Unpacking Hapax Legomenon

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Early this year I was asked by my then-fiancee Ella (dodostad) if I wanted to collaborate with her in the next Team Pärvelö project: a collection about lesbians in history. I knew without thinking too much that my answer was yes, of course, since Ella and I have been excited about making things together and I thought it would be an excellent excuse. We collaborated on a project in 2013 for Uni2, another Finnish collection, that while with a good concept, Ella didn’t have a lot of time for and it ended up being rushed and compressed. (We may revisit that story again someday.) So I was eager to try it again, maybe with a little less stress.

I have most of a degree in Religious Studies (with a minor in Creative Writing) from Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. All the requirements are fulfilled, but I haven’t gotten the paperwork thanks to money issues. It’s a long story. But when I thought of what I wanted to write with regards to women in history, I immediately thought of my religious studies background. What if our story went back to what many believe to be the beginning of History? What about a story about Adam and Eve?

This post is going to be about unpacking this story with all of the academic biblical bullshit and separating what precisely is backed up in myth and conversation (while being as lazy about sourcing and such as I can) and showing precisely  how much was my own storytelling flavor. Of course I also don’t want to show you too much and ruin the story for you. Please support Ella and me, and Team Pärvelö and buy a copy of Lepakkoluola. There are a lot of fantastic stories in there.

And so Hapax Legomenon was born, with one major difference from the typical creation myth: the presence of two women: Eve and Lilith.

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There were two major inspirations to the story of Hapax Legomenon, the first being one of the first things you learn when you study the Torah: there are two different accounts of the creation of women. The second is that Lilith is often a name associated in popular culture with snakes, the creature that tempted Eve to eat the apple in the Garden of Eden.

But let’s backtrack a little. What is the meaning of the title, Hapax Legomenon?

A hapax legomenon (which apparently I’ve been pronouncing wrong the whole time) is a word or concept that appears only once in a single context, for example in a book or series of work. In the bible, Lilith herself is a hapax legomenon. The term came up when I was researching the comic and just kind of stuck for the title, since it was so fun to say.

Lilith’s only appearance in the bible is not actually related to the creation myth at all, but instead she is mentioned in Isaiah 34:14 as one of eight unclean animals, some among her which are types of demons. Sometimes she is called “Lamia”. Since she is only mentioned here, she is sometimes translated away, too hard to explain, and ceases to exist entirely.

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Poor Lilith.

In the 8th-10th century, however, it became a popular concept to believe that Lilith may have been Adam’s First Wife, in the Alphabet of ben Sirah. Although this wasn’t the first time she was thought to have potentially been born to live in the Garden of Eden with Eve and Adam.

You see, there are several events in the Bible that occur more than once. Scholars believe this is the case because both interpretations are considered to have equally important value. The creation of the world in Genesis is one of these. Here are the two accounts of the creation of woman, side by side:

So God created humankind in his image,

in the image of God he created them;

male and female he created them.

God blessed them, and God said to them,

‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it;

and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air

and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’

Genesis 1:27-28

…the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man

and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.

And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man

he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,

‘This at last is bone of my bones

and flesh of my flesh;

this one shall be called Woman,

for out of Man this one was taken.’

Genesis 2:21-23

So as you can see, one is made at the same time as Adam, as his equal. And the other was created for Adam out of his rib. You can make sense of this part of the story as linear if you imagine that these were two separate women. The first is Lilith, the second is Eve.

ex04I guess I should move along or I’ll be talking for the rest of my life about stuff I’m not actually a biblical expert in. The tales go though that Eve was probably made for Adam as a partner after the expulsion of Lilith. Lilith is thrown from the Garden for refusing to be subservient to Adam, and ends up making a whole bunch of demon babies after she gets together with the archangel Samael. In spite of this transgression Samael keeps his job and goes on to do a bunch of cool stuff in the bible.

So while Hapax Legomenon embellishes the story so that Eve and Lilith are in the garden at the same time, and are also totally in love (maybe it could have happened, who knows? Probably as likely a theory as the world being created in six days) much of the comic is based on pre-theorized myth that maybe you didn’t know before!

The second important element in Hapax Legomenon is Lilith as the snake. Although if you’ve read the comic you can probably understand what I mean by now. I was going to discuss it with some length but instead I think I’ll leave it out as a spoiler, even though you can probably figure out how it goes.

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If you have any questions about the story please leave them in the comments! I’d love to talk about it more. Please buy the book, read the stories (all of them) and let me know what you think!

-Dawn

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