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TITLE ~ Queen of Heaven: The Life and Times of Mary Magdelene

Chapter 11

     The rush was over. The jars of water stood in their place. Pots of food were covered and keeping warm on the stove with burning chopped straw from the meadows. Loaves of unleavened bread cooled slowly under cotton Shabbat cloths. The sheep, cattle and donkeys were all stabled, their mangers stocked with enough hay to last through the Sabbath. The Shabbat lamp was filled, the table was set. The scroll was ready on its stand. Mannasseh stood before it fussing with his tunic, his robe and his prayer shawl, making sure his attire was perfect. From where he stood he could watch the horizon where Shemmesh would slide below the mountains. He was at complete peace, aware of the silent and hurried preparations others in the household and the stragglers hurrying home to their homes in the village. One by one he could feel each villager at the moment they were ready for the coming of the Shabbat Queen, he could sense their readiness as each joined him in the waiting. The chariot of Shemmesh was approaching the gateway in the sky to the west, and as the sun passed through the western gate, so would the Queen of Shabbat descend upon the Earth. She would enter the hearts of the village and the struggles of the week would be put to an end.

     He smiled as Yohanna came into the room. She smiled back and checked the wick in the Shabbat lamp. There were four smaller lamps each on their own branch on the stand of the main Shabbat lamp. They had been added at Sister Miriam’s insistence. She had wanted her own lamp as soon as she was able to ask for one and once she had established her own lamp, she had then decided all of the female occupants of the house should have a lamp each. Manasseh had commissioned a new lampstand which accommodated the transition. David had joked about it being their winter Shabbat lamp because the heat it gave off was so intense. Yohanna had mitigated the warming effect it had on the house by making sure the extra lamps were smaller. They lasted long enough for Sister Miriam to go to bed and fall asleep. She checked each wick one by one to ensure the wicks were new and there was enough oil in each.

     “You’ll call me?” Yohanna asked after she finished.

     Manasseh nodded contentedly, and Yohanna left to check on the girls’ progress in dressing for Shabbat. She passed Maacah sitting in an alcove and stopped. The old woman sat, eyes closed talking to her god. She sensed Yohanna’s presence and opened her eyes. Yohanna moved on.

     At the next doorway she looked in on the three girls. They sat on the edge of the low shelf which served as a bench, scrubbed and washed and dressed in clean tunics. Martha had set her dolls up along the bench, ready for Shabbat. The three girls looked up and smiled.

     “Is it time?” asked Sister Miriam eagerly. Yohanna could feel the excitement rising as the Sabbath approached. She could almost feel the distant muffled thundering of the hooves of the horses at the head of the chariot of the Queen of Shabbat.

     “Soon!” replied Yohanna, “I’ll be back!”

     She slipped into the bedroom where David was dressing. He slipped his prayer shawl over his head and he looked up and smiled at her as she entered.

     “Ah, the Queen of Shabbat has arrived early, more radiant than ever!”

     Yohanna slipped her hand around David’s waist. “And you, you think you’re the King of Shabbat?”

     “That all depends,” David answered as he slipped his hands around her waist.

     “On what?” Yohanna asked coyly.

     He pressed his lips against hers and they kissed deeply. Lovingly, their freshly washed bodies tingling and yearned for each other. Their hands began to move across each other’s bodies, the caresses sure and unhesitant, travelling over familiar ground. Lovemaking was a homecoming for David and Yohanna, a beautiful, warm secure submersion in each other’s souls. At times like this they were alone in the Universe.


     “Mother!” an impatient disapproving little voice called. Sister Miriam stood in the doorway. “It is time!” she said haughtily and turned on her heels to take her place by the Shabbat lamp.

     Yohanna slipped her shawl over her head and followed Sister Miriam. She paused at the doorway. “We’ll finish later!” she promised, her lips shining from the moistness of their embrace.

     The edge of the sun kissed the line of hills to the west. The sky along the ridge turned yellow, the blue deepened to purple and spread to the hills, the dust in the air began to turn to a magical crimson mist. The birds voices were stilled. Today, even the wind dropped to nothing. For a moment it seemed the entire world stood still. No sound at all came from the tiny village as the last few moments of Shabbat eve passed.

     Within the house and its environs all movement was stilled. Even the sheep and goats in their kraal stood silent and unmoving. The smoke from the oven no longer curled upward. The pots of food on the stove top no longer bubbled or steamed. All was Expectation, a tense peacefulness which occurred at no other time as the start of Shabbat. All eyes watched as the sun sank in the west. Miri, Martha and Sister Miriam stood in a line, eyes glued to the sinking sun, their stillness barely kept under control as they waited for the moment they could again move. David stood behind Yohanna before the Shabbat lamp, the burning taper in her hand vibrated slightly. To their left, Manassah and Maacah held hands, statues of gnarled flesh and bone.

     Yohanna handed the taper to Sister Miriam. Sister Miriam lit her lamp on the stand and stepped back. “Blessed be He and Blessed be His Name,” she whispered, then stepped back into line, handing the taper to Martha.

     Martha lit her lamp and repeated the blessing. She returned to the line and handed the taper to Miri.

     “Blessed be He and Blessed be His Name,” she repeated as she lit her lamp. A voice whispered in her ear. “Eliezar!” She glanced quickly around her, but there was no one nearby. “Eliezar!” came the voice again, “Eliezar, come forth!” She whirled about, but still no one was nearby. The others watched her quizzically. She recovered from the shock of hearing the voice, handed Maacah the taper and stood back in line with her sisters. She was strangely disturbed by the voice. It was male and strangely familiar, a voice she had known for eternity, yet she knew no one to whom the voice belonged.

     She was barely aware as Maacah lit her lamp and recited the blessing.

     Yohanna stepped forward and lit the main Shabbat lamp. As the wick flared and settled, she placed the taper in a silver holder to allow it to burn out of its own accord.

     She passed her hands in a circle around the lamp.

     “Blessed be He and Blessed be His Name,” she recited.

     She circled the flame again and repeated the blessing.

     A third time she circled the flame of the Shabbat lamp.

     “Blessed be He and Blessed be His Name.”

     She covered her eyes with both hands and recited the blessing. “Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, Who has sanctified us with his commandments and commanded us to kindle the light of the Sabbath.”

     She removed her hands. The sun was nearing its lowermost postion in the sky.

     The bottom edge of the sun, slipped behind the hills, and they all stood quietly until the top of the solar disc winked below the horizon. The flame of the Shabbat lamp shone from the lampstand, its warmth and light replacing the rays of the dying sun.

     “The Queen of Shabbat has arrived!”

     Yohanna turned and hugged David, and all in the household hugged each other in joy at the presence of the Queen of Shabbat. Peace now reigned in the house. There were no servants, no masters, no father and mother, no children, only Shabbat.

     “Let’s eat!” cried David, “I am famished!”

     They made their way into the courtyard where the meal had been set. Nathan and Silas, David’s two herdsmen were already in the courtyard, sitting in the small bench outside the stable. They were loud men, boisterous, and their loudness both intimidated Miri and fascinated her at the same time.

     Now, Silas was dark and brooding. Before David hired him, he had been a carpenter, but he retired from his trade after his wife disappeared. Some say she had run away on horseback in the dead of night with a Bedouin. Others said she had been taken by jiin. A scarlet woman, they whispered. No man could hold her and she had fled the village for the delights of Caesarea. Her dowry had gone with her they said. When he was in a good humour, Silas was louder than he needed to be. His laughter seeemed forced and false, and he gave Miri the shivers. Yet he was kind and courteous on the surface, David said he was dependable, and Manasseh said he lived by the letter of the Torah.

     Nathan was young and brash. Miri could feel his eyes following her as she walked into the courtyard. She wasn’t afraid of Nathan. His crusty exterior covered a soft inside, and he was shy around women. Whenever his staring made her feel uncomfortable, she knew she only had to speak to him, and he would withdraw into himself.

     “Hello, Nathan,” she said cheerily. He mumbled and looked away.

     As the people gathered around the feast table, David lifted the first of the dishes on the table and the cover slid off, exposing the loaves within the basket. He returned the basket to the table and took a loaf from it and broke it in half.

     “Hail, O Queen of Shabbat, I, David Ben Yusef, break bread and offer the first of it to you.” He placed one half of the loaf into the bronze platter at the head of the table. “Welcome, O Queen to our humble home.”

     He then took a jar from its stand. The leather lid fell from the jar, and he poured wine into one of four goblets.

     “Hail, O Queen of Shabbat, I, David Ben Yusef, pour wine and offer the first of it to you.” He placed the goblet at the head of the table. “Welcome, O Queen to our humble home.”

     “Amen!” chorused the others standing about the table. The Queen of Shabbat thus having been served, everyone sat down at the table. Platters and baskets were lifted from their places, the covers so placed they would fall from the items as they were lifted. This was done so that none at the table would have to actively open a vessel containing food and thus break a prohibition of working on the Sabbath. There were dates, figs, and all manner of food. It was a grand feast fit for a Queen. The first of each dish was reserved for the Queen of Shabbat, and whoever uncovered the dish ceremoniously added the first morsel to the Queen’s plate. David placed the first of the sacrificial lamb on the Queen’s plate, and soon everyone broke bread and dipped the pieces in the still warm stew.

     Miri sat beside Yohanna. She closed her eyes for a moment in silent prayer to the Great Goddess, then reached for the bread herself. Yohanna reached past her and took one of the poppy cakes Mermaat had given. She sniffed it hesitantly, and her eyebrows furrowed.

     “What is it?” asked Miri.

     Momentarily, Yohanna seemed to be in some kind of a trance, then she smiled at Miri. “Nothing!” she said airily, in a manner which left Miri unconvinced. Again Yohanna smelled the cake, and glanced uncertainly sideways at Miri, then bit into the cake.

     She chewed for a few moments, not sure of the taste.

     “It’s good!” she said happily and took another, larger bite.

     Miri noticed Manasseh and Maacah were also staring at Yohanna as she ate. When they Saw Miri watching them, they both looked away. The strangeness of the behaviour prompted Miri to reach for a cake herself, but Manasseh’s hand caught hers, and he whispered in her ear, “They’re for Yohanna!”

     Miri frowned, and was about to protest, but Maacah put her finger to her lips to silence her. She was disturbed, but soon became involved in the feast. Through the course of the meal Yohanna ate all three cakes which was in itself unusual for Yohanna was always the first to offer scarce food to others before herself. The last one she swallowed greedily, her hunger was as passionate and deep as a lioness head down in the belly of an ox..

     Even David noticed the way she wolfed the cake down. Yohanna caught his stare of amazement, and her eyes smouldered at him through half closed lids as though she were a panther about to leap at him across the table. Her hand slid across the table like a snake and her hand wrapped seductively around his. She brought his fingers to her lips and kissed his hand gently.

     Everyone else stopped eating and glanced at each other one by one. David had been transfixed by his wife’s actions, but recovered and grinned sheepishly at every one else at the table. Everyone else grinned back. Yohannah drank deeply of her wine goblet, her eyes still languidly focussed on her husband.

     “A walk, I think,” said Mannaseh to Maacah as if trying to change the subject although no one was talking. “Girls come! Let us walk to the sycamore and back!”

     Silas as if following a cue, yawned. “I’m beat! I think I’ll turn in early!” With that, he drained his goblet and turned to the stables where he slept.

     “Me too!” said Nathan hastily after a nudge in the ribs from Silas’ elbow. The two men retired to the stable and Manasseh and Maacah ushered the three girls through the gate and into the street.

     David and Yohanna were alone. She slid along the bench and cuddled up to her husband.

     “The Queen of Shabbat desires your presence upon her rooftop.” she said huskily.

     “She does?” asked David. Whatever else he had wanted to say was lost as Yohanna opened her mouth, and swiftly took his head in both hands and kissed him passionately.

     Outside the compound, Manasseh, Maacah and the three girls walked hand in hand.

     “What was in those cakes?” asked Miri.

     “A secret recipe from Mermaat.” said Maacah, “They are magic cakes!”

     “Magic cakes?” asked Martha in awe.

     “What kind of magic cakes?” Sister Miriam wanted to know.

     “The first was to ensure the Queen of Shabbat stayed in the House of David,” said Manasseh. “That she will enter Yohanna and conceive a child. The second was so that El himself will enter the body of David, and bring him a son!”

     “A son!’ said all three girls together.

     The thought silenced them all for a while.

     “And the third?” asked Sister Miriam.

     “The third,” replied Maacah, “was a charm to keep Lilith from entering the House of David, for Yohanna is his house.”

     “But why would you need a charm to keep Lilith from our house?” asked Sister Miriam as they reached the sycamore. Manasseh lowered himself onto an old stone bench.

Lilith. Click here to view half-size picture      “Well, it all started along time ago,” he began. Maacah sat beside him and Miri, Martha and Sister Miriam settled in a circle at his feet.

     “Immediately after the Earth was made, the Gods said to themselves, ‘Let us make creatures in our own image, after our likeness, and allow them dominion over the fish of the sea and the fowl of the air, and over the cattle and the sheep, and all over the earth, and over every creeping thing upon the face of the earth. So the Gods created humans in their own image, the image of the Gods, they created them, male and female so they would not be alone.

     And formed of the fertile black soil of the valleys was the woman and from the red clay of the land, her spouse, the man. The Gods breathed into their nostrils the breath of life, and the two became living souls.

     And El planted a garden eastward in Eden for his beloved Queen Astarte, and there he put the man and the woman who had been formed of the earth to tend it. And El said, ‘Behold, we have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of the Earth, and every tree, in which you will find the fruit of the tree bearing seed. To you it shall be meat and sustenence.

     And out of the ground every tree grew which is pleasant to the eyes, flowers whose aromas caressed the nostrils, and they bore fruit which would please the tongue of the man and the woman and become their food. There, in the midst of the garden, intertwined as one, grew the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge.

     The waters flowed from the Tree of Life through the garden as a river, and from there it parted, and appeared as four great rivers.

     The name of the first is Pison, which encompassed the whole of the land of Havilah, where there is gold, and the gold of that land is more pure than any other, and the land bears bdellium and onyx in great quantities. The second is Gihon, encompassing the whole of Ethiopia. The third, Hiddekel flows eastward of Assyria; the fourth is the Great Euphrates.

     And El instructed The man and the woman to care for the garden for the trees and the growing things were of the same earth as them both. He commanded the man to dress the garden and keep it.

     To the man he spoke: ‘You shall freely eat of any fruit of any tree, except that of the Tree of Knowledge. From that tree you shall not eat for within the fruit is the knowledge of good and evil, and the day you eat it you will surely die.’

     The Gods admired everything they had made and, behold, they saw all was good, and so at that time, was the sunset of the sixth day. Thus were the heavens and the earth finished. And on the seventh day, the Gods ended their work, and rested. It was then the Gods made the seventh day and sanctified it, so the seventh day, Shabbat, would remain holy for Eternity.

     Now the serpent was left to guard the Tree of Life, and the serpent was more subtle and cunning than any other creature the Gods had made, for he lived in the ground and knew the mind of the Great Mother, Astarte. But he was arrogant in his knowledge, and thought to share his wisdom with the man and the woman. Still on the seventh day, the woman was the first to walk by the Tree of Life, the Tree of Knowledge, and the serpent hissed at her to gain her attention.

     ‘Woman, this tree contains fruit of which you must eat,’ he whispered to the beatiful maid. She pushed back her long black hair, uncovering her nakedness, yet she was not ashamed.

     ‘Has not El commanded we shall not eat of the Tree of Knowledge?’ she asked the snake.

     ‘Yes, I believe you are right,’ replied the snake, looping downward from the branches of the tree so as to better talk to the woman. ‘But has El not said also you shall eat of every tree of the garden?’

     The woman nodded, and said to the serpent, ‘It’s true we may eat the fruit of every tree in the garden, but of the fruit of this tree in the midst of the garden El has said, ‘You may not eat it, neither shall you touch it, for you shall surely die.’

     The serpent twisted on the branch and coiled about one of the fruits of the Tree of Knowledge, for he knew the fruits, which was the Fruit of Life and which was the Fruit of Knowledge.

     ‘You see I am touching the fruit, and I am not dead,’ said the serpent to the woman, ‘Neither will you die if you touch it or eat either. You see, El knows as I do, on the day you partake of the fruits of this tree, then your ears shall open, and your eyes also, so that from each tree you will be as the Gods, from one, you will receive the gift of knowing good from evil, and the other, the gift of everlasting life.’

     And then the woman, in her primordial not-knowing, saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food, and it was pleasing to the eyes, a tree to be desired to make one as wise as the serpent; she took the fruit thereof and ate of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. In her wisdom the woman saw all and knew the world around her. She thus saw Truth and Beauty for the first time for now she knew also the Lie and the Ugliness. She knew Loving Kindness for she also knew Fear and Horror. All things knowing and self-knowing, she did then eat of the Fruit of The Tree of Life, and became an Immortal.

     She returned to The man to tell him that all El had said of the Tree of Life, The Tree of Knowledge was to make them afraid and the Tree would sustain them both and make them both as Gods. But she could not prevail upon The man.

     For the sake of harmony let the matter drop for she saw The man as she had never seen him, and she saw he was beautiful, and she was overcome by Lust. She kissed and caressed him and he responded, his phallus rising stiff and erect and she pushed him down to mount him, but he protested. In his not knowing he knew only one position for lovemaking and that was with the woman below him.

     ‘Are we not equals you and I?’ cried out the woman. ‘Why should you take your pleasure always above me, when I do not wish it?’ She realized The man was not as she was for he had not eaten of the Fruit of Knowledge and the Fruit of Life, and he could not see nor feel that which she knew. Frustrated, she flew from the garden to the wild places beyond Eden to be alone with her anger.

     So, when El returned to the garden he found the man alone and forlorn, grieving for his departed wife.

     ‘What is wrong?’ he asked the man.

     ‘She has eaten of the forbidden fruit,’ replied the man disconsolately, ‘My mate has left me for she would not have intercourse in the usual way, and flew off to the wilds. Now I am all alone.’

     El’s anger at the woman was great, for he was a El, the God of Gods, and no one disobeyed his commandments, not even the seventy Gods of the Asura. His Word was Law.

     ‘She shall be cursed for all time!’ he bellowed, ‘She has eaten of the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge! She has eaten of the Tree of Life! I cannot undo what has been done. But she shall never again enter the garden nor go anywhere except where the wild animals dwell on the earth. She shall never bear you sons nor daughters! From now on, she shall be named Lilith and all shall curse her name!’

     ‘No!’ cried the man, ‘She is my mate! I will be alone without her! You must not prevent her from coming to me! She is headstrong and contrary, but she is my mate!’

     ‘It is done!’ roared El, furious that now the man who owed him his world should speak against him, ‘Be quiet, or I shall silence you forever!’

     He raised his arm to smite the man, but the hand of Astarte held him.

     ‘You must not blame the man for his love of his mate, for that is how you made him.’ she said ‘And the woman is the way you made her. Put down your arm!’

     Astarte thus stayed the wrath of El against the man, but what was done was done, and the woman would ever be confined to the wilds of the earth.

     ‘Man,’ she said kindly, ‘You shall never have children by the woman for I cannot undo what is done. But, as wild animals are released from their domain to roam in the gardens under the cover of night so shall she be allowed to return to you. She can never bear children of her own, but this I shall grant her. It is for Lilith to retain your semen from nocturnal emissions, and every child which dies before its soul can be established will be hers. If a child is borne prematurely, before the term of nine months, than she shall have dominion over it until nine months plus eight days has passed. Every child which dies in childbirth shall be hers. The souls of the unborn will be in her care until she can bring their souls back to me.’

     Astarte, having mitigated the effects of El’s curse, flew back to Bethasura, for she had duties to attend to there.

     El took The man to his bosom. ‘I am sorry for my wrath, but you are to me as a child and I cannot see you harmed. What I have told you is true. If you eat of the tree in the centre of the garden, you will indeed die. You will die slowly and suffer great pain. Remain as you are.’

     The man lived in the garden alone, but Lilith came to him at night under cover of darkness and had intercourse with him each night except on the Sabbath. For she could not enter the domain of Shabbat for it was the day dedicated to El, and his magic was strongest on that day.

     But Shabbat was marred for the man, for on that day he had no one to lay with, and the night was the longest of the week for the man because of it. And while the chariot of the sun Shappash cruised the sky, he tended the garden, but he had no one to share the joys of husbandry with, and he became listless and failed to care for the garden as he should. The nocturnal visits of Lilith, although he craved them as the evening drew nearer, left him cold and unfulfilled by morning. And so the Garden of Eden slowly began to die for the lack of the love of the woman. Crops withered in the field and grapes withered on the vine.

     El returned to the garden and his heart was saddened, for all the Gods had created was dying. ‘What is wrong?’ he asked of the man, ‘Have I not provided for your wants and needs. Why do you forsake your duties?’

     When he told El of his unhappiness, the great El’s heart was moved and he passed his hands over the man, and the man fell asleep. He reached his hand into the man’s side and from one of his ribs fashioned another woman. As the man awoke he saw the new woman and El explained to the man what had been done.

     Then the man said, ‘This is now the bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh for she was taken out of a man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife, and they are forever as one flesh.’

     They were both naked, the man and the woman, but they were not ashamed.

     But the serpent was as subtle and cunning as ever, more than any other beast who dwelt within the garden which the Gods had made. And he said to the man and woman who were in the garden gathering the fruits of the trees therein, ‘Has not Ba’al El said to you shall eat of every tree of the garden?’

     And the woman replied, ‘It is true he said we may eat of the fruit of every tree in the Garden.’

     And the man replied, ‘But the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, El has said, ‘You shall not eat of it, neither shall you touch it, lest you die!’

     And the serpent said to them, ‘You will not die of eating nor touching it. The Gods know the day you eat of it your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be their equals, knowing good from evil.’

     ‘If we eat of the fruit, El will chase us from the garden!’ protested the man fearfully.

     But the woman saw the tree was good for food, it was pleasing to the eye, and a tree to be desired to make one wise.

     ‘One bite, then,’ said the woman, ‘one small bite is not eating the fruit; it is just a taste.’

     The man agreed. ‘One bite could not hurt.’

     The woman picked of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, and took one small bite, and gave the fruit to her husband, and he took one bite also.

     Thus the ears of both of them were opened, but not as far as the ears of Lilith had opened, so they could not see All things as they were, only a portion of the Truth was revealed to them. The eyes of both of them were opened, but not as far as the eyes of Lilith had opened, so although they knew they were naked, they were ashamed of the nakedness, and sewed fig leaves together to cover their private parts.

     And at that moment, they heard the voice of Ba’al El walking in the garden at the cool of the day, and remembering the fate of Lilith, the man hid himself and his wife from the presence of the El amongst the trees of the garden.

     When Ba’al El could not find the man and the woman, he called angrily to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?

     And the man and woman came timidly from their hiding place and the man said, ‘I heard thy voice in the garden and I was afraid, because I was naked and I hid myself.’

     ‘Who told you you were naked, and why were you so ashamed of this? Have you eaten of the forbidden fruit, where I had commanded you you should not eat thereof?’

     The man trembled and was sorely afraid and he replied meekly, ‘Only a small bite, Lord. The woman whom you have fashioned from my own body to keep me company, she gave me the fruit of the tree and made me eat of it.’

     ‘Is this tue?’ asked El of the woman.

     ‘The serpent beguiled me, and I ate of the fruit.’

     And El glared at the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, you are cursed above all cattle, and above every beast in the field. Upon thy belly will you crawl, and dust shall you eat all the days of your life.’

     And the arms of the snake vanished.

     ‘I will put enmity between you and the woman,’ El said to the snake, ‘Between your seed and hers, she shall bruise your head and you shall strike at her heel.’ The snake hissed at El, and rose up in anger, but thought better of standing against the God of Gods and slid away into the ground.

     El turned his face to the woman and said, ‘For your part, I shall greatly multiply you sorrow in conception, in pain shall you bring forth children, and your desires shall be subject to your husband, and he shall rule over you!’

     And unto the man he said, ‘Because you listened to the woman and not to the Word of El, and have forsaken your duty to me, all the ground beneath your feet shall grow thorns and thistles; they shall devour the goodness of the soil and must be plucked out by hand and the sweat of your brow and the muscle of your back and arms. The seeds of the grain and herbs for food will must be sown by hand and the sweat of your brow and the muscle of your back and arms. The ground will be hard and full of stones, and by hand and the sweat of your brow and the muscle of your back and arms, your labour will be hard to break it open to lay the seeds therein. And the sun will bake the soil and the plants and the rains will not come every day. All your days will you work by hand and the sweat of your brow and the muscle of your back and arms until you die, for you have eaten only of the tree of knowledge.

     ‘Behold, you sought to become as one of us, to know both good and evil and to know the difference between them. But now, lest you put your hand forward and partake also of the Tree of Life, thereof to eat and live forever, you shall wander the face of the earth always in search of Paradise, but you shall never find it, unless you repent of your transgressions of my Law! Only a full life of Righteousness will buy you entrance to the Gates of Paradise. We shall be watching you and your seed and judging whether you are worthy of returning to Eden!’

     So he drove the man and the woman from the garden, and he placed at the gate of Eden Cherubim armed with flaming swords and shields of light which turned every way and barred the entrance to Paradise to the man and woman, and all their seed forever. The Way to the Gates was hidden to all but those of pure heart. This he did to keep the Path to the Tree of Life hidden to All except the Righteous!

     The man was from that time named Adam, for out of the red clay he was taken and fashioned, for dust he had been and to dust he would return. And the woman was named Eve, for she would become the Mother of All Living.

     Over the years Lilith became despised by Eve and her daughters for Lilith flew in from the wilds and appeared only at the death of a child. They no longer saw her as the guardian of the unborn but the Thief of Unclaimed Souls. They devised charms and curses to keep her away. When a child laughs in its sleep, a mother will tap the child on the nose to awaken her, because it is Lilith who creates the smile. It is said when children talk to the air, it is Lilith who talks back.

     She visits single men at night, even husbands who sleep alone and engages in sexual intercourse with them and steals the seed of their nocturnal emissions, the unborn children back to the womb of Astarte so they may be recreated again and again until they become a real child. When a child falls to its death form a great height, Lilith is there to snatch the child’s soul from the body before it touches the ground. When a child falls into the water and drowns, Lilith carries the soul from the water before the body rises to the surface. Whenever a child dies, Lilith is there to return the soul to the womb of the Great Mother.

     This is why so many see her as a demon, a devourer of children. To any mother whose child is taken in death from her arms, no matter the Will be bent Good or Bad, the abductor can be seen as nothing but evil! To any woman wishing to conceive, Lilith is there to intercept the man’s seed! To steal the souls of the unborn! That is why the last cake is eaten for Lilith: so the sweet taste will distract her from her purpose!”

     “Do you think Mother will bear Father a son?” asked Martha.

     Maacah smiled at Martha. “It is not for us to know!” she replied enigmatically, “What will be will be!”

     Miri looked up from staring at her hands folded in her lap. “He will be called Eleazar! I heard his name today at the lighting of the Shabbat candles! A voice called out, ‘Eleazar, come forth!’ His soul is already in our household awaiting the conception of the child he is to inhabit.”

     Maacah, Manasseh and Martha and Sister Miriam gaped at Miri in awe. None of them had any doubt at Miri’s prophecy, but the words of a seeress in their midst made them uneasy. Through the foreknowledge, they felt they were now conspirators in a devious plot.

     “What will we tell Mother and Father?” asked Martha.

     “We shall tell them the truth,” said Manasseh, “For we cannot keep this miracle from them.”

     They all agreed that in the morning, they would tell them of the vision Miri had received, and they returned to the house.

     In the morning, as they gathered for breakfast, David stood before the blessing of the food.

     “I want you all to know of my dream. Last night as I lay in Yohanna’s arms, I was visited by an angel accompanied by an owl. The owl flew away as the angel sat on the beam of the rooftop opening. He stared at me with glowing golden eyes which I recognized but have never seen before and said quite clearly, ‘I am Eleazar!’ then vanished!”

     Miri started and Maacah dropped the pitcher she was holding. All at the table felt the universe about them slip sideways and gel in another place. The mood was so strange that David asked what was the matter.

     They told him of Miri’s vision and the magic cakes and David sank to his knees.

     ‘Mother preserve us!” declared Yohanna.

     “A son!” whispered David, his eyes filled with tears.

     “A son!”

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