Monday, April 08, 2013

In the Name of Lilith

"We are equal to each other inasmuch as we were both created from the earth."

Lilith to Adam
from The Alphabet of Jesus ben Sirach

In the past few days, after I have learned of my unborn son's sex, I had been dreaming of suitable names for him and going online to look up their root languages, origins, literal meanings, and historical significance. I am talking about an English name, of course, since it is the language my brain speaks internally. I wouldn't even know how to begin giving a Chinese name to anyone, so I am going to just not think about it for now with the vague plan of hiring a Taoist priest later to divine one from the entrails of poultry for me. Or something.

So, I had a few in mind and after meticulously agonising on the worth of each, I eventually decided on one. I loved it. I thought it was perfect. For now, that is going to remain a secret between the missus and I until his birth (or until I think of a better one). One day, I will write about that name, but today is not that day.

However, in my quest to name my male child, my mind stalled and idled many times on the alternate reality daydream of having instead a daughter. Perhaps there was an absence of the weight of consequence in a hypothetical scenario, but I find that naming a daughter to be a far easier and more organic experience. There is no contest: she must be called Lilith.

I first came across the name (and the myth) of Lilith in Jewish folklore, from The Alphabet of Ben Sirach in the following passage,

While God created Adam, who was alone, He said, 'It is not good for man to be alone'. He also created a woman, from the earth, as He had created Adam himself, and called her Lilith. Adam and Lilith immediately began to fight. She said, 'I will not lie below,' and he said, 'I will not lie beneath you, but only on top. For you are fit only to be in the bottom position, while I am to be the superior one.' Lilith responded, 'We are equal to each other inasmuch as we were both created from the earth.' But they would not listen to one another. When Lilith saw this, she pronounced the Ineffable Name and flew away into the air. Adam stood in prayer before his Creator: 'Sovereign of the universe!' he said, 'the woman you gave me has run away.'

We all know how the story supposedly went from this little fan-fiction of the Bible. God would later replace Lilith with Eve, a woman created not from the same dust from whence he came but from his rib. Presumably, Eve had no problem with being on the bottom when the two grind groins.

Lilith was literally demonised in the subsequent parts of the story in Ben Sirach where she was described as a mother of demons who brings sickness to infants and God himself cursed one hundred of her children to die each day - all because she refused Adam's claim to superiority and ditched him because his fragile manhood is threatened when he's not on top when they mash genitals. For centuries this tale served as a cautionary tale for uppity women and warns them of the consequences of disobeying the perpetually insecure patriarchy. Lilith is the archetypal evil feminist and ex-wife.

Lilith John Collier
Lilith, by atheist artist John Collier.

I have seen many cases of expectant parents on the internet who are name-hunting expressing interest in Lilith as a baby name but fear the negative connotations. Me? I think there's nothing negative about it - what is negative are the people who are ruining a perfectly good girl's name by having antiquated ideas about womenfolk. I thought that she should be a role model for girls. She has her own mind and speaks it. She refused to be any man's bitch and rather strike out on her own than to submit to some whiny, entitled jerk-off. She does not even take shit from God. They are all qualities I would love my pretend daughter to have.

The semitic root of the name, L-Y-L (layil) in Hebrew means night. While night can conjure up images of darkness, danger, and devils, it is also a time of serenity and peace, of dreams and inspiration, and of secrecy and mystery. I put to you that have not known true beauty until you have witnessed the infinite star-encrusted dome of the universe in the middle of a desert on a moonless night as I had. Is it not praise to be compared to it? Shakespeare's summer day ain't got a patch on it, I tell you.

Unfortunately, I am not expecting a daughter, but to all of you out there who are, seriously consider Lilith - reclaim it from the religious pre-emancipation dumb-masses who consider women with minds of their own to be she-demons. It is a pretty name, and I think it's pretty awesome for a girl's name.

Namer of hypothetical daughters,
k0k s3n w4i


c3rs3i said...

I'll rename myself Lilith, 1st-of-her-line.
OK, maybe not..

Good story but.. tell us about his name already!
Alright alright.. savour it if you must... =)

ps: It doesn't really l33t well.. l1l1th? 1i1ith? L!l!th?

wifey said...

Come, lets make another one. Me on top :p

Was stitching a dress for our hypothetical daughter, project is incomplete & now, abandoned. Ah well.

mikewongaa said...

Your writings are good; makes me wanna start a blog of my own.

nicoletta said...

Mashing genitals. Right.

I was hoping for a daughter when I was pregnant :P Didn't think I could handle a boy. But. A boy I got. And yeah. SO MUCH NICER looking for girls' names; I had so many in mind, and absolutely no boys' names at all. Also, Julian doesn't have a Chinese name xD I just. Didn't know how to give him one. And his dad didn't bother helping, despite being fluent in Chinese.

Anyway, Lilith is a pretty name, yes. I suppose you'll be saving that for your next one, who'll hopefully be a girl :P

k0k s3n w4i said...

c3rs3i: Try 1111th. Also, I don't want to say his name yet in case we change our minds.

wifey: Lets. I'm not the one who have to carry it to term anyway. And I think our boy is man enough to carry a dress.

mikewongaa: I can't help noticing that you already have a blog of your own. And no one is good at writing from the get-go - as you can see right here, I have been practicing for years.

nicoletta: I seriously doubt we want more than one. As for mashing genitals, I was thinking, how many new ways can I say "bump uglies" and came up with that and "grind groins". "combine unmentionables" didn't make the cut, unfortch.

Terri said...

"make the beast with two backs"?

k0k s3n w4i said...

Terri: I was talking about creating phrases de novo. Using existing phrases always make me feel like I'm sending out store-bought cards for special occasions.