Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Religious Studies

Reader 1

Erin Runions

Reader 2

Oona Eisenstadt

Rights Information

© 2011 Lauren Kinrich


No demon has gained as much notoriety, recognition, or infamy in Jewish culture at the she-demon Lilith. Tracing her origins back to similarly-named demonesses in Ancient Sumeria, Babylonia, and Canaan, Lilith developed throughout Jewish history into a fully-realized seductress, succubus, murderer, and tormenter of men, women, and children. A well-known demoness during the ancient, rabbinic, medieval, and, to some extent, modern periods of Judaism, Lilith was associated with multiple ills of the sexual sphere including masturbation (or onanism, so named for the biblical figure Onan who “spilled his seed on the ground”), adultery, nocturnal emissions, impure thoughts, and bastard children. Her personality, focused as it is on these sexual ills, has remained remarkably constant throughout her 4,000 year development, a testament to her notoriety. Lilith did not spring, however, fully formed from the imagination of one group of people or in one particular place. Rather, a conception of the demoness slowly coalesced from a variety of ancient Middle Eastern sources even before she was integrated into the

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