Winged spirits tumble across the night sky in New York artist Richard Callner’s “Lovers: Birth of Lilith” (1964), now in a private collection. According to medieval Jewish tradition, Lilith was Adam’s first wife, before Eve. When Adam insisted she play a subservient role, Lilith grew wings and flew away from Eden. Artist Callner identifies the large figure (right of center) as Lilith.
Lilith’s character was not created out of whole cloth, however; the medieval authors drew on ancient legends of the winged liliµtu—a seductive, murderous demoness known from Babylonian mythology. In recent years, Lilith has undergone another transformation as modern feminists retell her story. In the accompanying article, Janet Howe Gaines traces the evolution of Lilith.