Women, Creativity, and Lilith

In the mid 1980’s I read Judy Chicago’s commentary on women’s creativity in The Birth Project. Chicago invited craftswomen throughout the country to participate in fabricating various needlework and quilting projects depicting birth. In her book about the development of the project, Chicago included the exuberant letters from the women whose work was deemed of sufficient quality to participate, then a few follow up letters from some of these women apologizing for delays due to various family demands and finally letters returning projects assigned with regrets about not having time to do them.

At the time I was a young woman with two young sons. I took the stories quite seriously. I knew my family could consume everything I had if I let them. I also knew that my soul was making demands that only my personal analysis (psychotherapy) could meet, that this took time, and that furthermore, I wanted—no, I needed!— to write.

In short, I knew it would not work to have all my creative energy tied up in traditionally accepted feminine roles, those roles to which Eve was sentenced. Lilith, she-who-will-not be-subordinated! would have to become a more conscious force within me, or she would work unconsciously in much more destructive, child-devouring, raging ways.

Older generations of women remember when such relationships to Lilith were not an option. A woman’s role as wife and mother was embedded in the social norm. Early pioneers into the realms of incorporating Lilith also suffered the darker projections of Lilith: the rageful, devouring aspects. When we do not have access to Lilith energies, we are forced into those of Eve: the subordinated, childbearing woman. Lilith remains loose, however, in the unconscious.  When we are overprotective of our young, living too much through them, the result is often a kind of consuming of our children’s autonomy and individuality. When we live for our men, or for anyone else, we are at risk of losing ourselves.

My own mother did not work when she married because my father wouldn’t let her, even though she graduated top of her college class and had only one expressed goal of teaching elementary school, something she did not do until the youngest of her four children was in kindergarten. And although she seemed to love her role of mother, she was also sick a lot and, I suspect, a little depressed, at least during my early years. Suppression of feeling often presents through various psychosomatic disorders, or gets taken out on those we also love. The raw version of Lilith is not the version I wanted to act out!

In a Los Angeles talk I gave in July, a man asked me if I enjoyed the child-devouring aspect of Lilith. I answered that although I enjoyed relating stories of setting limits with my preschool sons around my writing time, it was tough and I did not enjoy sending them back to bed in the predawn hours I got up to write. It went against my maternal instinct!  By not subordinating my own goals to others needs, I have made conscious choices about where my creative energy goes, an important part of my own individuation process. In this Lilith has been an important guide.