Jewish birth amulets are designed to counter the effects of evil spirits, and in particular those of the demon Lilith, believed to strangle newborn infants and to cause pregnant women to miscarry. According to an old midrashic tradition, Lilith was Adam’s first wife, and only after she rebelled against and abandoned Adam did God create Eve as a replacement. In response to Adam’s initial request to retrieve Lilith, God sent three angels named Sanoi, Sansanoi, and Semangalof to find her. The three angels threatened her with the death of one hundred of her sons every day she did not return to Adam. When she refused, they adjured her not to harm baby boys accompanied by amulets on which their names and/or images were inscribed. In keeping with this tradition, many such texts were created throughout the Jewish world to ward off the potential evil that could attend the birth of a child. The present lot, designed to be hung in the birthing room or placed near the child’s bed, is an intricate handmade papercut amulet decorated with an array of birds, beasts, and foliage, including a pair of lions rampant, which symbolize ideal human qualities (i.e., “be strong as the lion;” see Avot
5:23). It is inscribed with various biblical passages and kabbalistic formulae used to ward off Lilith and Satan. These include the text of Ps. 121, various permutations of Ex. 22:17, and, of course, the names of the three aforementioned angels.
The Haifa Museum, “World Papercuts: Tradition, Art, Craft,” 1986, no. 94.