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
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!