Angel Lore

by Lindsay and Maria

William Adolphe Bouguereau "Song of the Angels" (1881)

Angels have taken a center place in folklore, and stories of seeing angels, being saved by guardian angels, and communicating with angels abound. This interest makes it no surprise that angel lore, or any variation of it, would make it into pop-culture. There are also many angelic characters in literature, like Paradise Lost and the recent Mercy, by Rebecca Lim. Lim’s novel follows the story of a girl named Mercy, really an exiled angel doomed to wake up in a new body every so often. While reading this, Lindsay and I became really curious about angels in different traditions and in modern conceptions. What are they? Have they become secular (non-religious)? Are they as hot as Castiel and Anna? So, we did some research and here’s what we came up with.

Good Angels by Lindsay

As a kid, I watched Touched by an Angel every week. The show followed two main angels, Monica and Tessa, who just swooped into people’s lives and did nice things. You can still catch this show on the Hallmark Channel, where my mother (who probably doesn’t even believe in angels) watches it every other night and cries quietly to herself.

Digimon is an manga/anime that features an angel in the form of a big pink bunny. There are also good angels made out of old Internet data that turned intelligent…which is kinda weird. Just goes to show how far angel lore has come, and how “unsacred” it has become in some contexts (God is not really part of this story).

Fallen Angels by Maria

Paradise Lost engraving by Gustave Dore

Published in 1667, Paradise Lost, one the very few traditional English epic poems, is 10,000 lines long and covers almost every aspect of the creation story while adding a new layer.  In Paradise Lost, John Milton is careful in his descriptions of the angels. They are all winged and, like Mercy and Luc, “bleed light.” They are the prototypes of the stars, and even the fallen angels possess a majestic quality about them.

Satan is of course the worst fallen angel. At the end of the poem, Satan, who was once the golden child in Heaven, is reduced to a completely fallen state, where he loses all angelic qualities, including his glow, and becomes the Satan we are taught about in Sunday school.

Kevin Smith can do no wrong, especially if Alanis Morissette is God and George Carlin is a cardinal. But somewhere in that humor, Smith was definitely listening to centuries of angel lore. Loki and Bartleby fit the “fallen angel” syndrome perfectly. Rebelling against God for reasons that seem…reasonable (and Satanic), these two angelic beings are cast out of Heaven and doomed to eternity on Earth. They find it troublesome, much like Milton’s Satan, that God is so willing to forgive and help human beings, but is so very harsh and strict with the angels.

Eric Kripke’s masterpiece Supernatural is a one-of-a-kind show. Dealing with all sorts of mythology, folklore, and religious history, the story arc of the show centers on the struggle between good and evil, specifically the struggle between God and Satan/the fallen angels.

Anna, one of the main characters, is very, very much like Mercy. When first introduced, we see Anna as a patient in a mental hospital, a young woman who hears voices and is convinced that those voices belong to angels. As the show progresses, it becomes very clear that Anna is a fallen angel. She is cast out of heaven, and loses her “grace” (which takes the form of a star-like object), becoming human. She is unable to remember who she is, unable to understand why she is being hunted down by demons, and is unwilling to conform to Uriel’s party. Like Mercy, she has a soft spot for all things human, specifically chocolate cake, and understands the human condition.

We hope you enjoyed our tour!

4 thoughts on “Angel Lore

  1. This was very interesting! I too am a fan of Kripke’s Supernatural, as well as various other angel-lore tales. I am reminded, of this, of a book I have written by a Roman Catholic, that is basically Angelology. It covers the names of angels, their origins, and the few angels that have become familiar from the Bible, Koran, and/or Torah: Gabriel, Michael, Rafael. Interestingly, the 3 angels mentioned above are those most known by mankind, yet they are the second lowest of 9 castes. The book explains that Michael, the commander of the Heavenly Host who drove Lucifer out of Heaven, attained extra power by being so loyal to God. His name means something along the lines of “He who is like God”. Just some interesting tidbits! (Also, the “El” in the names above all mean God. El, is the name of the supreme God of some of the polytheistic Canaanite peoples.)

  2. I also have a similar book I would read often when I was in school. It was actually three books all kept inside a holder so they would be kept together. It was an almanac on religion. I’m almost sure that Angels: An almanac was they name of one of the books. I’ll have to go look for it tomorrow in my old bookcase and update here if I find it.

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