Legend has it that Lilith was Adam's first wife, created together with him on the Sixth Day and from the same materials. Some say Lilith was created a little later, after Adam complained to God that he alone of the creatures of the earth had no partner. Either way, Lilith was created independently from and equal to Adam, and this led to problems.
Not least of them arose because Adam always liked to be on top when making love. No doubt this was merely a symptom of deeper differences, but it was the issue that caused the rift in the end. After a particularly fierce argument which Adam attempted to win by force, Lilith in fury uttered the mystical, ineffable Name of the Almighty, clapped her hands and flew away.
Adam complained to Jehovah that he had been abandoned, so God sent three angels to persuade Lilith to return home. They found her on the shores of the Red sea in a place populated by a particularly lascivious breed of demon, from whose attentions she had been giving birth to a hundred more little demons every day. At least, that is how the angels reported it in Adam's version of events.
The three angels tried to coax Lilith to return to Adam but she only laughed: 'How could I go back to Adam after the entertainment I have enjoyed here?' The angels threatened to kill her but she only dared them to try. Which they did, and failed because she had learned some magical tricks in her exile. But after a great battle they managed to bundle her into the Outer Darkness and slaughter her offspring.
Adam meanwhile had been provided with a new mate in the form of Eve, who was fashioned from his rib in the hope that this would bind her more dutifully to him. And the rest of their tale is famous enough not to need repeating here.
In the Outer Darkness Lilith, whose most common form was of a woman from the waist up and a serpent below, became the consort of Samael and other fallen angels. Fury with Adam and grief for her slaughtered children led Lilith to plot revenge. By mating with the rebel angels she gave birth to many of the greatest demons to plague the world. Chief among them were the lilin or lamiae of the ancient world, vampires also known as succubi, who were fatal ravishers of men and devourers of newborn babes.
Lilith was banished from the world of Adam and Eve but she occasionally managed to sneak back. It's often said that the serpent that tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden was none other than Lilith and many Medieval scenes of the Temptation show the serpent as a woman from the waist up, handing over the fatal fruit to bring about the Fall.
Lilith's offspring also continued to plague Adam's descendants whenever possible as succubi or vampires. The screech owl is Lilith's totem bird and the form in which she often prowls the night. Some ancient statues show her as a voluptuous young woman with owl's wings and feet, but she can adopt any guise to human eyes.
The legend of Lilith is a dark and grim one, but it gives a glimpse into a long buried strata of the feminine in Jewish legend. This filtered into Christian mythology too in the form of Gnostic legends which tell of God Himself having a heavenly consort, and daughters such as Sophia, the Wisdom of God, to whom countless Eastern churches are dedicated.