Lilith Prophylactic from Arslan Tash

Either a 6th-7th c. BC Syrian Amulet or a modern forgery

(Aleppo National Museum)
image: amulet from Arslan Tash

A plaque found in northern Syria (Arslan Tash = ancient Hadattu) has an image of a sphinx-cherub creature and a she-wolf on one side. The she-wolf appears to be devouring a child. On the reverse is a figure of a god of some variety, marching and holding an axe. There is a primary magical inscription, as well as writing on the sphinx, the she-wolf and the deity. The language is a dialect of Phoenician/Canaanite. It may be worth noting the importance given to the role of the female deities (wives of Hawron and Ba'l) in controlling the demoness(es). Rosenthal assumes that the she-wolf and the sphinx/cherub represent different demonesses. I am inclined to think that they both represent the same 'lili'.

This plaque was originally dated to 6-7th c. BC. However, some recent scholarship has suggested that the plaque may be a forgery dating from the 1930s CE. If it is authentic, there is still some issue as to whether the 'Lili' referred to is the same as the Lilitu of the Mesopotamians. If it is a forgery, of course, there can be little doubt that it is Lilith, but it must be reassessed as a special case among modern amulets.

The translation is, for the most part, a paraphrase of Rosenthal's (ANETs:658). The main exception is the sphynx/cherub inscription, which is a conglomeration of Rosenthal and Patai78:222. Footnotes are of mixed origin, but marked [Rosenthal] or [AH].

Main Inscription

    An incantation for the flying-demoness.
    The "bond"[1] of Ssm, son of Pdrsh(?).

    Take these[2] and say to the she- stranglers:
    Any house that I enter,
         you are not to enter,
    and in any courtyard that I walk
         you are not to walk.
    An eternal bond has been established for us.
         Ashshur established it for us,
    along with all the gods
         and the consultation of all the holy ones.
    Through the bond of heaven and earth,
         Through the bond of Hawron's wife,
             who always speaks the truth,
         and her seven co-wives
         and the eight wives of Ba'l....

Inscribed on the Sphinx/Cherub

    O, Demoness-that-flies in a dark chamber,
    Get on your way at once[3], O Lili!

Inscribed on the She-wolf

    O, Robbing-murderess,
    Go Away!

Inscribed On and Around the Deity

    Sz zt, may his [mouth] not(?) open....
    May the sun rise, eternally, eternally![4]


[1] The term 'bond' here, and in the following lines, I take to have both the sense of 'binding'/'tying', as well as its contractual implications (in other words, it has the same double meaning in Canaanite as it does in English). Lilith, like her co-infernals, is often controlled by being chained or shackled. On the other hand, this incantation has the feel of a restraining order, coming down from the heavenly court. [AH]

[2] i.e., the amulets of this type. More than one was needed for effective protection. The indicated uncertainty of the interpretation lies in the spelling 'lh, instead of the expected 'l. The verb may be masculine of feminine (sg.), depending on whether the magician is addressed, or the woman who is to wear the amulets. [Rosenthal]

[3] "at once" following Patai. Rosenthal translates "time and again". [AH]

[4] Toirczyner: "The sun has risen, the morning shines." [Rosenthal] [This passage] is often translated:

    May her womb be opened
         and may she give birth!
    When the sun rises,
         travail and give birth!
[That translation] is based upon the doubtful reconstruction of missing words and upon an uncertain and, it seems, unwarranted emendation of what is actually written. [Rosenthal]


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