Redheads have long been represented (and misrepresented) in literature and art, and there is plenty of scope to write on this subject, so this is likely to be the first in a series of posts devoted to redheads in history and art. So let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start;
This post does come with a disclaimer though – it involves a character from the Bible (well that isn’t commonly in the Bible actually) and it is not our intention to offend anyone’s beliefs. This is simply one account of a version of events, that we hope you find interesting.
So here’s the story – if you read Genesis it states in the first chapter, on the sixth day that God made man and woman in his own image. However, later in the same chapter God puts Adam into a deep sleep in order to extract one of his ribs and make Eve. So what happened to the first woman? While there is no further mention of her in the Bible, she is referred to in other texts such as the Sumerian King list and in a Babylonian terracotta relief. According to the Jewish texts written in the Talmudic period; Lilith and Adam split when he approached her for sex, and she refused to lie beneath him, as they were equals. She is then said to have flown off to the Red Sea and started living a promiscuous life with “lascivious demons”. It is only after this that Eve is made, as it isn’t fair to leave Adam alone.
So how does this all relate to us anyway? Well of course you will know by now, she is said to have been a Redhead! She is also the first and ultimate she-demon! Said to have been half snake, with a thirst for the blood of children, and redheads. The traces of her legend have been found on artefacts from a multitude of cultures including ancient bowls found in Iraq, the Nippur bowls from the 6th century Jewish colony, and has close associations with the Greek Mythology’s ‘Lamia’ – a Goddess with the head and breasts of a woman, but the body of a serpent. Later interpretations, including the temptation scene on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and Original Sin by Hugo van der Goes.
You may notice in the image above, that most of the characters here are Redheads. It is said that giving a character Red hair signified they had done some thing wrong (which is why Judas is often depicted with red hair). However, giving an angel red hair may suggest otherwise
These paintings of Lilith, by Rosetti ‘Lady Lilith’ depict a beautiful woman brushing her long Red hair, much better than a serpent! If you look at the proportions of the neck and shoulder, you may notice that it isn’t possible for the line to be that long. Rosetti also wrote an accompanying poem, which we’ve included below.
Of Adam’s first wife, Lilith, it is told
(The witch he loved before the gift of Eve,)
That, ere the snake’s, her sweet tongue could deceive,
And her enchanted hair was the first gold.
And still she sits, young while the earth is old,
And, subtly of herself contemplative,
Draws men to watch the bright net she can weave,
Till heart and body and life are in its hold.
The rose and poppy are her flowers; for where
Is he not found, O Lilith, whom shed scent
And soft-shed kisses and soft sleep shall snare?
Lo! as that youth’s eyes burned at thine, so went
Thy spell through him, and left his straight neck bent,
And round his heart one strangling golden hair.
For a feminist analysis of the poem see the following link http://feminism.eserver.org/theory/papers/lilith/bodybeau.html
So whether you believe that the first woman was a Redhead (serpent, vampire, evil thing) or not, I don’t think her legend has done much for the reputation of Redheads, do you? If you have favourite stories of legendary Redheads, or Redheads in art, please share in the comments below
Source – For more on this story, and much more:
The Roots of Desire: The Myth, Meaning, and Sexual Power of Red Hair: Marion Roach