By Eva Figes
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Certainly snakes are both insidious and dangerous. Menstruation, according to one primitive belief, begins when a woman is bitten by a snake. Birth and death are the elementary facts of life, but because of the way we live now they are pushed into the background and we are hardly aware of them except as the almost abstract limits of personal existence. Pregnancy is carefully concealed, the dead body is discreetly removed by an undertaker. People hardly ever die or give birth in public, for death and parturition people are removed to hospitals and nursing homes where only the closest relatives will dare or be allowed to penetrate.
But by the seventeenth century the rabbinical scholars had found an answer to this awkward question: she was created from 'filth and sediment instead of pure dust' like Adam. However, the insubordinate creature flew off in a rage and even the intervention of God could not induce her to come back. 2 That the evils of the world should have gone on multiplying since is explained by the fact that Lilith 'escaped the curse of death which overtook Adam, since they had parted long before the Fall. Lilith and Naamah not only strangle infants but also seduce dreaming men, any one of whom, sleeping alone, may become their victim'.
40 141-2. A Man's God amongst the working classes, where there was no social ostracism to fear, and where married women were not economically dependent in the same way, since they had to work anyhow, did men still resort to beating their wives, and were duly admonished by their social betters. In the Victorian novel the washerwoman with the black eye administered by her drunken husband was visible proof for the ladies with leisure to read, of the barbarity, the lack of refined feeling, in the working classes.
Patriarchal Attitudes: Women in Society by Eva Figes