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Astrology (Beyond the) Basics – Deconstructing Lilith: Subversive Feminine Power

Picture by Claire Oring - claire-oring.tumblr.com
Picture by Claire Oring – claire-oring.tumblr.com

Writing an article about Black Moon Lilith is not an easy task. She encompasses so many layers of human experience – mythical, socio-cultural, sexual, instinctual dimensions are all intertwined within her Essence. Lilith is raw, tortured, unapologetic and rebellious, an archetypal figure whose charisma and iconic influence have been cemented through millennia of history. Her use in Astrology, however, is fairly recent: it’s not until the 1930’s that she started to appear in Astrological studies, with the work of French Astrologer Don Néroman. Black Moon Lilith’s entrance into mainstream astrology was delayed and tortuous, which comes as no surprise considering that we’re talking about a figure who incarnates themes of rejection and ostracism.  
Black Moon Lilith (not to be confused with asteroid Lilith, and the lesser known Dark Moon Lilith) is not an actual physical body, but an abstract – yet no less powerful – mathematical point, that of lunar apogee, where the Moon is farthest from the Earth in her orbit. This position perfectly mirrors the nature of Black Moon Lilith as the unacknowledged, untamed, subversive face of the archetypal feminine. The Moon may fit into normative roles, provide a more nurturing, reassuring portrait of femininity, whereas Lilith questions, defies and abhors. Lilith is that obscure, mysterious side of the feminine energy that’s been swept under the rug throughout the ages – a repressed, atavistic impetus that struggles to find outlets for its expression.
There are two calculations for Black Moon Lilith: mean (an averaged out orbit), and true (the actual position of the apogee, in use since 1990). The difference between these two calculations can be up to 30 degrees; the true calculation is more accurate, but also much more erratic and osculating, volatile and unpredictable. Just as the evolution of Lilith’s myth through the millennia – from she-demon, to image of empowerment.
The mythology of Lilith stretches back around 5000 years, originating from the culture of Sumerian civilization (located in modern-day southern Iraq). The earliest mention of a she-demon whose name resembles that of Lilith is found in the Sumerian King List, an ancient manuscript, listing kings of Sumer, which dates from around 2400 B.C.; in this context, the name was associated with a class of storm/night demons (lillu, lilītu, and ardat lilǐ). This threatening and sinister aspect has been part of the Lilith character ever since, and as people throughout the Near East became increasingly familiar with it, the figure of Lilith was further fleshed out and progressively integrated into successive traditions and documents. A first, proper literary reference to Lilith can be found in in a Sumerian tale entitled Gilgamesh and the Huluppu Tree (a later Assyrian Akkadian translation of a part of the poem of Gilgamesh), dating from around 2000 B.C. In this story, Lilith built her house in the sacred huluppu (willow) tree located in the holy garden of Inanna, the ancient goddess of fertility, love and warfare. Lilith occupied the huluppu tree together with her animal companions: a snake, and a bird, both of which have a rich symbolical connotation: evil, but also wisdom, power and fertility. Inanna cried out for help, invoking her brother Gilgamesh, who came to her rescue and killed the snake, prompting terror-stricken Lilith to depart for the desert. Like the aforementioned Sumerian King List, this tale also incorporates attributes and topoi of Lilith which are elaborated on in later texts: her menacing aura, an affinity with beasts and supernatural beings, and most importantly, her self-inflicted exile towards dismal places of desolation. We will see how this theme is especially relevant when it comes to interpreting the meaning of Lilith in a natal chart.
The Bible also contains a further, vague reference to Lilith, in Isaiah 34:14 (approximately 742–701 B.C.). In a prophetic, apocalyptic passage which tells about Yahweh’s day of vengeance against the Edomites, the verses describe a land turned into infertile wilderness, where various beasts roam freely and Lilith finds a “resting place”. This part lacks specifics in describing Lilith, signaling that she evidently was a well known figure in Israel of the eighth century B.C., therefore no explanation of her identity was necessary to the audience.
Much more is known about the imagery centered on Lilith during the successive centuries, with what is probably the most famous myth centered on the figure of Lilith and also the one that is more frequently quoted when discussing the Astrological significance of BML. I’m talking about the Hebrew myth of Lilith as Adam’s first wife, passed on in the Alphabet of ben Sirach, an anonymous medieval text dated between 700 and 1000 C.E..  This work was mostly satirical in its nature, but it contents, albeit parodic, were certainly drawn from actual folk tales and beliefs. We learn that Yahweh created both Adam and Lilith from earth, to live in the garden of Eden together, but their relationship soon became conflictual, especially after Lilith’s refusal to lie underneath Adam during sexual intercourse. Adam expected Lilith to submissively perform wife duties, whereas Lilith claimed equality and firmly refused to be subservient to Adam. When she saw that her husband was determined to overpower her, Lilith pronounced the Tetragrammaton, the ineffable name of God (YHWH), which is said to contain the whole of the Torah. Pronouncing God’s avowed name granted Lilith the power to fly away to the Red Sea, a place of ill repute, inhabited by lascivious demons; there, she mated with evil spirits, bearing their demonic children. Three angels were sent in search of Lilith, only to be met with her scorn and her stubborn refusal to go back to the garden of Eden. Meanwhile, Yahweh created another partner for Adam, the tamer and obsequious Eve. Lilith, angered at having one hundred of her own demonic children murdered by God everyday as a punishment for her deeds, becomes a vengeful, bloodthirsty child-slayer.
While Eve was generated from Adam’s rib, Lilith aimed to assert her personal freedom, but this decision was ultimately thwarted by a hierarchical power. That between Lilith and Adam is not only an archetypal battle of the sexes, but also a representation of the individual struggle against structural constraints, and the emotional, spiritual and psychological implications of said struggle. Lilith encapsulates sheer agency, the desire for equality, the exercise of freewill, the determination to own one’s sexuality, but also the resentment towards the established order, the poisonous feelings that accompany rejection and marginalization, the rabid thirst for revenge. She doesn’t want to be objectified by her male counterpart’s hegemony and lose her dignity, therefore, she unabashedly breaks an important religious taboo of her time and proceeds to exert her free will and forge her own path. However, this decision was forced onto her to a certain extent, and is thus a source of acute frustration and extreme wrath. BML is creative, fertile, innovative feminine power with a dark, destructive edge spawned from the hatred of injustice, patriarchy, shaming, unequal power, oppression, exploitation, structural violence; it’s a point that involves a theme of forced isolation, of living at the fringe of mainstream society because of a deep disruption to doxa, consensus knowledge and conformism. It represents the anguish of depersonalization and loss of the self by the hand of a superior institutionalized authority, and, at the same time, the alienation of self-imposed confinement to escape this authority.
Black Moon Lilith in a chart illustrates the presence of this primordial kernel of carnal urges, destructive impulses and ferocious compulsions. She tells us about our own personal experience of the system’s constraints; explains the way we feel threatened by the unequal distribution of power in our society; indicates the type of energy we’re more likely to use in a destructive, non-politically correct fashion when triggered; illustrates the causes of our own feelings of depersonalization/marginalization, of our reluctance to conform to pre-established schemes and to trade our dignity for a comfortable status in mainstream society.
The house and sign where Black Moon Lilith is found in a chart denote an area of personal power, but also bitterness and fury, where we’re forced to live with the pros and cons of standing our own ground and opposing the majority. Her natal placement marks our place of vengefulness, and the home where our inner dark feminine energy resides. But natal Black Moon Lilith also reveals the area of Life where we can regenerate through the confrontation with the darkest shadow of the psyche, maximize our sexual power for a more conscientious and fulfilling sexual experience, and transmute our compulsions into subversive, visionary creativity. An in-depth understanding of Lilith’s natal placement is essential to understand how we can keep our primordial instinct of survival from turning into self-defeating patterns of behavior.

Lilith, by Raphael Patai, in The Journal of American Folklore, vol. 77, no. 306, pp. 295-314

Comments (8)

  • I really enjoyed reading this.

    • Thanks a lot, Liv. I’m glad you appreciated it. : )

  • Just as Pluto is leaving the square with my natal moon in 8th, while he is traveling my 12th house at the moment… he starts conjucting natal black moon lilith in my horoscope.

    All my life I’ve let myself be “controlled” by men with high power and great authority – and I’ve let them misuse that authority on me a lot of my childhood, youth and later in my 20’s in a very dysfunctional relationship which ended up with me being violated sexually and having my boundaries crossed again and again by the misuse of authority. I’ve always felt that I needed to “break free” from others’ misuse of power (Cap theme I guess) and that I had to fight against someone who would exploit their power and control me.

    You can say – that would a theme for my natal moon-mars square with moon in 8th house too – but I think black moon lilith in the 12th house of Capricorn has probably reinforced that theme?

    What do you think I can expect from Pluto transitting my black moon lilith, Æterna? Any experience you can share? Would love to hear your take on this transit because I can’t find a lot of info about this on Google 🙂

    • Thanks for sharing this, Anette. 🙂 These are all very BML-related themes. Let’s see:

      “You can say – that would a theme for my natal moon-mars square with moon in 8th house too – but I think black moon lilith in the 12th house of Capricorn has probably reinforced that theme?”
      Definitely, we can see BML in this case as a complement to the Moon-Mars aspect, something that enriches and modifies the psychological undertone… The 12th House is commonly thought of as the house of self-undoing, and this has a reason: planets or points in the 12th House represent what we struggle to integrate. Planets and points in this House are fluid, malleable – you mentioned violation of boundaries. That’s what the 12th House and Neptune typically do. So, you have this hidden Lilith, and you struggled with getting a handle on her – while other people in a position of authority (Capricorn) were doing so.

      As for
      “What do you think I can expect from Pluto transitting my Black Moon Lilith?”
      I like to think that BML and Pluto are different but somewhat complement each other. Pluto can help Lilith doing some intense psychological work within herself and take her own power back. Of course, this happens through a general intensification of Black Moon Lilith themes, because Pluto deconstructs, intensifies and makes you go deeper and deeper. There will be a transformation of your BML/12th House environment, because Pluto’s passage will awaken what is hidden away in the 12th House and make BML’s energy a lot clearer and more present, more powerful. No more weak boundaries. “Catharsis” seems a suitable word. 🙂

      • Dear Æterna,
        Thank you so much for the reply. Your answer touch the areas I’ve already thought of myself regarding BML and Pluto transits – but with your words it manifests itself much clearer.
        I feel that I’ve been through the “psychological catharsis ringer” the past 3 years (also with the P/U squares in 12th vs. 1st/2nd house), cleaning out my 12th house closet, one step at a time.
        From 2011/12 Pluto transitted natal mars in cap/11th house, then he went on to my moon (touching moon/mars square) in 2013-2016… and now he will take the final turn with my BML from 2016-2018 or something. Phew. This whole phase have been very challenging.

        I can see what you mean for sure here – bringing back my own power, refusing to give it away anymore. I’ve already felt this with my moon/Pluto square the past two years. In my relationship, for the past two years, I’ve been afraid of letting anyone having power over me, but holding people at arm’s lenght being afraid of them taking my power away, is not a great strategy in the long run.
        So actually it is a good thing that Pluto put my BML into the boxing ring, because I certainly need to learn HOW to be powerful (but without letting the fear rule my actions). I just hope that my relationship survive this cleansing phase – but I also know that these Pluto transits can take a toll on anyone, and well… I’m kinda used to it after the past years one could say…

        Another astrologer told me I was “Plutonian” – and well, with 4 personal planets in Scorpio, almost at a stellium, I think I know what that means 😉
        So yes – “catharsis” is certainly a word I would use to describe the past years – and probably my future too. I don’t think I will ever be finished cleansing out SOMETHING but BML and 12th house is deep stuff, so for now let’s go diving…….. :p

  • Hey, Aeterna, this Lilith, allways Lilith 🙂 Indeed not so much people knew she was the first wife of Adam.Her rebellious character, how could be better explained than that she had the courage to pronounce the unpronounced name of God?

    • Exactly, dear Anacris. She doesn’t bow to no one… Perhaps her point was that God doesn’t necessarily have to be seen as a distant, patriarchal authority but rather experienced! 🙂

  • Hi, i just discovered your blog and is an amazing work. How will take in lilith a man who has it conjunt mars in cancer 11th? He has sun mercuri venus mars all in càncer, but his mars/lilith is making a square to his moon conjunt pluto in scorpio in 3rd House. What i have noticed over the time is his relationship with his sister, as she is very dominant with him and they where very dependent on each other, but her caràcter oh my god, so strong and punishing sometimes. in part we broke up because of this. i couldnt stand the situation, as he lives with her (they alone) since ten years ago. I felt it was kind of ackward, and i wonder if that could have anything to do with lilith… or is just the way he percives females in general? Thank you so much.


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