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Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Daughters of Lilith

Lilith copyright  Shane Coppage
Lilith, for those who don't know, is a mythical figure from... well, just about everywhere.  The legends start with her in the Garden of Eden, where she was Adam's first wife.  She was made from the earth, like him, and although she was his partner - she bore him children - she refused to submit to his authority.  She argued that they were made from the same source, the same earth, and therefore they were equals.

Angry, Adam rejected her, and asked for another mate.  God then fashioned Eve from Adam's side ('rib' is a contentious translation) and bade Eve to be Adam's help mate, not his equal.

Lilith went off, in a high temper.  Or was banished: depends which text you read, and how you read it.  Her children were named illegitimate, fae, vampires, or demons; those of the shadows.  Lilith is often depicted as a temptress, a sly person, a poisonous woman.  As opposed to the woman who said 'No' to being told to what to do by her rightful master, the man.

Lilith, despised, slandered, seen as evil... represents in many of the myths and legends all the things women are not supposed to be.  Unlike Eve, whose problem was her very femaleness, her weakness, Lilith is a pain in the butt for being strong.  Eve gets sucked in by the serpent, to eat the apple.  And further, she could persuade Adam to it it also.  In some depictions, the serpent that tempted Eve is actually Lilith, removing all sin from male responsibility in the first place.  The serpent that tempts the weak woman, is in fact, the stronger woman.  Sin, falling from the grace of God, is woman's fault, no matter how you view either Lilith, or Eve.  So women must carry the burden on that original sin (the pain of child birth is often quoted as Eve's punishment for her weakness.)

The Serpent Lilith Tempts Eve (Sistine Chapel)
Eve is weak.  Like Pandora, it's giving into temptation that causes misery and pain to escape the box.  Lilith, however, is active: strong, powerful, treacherous.  Lilith is a protagonist.  She makes things happen.  Lilith's will, her agency, was the problem to start with.

So we have a wonderful dichotomy.  If you are a strong and rebellious women, you're a baddy.  If you are a true helpmate to the male, your 'lack' makes you weak and susceptible to persuasion to badness.  It's no accident that the eating of the apple allowed the children of god in the garden of Eden to notice they were naked (and thus make them cover up their 'shame').  Knowledge, is sinful.  Innocence, is ignorance and obedience.

I've been thinking a lot, lately, about being a woman, and a writer of horror.  Of how people still say things like "Gosh, how can you write horror, you're a woman?"  As if the dark, the darkness, the shadows, are only a male affair.  Despite the best attempts of our famous writers with vaginas, who have written horror in the past.  Despite the supposed march forward of equality.  There are still those who think that writers with vaginas should only write romance, erotica, children's novels, cook books and knitting patterns.  Apart from how annoying that must be if you are a writer with a vagina who writes romances, cookery books and knitting patterns (Hi Kathleen!), there is also the rather one sided view of such things.  It's not as is writers with a penis don't write such things.  Romance, erotica, cook books and knitting books are all written by men.   No one tells Gordon Ramsey he's less of a man, for writing cook books.

But women are still questioned about being writers of horror.  As if writers with vaginas should somehow conform to the Eve image: the helpmate, the other side, pulled from man, and only work on the touchy feely, 'female' side of life.  I don't conform to the Eve image.  I'm more of a Lilith person.  I write about shadows and darkness.  Both as a writer, a human being, and as a creator of female characters, I'm a Daughter of Lilith.

I have no problem with Eve, and her daughters.  I know women who do believe their role is to complete the male partnership in their life, and create a whole unit of family from which to move on, raise children, grow a world, under a Godly life style.  I have no truck with that.  Just like I have no truck with women who wear the veil to show their belief in God.  I just have truck with people - men or women - who insist that women are the helpmate, who require submission, and who think they can legislate woman's bodies and sexuality as being public property.  I am perfectly happy for women to choose to be helpmates, and to fulfill their roles as Daughters of Eve.

As long as I get to say 'No'.

As long as I get to say "That's not me."

As long as I get to be a Daughter of Lilith, and we get rid of all the nonsense about being a writer of women who say no, as being somehow not female.

Lots of women in fiction will pretend to be Daughters of Lilith.  They'll even think they are a Daughter of Lilith!  They spend a lot of time in the narrative saying 'no' 'no' 'no' 'no' but at the end of the tale, she falls into the arms of her lover, her protector, knowing she's safe forever.  If she fights through the narrative with her perky breasts and flawless skin, only to find her self in loving arms at the end, safe in the knowledge that her turmoil is over and she has finally found peace and safety... she's a Daughter of Eve.

If she's wondering how long the idyll will last, before life breaks back in and she has to get up and do something, she's a Daughter of Lilith.  

And she doesn't need to be in horror.  She can be in the romance, in the child's book, in the chick lit book.  I'd argue that Hermione is a Daughter of Lilith, as is J.K Rowling.  Although being a horror writer, I'm really interested in seeing other writers or horror, discuss their female characters in this Lilith paradigm I'm setting out here.

Characters can also be a little bit of both, of course.  Both Lilith and Eve.  Real people are that complex, so characters can be too.  But are the writers Daughters of Lilith?  Is Anne Rice?  (I'd say yes, based on Gabrielle, Lestat's mother, who simply goes feral.)  Is Bella?  I have no idea, as I've not read the books, but from the memes I've seen, she is perceived by some as a Daughter of Eve, happily giving up her all to her hero.  Is she?

It's a tricky business, being a powerful woman in a narrative.  Particularly in terms of being sexual, as opposed to sexy.  The Lilith myth has become a short hand for the Dark Women who is very naughty and sleeps around a lot.  Dangerous sex, but sex for the taking.  The dark power is part of her sexuality.  A sexual predator who just happens to be available.  The Woman Who Said No, reduced to the woman with the poison pellet in her pocket, and who shrieks "Yes, yes, yes, do it one more time!"  but refuses to wash the dishes.

We all have to wash the dishes.   No, really.

I'm not interested in powerful women in the narrative who are heroines.  I'm interested in powerful women in the narrative who are heroes.  And who negotiate the challenges of how to be the active person, and the woman, on her own terms.  Who maintains her sense of self and identity, despite her sexuality and her physical attributes.  She may enjoy them, she may not.  But they are hers.  

I'm interested in how writers with vaginas cope with the idea that horror and crime are 'men's genres'.  And how they cope with being writers of 'women's genres'.  It's about the writing, really.

I'd also like to see how Daughters of Lilith cope with being female - having that vagina.  How motherhood can be negotiated.  How sexual feeling and need is part of their own identity, and not the major defining element of who she is in the world.  How to negotiate an 'other half' and still be herself.

And, of course, how this can be negotiated regardless of gender.  Daughters of Lilith have to negotiate how they accommodate a partner, an 'other', a lover, a life... regardless of the gender of the partner.  

How to be sexual, and not a sex toy.  How to have power, and not be a hag.  How to be sexual, have power, and agency, and not be a barbie doll with black hair and a snake tattoo or a broken down old biddy with a twitch.

So, this is an open invite, for all writers with vaginas to sumbit guest posts to this blog, on Daughters of Lilith in written fiction.

I look forward to your early reply.


Daughters of Lilith

Female writers who write about dark female characters, strong powers, shadows, pain, women and their working through a world of struggle.  Women who strive to overcome.  Women who survive.  Women who find their sense of self, and maintain it, against the odds.

It's a stab in the dark definition, open to suggestions and corrections.

Edit:  A Daughter of Lilith is not a help mate to another person.  She retains her own agency, and requires that as an equal share, in any partnership.  Caroline Ingles in Little House on the Praire, is a Daughter of Eve.  She fully accepts and understands, and is happy with, being Charles's help mate  This does not mean she is weak, or unhappy.  Laura Ingles Wilder, argues and rescues her husband from bad decisions.  She's a Daughter of Lilith.  It does not mean she is not caring, and a good mother, or a good wife.  Just that she has a different paradigm.

A Daughter of Lilith can be any woman, in any type of fiction.  That's the point!


1)  You must be a writer with a vagina.  Unless you are Joss Whedon.  If you are Joss Whedon, you can submit whatever the hell you want to. 

Crass comments about how you have a vagina in a jar on your desk, or you own your wife's, does that count, automatically negates you.

2)  Submissions under 1000 words.  Must be edited and properly spell checked.  If you leave a mistake in it, a mistake goes out.  Simples!

3)  Up to four images.

4)  You must start with a small preface about who you are, what you write, and give links to your sites.  You may mention up to three works of your own.

5)  You may write about...
             yourself as a writer
                other women as writers
                    your own characters
                        other writer's characters

You may simply pose a question, with your own thoughts, and open it up for debate.  For instance "Is Jane Eyre a Daughter of Lilith?"  

(I'd argue yes, but I can see the argument for her being a Daughter of Eve.)

Daughters of Lilith posts will go out once a week.  
First Come, First Served.


  1. I don't have a story that qualifies - but I'm very interested in the premise.

    I wish you well and will keep an eye on this site.

  2. Saw your post on Twitter. I would call myself a daughter of Lilith, and I'm thinking about my protagonist, I think she is too, although there might be argument for the opposite. My fiction is "lighter" than yours, but there's a reason for that. I think I'll write about it.

    Thanks for this post. It opened my eyes in a lot of ways. And it made me laugh. I may call myself a daughter of Lilith, I think my husband might call me a hellion!