lilith were originally considered to be different entities. Lilu and Lilitu were sometimes plural forms of male and female spirits whose behavior varied between individuals while Lilith was usually a single figure (but, not without dispute though, Lilith could be plural too sometimes).
- It should be noted that while there are texts about a Jewish demon, the closest reference to Lilith in Bible canon is liyliyth, which is in a list of various kinds of animals.
- The Treatise on the Left Emanation blurs things even more by having two different entities named Lilith, one being a major fallen angel and the other being a lesser demon.
- Original Man: An odd case, being the original half of the species but legends suggesting she was Adam's first wife suggest the differences between men and women were originally much more pronounced than they are now.
- Our Demons Are Different: In this case, was possibly the first woman before going bad.
- Our Vampires Are Different: Some versions have depicted her as a vampire rather than a demon.
- Pseudocanonical Fic: An interesting example, in that whether the original work which declared her Adam's first wife was meant to be a raunchy Satire/Stealth Parody or an unintentionally erotic Anvilicious morality tale, it still managed to somehow get away with quite a bit of sex and borderline heresy by not quite contradicting scripture and invoking at least the pretense of a morality tale.
- Psycho Ex-Girlfriend: Originally Adam's first wife, but turned evil afterwards.
- Psycho Prototype: She can be considered a failed prototype of Eve.
- Quirky Miniboss Squad: The Zohar states Lilith is one of Samael's four wives, who are fallen angels who prostitute themselves. They are not above forcing themselves on unwilling men and every successful child they bear with a mortal becomes new plague against mankind.
- Snakes Are Sexy: Due to her identification both with sexuality and the Serpent of Eden, and her seduction of both Adam and Eve.
- Straw Feminist: She's portrayed as evil because she refused to be subservient to Adam.
- Toilet Seat Divorce: Adam has her kicked out of the garden because she wanted to be on top while they had sex (other accounts say she was the one who decided to leave).
- Unholy Matrimony: According to some versions of the legend, she's the favorite wife of Satan (who, naturally, not only doesn't mind her sleeping with mortals, but actually encourages her to do so).
- Values Dissonance: The most popular origin story was penned when women were still very much subservient to men. Should the story have been written down in the late 20th century, she would have gotten a pat on the back for being rather independent.