Lilith (/ˈlɪlɪθ/; Hebrew: לִילִית Lîlîṯ) is a figure in Jewish mythology, developed earliest in the Babylonian Talmud (3rd to 5th century CE). Lilith is often envisioned as a dangerous demon of the night, who is sexually wanton, and who steals babies in the darkness. Lilith may be linked in part to a historically earlier class of female demons (lilītu) in ancient Mesopotamian religion, found in cuneiform texts of Sumer, the Akkadian Empire, Assyria, and Babylonia.
In Jewish folklore, from the Alphabet of Sirach (c. 700–1000 CE) onwards, Lilith appears as Adam's first wife, who was created at the same time (Rosh Hashanah) and from the same clay as Adam—compare Genesis 1:27. (This contrasts with Eve, who was created from one of Adam's ribs: Genesis 2:22.) The legend developed extensively during the Middle Ages, in the tradition of Aggadah, the Zohar, and Jewish mysticism. For example, in the 13th-century writings of Isaac ben Jacob ha-Cohen, Lilith left Adam after she refused to become subservient to him and then would not return to the Garden of Eden after she had coupled with the archangel Samael.
Interpretations of Lilith found in later Jewish materials are plentiful, but little information has survived relating to the Sumerian, Akkadian, Assyrian and Babylonian view of this class of demons. While the connection is almost universally agreed upon, recent scholarship has disputed the relevance of two sources previously used to connect the Jewish lilith to an Akkadian lilītu—the Gilgamesh appendix and the Arslan Tash amulets. (See below for discussion of the two problematic sources.) "Other scholars, such as Lowell K. Handy, agree that Lilith is derived from Mesopotamian demons but argue against finding evidence of the Hebrew Lilith in many of the epigraphical and artifactual sources frequently cited as such (e.g., the Sumerian Gilgamesh fragment, the Sumerian incantation from Arshlan-Tash).":174
In Hebrew-language texts, the term lilith or lilit (translated as "night creatures", "night monster", "night hag", or "screech owl") first occurs in a list of animals in Isaiah 34:14, either in singular or plural form according to variations in the earliest manuscripts. In the Dead Sea Scrolls 4Q510-511, the term first occurs in a list of monsters. In Jewish magical inscriptions on bowls and amulets from the 6th century CE onwards, Lilith is identified as a female demon and the first visual depictions appear.
The resulting Lilith legend continues to serve as source material in modern Western culture, literature, occultism, fantasy, and horror.