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III From the succubus as child-killing mother to the restoration of the eternal feminine

Who dares misery love,

And hug the form of death.

Dance in destruction’s dance To him the Mother comes.


Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,

And thus the native hue of resolution Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,

And enterprises of great pitch and moment With this regard their currents turn awry And lose the name of action. Soft you now!

The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons Be all my sins remember’d.

(Hamlet, Act III, scene 1)

I look into frost’s face, alone:

It’s going nowhere,

Which is where I come from.

Miraculous! The breathing plain all ironed,

Without a crease.

The sun screws up its eyes in laundered destitution,

Finds calm and consolation . . .

Innocent as bread, snow crunches in one’s eyes.

(Osip Mandelstam)

By the little that can satisfy the needs of the human spirit we can measure the extent of its loss.

(Hegel, Phenomenology)

The succubus of early infancy

We are leaving the Oedipal world of Lilith, the beguiling seductress with the evil eyes, and entering an earlier phase of development, the world of infancy where the succubus manifests in an evil form of the Terrible Mother. In this dark aspect of her maternal being, Lilith’s widely spread archetypal motif centers on an infant stealing and killing female demon, symbolic of the destructive component of the archetypal feminine in her earth aspect. As the devouring mother she is called “the strangler” who attempts to harm pregnant women, and drinks the blood and sucks the marrow from the bones of infants. In one of her earliest Babylonian forms, she has the ability to take out her eyes so that she can remain on watch and keep a lookout while she sleeps (Hurwitz, 1999: 43).

Sequences typical of hero myths are recapitulated in her stories, yet astonishingly Jewish texts depict Lilith being vanquished by the Great Father and hero Elijah through a simple act of recognition:

Once, as the prophet Elijah was walking along, he met Lilith and her host. He said to her: O evil Lilith, whither do you go with your unclean host? And she replied: My Lord Elijah, I am about to go to the woman who has born a child to bring her the sleep of death, to take the child born to her away from her, to drink its blood, to suck the marrow from its bones and to leave its flesh over (alternative version: to gobble up its flesh). Elijah answered and said: I place you under the great ban, so that you may be turned into a speechless stone through the will of God. And Lilith said: My Lord, for God’s sake, lift this spell so that I may fly away. I swear in the name of God that I will avoid the paths that lead to a woman with a newborn child. Whenever I see or hear my name, I will disappear at once. I will tell you my (secret) names. Whenever you pronounce these, neither I nor my host will have the power to enter the house of a woman in childbirth and torment her. I swear to you to reveal my names so that you may write them down and hang them in the room in which a newborn child lies . . . Whosoever knows these names, and writes them down, ensures that I will flee from the newborn child. Therefore, hang this amulet up in the room of a woman in childbirth.

(quoted in Hurwitz, 1999: 130)

Lilith tells Elijah her secret names. In Babylonian invocation texts one is Abizio and another is Ailo. To Lilith’s earnest entreaty, Elijah responds:

I conjure you and your host in the name of YHWH, the God of Israel, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, in the name of the divine Shekhinah [“supreme woman in whose secret all that is female in the earthly world is founded”], in the name of the ten Seraphim, Ophanim and the divine beasts, may their names be praised, that you and your host do no harm to this woman . . . Sanai. Sansanvai, Semangloph. Adam and Eve. Out with Lilith.

(p. 131)

Lilith and Elijah are negotiating a resolution as to how best to deal with evil. Applying the will of God with the great ban in an attempt to simply conquer will create the very thing that Elijah wants to avoid, and what makes Lilith revengeful and evil. All she wants to do, just as she did with Adam, is to be separate and fly far away. A child’s life will be protected and the mother will be kept alive only so long as Lilith’s hidden names are pronounced or written. In other words, life, humanity and empowerment against evil are conditional upon Lilith being revealed, recognized and given existence as real. In Lilith’s own words, “do not curse me, for I have twelve names. Whosoever writes them down has no fear” (Hurwitz, 1999: 137).

By divulging her secret names, Lilith becomes harmless and so departs. When Lilith is recognized, she is no longer hidden as a vengeful, reactionary figure; instead, her beneficence is revealed. Elijah will be able to ensure protection for both mother and child against the evil acts which originate from Lilith’s dismissal through her recognition. This is the guiding idea in the following analysis of mother-infant attachment and the psychic processes that lead to masculine shame, its projection, and the necessary role of recognition in the male’s journey from dependence to independence. In the next chapter, the evil that results from an absence of the development of recognition will be explored.

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