ANAMIKA

'(The Blog) With No Name', perhaps best described as a stream of notes and thoughts - 'remembered, recovered and (sometimes) invented'.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Lilith



It so happened that a link to the song ‘Lilith’ by Greek singer Nena Venetsanou came my way(*). The name of the song sounded vaguely familiar but I first tried listening to it – and got seriously hooked.

Still under the spell of the Venetsanou’s rich, plaintive voice and the song's hauntingly dreamy flow, I went to the Wiki page on Lilith. With surprise, I realized I had been there just a few months back (and my fading memory had retained but the frailest shadow thereof).

Exerpts:

Lilith (Hebrew: לִילִית‎ Lîlîṯ) is a Hebrew name for a figure in Jewish mythology, generally thought to be in part derived from a far earlier class of female demons in Mesopotemian religion.

In Jewish folklore, Lilith becomes Adam's first wife, who was created at the same time and from the same earth as Adam. This contrasts with Eve, who was created from one of Adam's ribs. The legend was greatly developed during the Middle ages - in the 13th century writings of Rabbi Isaac ben Jacob ha-Cohen, Lilith left Adam after she refused to become subservient to him and then would not return to the Garden of Eden after she coupled with the archangel Samael. The resulting Lilith legend is still commonly used as source material in modern Western culture, literature, fantasy, and horror.


So, Lilith is either the original femme fatale or the primordial Feminist icon or both.

Without quoting online sources, let us note that the mid-Eastern Lilith metamorphosed into our own ‘Lalita’. The latter of course, goes by the full name of ‘Lalita Tripurasundari’ and is one of the most benevolent and glorious of the 10 Mahavidya forms of the Divine Mother. Perhaps the most heartfelt paean to her is the Muthiah Bhagavathar krithi ‘Himagiri Tanaye’. Note: the Lilith-Lalita change parallels the Ishtar-Tara story. Of course, a dissenting voice just told me: "this kind of theorizing is like saying Homer wrote the Mahabharata before Indians appropriated it!"

India has traditionally been less fearful of the Female then Israel (“the Jews hated and feared the sexual power of Woman, embodied in the figure of Lilith and demonized it” as an online source put it) but we certainly have retained memories of the original fear of our middle-Eastern forerunners. Indeed, in several Kathakali dramas, Lalita refers to the appearance of an evil demoness as a bewitchingly beautiful woman - Lalitas feature in ‘Kharavadham’, Kirmeeravadham’, …. See here: http://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/dance/unfolding-the-lalithas-in-kathakali/article59432.ece

Further searching led me to another version of Venetasanou’s song with animated versions of (mostly) some paintings by Frenchman Bougereau and some pre-Raphaelite works:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZHBDcTwDtI

The visuals rekindled memories of poems learnt and forgotten in a long-lost innocent dream time …. Before I sink further into Lethe, let me capture some images from ‘The fairies’ by William Allingham-

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Up the airy mountain Down the rushy glen, We dare not go hunting

…..

Wee folk, good folk, Trooping all together; Green jacket, red cap, And white owl's feather. Down along the rocky shore Some make their home, They live on crispy pancakes Of yellow tide-foam; Some in the reeds Of the black mountain-lake, With frogs for their watch-dogs, All night awake.

…..

With a bridge of white mist Columbkill he crosses, …… Or going up with music, On cold starry nights, To sup with the Queen, Of the gay Northern Lights.

Note: As a child, I had memorized a good portion of this poem and would sing it in a tune borrowed from the old Hindi film classic: ‘Aajaa sanam madhur chaandni mein hum…’

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And yes, ‘Dream Love’ - we will always have ‘Dream Love’ by Christina Rossetti, sister of Dante Gabriel, a prime mover of the pre-Raphaelite moevemnt.



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Young Love lies sleeping In May-time of the year, Among the lilies, Lapped in the tender light:

….

Soft moss the pillow For O, a softer cheek; Broad leaves cast shadow Upon the heavy eyes: There winds and waters Grow lulled and scarcely speak; There twilight lingers The longest in the skies.

Young Love lies dreaming; But who shall tell the dream? A perfect sunlight On rustling forest tips; Or perfect moonlight Upon a rippling stream; Or perfect silence, Or song of cherished lips.

….

Young Love lies dreaming Till summer days are gone, Dreaming and drowsing Away to perfect sleep: He sees the beauty Sun hath not looked upon, And tastes the fountain Unutterably deep.

Him perfect music Doth hush unto his rest, And through the pauses The perfect silence calms:

…..

Young Love lies drowsing Away to poppied death; Cool shadows deepen Across the sleeping face......

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And here is a 'triptych': A traditional Keralan Hindu 'Nilavilakku' and an equally traditional Keralan Christian ‘Deepastambham’ with entwined serpents at the top (**) flank the Lady herself, as visualized by John Collier.



And I can imagine at least some of my Readers admonishing me: "Lilith? Don't be Sillith!"

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(*) Thanks, Malini.

(**) Thanks, Rekesh.

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