Review: “Rites of Lilith” by Asenath Mason

I’ll open this up with a TL;DR, because things get messy and theological towards the end: I really like this book, and it does something that I have not seen from anything else on the market. If you are an established devotee of Lilith of almost any stripe, you should probably at least consider getting it. Yes, even for the price. But if you are new, or (understandably from the title) are looking for a system of specifically dedicated Lilith initiation, you should wait and read the rest of this review.

The book opens with a brief but relatively comprehensive history of the development of Lilith’s mythology through time and cultures. I have quibbles here and there (when do I not?), but for the most part, with one exception discussed below, this is a very clean and well-curated summary to get a person up to speed with her history. And that is its function — it serves as a sort of introduction for anyone to whom Lilith is relatively new.

Mason follows the historical section up with a ritual section that is more or less what you should expect from Qliphothic styles of work, which is to say they are basically the left-hand path of Western ceremonial magic, borrowing heavily from Abrahamic mysticism. Not my tradition, and they are a bit complicated for my liking, but I am but a simple pagan creature. That said, if Draconic and Qliphothic rituals are your thing, and you have a good printer to replicate Mason’s extremely complex sigils, I’m sure you’ll like this. I do have substantial problems with the way the Primary Sigil initiation is impacted by the cultural problems of this tradition, which I feel betray what the book is claiming to be, and I discuss that in depth further down-post. But first, I really want to talk about the real focus of the book, which are the several sections on the Names.

If you’ve poked around my Library before, you will know I have an entire section on this. As of now, I have counted 118, but none have descriptions attached to them. That would be a truly gargantuan undertaking.

That is exactly what Mason has done.

This is, to my knowledge, the most expansive and complete encyclopedia of the legion of Lilith’s faces that has ever been produced. And that’s really what the bulk of this book is: an encyclopedia. Each listing includes its own illustration, sigil, invocation, and description, and most sections are at least a couple of pages long. The work on the Names is extensive and extremely useful, including over 60 faces. And my only real complaint about any of it is the inclusion of Lailah, an angel who is, if anything, Lilith’s complete opposite. I’m really not sure where Mason got that connection from, but that’s a short list of complaints on such an huge collection.

What is so interesting to me is how many of these forms ring so true to my own experience, even on a very different path. Pagan, Abrahamic, folkloric, and more obscure faces from the entire span of recorded history are each included, from Lamashtu to modern grimoires. The full spectrum of Lilith is covered in depth, from her void aspect to her sexual aspects to her deaths aspects to her wind and storm aspects and even, to my great surprise, her joyful aspects.

Although they already contain a great deal of information for such a huge number of faces, there are many moments in the book where I stopped to really think about a concept presented with one of the faces and wish I could read more. It makes you want to jump into a working right then and there. Despite how different our practices are, there is plenty here for pagan, elemental, or other types of non-ceremonial practitioners too.

If you want to dive deeper into the faces of Lilith, this is worth the buy even if you ignore the rituals and sigils. This absolutely has a permanent place on my shelf as reference material for constructing my own rituals, and if it wasn’t such a pretty volume, it would be dogeared extensively.

All of that said, there are two big bummers in this book for me, one historical and one cultural/theological.

On a historical level, Mason seems to be under the impression that Liber Lilith is an actual historical grimoire, despite the fact that the book was categorized by the author himself as fiction. And this is a problem large enough to be worthy of note because she refers to it so heavily throughout the book, even basing an entire chapter of her archetypes on it. While I don’t think there’s anything wrong with referring to fiction for inspiration, and I had planned to eventually review Liber Lilith myself because it’s been so influential, the fact that she is presenting it as part of the historical Western grimoire tradition is categorically incorrect, and that needs to be stated for historical posterity.

My other main complaint can be most easily summarized by talking about the lynchpin of her work: the Primary Sigil. As the name suggests, this is the sigil she promotes as the basis for every important working, even self-initiation. But as it turns out, the main sigil of the entire book actually isn’t even for Lilith; it’s for Lilith and Lucifer/Samuel, and crowned with the Eye of Lucifer because, as she says, she wants to make it clear that she thinks Lilith’s current can only be “powered up” by including, and apparently being overseen by, a masculine. That means that this book has no initiation ritual for developing a standing practice with Lilith specifically, despite being called “Rites of Lilith.” And while the Draconic tradition is a dualistic and gendered one that requires both to reach its theological goal, it does offer plenty of masculine-specific initiations for those who wish to focus on those entities, and none of them seem to insist that they are impotent without a feminine. I even checked Mason and Temple of the Ascending Flame’s own works for both Lucifer and Samael (they deleted the link after I posted this review, so here it is from the Wayback Machine), and found nothing about needing to include the feminine to initiate with a specific masculine demon. Apparently it is only the feminine that is too unbalanced to work with on its own.

This is such a shame to me, and it speaks to a larger issue that I have always had with the Abrahamic/Western ceremonial traditions and which I often find Mason falling into herself: there continues to be an imbalance in how Lilith and other feminine entities are treated, either through sexualization, or being subsumed into the masculine, or both. No matter how it is dressed up and rewritten, it always winds up being a fundamentally patriarchal practice. And you can see the impact this culture has had on Mason’s thinking reflected throughout the book in countless smaller ways. That should be no surprise given the rather chauvinistic things some of the people she hangs out with have written, some of which I’ve reviewed.

One glaring example is her claim on pg. 98 that Lilith will only want to work with a priestess if she is “young and beautiful.” She tries to soften the landing of this rather tasteless remark by saying that what she means is that women must not “neglect” themselves. But we all age in one direction, and I find it hard to fathom that Mason sees Lilith as the patroness of desperate prostitutes while also believing she would judge them for their dirty fingernails (although white-washing and propagandizing prostitution has always been a favorite pastime of this branch of the occult, and Mason does her fair share of that in this book too). And of course, there is no such mandate for youth or beauty placed on men. To find such deep misogyny, originating from predatory male cult leaders in search of nubile teen girls to molest, being repeated by a female practitioner who promotes liberation via Lilith is truly disappointing. I wonder how Mason will think of herself as she inevitably continues to age in one direction.

That is the biggest reason I recommend this book with caveats. This same mentality strikes to the core of practically every form of Abrahamic/Western ceremonial work with Lilith, regardless of if it is right- or left-hand path, and it is something new practitioners need to be aware of from the outset if they are primarily interested in Lilith or any other feminine entity. And because of the way this book is titled — that it positions itself as a sort of manual for a Lilith-focused practice — I really felt a need to be very clear about this issue. There is no Lilith-specific initiation in this book.

If you are looking for a practical guide to truly Lilith-centered practice, without any other baggage or being pushed to try to “balance” her with a patriarch, this is not it. In fact, no book in this entire branch of the occult is it. Sorry.

If you’re looking for the Draconic Qliphothic system, or just a trove of information and ideas to play with regarding Lilith, then pick it up. Despite these disappointments, the real meat of the book is the Names, which are useful to any form of Lilithian practice. There are large swaths of content where Mason finds her voice and centers discussing Lilith herself, along with the simple fact that it is now the authoritative resource for those studying Lilith as a legion. And I will say, also, this is certainly the strongest effort I’ve seen from Mason so far. She truly is an excellent theologian when she’s actually talking about the process. I just wish she would reach a little further, or at least find better company to keep, so she could arrive at a place free of all this self-deprecating baggage, and I only hammer on it so hard because I find her to be so compelling otherwise.

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  1. That caveat about masculine vs feminine energy is a pretty extreme problem for me. I am a male practitioner of Lilith and I have always felt that it is I, not my female counterparts, who must go through a few more hoops, such as taking care of myself and keeping beauty standards for my self high.

    This could of course be affected by factors like imposter syndrome and being a bit of an outlier in social situations. After all, you’re not like to find me at women’s circle focused on self empowerment, being a boy and all hahahah. But I digress.

    I find it totally bizarre to suggest Lilith needs any other force, male or feminine. And on that ground alone I will likely be avoiding this book.

    On the part about Lailah I’m pretty curious, I personally have never sensed a baby eating mother killing twisted and maligned energy in my dealings with Lilith, and personally feel that the Abrahamic viewpoint is an example of demonization and trying to make sense of a common problem in death during childbirth. But that’s my personal take. I can see how the author drew the connection. As it seems another author by the name of Schwartz? Had in the past. Specifically as Lilith’s opposite. For the above mentioned reason. But if you take baby killing out of the equation, that was really the only major difference. Otherwise Lailah is an Angel of Night. So that piqued my interest a little bit.

    As always, thank you for the review caretaker. The waters will rise.

    1. Lailah is a servant takes the seed before Yahweh, who then traps a soul inside it and sends it to Earth. Lailah is also male in some places. That’s why I say they are unrelated opposites. Lailah is servile, natalist, and possibly also a masculine energy. I can’t think of how they’d be less connected.

      I actually wrote about this in my What Is Lilith piece, which you may be interested in because it also shows another perspective on the image of Lilith as the undertaker of infants. You may also be interested in looking at some of my writing about Lamashtu, who in the Atra-Hasis is said to exist to keep the human population under control. Lilith’s history of child killing is much older than the Abrahamic religions. I think Lilith can be the undertaker of infants without having malign intent. Just because humans view something as evil doesn’t mean it really is. We are a rather self-centered species who give little care or thought to the suffering we impose on others.

      Why do we feel this need to defend Lilith from a perfectly natural and environmentally positive occurrence? Saying that Lilith is the undertaker of the young is not a slander. It’s mythological truth, with an important cosmic function. On Earth, human women also have the same function when they exercise control over abortion and even infanticide. Women who do such things were said to be possessed of Lilith, even when they were doing so in defense of their own freedom, or in compassion for an infant with no chance in the world. In whose interest is maximum breeding regardless of suffering? Men’s. Not women’s, and not children’s.

      And on some level, refusing to reckon with the feminine in these dark places can be thought of as a sexism of its own. Because of our upbringings in patriarchal societies, we struggle to think of the feminine as anything other than kind and maternal, even though it is not inherently either of those things and never has been. This has always been part of the feminine’s role.

      At any rate, thanks as always for your comments, and it’s always good to discuss with you.

      1. Very informative on Lailah, thank you very much for that.
        I’m sure you and I could talk for a very long time about Lilith, in many of her aspects.
        It can be difficult for me to really convey my thoughts on the matter over text. Without writing a book at least. Sometimes I feel I could have conveyed my thoughts with more accuracy. But that is alright.
        Words will never be enough.

  2. Thank you so much for your in depth coverage of these books. I hope one day there WILL be a comprehensive book focused on only Lilith that she (and we) deserve.

  3. Oh my goodness, you analyze books the way I analyze books! it’s so refreshing to find somebody who has noticed these troubling things and approaches about Lilith. I have found myself in your situation, where it’s like all of a sudden the feminine cannot be its own thing, and that is my issue with these books. I also don’t understand why they need to sexualize so much, I actually cannot wait to read this book because I’ve had my Hesitations whether or not should I get it? Because I have ran into problematic books that I find myself saying why did the author say this? Why can’t we just focus on Lilith just Lilith ? I will keep your post review in the back of my head when I get this book.

    1. There is also unfortunately more “male gaze” type sexualization than I wish their was. But in a sea of very flawed books about Lilith, this one does have the strength of doing something we haven’t seen done before. So, like all occult books really, take it with a grain of salt, take what suits and leave what doesn’t.

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