The Lilith Lines

Lilith by Tom Bagshaw

I think of Lilith’s influence as ancestral lines, or mother-lines, coiling threads of black light through time and space… serpentine movement in the spirals of our DNA swimming in deep waters far below conscious awareness.

Every once in a while I feel her hot breath as I wrestle in feverish sleep, trapped memories trying to break free from frozen tissue.  I call out to her. I try to talk with her, to hear her, make her listen, tell her to come home…  but I make no sound save for a few incoherent mutterings and groans.

Like Ereshkigal deep in her kingdom of darkness, Lilith is uncompromising and demands sacrifice… the sacrifice of the false self.

Sometimes it seems that I need only follow her across the threshold to the liminal space where she dwells. I set out, holding onto the line that she has cast to me from the other side where all the lost souls and unborn babies roam… a world created from the abandoned memories that refuse to be silenced.

In 2016 Lilith gate-crashed my life in an uncanny way. It was September 11th and I was thinking about what to wear to a friend’s 50th birthday party. The invitation was enticing… “Come as your higher self”. I was filled with romantic images of floaty white dresses, angel wings, and perhaps a sprinkling of celestial glitter. Possessing no such things in my wardrobe, I headed to the fancy-dress shop located conveniently a street from my house. There indeed I found lovely angels’ wings, bright white gossamer feathers wrapped in plastic. Just as I was about to purchase the wings, I caught sight of other wings tucked at the back of the rack… shiny black ones that suddenly felt far more exciting than angelic white. And then it hit me- I would go as Lilith!

And so, among the halos and priestly white robes, Lilith and I sipped wine with the saints, dressed in black lace and racy animal prints, fluttering velvet black wings, and feeling just a bit wicked.

Although this may seem like a random event, as these things go, symbolically it happened to be very significant…

A few weeks later I became curious about why I had a sudden urge to dress as Lilith. I looked up the astrology, and lo-and -behold- on that day Black moon Lilith was exactly conjunction my natal Sun at 17 degrees Capricorn.

I was already aware of the mythology of Lilith… Adam’s feisty first wife, the demonic seductress, succubus, child-killer…  I was aware too of the Lilith points in astrology- not one point but several points indicating how indefinable and uncategorised her archetype is. But since that day my relationship with Lilith opened to a deeper level and I came to understand that she represents the exiled feminine as it exists in each individual and in society.

I knew I had black moon Lilith (true and mean on the same degree) conjunct my natal moon, Uranus and IC, but what I didn’t know is that my grandmother also has Black Moon Lilith (true and mean on the same degree) conjunct her moon too.

More… my grandmother’s asteroid Lilith is conjunct my ascendant by one degree, and her dark moon Lilith is exactly conjunct my Black Moon Lilith- Moon-Uranus-IC.

These astrological degrees have become important in trying to piece together the story of my mother-line so much of which is shrouded in secrets, lies, and shadows.

Sad to say that my grandmother is one of the most exiled feminine figures that I have ever known and when I acknowledged my own banished aspects it became clear that some of the clothes hanging among the skeletons in my closet were cut from the same cloth as hers.

The shadows that had haunted my grandmother’s life, the ghosts of the undead, still roamed through the labyrinth of my psyche.

The Lilith journey is a long and often painful one. In my case, it begins with my great grandmother who died while giving birth to my grandmother. Details of my great grand mother’s life were so elusive that we didn’t even know her name, and since my grandmother-an only child- died in 1990, there was no one left to ask.

In 2014 my mother uncovered some information that finally revealed my great grandmother’s name- Jane Laurie. We discovered that she’d had been from a ‘rag and bone’ family in the east of Glasgow at the turn of the 20th century. This information prompted me to look into the story of the rag and bone families in Glasgow and I found that there is a possible Romani connection. Many of the gypsy families settled in large cities and tried to make a living from buying and selling bits and pieces, often metal. They used animal bones to make glue and fuel, and worked their rounds by horse and cart. I’m sure it was a hard life though I also sense there were freedoms too.

In Scotland, as in England, an act was passed by parliament in 1609, “Act against the Egyptians”, which made it lawful to condemn, detain and execute gypsies if they were known or reputed to be ethically Romani. Until that time there is evidence to suggest that gypsies of low-land Scotland had their own royal heritage and king – the last Romani king of Scotland died in1902.

I don’t know for sure if Jane and her family were of Romani descent, but it is an interesting story, and like the persecution of the witches of the same era it is an entirely Lilith story.

Wherever there is persecution of any sort, there too is Lilith.

My grandmother, motherless from birth, and living in poverty lived a chaotic and difficult life that ended in an early death. Among the details of her story are several marriages, alcohol addiction, incarceration, mental illness, and abuse.

I was seven years old before I met her and after hearing how terrible she was I had expected to be confronted by nothing short of a freakish outcast. She was spoken about in hushed voices with a mix of terror and shame. She and my mother had been estranged for many years and she was almost a taboo subject in out house.  And yet, my grandmother was a gentle soul, vulnerable, lacking in boundaries and strong sense of self so that she was often taken advantage of (and worse) by what appeared to be a string of unsavoury characters. At least, the story goes, this was her life after her husband, my grandfather died at the age of 27 when my mother was only 5 years old.

She like many working-class women of the 1950’s was given a mental health label- schizophrenia- possibly one of the most stigmatized and misunderstood conditions in psychiatry. Today the equivalent appears to be Border Line Personality Disorder, given liberally to difficult or damaged women of the working classes. To my mind these are often abused women as my grandmother was… Lilith is whispering in the wind.

This is the story of the exiled feminine, the persecutions and incarcerations that were never talked about and therefore never healed. The legacy is passed on through the maternal lines as inherited, or inter-generational trauma until someone in the family finally clears the ancestral field and acknowledges what happened.

Lilith is restless, she will not be subdued. In the astrology chart she shows us where to look to identify our exiled and fragmented parts. While she may be cavorting in a desert on the other side of Eden in the Hebrew bible, she also exists in the repressed and forgotten parts of ourselves that lay trapped in our body and psyche. She is the contraction we feel in our muscles when the flight, fight or freeze impulse is triggered in us; she is the armouring suffocating our cells preventing renewal and a sense of cohesion; she is the addiction; the depression; the hardened mask of Medusa that can turn others to stone.

Finally, Lilith is the one who can set us free from our bondage and liberate us into our original essence. She herself is not the healer though she is the way-shower. Once we have accepted what Lilith has revealed to us it is left to another archetype- Chariklo- to offer the healing balm that will finally bring our wild and broken parts home.

Chariklo whose name means ‘graceful spinner’ has entered my life in a softer but no less synchronistic way as she was conjunct my natal Sun in December 2018 when I was researching material for the women’s moon lodge.