Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Looking At The Impact Of Symbols 3: Lilith, Babalon, Kali

(Read more Personal myth posts)

By way of another example of how symbols can enter and effect our lives, I wanted to touch on another fairly volatile image: Lilith, and the similar Thelemic Babalon, based in part on Crowley's drug-induced imaginings of the Whore of Babylon. (For those interested in exploring the psychological & historical history of the image, I suggest the book you'll find through that link.)

There are many interpretations of this symbol. As with all mythological symbols, she is a mirror; and it isn't my point in this post to follow its myriad permutations through time. Most to the point, her origins are not as a Goddess but as an air or desert demon. The distinction between Demon and God is somewhat in the eye of the beholder; it isn't so much a matter of power as of function. To quote a little from the Fallen Nation screenplay I've been working from, told by the present incarnation of Lilith in that script:
Women told tales of me...I would steal the men away from them. I would devour their children. I was an abomination. I lived inside mirrors to seduce the vanity of nubile girls. Can you imagine?
Lilith, the first Eve, has a positive element as a defier; she is another anti-patriarchal symbol. But to compare her to Dionysus, one might compare the Lust to Art or the Devil cards in Tarot. (Refer to the Book of Thoth.) In the terms of those symbols, her craft is most likely to lead to the Blasted Tower than any kind of immediate synthesis. Not even Lucifer has such a defiant nature. This is one of the things that distinguish Lilith from a "dark mother" symbol like Kali. Kali represents a synthesis. In Qabbalistic terms, you could say the entire tree is contained within her. In other terms, it is enough to simply consider the linkage of the womb and the tomb, of sex and death, of time and eternity. Kali may appear frightful from within the field of time, but she is a synthesizer. Alchemically, psychologically, synthesis is a process of union. Lilith is precisely the opposite: she divides, even seemingly without point. This too serves an important psychological / alchemical purpose, but it is often a destructive one. Perhaps synthesis is the result, but that is up to the individual. She certainly isn't going to do it for you-- she'll be on to the next mark. 

Enough with abstractions. My most obvious first contact with Lilith came through my relationship with my ex-wife. This was quickly became an intentional endeavor: our first music project together was called Lady Babylon. We changed the name to simply Babalon with a new lineup. Most of our music dealt with our relationship, and our relationship dealt in great part with our art, our dreams, and our magick workings. They bubbled one into the other. At a point I don't have any idea what meaning those songs had for anyone else, because they were so internally motivated; but there is no doubt, what we were invoking was potent, and it had teeth.

I mentioned in my first post in this series that symbols of these kind can actually obscure our genuine relationship with the person that evoked them. This was quite true with us, I think. I have the benefit of hindsight now. At the time, I couldn't make the distinction. In the process of bringing up such a potent, and destructive archetype, our relation ran constantly between explosive fire and torpor. I can only imagine that, whatever our conscious motivations in bringing such a symbol into our lives, we were truly yearning from a release from prior "karma." This is where her role and Kali remain somewhat the same. When the fire has burned everything to the ground, you are finally at a point where you can truly leave the past behind and begin anew- supposing that you survive the process with something intact.

That is very much what happened. The band and our marriage went up in flames. While I clung to the personal element, I was stuck in a downward spiral. All your attachments will be burned away, one by one, until you learn to truly let go, or there is simply nothing left. I eventually did let go, and, though many new trials have followed, I have become who I am today as a result. I very much believe that without having performed the working that we did - difficult as it was - I would in some way still be stuck where I was psychologically, still a child. In that way it was my initiation. And I think many Americans never get that, and are stuck in a kind of perpetual psychological limbo: not quite a child, not quite an adult. They yearn for an initiation, brought about by this symbol or another, but often don't even know what they're yearning for.

Dionysus may be a patron of sorts, but Lilith was my initiator. I bear her little love, but plenty of respect.

At this point - and I mean this quite genuinely - I am thankful for everything that happened. Nothing subtle could have helped me grow. It is only when nothing short of personal apocalypse can shake up the status quo that a sane individual would call upon a symbol like Lilith, certainly not with such regularity.

Maybe it's arguable if I was at all sane at the time anyhow, but I think the point remains. We got exactly what we were asking for from her, even if we didn't know the question at the time. So how could there be any misgivings towards Lilith delivering precisely what was in her nature? And as for our projection of symbols on one another, it's impossible at any rate to say which is which. I'm only driving at this particular point in the hopes of expressing to you that blame is only possible if we allow ourselves to be incredibly short-sighted.

Does any of this clarify for you what Lilith is? Maybe, maybe not. I hope so. But if you call on her, and it's heard, expect a confrontation with the Bardo, here on Earth.

I also mentioned in the first post in the series that I would be referring to Gods strictly as "symbols" so as to avoid the issue of their "reality." I'm going to have to continue to side-step that for now, though I promise you that if you pick up the Immanence of Myth when it finally is released (present guesses have it in 2011), it will deal with this issue quite thoroughly, in its way.

I'll leave you with a live recordings of Babalon performing. More free tracks are available on Perhaps they'll have some new resonance for you, knowing a little of the history behind them.


  1. Interesting post and I like the connections you make between Lilith, the Babylon project, and you personal life. Symbols constellate energy!

    I think one of the first known (written) mentions of Lilith is in the Sumerian hymns to Inanna. Lilith takes up residence in the roots of a tree that Inanna wants to use and scares the young, bright goddess of (at that point in the story) unalloyed goodness and light. Inanna meets her dark side, ie she incorporates underworld elements that make her truly whole, as her myth unfolds. The early appearance of Lilith prefigures this later development. Check it out. I actually did a whole cycle of posts on Inanna a couple of months ago at

  2. It's really a minor point, but there are earlier references to her than these... though it's true, her earliest "desert demon" forms weren't called "Lilith."

    There's even a bit on this in the wikipedia entry on her though I found Lilith The First Eve probably the best source in terms of the historic end of the symbol.

    I'll have to check out those posts of yours at some point.

  3. I have been, on and off, working to finish the half-created (by Choronzon East, aka P. Emerson Williams) album and accompanying media that revolves around LILITH.

    So far, I've had a difficult time getting to know her, as a current. There be plenty of academia surrounding her, but I want to get at the core.

    Oddly enough, though there seems to be a desert association, every time I get a whiff of LILITH I feel air and seawater and spirals and hurricanes, as though she and VSHILSHAVULISHEVILI had connexion.

    Might such associations change with time? How could they NOT change, when everything else does?



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