“Don’t curse the darkness—light a candle.” Chinese Proverb
Our concept of the solar system is in a state of flux, and it’s a challenge for astrologers to keep pace with the discoveries and their significance. We lost Pluto as a planet, and Dwarf Planet Eris, who upset the apple cart, has an even larger mass, adding insult to injury. In 2001 an asteroid was identified which may be larger than Ceres, the first discovered. Ceres itself is now believed to be a “mini-planet,” boasting pure water beneath its round and icy surface.
Lilith is an enigmatic figure with multiple identities in astronomy and divergent interpretations in astrology. She is just as mysterious in myth and legend. Astronomically, Lilith has four distinct identities. She is a bright star in the constellation of Perseus, an asteroid in the Main Asteroid Belt, a controversial second moon of Earth, and an abstract mathematical point in space.
Lilith is believed to have emerged from Baalat, Lady of Gebal, at the ancient site of Byblos. One of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, The Lady, as she was called, was worshiped there 7,000 years ago. Lilith also appeared more than four thousand years ago in the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh, a poem carved on twelve tablets. Sumerian king lists identified Gilgamesh as the first king of the first dynasty of Uruk. Lilith was said to live in a tree with a dragon at the roots and a nesting bird at the top, linking her with intrinsic symbols of the sacred feminine which appear in cultures around the world. Gilgamesh chopped down the tree because the goddess Inanna wanted the wood for a throne. Gilgamesh killed the serpent and caused Lilith and the bird to flee. Lilith, like the later Cannanite Asherah, who was the consort of Yawheh, was nothing less than the Tree of Life itself. Mythically destroying the Tree of Life presaged what has happened to human nature and our sense of the feminine.
Lilith is also identified with Ki-sikil-lil-la-ke, which is sometimes translated as “Lila’s maiden, companion,” or the “beloved” of Gilgamesh. She is described as the “Gladdener of All Hearts,” and “Maiden Who Screeches Constantly,” which might relate to the owls who are her constant companions. Lilith echoes through the ages like the Crone goddesses from many cultures who guard the portals of life and death. As an archetype, she is similar to the goddesses Persephone, Hekate, Athena, Minerva and the Hindu Kali, to name a few. Lilith is usually depicted with owls, nocturnal hunters, which like serpents, are symbols of hidden wisdom.
To solve the problem of two contradictory creation stories, the Hebrew Talmud portrayed Lilith as the first wife of Adam. Lilith refused to submit to Adam as she insisted they were created equal and simultaneously. She left the garden, seeking her own way. God sent three angels to bring her back, but she refused. According to the rabbis, she was punished for her independence by being turned into a bloodsucking demon.
Lilith has been a popular subject in art, frequently appearing with a serpent, suggesting her connection to the serpent in Genesis. John Collier’s 1892 painting of her, embraced by a giant snake, is evocative of primal female sexuality. Sometimes Lilith is envisioned as a woman with a serpent’s tail. Lilith is believed to be depicted in a Sumerian relief, now owned by the British Museum, and acquired as a jewel for their collection to celebrate the museum’s 250year anniversary. Originally called the Burney Relief after its original owner, this priceless artifact is now called Queen of the Night. Lilith is depicted with owls, and having bird’s talons instead of feet. This links her to the goose-footed queen, Le Reine Pedauque, and suggests mythic links to the Egyptian Nile Goose, the “Great Chatterer,” who created the universe. Also included in this mythic stream are European Black Virgins, the legend of the Queen of Sheba, also sometimes shown with webbed feet, and the greatly diminished Mother Goose of children’s nursery rhymes.
Lilith, the Star
Algol, the second brightest star in the constellation of Perseus, was called Lilith by Hebrew sky watchers. Algol was named Ras al Ghul by the Arabs, which means “head of the demon.” The English word ghoul is derived from this name. Algol is an eclipsing binary star, a pair of stars which blink dramatically. When pictured in art, Algol, or Lilith, is at the brow of the severed head of Medusa, who Perseus beheaded in Greek myth. Medusa’s name derives from the earlier medha, which means “feminine wisdom.” Astrologer Bernadette Brady says, “Algol contains immense female passion and power.” Algol is one of the most powerful stars in the sky, and how this energy is directed makes all the difference. Algol’s Celestial Longitude is 26 degrees of the sign of Taurus.
Asteroid #1181 is named Lilith and orbits the Sun in the Main Asteroid Belt, a ring of rocky planetoids between Mars and Jupiter. It was discovered in February of 1927 by Benjamin Jekhowsky and has an orbital period of about four years. Some astrologers use this asteroid in horoscope interpretation where it is believed to represent relationship difficulties and how conflict is resolved. Its glyph looks like an upturned hand.
Dark Moon Lilith is believed to be an actual satellite of Earth, orbiting in a stationary position on the back side of the Moon. This renders the Dark Moon invisible except when it crosses the face of the Sun, visible as a black spot moving across the Sun’s surface. French astronomer Frederic Petit, Director of the Toulose observatory, claimed to see this object in 1846. There have been reported sightings by several astronomers, but the illusive Dark Moon has yet to be confirmed. Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon popularized this idea. The Dark Moon also captured the imagination of the famous astrologer Walter Gornold, better known as Sepharial, who created an ephemeris for this aspect of Lilith. Books have been written on the subject, one by the legendary astrologer Ivy Goldstein, and the Dark Moon is used by some astrologers who believe it represents the dark side of the feminine.
This facet of Lilith’s multiple personality is a mathematical point which is defined by the structure of the Moon’s orbit. The Black Moon refers to the Moon’s apogee, the point in the Moon’s orbit where she is farthest from Earth. An ephemeris exists for this point too, but there are differing opinions about the calculation and interpretative value of “true” versus “mean” apogee, as the Moon’s orbit is an ellipse rather than a circle. The Black Moon represents the feminine shadow, what’s hidden or repressed. The interpretation is metaphysical in nature, providing a deeper look at the dark side, the symbolic shadow of the Moon, where much is hidden from normal view.
The Black Moon is a deeper aspect of lunar astrology and is therefore related to the Moon’s Nodes, the points in the sky where the Moon’s orbital path crosses the ecliptic, or the Sun’s apparent path through the sky. The Moon’s Nodes have attained the status of planets in Indian Vedic astrology and have also been used for millennia in Chinese astrology. The Moon rotates only once on its axis during its orbit around Earth. Therefore, the same side is always visible to us and the other side is always in darkness, adding to the fertile ground of shadow work. Perhaps Black Moon Lilith connects us to what is unseen.
Dancing with the dark side
The word myth comes from the root word for “mouth,” as story telling was originally an oral tradition. Myths are sacred stories, and have been the way people transmitted their holiest truths, their understanding of our relationship to the divine, for thousands of years. Myths, legends and fairy tales, which contain principles and morals, are structured in the symbolic language of archetypes. Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung observed that archetypes, the intrinsic patterns of human consciousness such as Maiden, Mother, Crone, Queen and Princess, do not cease to exist if we ignore or devalue them. Rather, they become submerged in what Jung termed the Collective Unconscious, hiding underground and becoming strong forces which emerge in dreams, complexes or even psychoses.
Western culture has devalued, even demonized, aspects of the feminine for nearly 4,000 years, effectively pushing these archetypes beneath our conscious awareness. Serious scholars of myth have noticed that the tenor of the stories began to change nearly four thousand years ago. Symptoms of this shift in Greek myths included an increasing glorification of war, accompanied by a deteriorating value of agriculture and cyclical time.
Psychologically, in all her aspects, Lilith seems to represent facets of the feminine which have been suppressed. Her nature acts like a Multiple Personality Disorder where aspects of the feminine have been splintered, and some of the parts are now labeled good and others evil. How this shows up, individually or collectively, depends on the context. Lilith can be a righ-teous, avenging angel or a wrathful demon. Sometimes she is angry and vengeful, and sometimes she is empowered to regain her rightful status as an equal partner. Astrologers who use Lilith, in any of her forms, believe she reveals wounds related to feminine power in both men and women. Recognizing what has been disenfranchised is a first step toward restoring balance. One wonders what the fate of humanity might have been if Adam and Lilith had worked things out.
Lilith left the garden and subsequently her nature and uncontrolled power became feared and was declared evil. Lilith’s story embodies what occurred in myths over time as earlier goddess-worshiping cultures were eclipsed by the emerging patriarchy. Once the Tree of Life, Lilith is an example of how many powerful feminine deities became demonized. In modern times, as the pendulum swings back, Lilith has become an icon of feminine strength. Back to the garden
There were two trees in the Garden of Eden. Eve, created to replace Lilith, took the fruit from the other one, the Tree of Knowledge. She has been blamed by the Church, along with all women, for the sins of the world. Decoding the symbolic significance of the serpent, ancient and pervasive symbol of feminine wisdom, is central to understanding the deepest levels of humanity’s story. In Qabalah, the mystical tradition of Judaism, the serpent climbs the Tree of Life to return to the source.
Lilith’s fragmented and confusing nature in myth and astrology may reflect the ways our choices have fractured the human psyche, and she may hold a key which could unlock healing insights. Piercing the veil of Lilith’s enigmatic persona may offer modern men and women empowering energy that is much needed in today’s world. Some symbolists have suggested that the Age of Aquarius will be symbolized by gardens and the greening of the Earth. As human consciousness expands I believe we would all benefit from redeeming our separated natures. Integrating all the parts of femininity, including sexuality and the mysteries of old age and death, could make us stronger and wiser as we face current environmental challenges.