Saturday, February 23, 2013

Paranormal Creatures A-Z Week 1: Angelic Beings

Greetings!  As I write this, I'm looking out on a cold, gray morning in Central Ohio and wishing spring was here.  I've been busy trying to finish a novel and some other projects that I hope to talk about soon, but I wanted to make sure I didn't neglect the blog.  

As I mentioned in my earlier posts, I'm changing the focus of my blog to center on mythology and folklore topics. 

Since I was a little kid, I've been fascinated by cultural traditions and beliefs from around the world.  As a fantasy author, I’m always on the hunt for monsters and supernatural beings to spark the imagination.  In this research, I've come across of lot of neat information that I’d like to share with readers and writers in upcoming posts. 

This post is the first of a feature I’m calling “Paranormal Creatures from A-Z”.  

So, let’s start with A:

Angelic Beings

Angels are common figures in fantasy fiction and pop culture these days, so I thought I would start with them.  Heck, I even have an angel in the novel I'm currently writing.  There is a multitude of information written about angels, both from religious and folkloric points of view.  It's rather daunting to delve into, but fascinating stuff.  

For the purposes of this post, I use the term “angelic beings” rather than “angel”.  Why is this?  Although I’ll talk about biblical angels, there are many examples in world mythology of beings that resemble Judeo-Christian angels.  These I'll discuss in a later post. 

Today, I'll touch on the role of angels in four religious beliefs that are based on revelation: Zoroastrianism,  Judaism, Islam and Christianity. I'll also talk a bit about the Catholic hierarchy of angels.

The word angel in English is a fusion of the Old English engel and the Old French angele. Both of these terms derive from the Latin angelus and the ancient Greek aggelos, a word roughly meaning a “message bearer”.

Angels play an important role in Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Zoroastrianism.  In these religions, angels bridge the gap between God and humans.  They teach lessons, deliver commands or carry information from the divinity to humankind.

In Zoroastrianism, the force of good, called Ahura Mazda, fights that of evil, Ahriman.  These two forces command armies of angels and devils, similar to those of Yahweh (God) in the Old Testament.

There are other interesting parallels between these two beliefs. Like Zoroastrianism, Judaism divides the universe into earth, heaven, and hell. In both religions, angels fulfill a similar role, acting as an intermediary between heaven and earth in order to reveal God's plans and laws. They serve God, carry out his will, reward goodness, punish evil and conduct righteous souls to heaven. Angels also perform a revelatory function, helping people to understand God's will.  These angelic functions are also true of Christianity.

Islamic angels are also similar those of Judaism and Christianity. However, while the former beliefs divide spiritual beings into angels and demons, Islam goes further and divides such beings into angels, demons, and djinni.  Djinni (genies) may be either good or bad. They were created from fire, can be either visible or invisible, and have the ability to assume human or animal form.

In Christianity, angels are spiritual beings.  Some of these can see the face of God and are in a state of perpetual bliss. God is said to have bestowed angels with wisdom, freedom, and power, but some angels were proud and turned away from their creator, becoming the fallen angels.  Catholic tradition assigns the angels to nine hierarchies or choirs.

The Nine Choirs of Angels

Seraphim- The highest choir, attendants or guardians before God's throne. They praise God, calling, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts”.  Seraphim have six wings; two cover their faces, two cover their feet, and two are for flight.

Cherubim- Second highest of the nine choirs. Manlike in appearance and double-winged.  The Old Testament gives no evidence that the Jews considered them as intercessors or helpers of God, but in the New Testament, they are alluded to as celestial attendants in the Apocalypse.  Catholic tradition describes them as angels who have an intimate knowledge of God and continually praise Him.

Thrones-Thrones are angels of humility, peace and submission. They reside in the area of the cosmos where material form begins to take shape. The lower angels rely on Thrones to access God.

Dominions-Dominions are angels of leadership. They regulate the duties of the angels, making known the commands of God.

Virtues-  Known as "Spirits of Motion". Sometimes referred to as "the shining ones." They govern nature and control the elements, seasons and celestial bodies. They facilitate miracles and inspire courage, grace, and valor.

Powers- Warrior angels (also known as potentates) that defend both the cosmos and humans.  They fight evil spirits who attempt to wreak chaos through human beings. Their chief is said to be either Samael or Camael.

Archangels- Chief or leading angels.  The most frequently mentioned angels in the Bible. There are seven who stand before God.  They may belong to other choirs, such as St. Michael the Archangel, who is also a Seraph. Archangels have a unique role as God's messenger to humanity at critical times.

Three of these are mentioned in the bible:

St. Michael is viewed as patron and protector of the Church from the time of the Apostles. The Eastern Rite and other sects place him over all the angels, as Prince of the Seraphim. He was the leader of the forces of heaven in their triumph over Satan and his followers.

Gabriel first appeared in the Old Testament in the Book of Daniel. In the New Testament, the Gospel of Luke, he appeared to Zechariah to announce the birth of St. John the Baptist and proclaimed the Annunciation, telling Mary that she would be the mother of Jesus.  Tradition (but not scripture) says he will sound the trumpet signaling the Apocalypse. 

Raphael first appeared in the book of Tobit. He announces "I am the Angel Raphael, one of the seven who stand before the throne of God." He is known as Raphael the Healer.

I've read conflicting information regarding this order.  Principalities are described as having given valuable skills and gifts to man, yet they are described in some accounts as hostile to God and human beings. 

These are closest to the material world and human begins. They deliver prayers to God and carry God's answers and other messages to humans. They have the capacity to access all other angels at any time. 

This hierarchy, of course, reflects Catholic beliefs, other Christian sects don't necessarily subscribe to this view and may have radically different beliefs regarding angels.  In upcoming posts, I'll touch on some other angels and beliefs from the Judeo-Christian tradition, as well fallen angels or demons.

I hope you found today's post informative.  I'm hoping the brief tidbits in this feature will serve as a jumping off point for those who want to learn more about the beings and creatures I discuss.  

Here is the complete list of creatures I'll be featuring in Paranormal Creatures from A-Z: 

 Angels and Angelic Beings
Fox Spirit (Kitsune}
Loch Ness Monster


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