Following Lilith – tracking a demoness through time

The monstrous Lilith has some popularity in the modern day, both as a demoness appearing in literature, TV and film, and as a feminist symbol. In most modern tellings of her story, she is the first wife of Adam, cast out of paradise when she refused to have sex with her husband, and is often represented as a seductive, child-killing creature. But where does Lilith come from? Tracing her back for over 4000 years, this talk will examine her origins in the child- and mother-killing demoness Lamashtu from ancient Mesopotamia, and Lamashtu’s contemporary, a rather sad species of virgin ghost called Lilitu. It will follow her through Aramaic incantation bowls, kabbalist literature, Christian folklore and Victorian art, looking not just at how she’s changed over the millennia, but what drove those changes – how she combined with cultures, movements and interests to become the monster (and feminist figure) that she is today.


Sarah Clegg has a PhD in ancient history from Cambridge University; she was part of the 2020/21 London Library Emerging Writers Programme. Her first book — Woman’s Lore: 4,000 Years of Sirens, Serpents and Succubi — was published by Head of Zeus and traces a group of seductive, child-snatching demonesses through folklore from ancient Mesopotamian to the present day. It was shortlisted for the HWA Non-Fiction Crown Award 2023.

Curated & Hosted by

Marguerite Johnson is a cultural historian of the ancient Mediterranean, specialising in sexuality and gender, particularly in the poetry of Sappho, Catullus, and Ovid, as well as magical traditions in Greece, Rome, and the Near East. She also researches Classical Reception Studies, with a regular focus on Australia. In addition to ancient world studies, Marguerite is interested in sexual histories in modernity as well as magic in the west more broadly, especially the practices and art of Australian witch, Rosaleen Norton. She is Honorary Professor of Classics and Ancient History at The University of Queensland, and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities.

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Oct 13th 2024 8:00 pm - 9:30 pm

£6 - £10 & By Donation

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