Angels and Archangels in Western Culture - A Short Guide

Angel - Statue in Cemetery

(photo by Dolores Monet)
(photo by Dolores Monet)

Choirs of Angels

Angels have been with us for a long time. Historically, angelic type beings predate the concept of a benevolent, monotheistic God. They appear as winged deities in ancient Egyptian, Assyrian, Persian, Greek and Roman culture. Angels as we know them are elements of Jewish, Islamic, Zoroastrian, and Christian faiths.

In the late 4th century AD, the Catholic Church categorized angels into groups called choirs and divided into triads:

Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones

Dominions, Virtues, Powers

Principalities, Archangels, Angels

Here, then, is a short guide to the categories of angels. The divisions are confusing, however, with many angels and their roles crossing over into other categories. Included are several archangels and their names.


THE CHOIRS OF ANGELS

A Seraph

(wikimedia commons; painting by Viktor Vasnetsov)
(wikimedia commons; painting by Viktor Vasnetsov)

Seraphim


Seraphim utter the song of creation, "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts, the whole earth is full of His Glory!" Beings of pure light, seraphim appear in human like form showing 6 wings and occasionally 4 heads. They have appeared with 6 times 6 wings.

In Jewish angelic hierarchy, seraphim rank 5th of 10 ranks.

Seraphim are associated with the serpent, a symbol of the healing arts (because snakes shed their skin and become renewed). In modern medicine, two serpents twine around the 'caduceus,' a healing wand which, in ancient Greek mythology, was carried in the hand of Hermes, a winged messenger of the gods.

Sataniel, or the Adversary, the Morning Star, the most powerful of the Seraphim, became jealous of God's favorite creation, mankind, and so was denied Gods' most severe punishment by being denied God.



a Cherub

Also identified as a seraph, from a medieval manuscript (wikimedia commons)
Also identified as a seraph, from a medieval manuscript (wikimedia commons)

Mary, Jesus, and Angels

(wikimedia commons)
(wikimedia commons)

Cherubim


In Hebrew and Christian lore, God stationed cherubim East of Eden to guard the Tree of Life. In Hebrew, 'Kerub,' means 'knowledge,' or, 'one who intercedes.'

Six thousand years ago, the Ka-ri-bu were the monstrous guardians of Babylonian temples. Appearing variously in Western cultures as winged beasts, and in human-like form with 4 wings, cherubim are the bearers of God's throne.

The origination of cherubim as cute little winged babies is a mystery.

Thrones

Thrones are the Chariots of God and have appeared as wheels of fire. Ezekiel (1:13 - 19) refers to thrones as being coals of fire in wheels with rims full of eyes. Thrones do not resemble people.

Some UFO buffs see a tie between thrones and sightings of extra terrestrial spacecraft and identify ancient depictions of fiery spheres in the sky with space ships.

Second Triad

Dominions regulate angelic duties and are God's channels of mercy. They maintain order ion the universe.

Virtues are associated with grace and bestow blessings from the heavens. Virtues acted as midwives for Eve at the birth of Cain and appeared at the Ascension of Christ into heaven as His escorts. Virtues are also associated with heroic deeds and aid in the struggle for good against evil.

Powers are a sort of border guard and have acted in both good and evil roles in their effort to maintain balance. Druid lore features Camael as God of War, a commander of 144,000 Angels of Destruction and Vengeance. Powers also assist souls that have left the human body and lost their way. They defend the world against devils and guard the route from earth to heaven.

Guardian Angel

1836 - painting by Henri Decaise (wikimedia commons, user Mutter Erde)
1836 - painting by Henri Decaise (wikimedia commons, user Mutter Erde)

Third Triad

Principalities are in charge of nations and protectors of religion. One prominent principality is Cervill who assisted David in the slaying of Goliath.

Archangels may be the best known of the heavenly host of angels. The Koran of Islam has four archangels including Michael and Jibril (Gabriel). Christian and Jewish faiths mention Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, and Raphael. Archangels are known as the messengers of God, issuing divine decrees. They command the legions of heaven.

Angels are the closest to humanity. In Persian, 'angaros' means messenger as in ancient Greek, 'angelos' means the same. It is this order that supplies people with their guardian angels.

Enoch's angels, or Grigori, also called 'watchers,' instructed mankind in agriculture, and the making of metal weaponry. Supposedly, some of these gigantic shining ones mated with human women (the daughters of Eve) and produced monstrous offspring. The angels who cohabitated with woman were punished by God and became fallen angels.(The Book of Enoch is an ancient religious text that is not canonical for the Jewish or Christian faiths, but is accepted by the Ethiopian Orthodox church)

Archangels

Michael the Archangel

Michael the Archangel tramples the devil underfoot in a 1676 painting (wikimedia commons)
Michael the Archangel tramples the devil underfoot in a 1676 painting (wikimedia commons)

Michael, the most famous of all angels, threw Satan from heaven. Michael has been called Dragon Slayer and associated with St. George. Michael appears in the Muslim tradition with wings of emerald green.

It was Michael who stayed the hand of Abraham as he was about to sacrifice his son, Isaac in a test of faith. Michael promised Daniel that when the world came into troubled times, a messiah would appear.

One of the Dead Sea Scrolls calls Michael the Prince of Light who leads the heavenly army against the Prince of Darkness.

Michael will be the Angel of the Last Judgement and has been associated with the weigher of souls, Anubis in the ancient Egyptian religion.

Michael is God's great champion and, in the Middle Ages, was depicted as a conductor of souls.

Gabriel - the Annunciation

The Annunciation by John William Waterhouse, 1914 (wikimedia commons)
The Annunciation by John William Waterhouse, 1914 (wikimedia commons)

Gabriel (or Jibril in the Islamic faith) is the Governor of Eden. Ancient Sumerian listed GBR as governor. Jibril dictated the Qu'ran to Mohammed and ushered Mohammed to heaven.

And it was Gabirel who announced the coming of Jesus to Mary and the coming of John the Baptist to his father, Zacharias.

Despite the popular concept that Gabriel will blow a trumpet at the end of the world, this is not mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, but may be taken from Norse beliefs.


Archangel Raphael

From a painting created in the 1600's, now at the Brooklyn Museum, (wikimedia commons)
From a painting created in the 1600's, now at the Brooklyn Museum, (wikimedia commons)


Raphael is the Chief of the Order of Virtues and is associated with the serpent in a healing capacity. Raphael healed Abraham of the pain of circumcision and mended Jacob's disjointed leg after he wrestled with an angel. Raphael is said to have given Noah a medical book and instructions on how to build the arc. Raphael is known as the Angel of Science and Knowledge. Depicted in the painting at right with a fish, Raphael taught Tobias how to make ointments and balms from fish.

Angel Comforts Christ in the Garden of Gethsemene

painting by Carl Heinrich Block in the mid 19th century (wikimedia commons, user Reaver Flash)
painting by Carl Heinrich Block in the mid 19th century (wikimedia commons, user Reaver Flash)

Uriel is both seraph and cherub and is known as the Angel of Repentance. He was, some say the angel who wrestled Jacob. Uriel has been identified as the Cherub who guards the Gates of Eden with a fiery sword. He is, as well, the angel who warned Noah of the coming of a Great Flood.

Remiel or Jeremiel is the Lord of Souls Awaiting Resurrection who leads souls to Judgement and presides over true visions.

Raziel is the Angel of Secret Regions, of the mysterious. Raziel presented the Book of Knowledge to Adam which was mentioned in the Book of Enoch. Raziel reveals the keys to the mysteries of the universe and is Chief of the Thrones, associated with a bright, white fire.

Metatron supplies a direct link between God and mankind, the celestial scribe who records earthly actions.  Metaron is a conundrum in that it was been postulated that the prophet Enoch became Metatron who later ordered horrific events to befall God's Chosen People. Some claim that Metatron is not a name but a title that first belonged to Satan (closest to the throne of God). When Satan was cast out of heaven, the title passed to Michael. 

Raquel has been called the Friend of God who watches over the behavior of angels. In 745 AD, Pope Zachary referred to Raquel as a demon. According to the Revelation of John, 'God shall send the Angel Raquel saying, "go sound the trumpet for the angels."'

Lucifer, Satan, the Prince of Darkness, also called Beelzebub, Beliel. there are several stories of Satan's separation form God which appear in may cultures going back many thousands of years. Variations in the tale subscribe Lucifer's fall as a result of jealousy, lust, or pride. Also called the Morning Star, Lucifer was one of God's best beloved of all the angels. After the creation of mankind, Lucifer objected to his low loss of status in comparison to God's favorite creation. As punishment, Lucifer was denied God, and that loss of connection threw him into darkness where he became known as The Adversary.



Angel - Cemetery Statue

(photo by Dolores Monet)
(photo by Dolores Monet)

Angel in Cemetery

(photo by Dolores Monet)
(photo by Dolores Monet)

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Comments 2 comments

brotheryochanan profile image

brotheryochanan 5 years ago from BC, canada

a lot of unscriptural stuff in this. The list is so long i won't even begin. If you believe that gabriel dictated the qu'ran to mohammed you are in trouble.

I was actually saddened to read this drivel.


Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 5 years ago from East Coast, United States Author

brother - yes, there was a world that existed before the Bible was written. People lived in that world who were not mentioned in the Bible. They had belief systems. Of course they were not mentioned in the Bible because there are many things not mentioned in the Bible. It's not all about you and your religion. Other people believe in angels too.

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