She is Perversity: Queer Currents within Twentieth-Century Discourses on Lilith

Antique wind spirit turned Adam’s first wife, Lilith holds the fascination of both contemporary academia and popular culture. Namely, feminist scholarship and interpretations of the Lilith myth, present her as a rebellious, patriarchy-smashing femme. However, scholarship on Lilith thus far has primarily positioned her within a heteronormative framework. As a result, more complex and nuanced inquiries into Lilith’s mythic story have been overshadowed. The lacuna my study aims to expose and address is the overlooked queer currents and connections within artistic, literary, political, and sociocultural discourses regarding the demoness.

First, my talk will provide a brief overview of Lilith’s presence within folklore, art, and literature from antiquity to the present. Second, the ways in which both psychoanalytic and feminist discourses have shaped and impacted present understandings of Lilith will be discussed. Lastly, I will focus on my research on Lilith, in which I investigate historical and discursive associations between Lilith and queerness. Specifically, I will discuss four significant historical associations between Lilith and queerness that occur within twentieth-century discourses – within the lesbian poetry of Renée Vivien (1877-1909), the Neo-Gnostic works of Columbian sex magician Samael Aun Weor (1917-1977), the antisemitic writings of American Satanic conspiracy theorist Eustace Mullins (1923-2010), and finally within lesbian-feminist art and poetry in the late 1900s. In examining historic associations between Lilith and queerness, and utilizing both queer theory and monster theory, a more comprehensive understanding of the figure of Lilith is presented.


Brennan Kettelle holds a Research Master’s degree in Religious Studies, with a focus on Western esotericism (University of Amsterdam, 2021), as well as a Master’s degree in Gender and Cultural Studies (Simmons University, 2018). Brennan aims to utilize queer and feminist theories and methodologies in examining esotericism, investigating both queer currents within esoteric literature, orders, and figures, as well as esoteric themes within queer subcultures, politics, and histories. Her research interests include Lilith, nineteenth and twentieth-century occultism, sex magic, initiatory orders, esotericism and politics, and conspirituality.

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