ANIME & MANGA - Article
11:00 - 3rd July 2016, by David West

Angels And Demons

Hideaki Anno’s Evangelion reboot is just as heavy on religious iconography and symbolism as it is on angst and mecha action. But Anno does not limit himself to one particular creed, drawing upon a wide range of sources for inspiration. In Evangelion 3.33, Shinji and Kowaru undertake a mission to retrieve the Spears Of Cassius And Longinus from the corpse of Lilith, a perfect example of how Evangelion’s mastermind cherry picks ideas from disparate traditions.

Mother Of Demons

Lilith is a figure from ancient mythology sometimes portrayed as the first wife of Adam. Lilith’s origins lie in Sumeria. Her name appears in the story of Gilgamesh in which she is a demon. Sumerian myths feature female demons called Lillu, and likewise there are Mesopotamian tales about female demons called Lilin (another name which appears in Evangelion), which may be Lilith’s offspring. In the context of Judaism, Lilith crops up in Isaiah 34 once again as a female demon.

Lilith’s role as Adam’s first wife comes from a non-canonical version of the creation story, The Alphabet of Ben Sira. The author is unknown and the text dates from the Middle Ages. In this story, after creating Adam, God decides that he needs a mate and thus crafts a woman – Lilith – in the same manner that he made Adam, from the dust. However, Lilith refuses to be subservient to Adam (she won’t lie under him during sex) and, in an act of defiance, utters the sacred true name of God, grows wings and departs Eden. Thus God creates Eve using one of Adam’s ribs to insure that this second wife will get along with the first man.

Lilith departing Eden chimes with the Gilgamesh story, in which the demon is driven out into a barren desert. Lilith crops up again in the Dead Sea Scrolls, which are referenced frequently throughout Evangelion by Shinji’s father Gendo as providing the template for his scheme to bring about the end of the world. Lilith’s presence in Evangelion may be a reflection of this idea of apocalypse, as Lilith represents God’s first attempt to create a mate for Adam who proves unsuitable and is replaced, just as Gendo wants to wipe out all life on Earth to make way for a new, higher lifeform.

Lilith has appeared in various guises in popular culture. In C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, the White Witch is the daughter of Lilith, while she was referenced in Peter David’s run on DC Comics Supergirl as the Demon Mother Lilith.

The Spears Of Destiny

The reason that Shinji and Kaworu seek out the corpse of Lilith is that they are searching for the Spears Of Cassius and Longinus. This is a more recent reference than Lilith, as it relates to the New Testament and Christ’s agony on the cross.

The Gospel According to John describes a Roman solider stabbing Christ’s corpse: “But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.” John, 19:34. Now the Gospel of John doesn’t mention the name of this soldier, but in another non-canonical source, the Gospel Of Nicodemus, the soldier is called Longinus and he has since become a saint in the Catholic and Orthodox churches. There are relics of Saint Longinus in the Basilica in Rome where he is depicted in several stained glass windows. Thus the Spear of Longinus references the lance used to stab Christ.

What about the Spear of Cassius? Well, that might be a second reference to that saintly Roman soldier, who is sometimes referred to as Gaius Cassius Longinus. That’s somewhat confusing, because Gaius Cassius Longinus was one of the Roman senators who conspired in the murder of Julius Caesar, who was assassinated in 44 BCE.

In Evangelion 3.33, Lilith is seen lying in a huddle on the ground with the two spears protruding from her back. Hideaki Anno could be referencing Caesar’s death – betrayed and stabbed in the back, both literally and figuratively – with the spears in Lilith’s body, and tying that to Christ’s suffering for mankind’s sins. Or two spears might simply be more powerful visually than one, so he split the Biblical lance into two. Only Anno knows for sure.

The End Of The World As We Know It

Gendo Iraki wants to wipe the slate clean and start again with his Human Instrumentality Project. One of the defining features of Evangelion is the prevalence of cataclysmic events, marked by the appearance of the angels and referred to as First Impact, Second Impact and so on.

Apocalyptic scenarios exist in numerous forms in different faiths, although they frequently refer to a renewal in the wake of destruction. That’s present in the Norse Ragnarok, and in Islam in the aftermath of the final battle between the Mahdi (the redeemer) and Isa (Christ) versus the Anti-Christ. Hinduism talks of a grand flood called the Pralay or Prayala. And a great flood is described in the Old Testament story of Noah and the Quran as wiping away the sins of the past and starting the world anew.

But it is in the Book of Revelation in the New Testament that most closely resembles Evangelion’s apocalypse, with seven angels descending from Heaven with seven trumpets. As each angel sounds their trumpet, they unleash forces of destruction from ‘hail and fire, mixed with blood’ to ‘a great mountain, burning with fire’ that turns the sea to blood, and a star falling from heaven to split the ground. In Evangelion the angels descend from the skies to wreak their havoc, and in Eva 3.33, the sea turns blood red. Images of crosses abound, reinforcing the themes of death and rebirth central to the plot, from the clones of Rei Ayanami to Gendo’s Human Instrumentality Project.

But what is Shinji’s role? Is he the Messiah, mankind’s saviour? Or the sacrificial Isaac to Gendo’s Abraham? Feel the faith in Evangelion 3.33 You Can (Not) Redo out now on Blu-ray and DVD from Manga Entertainment.

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