A Visit with Lilith
Updated: Jul 5
We are opening the door into the darkness. What will we meet as we gaze into the abyss?
As we ease into the dark waters of our own subconscious, what shall we discover beneath its smooth, black surface?
Dante Alighieri took Virgil as his guide through the Nine Circle of Hell so I thought that the First Woman, Lilith, would serve as the perfect chaperone as we begin our journey.
(Let's remember that the Medieval magicians created hundreds and thousands of fallen angels and demons, giving them names and powers and organizing them into elaborate systems. I spent a lot of time researching and choosing through many books before settling on an Oracle format of five suits of 13 cards: Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Love, with two wild cards: Lilith and Lucifer. )
Also, rather than starting with a large and powerful Fallen Angel, I begin our journey with the summoning of Chariel, one of the Fallen Angels featured in Ars Theurgia Goetia (or Theurgia). What's particularly interesting about Chariel is that they appear twice in completely different guises. First, they appear as a Duke of Caspiel, and later, they appear as a Duke of Hydriel. Hydriel is both a spirit of air and a spirit that prefers watery locales.
So much contradictory information exists about these spirits and their characteristics. The deeper into the research I got, the more I realized that I would need to do a lot of interpretation and construction for these spirits. So, I made the creative decision to select the second version of Chariel and to place them into the Suit of Water.
We open our deck with a story of New Orleans and one of the many people that lives and works there.
Opening the Door
Celeste Dumont strolled slowly over the gravel path in the oldest part of Greenwood Cemetery. She carefully avoided the overgrown patches as she knew that so early in the morning the grass would still be wet.
Little Frisbee, her ten-year-old puggle, trotted contentedly by her side. Every now and again, the dog would stop and eagerly smell a piece of ground where another dog had made their presence known in the recent past. Celeste gave her a moment to sniff at the spot before pulling her along.
In New Orleans, in the early morning of May, the weather stayed cool until mid-morning. Celeste knew that the brutal heat of summer was just around the corner so she savored these morning walks with her Frisbee. Even though the puggle's muzzle had begun whitening, Frisbee retained most of the energy of her puppy days.
Celeste turned the corner of a large wall of oven tombs. Familiar with the pattern of this walk, Frisbee pulled eagerly on the leash until they reached the bench in front of a particularly large and impressive tomb. Celeste tossed Frisbee a treat from the pocket of her cardigan and sat down, staring up at her family tomb as she often did on these morning walks.
The Dumont family mattered once in this city. They'd been movers and shakers, contributing to the skyline of New Orleans in its earliest days. The family tomb had begun to crumble a little around the edges; some of the names from the mid-1800s were becoming almost impossible to read.
Celeste thought sometimes that she should hire someone to restore the tomb to its former glory, but she rather liked the aged aspect of the tomb. The delicate crumble of the marble appealed to some strange aesthetic. And, really, did it matter how the tomb looked? She was the last Dumont in New Orleans. The rest of the extended family had long since escaped to areas in the country with lower crime and more job opportunities. Would anyone care what became of the tomb when she, Celeste, was no longer here to visit?
She made a nice living as a freelance, remote web designer. She could afford to have the tomb restored to its past glory, but she couldn't seem to commit to making the necessary phone calls.
Although the sky had been growing lighter and lighter during her walk, Celeste sensed a change in the atmosphere. She felt a darkness, a heaviness growing in the air. She peered up at the sky, wondering if rain clouds were moving their way, but the sky remained bright with only a few wispy clouds.
Frisbee jumped up on the bench beside her with a pitiful whine. Celeste cuddled the animal, surprised to feel the small body trembling, something she only did when confronted with loud noises or storms. Frisbee buried her face into Celeste's lap as if hiding her puggle face was all the safety she required.
Celeste glimpsed movement out of the corner of her eye. She turned her head, distracted from Frisbee for the moment as she realized that shadows were lengthening and gathering near the front of another tomb further down the row, even larger and more ornate than her own family tomb, but this one seemed more fragile, more desolate. It was covered with vines, ferns growing out of spaces in the top where the brick had crumbled away; the carved names obliterated with the years. The large vaulted doorway in front seemed to be filling with a strange sort of smoke, tendrils reaching out like writhing serpents.
Celeste pulled Frisbee off of her lap and set her down on the bench. She stood and moved a few paces toward the tomb, unable to look away. Could the tomb be on fire? Maybe an odd sort of smoke bomb? But no one else was around. She hadn't met anyone on their walk. It had seemed as if she and Frisbee were alone in this part of the sprawling cemetery.
For a few more moments, the shadows darkened and thickened, sending out more and more of the unearthly tendrils, but then, suddenly, the shadows pulled inward in a strange sort of silent implosion; shadows dispersing as a figure emerged from within the tomb.
Entranced, Celeste took a few more steps toward the tomb as the figure began to coalesce before her. A dark-haired woman stretched slowly and sinuously, her figure clothed in a clinging dark gown that covered her from neck to feet. The strange woman locked eyes with Celeste and smiled slowly, invitingly.
Celeste stumbled back toward the bench. Where had the woman come from? How had she just appeared inside the tomb? Had she just been loitering there all this time?
“Don't be afraid,” the woman said, her voice low and husky. “I was hoping to find you here.”
“Do I know you?” Celeste asked, feeling muddled. The woman was beautiful with flawless dark skin and full, rich curves.
“I know you, Celeste,” the woman answered, “And I've brought you a gift.”
“You've brought me a gift,” Celeste repeated, feeling slow-witted.
The woman raised a tightly wound scroll that she'd been carrying, unnoticed by Celeste. “With this, you can make your dearest wishes come true.”
Even though it was only paper, Celeste found herself backing further away, vaguely aware that Frisbee was wrapping her leash around her legs in an attempt to find somewhere to hide.
“I'm not here to hurt you or cause you distress,” the woman said soothingly, her voice smooth and lovely. She directed her gaze at Frisbee and spoke with commanding authority, “Be calm, little one.”
Frisbee stopped shivering and wiggling and sat, her puggle eyes locked on the dark-haired woman.
“How did you get into that tomb?” Celeste collected her wits enough to ask. “Where did all that smoke come from?”
The dark-haired woman looked back from where she'd emerged, seemingly a little surprised. “To me, it was just a doorway; a way to get from my world to this one.”
She stepped a few steps closer to Celeste. “I wanted to find you and was hoping that you'd be alone. The veil here felt particularly thin. Coming through took almost no effort. Really all of New Orleans is full of doors and portals. It's surprising that more people don't stumble from your world into another.”
Celeste felt her sense of rationality slip further away. When she spoke, her voice came out louder and harsher than she intended. “I don't know you and I don't understand any of what you just said.”
The dark-haired woman moved closer, only a few feet away from Celeste now. “I've forgotten my manners. I'm Lilith. Perhaps you've heard of me.”
“Lilith,” Celeste repeated the name, rolling it out slowly with her tongue. “Lilith.” Something about it felt so familiar.
“Some have called me Adam's first wife; the troublesome, rebellious one, that got herself kicked out of Heaven and then cursed by his God because I wouldn't do as I was told.”
Celeste nodded slowly, remembering the stories now. “You became a demon.” Celeste swallowed thickly. “You became the Mother of all Demons.”
Lilith smiled with what looked like genuine amusement. “They never did like the troublemakers; those of us who wouldn't obey their commands. Did eating an apple ever really do lasting harm to anyone?”
Celeste gazed blankly at the beautiful face in front of her. Nothing seemed quite real at this moment.
“Did you know that demon is Greek in origin?” Lilith asked, smiling gently. “For the Greeks, a demon was really nothing more than a spirit. I'm not here to cause harm and I am most certainly not the Mother of All Demons. People do like to exaggerate.”
“What do you want from me?” Celeste asked a little desperately. Her morning walk had taken a very strange turn.
“I don't want anything from you. I merely want to give you this.” Lilith held up the rolled paper and handed it to Celeste.
Obediently, Celeste took the paper, noting almost absently its fragile, aged look.
“New Orleans possesses a lot of potential,” Lilith said, almost to herself. “We can really make things shift here with just a little bit of effort.”
“What is it?” Celeste asked, staring down at the paper, feeling both numb and unnerved.
“It's the answer you've been seeking,” Lilith promised her. She smiled warmly and then turned and began to walk slowly back the way that she'd come.
Celeste felt rooted to the spot, her eyes locked on Lilith as the dark-haired woman walked toward the vaulted tomb door that she'd emerged from just moments ago. Once again, shadowy tendrils began to gather in the recesses of the tomb. The interior darkened and went black as Lilith walked through the doorway.
Unable to look away, Celeste watched as the figure of Lilith disappeared from sight into the black of the interior tomb. Slowly the darkness began to lift, the shadowy tendrils drifting away in the bright spring morning.
Again, Celeste found herself alone with Frisbee who still sat quietly at her feet. Celeste turned the rolled paper around and around in her hands. Her mind seemed unable to digest the strange encounter. Had she really just met the original Lilith? Was magic a real thing or was she becoming unhinged?
What was on the paper? Did she dare unroll it and see what it was? To read whatever words might be written there?
Celeste Dumont felt a little foolish standing in the darkening woods shaking a can of spray paint. So many times over the past several weeks she'd seriously wondered if she were losing her mind. Had she just imagined that encounter with Lilith in the cemetery that morning so many weeks ago?
She pulled out her phone and scrolled through images until she found the photographs she'd taken of the scroll that Lilith had given her. Even as Celeste had unrolled it and weighted down the corners so that she could read the whole, the paper itself had seemed to grow ever more fragile, bits crumbling and falling away no matter how delicately she handled it.
She'd realized that it would never hold up to the necessary handling so she'd taken many photographs that first morning. She'd poured over every detail, almost memorizing the instructions over the weeks that followed.
Six weeks later, in a local state park, she was standing in a wide clearing near a small marshy lake surrounded by dense woods. She's rented a cabin as far from all the others as she could manage. She'd scouted this park for days, trying to find just the right spot. Everything needed to be just right.
She'd followed all the ritual instructions as exactingly as she could. She'd spent the past week fasting. She'd soaked in an herbal bath, sprinkled with herbs she'd found and dried herself, crumbling them into the hot steaming water. She'd dried herself with a linen towel and clothed herself in a long white linen shift. She was cleansed and purified standing near water on the third night of the full moon.
She checked that the incense that she'd placed at the four corners of her circle: South, North, East, and West, was still burning. The Fallen Angels liked their scents and if this was going to actually work, Celeste knew that everything needed to be just so.
Celeste paused for a moment, deliberately breathing more slowly, in and out, doing her best to still her mind. She felt a little overwrought and a little dizzy, possibly a side effect of not eating for the past week. She slowed her breathing still more, as much as she could, and then began shaking the can of spray paint once more as began to chant.
She'd measured out the ritual space earlier and now she painstakingly marked the first outer circle, pausing and shaking the can of paint as she went.
At the very beginning, she'd considered setting up the ritual space in her old, sprawling home. The house was rooms and rooms of old dusty furniture that she'd inherited and never had the urge or inclination to clear out. She spent most of her time working from her own bedroom, going from that space to the kitchen and then back again. The rest of the home was a neglected relic. She could easily empty out one of the wide, high-ceilinged rooms to use as ritual space, but Chariel, the fallen angel of air and water, preferred boggy marshy areas. If she wanted this summoning to actually work, Celeste intended to do everything suggested in the scroll.
The outer circle completed, Celeste paused again. Her pulse was racing and stars danced in the corners of her eyes. Part of her wondered if the fasting would serve to make her think she was seeing things that weren't actually there. Deliberately, she pushed away her doubts and began the second, inner circle, stopping and shaking the spray paint can as necessary.
Finished with the inner circle, she moved to the center and began the chant as she painted out the Sigil of Chariel. She'd memorized the Latin words phonetically and practiced them until they flowed effortlessly from her tongue.
“O magne Chariel, magne et potens Dux, venerabilis Hydrielis devotus famulus, ad te hac nocte voco. Magne Chariel, ad te voco, magister Air, moderator aquae, audi vocationem meam. Omnipotens et benignissime Chariel, ad te clamo, ut hac nocte gyro accedas, et mecum occurram. Magne, magnifice Chariel, audi me et prodire ad hoc tempus et hoc loco.”
(In English: “Oh, Great Chariel, oh great and powerful Duke, devoted servant of the esteemed Hydriel, I call to thee this night. Great Chariel, I call to thee, Master of Air, Controller of Water, hear my call. Powerful and bountiful Chariel, I call to thee to come to this circle this night and meet with me. Great, magnificent Chariel, hear me and come forth to this time and this place.”)
She finished the final circle with a flourish and moved carefully outside of the two circles. She continued with her chant: once, twice, three times, before the smoke that she remembered so well from that morning in the cemetery began to gather within the confines of the Sigil.
A heaviness grew in the air. The darkness within the circle kept growing, unearthly tendrils reaching out, writhing like serpents.
Celeste felt oppression in the atmosphere. The air seemed thicker, making breathing more difficult. She felt the lightheadedness increase and she struggled to take deep steadying breaths as the smoke and darkness within the Sigil continued to grow.
The smokey tendrils began to swirl in a clockwise direction, somehow seeming to increase in darkness. Celeste felt dizzier and dizzier but she couldn't look away from the center of the circle even as the swirling speeded up to what seemed an unearthly speed.
Abruptly, it stopped, coalescing into a figure, much larger than she'd anticipated. A large undulating serpent formed from the darkness, with a human head and arms that moved sinuously.
The figure moved restlessly, stretching and curling around the confines of the inner circle. After a few moments, it seemed to settle into its incarnation, and the female head focused its attention on Celeste as Celeste stared in awe from without the circle.
“Greetings, Magician,” the serpent spoke. “It has been many decades since I've been summoned to this plane. Where are we?”
Celeste swallowed thickly, forcing herself to take a deep steadying breath before she spoke. “Welcome, oh great and powerful Chariel. We are in the state of Louisiana, not far from New Orleans, in a land known as the United States of America.”
Chariel smiled. “I said it had been decades, not millennia, but I am pleased that New Orleans remains. I enjoyed many nights of debauchery here over the course of the centuries.”
“I should have, I mean, I ought to have...” Celeste stumbled over her words. Had she really just been condescending to a fallen angel?
The serpent slithered around the confines of the circle, seeming to test the boundaries, and then came back to rest in front of Celeste. Chariel smiled again. “Do not worry, Magician. If you knew enough to summon me, surely you must know that I mean no harm to you so long as you treat me with respect and courtesy.”
“Yes, oh Great Chariel,” Celeste squeaked out, feeling overwhelmed with this reality. She'd practiced out a lovely flowery speech with which to address Chariel, but the words seemed to have fled from her mind.
“What is your purpose in summoning me this night, Magician?”
Celeste steadied her breath, bowing her head respectfully toward the strangely lovely serpent woman, as she tried fruitlessly to remember her speech. “I would ask a favor of you, oh Great and Powerful Chariel.”
Chariel smiled again. “Which is?”
Her mind still blank, Celeste managed to say, “I want a friend,” feeling foolish even as the words left her mouth.
Chariel looked a little puzzled. “There is someone you wish to love you?” they queried. “I don't do a lot of love magic.”
Figuring she was all in at this point, Celeste went on. “I'm lonely. I don't want a lover or a boyfriend or a mate. I just want a friend.”
Chariel reared back in their serpent form. They cocked their head to one side, gazing thoughtfully at Celeste. The two gazed at each other for a few long moments until Celeste dropped her gaze, feeling like a fool.
She'd spent the past few years feeling more and more isolated. Her family was gone. The friends she'd made in high school and college had all left New Orleans. Only she remained, working steadily at her job. She had work colleagues whom she communicated with infrequently by email or even phone but she had no one left in her life to whom she felt close.
For the past few years, it had just been her and Frisbee, dear sweet Frisbee who kept her anchored to this world, who trustingly placed her sweet little face in Celeste's hands every night. Frisbee was all that had been keeping her sane.
“I just want someone to meet for lunch. Someone to take Sunday afternoon walks with. I just want to know that there is someone in the world that cares that I am here,” Celeste stumbled over her words. “I just want a friend.”
“You would have me wield my powers to make some other human or humans feel affection for you?” Chariel asked slowly.
“Yes, please,” Celeste answered, fighting back tears. She'd never felt so small or foolish. Had she really spent weeks preparing to summon this demon because she didn't know how to move out of her shell of isolation?
Chariel swayed slowly, raising their arms above their head, and became to slither slowly in a counterclockwise circle. The shadows began to gather around them once more as the snake demon moved more and more quickly.
Celeste stepped back from the circle. Was the summoning over? Was Chariel leaving? Would she, Celeste, have a friend when she woke up tomorrow morning?
The speed of the swirling shadow increased, moving faster and faster as Celeste watched. The atmosphere grew heavy once more with anticipation and dread. Then, abruptly, the spinning stopped as the shadow tendrils imploded inward and then outward, leaving a figure standing in the middle.
This figure, unlike the snake demon, was humanoid in shape, possessing the face of Chariel with a fully human body. Celeste stared in confusion.
The woman with Chariel's face smiled and reached her arms out in welcome.
“I'm here, friend,” the strange woman said to Celeste. “Let's go explore the world and see what kind of trouble we can get into in New Orleans.”
Celeste continued to stare numbly at the strange woman.
Chariel smiled and walked unconcernedly out of the circle. She looked down at the painted circles and Sigil. “We should probably tidy this up before we go,” Chariel said. “No point in getting people talking.”
“You want to be my friend?” Celeste managed haltingly. “You're coming back to New Orleans with me?”
“For as long as you want me, dear Magican.” Chariel smiled. “For as long as you need me to help you fight that loneliness in your heart.”
The element of Water represents feeling, emotions, intuition and creativity.
The modern world can be a cold and dehumanizing place. As we distance ourselves from our fellow humans, we can feel ourselves closing down our emotions. The more we create distance, the more difficult it becomes to connect and the spiral of loneliness begins to feed itself.
We can connect with others via social media, but sometimes that doesn't quite satisfy the emptiness in our hearts. We can find wholeness within ourselves, but we are humans. We are crafted as social animals and we long to make those connections, but as you've created more space around you and away from others, you aren't certain how to fill your social needs.
Chariel is both a spirit of air and water. Air tells us that we can logic our way out of difficult situations, but water reminds us that we still possess feelings and emotions. Chariel can help you find that balance that you crave.
Reach out to them when you're feeling cut off and lonely. Make connections. Find a way to fill that part of your soul that wants and needs other people in your life.
The Sigil of Chariel