Just before the COVID-19 pandemic, Lilit suddenly showed up. I hadn’t seen her in years, since my childhood in Jerusalem. I started a multidisciplinary project based on her character that includes drawings, somatic exercises, and text messages.
The Lilit project is an urgent response to the isolation of the pandemic, it deals with healing and connectivity through a feminist lens. At a time that many of us felt intense fear, Lilit confronted collective and personal demons and addressed them.
I’ve been researching ancient depictions of Lilit in the Middle East, and made my own Lilit drawings. I created a phone number for her, and she is texting weekly messages to people who sign up with drawings, snippets about her life, and body-movement exercises. To sign up, text SUMMON (833) 575-1049, and Lilit will message you. A couple hundred people have already signed up through word of mouth. Many people message Lilit back about their performance of the somatic exercises, it’s quite touching.
Lilit is passionate about making distinctions between protective demons and the irredeemable devils of systemic, political evil, which need to be destroyed. She writes about shadow work, a spiritual practice that originated from Jung’s definition of the shadow of the self, which we don’t want to recognize as part of us. In doing shadow work, participants acknowledge and then integrate the shadows with their conscious self through actions, rituals, and language. It is a process of empathy and ultimately acceptance, and a continuation of magic bowls that the Jewish community trapped demons with around 2-6 CE in Babylon.
In ancient Babylon, when people were sick or in pain they would go to an artist-magician. That artist-magician would draw each individual a unique personal demon on a bowl, write a spell, and together they would turn the bowl upside down to “trap” the demon to remove its powers. Often the demon was Lilit. Verbalizing and visualizing pain can take away some of the demon’s charge.
Many of these bowls were signed by the artist, and they appear to have mostly been women. It’s interesting to think of this magical system of healing as a quiet opposition to the Rabbinical Talmud, which was completed around the same time in history and consisted exclusively of men. These bowls are a wonderful example of an ancient trauma medicine; they give an outlet to unpack trauma and give it a visualized representation.