The Dark Dawning

The Crone who became Virgin

The New Moon is at once death and preparation for rebirth. As the Moon begins a new cycle, our lady of the night suggests to us that our stories do not end in our times of darkness and perhaps they do not end with death.

The origins of Lilith’s story are not tied to the Abrahamic traditions which adopted her tale to warn men of the kind of female sexual expression they find unacceptable. The origins of her story begin when sexuality was made sacred by the worship of Goddess. Lilith was “the hand of Inanna”. Her role was to lead warriors who had returned from battle, from an intimate encounter with death, to the Goddess’ temples where they were guided through the sacred sex rites to be reborn and brought back to the world of the living. These same “virgins” took care of the dying to deliver them to death so that when they had a good death they could be reborn. What makes them virgins was not that they were untouched; what made them virgins was that they were not owned by any man.

The virgins so intimately aware of the ecstatic powers of sex were also intimately familiar with the final ecstasy. The one owed to us by the pain of being thrust into this world at birth, cold, bloody, and screaming; our eventual demise. Their duty to the dying was delivering them to death as we are greeted by our mother’s embrace. 


Death is a Goddess, the Dark Goddess is our Mother

Goddess worship not only spoke to us of the animal in each of us, the part of us which bleeds, but also about the illusion that what we are witness to has an end. She speaks of an eternal spiral, our eventual return to that which gave us life so that life can begin again.


Equipped with the wisdom of the night, Lilith is resurrected. Having gone through a disintegration, a time of darkness to shed the restraints of her former self, she is now whole- a Full Moon. She has sacrificed everything to know herself fully and by doing so has illumined a path which guides us through the dark.

The final tableau in this series depicts Lilith’s return to the world of the living in her magnificent fullness. The images in this post are direct scans of the negatives from the photo session for the final part of the series. The costume and makeup were made by Numi Empire inspired by the Burney Relief which depicts a Dark Goddess thought to be Lilith but may in fact be Inanna. The reference is appropriate as the Story of Lilith is one which would guide us to a time where the Goddess was worshiped and not repressed. Lilith is forever defiant of the powers which prefer our subservience and make us fearful of the hidden mysteries where Goddess is most resilient.

The Great Suffering: The Teachings of one Who Grew in Wilderness

Our third shoot is a depiction of Lilith's time of solitude and suffering.  This part of Lilith's journey places her in a chthonic wilderness untouched by man. It is a time of great suffering caused by her rebellion against the diminishment of her integrity.  We knew that this scene would have to show her fortitude as she struggles against her disintegration. This is also the time where, according to hebraic tradition, she gives birth to demons, only to then watch hundreds of them die as part of her curse for leaving Adam.

We knew we wanted to depict her as mother, though we do not believe that what she was giving birth to were literal demons.  Rather, she engendered inner knowledge; therefore, this isn’t human birth.  In many cultures, serpents are associated with knowledge, as well as with the moon and her cyclical nature.  We thought it fitting, then, that serpents represent the knowledge which Lilith brings into this world.

Below are images and footage from this shoot, as well as Luna's writing about this part of Lilith's journey.

When the Moon seems to disappear from the night sky the Earth is enshrouded in darkness. It is in darkness that we are most fearful of the things we cannot see. During her life in exile, Lilith steps into a wilderness untouched, unknown, and unobservable by man; her time of darkness. The new Moon.
Lilith has sacrificed the security of a life in the paradise that was the Garden of Eden. She must withstand the consequences of her resolve, the pain of suffering desolation in exile; a purposeful plunge into the depths of inner knowing impregnating her with greater longings. The darkness of the cave is also the darkness of fecundation. Seeds germinate in darkness. In our beginnings we are cradled in the darkness of the womb. 
Caves are often associated with the womb in different myths around the world. It’s not a coincidence that Lilith retreats into a cave during this time when she withdraws into the hidden precincts of her being. The ancients are clear in suggesting that she is entering the Earth’s womb to be reborn. The amnion protecting her is the wisdom of the dark, the light sparked by her intuition is that of inner knowledge. Her flight, the symbolic death or dissolution of her former self. The waning Moon. 
Lilith’s time in the cave is one of incubation and healing from the wounds resulting from her time with Adam and the experience of rebelling against divine law. When summoned by God she refused, accepting greater punishment by agreeing that hundreds of her children would die daily. It’s clear that she believes there is a purpose to her sacrifice. She is the first to assume intentional suffering as the vehicle to transformation, a rite of passage. Here she is an initiate to her new role, her true purpose. Her time of darkness being the trial of her becoming. 
This is a time of great suffering, fantastic suffering; prodigious in it’s purpose. As Lilith sheds her former self she is giving birth to intuitive wisdom, not that of logic or law but rather experience. This wisdom is an affront to a culture which would prefer that we accept “divine” mandates without question. 
This transformation is what makes her unable to return to the Garden of Eden, although stories do tell of her secret visits to Adam. Perhaps this suggests that her connection to Adam is not entirely severed. It is the wisdom of the night which allows her entrance. Once awakened to this wisdom she finds herself at the edge between civilization and wilderness. Her rightful place.

We open ourselves to your teachings. We break as you did allowing the light of inner wisdom through the cracks. With this work we call the voice of inner knowing; birthed and by pain inspired. For you Mother of all, we leave this body – we leave this body of work as an offering. 

Photo and video from our second shoot

Our second shoot was a success, everyone involved did an incredible job.  We are beyond thrilled with how the day went, and the 35mm photos show a lot of promise for what's to come when printed.  We wanted to share these 35mm photos, as well as a video of Luna during her suspension.  Here are some of Luna's words about the suspension:

"As the story of Lilith continues we see her take flight. The progression from Lilith’s life in the Garden of Eden to her chosen life of solitude is depicted by a flesh hook suspension performance for this photographic series. The choice was not an arbitrary one, nor was it adopted merely for shock value. We needed a distinct progression between what was Lilith’s life with Adam, to the one she suffers alone. 

Lilith is no longer in bondage but this liberation comes at a great cost. Upon refusing to return when summoned by three angels, she finds herself an outcast and the origin of the deaths of hundreds of her children. She turns to an unknown wilderness. 

At this point in the story, it was important for us to show Lilith free of constraints; this was the reason I (Luna) risked performing this suspension without the use of a harness.  

The photographs from this scene of our series depict Lilith’s flight to the cave where she confronts her desolation. Lilith’s flight does not only represent the freedom to exercise her agency but also a very visceral acknowledgement to the unknown which lays ahead as she enters her period of darkness."

Lilith: From Myth To Flesh is a collaborative project undertaken by performance artist Luna Duran and photographer Gretchen Heinel.  By undergoing ordeals of the flesh, we aim to understand and communicate the sacred and transformative pain which Lilith endured on her journey from human to goddess.