Adam’s ex

Lilith_(John_Collier_painting)As the first girl to be born in the family, I was named after the first ever woman. Or so I thought until some years ago.  Apparently there is a story about Adam’s first girlfriend, when Eve was still a twinkle in Adam’s rib, called Lilith.

I first heard this story about a year ago and was shocked that I had lived so long pretending to know the creation narrative and had never stumbled upon this footnote. According to an article by Dr. Christopher L.C.E. Witcombe of Sweet Briar College it is explained in a 13th century Kabbalah text that:

“At the same time Jehovah created Adam, he created a woman, Lilith, who like Adam was taken from the earth. She was given to Adam as his wife. But there was a dispute between them about a matter that when it came before the judges had to be discussed behind closed doors. She spoke the unspeakable name of Jehovah and vanished.”

In the Alpha Betha of Ben Sira (Alphabetum Siracidis, or Sepher Ben Sira), an anonymous collection of midrashic proverbs probably compiled in the 11th century C.E., it is explained more explicitly that the conflict arose because Adam, as a way of asserting his authority over Lilith, insisted that she lie beneath him during sexual intercourse (23 A-B). Lilith, however, considering herself to be Adam’s equal, refused, and after pronouncing the Ineffable Name (i.e. the magic name of God) flew off into the air.lilith comic

So apparently, Lilith was not only the first woman, she was also the first feminist and even in the garden of eden they were like “woah lady, you are totally out of line!”, and then she vanished? So Adam was some kind of maffioso that makes people that challenge him disappear? Or was it the Almighty himself? Who knew the holy scriptures were such a thriller to read!

All though according to this article by Ariela Pelaia her disappearance went a bit like this:

She uttered God’s name and flew into the air, leaving Adam alone in the Garden of Eden. God sent three angels after her and commanded them to bring her back to her husband by force if she would not come willingly. But when the angels found her by the Red Sea they were unable to convince her to return and could not force her to obey them.  Eventually a strange deal is struck, wherein Lilith promised not to harm newborn children if they are protected by an amulet with the names of the three angels written on it.

So after this unrestrained woman was shown to the exit and demonized in the most literal sense you could possibly think of, Eve was created. But this time not from the same divine play-doh Adam was made of because that would only make her think she had the same rights and inconvenient things like that… So instead, God molded a woman from Adam’s rib to emphasize she was a part of him and equality was out of the question. Much more manageable…

Pretty freaky story, no? I actually feel a lot of sympathy for this Lilith girl. She sounds opinionated, strong and independent. She knows what she wants and likes experimenting with new things.

Shouldn’t a day be dedicated to her or something? A day on which we celebrate the breaking of taboos, unfettered behavior and sexual emancipation. Sounds like a useful day to me!

Giving thanks to traditions.

native-americans-white-people-eat-thanksgiving-ecards-someecards

All though it is not a holiday on my side of the pond, I am well aware of the fact that many of you are celebrating Thanksgiving today. A beautiful tradition with wonderful customs and rich foods to last for the rest of the year… and then there is always the recurring controversy surrounding the celebration, which is for a great deal understandable and frustrating and not likely to go away, as we can not change what happened in the past…

In Holland we have a holiday of our own around this time of year, which has become a bit more controversial than we seem to be able to handle, even though the discussion has lingered in the background for years. It’s the holiday of Sinterklaas, or as it is commonly referred to in English: Saint Nicholas. Sounds familiar right? Well, the plump guy from the North Pole many of you know and welcome into your homes in December, is based on the same guy that arrives in the Netherlands every year from Spain. Where Santa has a sleigh with reindeer as a ride, our man has a white horse called Amerigo and a big ol’ steamboat to bring all the presents up to our small little country. And well, where Santa has a bunch of elves helping out, Sinterklaas has a bunch of negroes doing the work….

https://i1.wp.com/www.mediation.nl/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Zwarte-Piet.jpgHe has a whole army of them and they are all called Zwarte Piet (Black Pete), with curly black hair, golden earrings and big red lips. There are female Petes as well, but their name is still Pete. The Petes are well loved by all, all though kids are a bit afraid of them, as they are also the ones that take you back to Spain with them in their big jute bags, if you’ve been a bad child that year. Oh yes, they also carry a bundle of sticks to hit you with… Really, don’t ask, I don’t even know….

Anyway, we have managed to convince ourselves and the world for a very long time that this tradition is not at all racist, that we love and respect Zwarte Piet very much and that Sinterklaas would be lost without his Petes. This year however, we seem to be failing at this and I must admit that for the first time in my life I have come to believe that we are indeed doing something wrong and that it might be time to change…

As I said, this discussion about Zwarte Piet has been around for years, but this year, it has become bigger, louder and more extreme than ever before. The whole thing exploded when the United Nations decided to say something about it and even threatened to prohibit the holiday all together.

Sinterklaas-stormNow, first of all I would like to start by saying I think it is absolutely ridiculous the United Nations thought it wise or necessary to say something about this at all and even started an “investigation” to determine if the tradition was indeed racist or not. A ridiculous waste of time and resources that could have been applied so much better on at least 100 different and more important matters. At first, I thought the discussion would blow over and out, along with the first big autumn storm as it always has, but I was wrong.

Sadly, in an attempt to defend Black Pete and prove that we don’t have racism running through our culture, my fellow countrymen have accomplished the exact opposite. I am now convinced, more than ever, that we are indeed racists and that we have been blind to it all this time.

As a counter reaction to the UN report, stating Sinterklaas “might be racist”, a petition was started to defend our tradition. The Piet-ition went viral nationwide, sparking reactions such as “If you don’t like Zwarte Piet, you are not Dutch”, or even worse, “If Zwarte Piet isn’t allowed, than neither is Eid al Fitr”. I almost shit my pants out of shame, reading these reactions, and couldn’t believe all these people didn’t understand how counterproductive they were being.

I am still convinced children do not see Zwarte Piet through racist eyes and that we were doing fine telling the kids that Pete is black because he climbs down the chimneys to put presents in the children’s shoes. We always said that Petes were in fact themselves children, who had been naughty and were taken back to Spain to help Sinterklaas prepare for the next year. This all made sense, especially as they were always portrayed as being a bit mischievous and fun loving, as naughty kids would be. Even more so, they were the cunning and witty ones in the equation, where Sinterklaas was often portrayed as the sweet and generous, yet slightly forgetful, old man. Without Zwarte Piet, Sinterklaas is a pretty dull old guy. Even his horse is boring.

But instead of making space for an open dialogue, acknowledging the feelings of others and showing some willingness to share experiences, we have engulfed in this crazy crusade and made complete fools of ourselves. Everyone’s yelling and no one’s listening.

Black Pete is now indeed tainted. Well done. Idiots.