“Lilith” by Ellen Gwin after Anne Sexton’s “Her Kind”

LILITH by Ellen Gwin

I have flown upwards as Queen Demoness

Towards the sentinel black veil as a lady of the night;

Hellish hallucination projected, I am not some witch

Over plain houses, illuminating moon

Godforsaken creation, yellow-ish skin and black lips.

A woman like that is not a woman, quite.

I have been her kind.

 

I have found pits in the forest more welcoming than purgatory

Filled them with pots, pans, a small bed,

A kitchen table just for one, and red lipstick of every shade;

Fixed suppers for jackals and ostriches

Singing, moaning, exercising voices of defiance.

A woman like that is misunderstood.

I have been her kind. 

 

I have walked in your gardens, Creator

Waltzed my nude body from Eden to pandemonium,

Learning that darkness brings safety from judgment, survivor

Where flames keep blood boiling in the heated Sun of the morning star

My skin reflects against the Moon, my own falling star

A woman like that is not ashamed to die.

I have been her kind.

 

Explanation:

 

     I wrote this poem, “Lilith,” after Anne Sexton’s “Her Kind.” Sexton’s poem “Her Kind” is about a woman who, despite feeling othered due to her odd, independent nature, stands by her convictions underneath the eye of a patriarchal, judgmental society. In stanza one of Anne Sexton’s poem the speaker describes a lonely, otherworldly witch flying over a plain city– a fantastical outsider looking in on the mundanity from the sky. The speaker says a woman like that is not quite a woman, adding to the idea of a heavenly figure. The speaker goes on in the second stanza  to describe the witch’s home: a cave in the woods filled with everything the witch needs, luxury items, and even some pets. The speaker says the isolated woman is misunderstood. In the final stanza of the poem the speaker describes a scene where they ride in a cart waving their bare arms at villages as they drive through before dying by flame or by getting run over: a punishment for witches back in the day. The speaker ends the poem stating a woman like that is not afraid to die.

     In my poem, I decided to allude to both Lilith and the Triple Goddess. In stanza one of Sexton’s poem the witch flies in the sky, close to heaven. In stanza two the witch makes a home in the woods, an earthly dwelling. In stanza three, the witch dies (possibly by fire), an implication that the witch entered the underworld. The Triple Goddess is represented by the Mother, Maiden, and the Crone. These figureheads are then associated with various goddesses: Lucina of the moon, Diana of the earth, And Hectate of the underworld (though one could argue Diana represents all three). In my poem I tried to mimic similar entities. In stanza one, I bring Lilith up to the sky and close to the moon. In stanza two, I bring Lilith to mud pits for her dwelling. In stanza three I allude to both Paradise and Hell before implying Lilith dies of her own accord (“my own falling star”). 

     I chose Lilith as the character in my story because Anne Sexton’s poem “Her Kind” had the vibe of an independent woman who cannot find peace from the judgment of others. She does not harm anyone, she does not ask for anything, she does what men do all the time: act independently. This immediately made my mind jump to the Old Testament when Lilith refused to be submissive to Adam, she left the garden. Like many women in folklore, her want for equality and independence was demonized (literally). Lilith was turned into a demon figure in mythology with wings and demon children (who she birthed from her constant escapades as a lady of the night– her sexuality deemed wrong). When giving her final refusal to return to Eden, God damns Lilith to live in a castle of thorns amongst jackals and ostriches, which is why I referenced them in the poem as well (King James Version Bible, Isaiah 34) . I also felt Lilith to be appropriate because in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina not only is Lilith the Mother of demons, but she is one of the most powerful witches.

     Lastly, I made a little allusion to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein when describing the witch as having yellow-ish skin and black lips. I felt the other-ing of the monster fit the other-ing of Lilith, the witch, and women. 

Questions for the class: Do you think Anne Sexton purposely alluded to the Mother, Maiden, and Crone? Does Lilith have a place in witchcraft amongst other goddesses?

Lilith (John Collier painting).jpg

Lilith by John Collier, 1887

Lilith by WerWir on DeviantArt | Psychedelic art, Dark fantasy art, Goddess art

Lilith [surrounded by Triple Goddess imagery) by WerWir on DeviantArt 

And if anyone is interested in Lilith folklore, this article details how she’s represented in many cultures and religions aside from Judaism.

Works Cited

Aguirre-Sacasa, Roberto, et al. “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.”

Collier, John. Lilith. 1887

The Bible. Authorized King James Version, Oxford UP, 1998.

WerWir. Lilith. 2021.

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