Unlike Vampires and Werewolves, whose respective traditions are only a few centuries old, Angels go waaaaaaaay back. A few millenia at least. Having been around that long, a few of them have reached a kind of celebrity status, at least among the religious set.
But where can you find them in popular culture? Let’s find out together.
The Metatron is number one among all the angels in Heaven. Now, I could tell you all about his job description, or I could let the wonderful Allan Rickman do it:
He also figures quite prominently in Philip Pullman’s The Amber Spyglass.
There are generally thought to be 7 Archangels. Michael, Gabriel, Raphael and Uriel are almost unanimously agreed upon by all Western religious traditions to be part of this group. The other 3 angels’ names vary depending on the source.
Now, if THIS is what you are thinking of when I say Michael, you might be following the wrong blog.
Michael is the head of God’s Army. When Lucifer rose up in Heaven, it was Michael who led the defending army, and who personally put Satan in his place. In Judaism, it is believed that Michael was the protector of the Jewish people back in the day when other gods still existed in the Middle East. Michael is almost always depicted with either a sword or a spear. He is the warrior angel, no doubt about it.
In the upcoming movie Legion, Michael is the only angel fighting on our side. Michael is mentioned in the Milton’s classic Paradise Lost, and according to wikipedia, The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty was based on the diary of a man named Father Bishop, who performed an exercism on a 13-year old boy. During the ritual, “the boy saw a vision of the Devil and ten of his helpers engaged in a fiery battle with St. Michael. At one point during the dream, the angel smiled at the boy and said “Dominus.” Shortly thereafter, the boy shouted out: “Satan! Satan! I am St. Michael, and I command you, Satan, and the other evil spirits, to leave the body in the name of Dominus, immediately.” Thomas B. Allen also used this diary as a source for Possessed: The True Story of an Exorcism.
Raphael is God’s Healer. In art, he is generally depicted holding either food or medicine, not a weapon. In Paradise Lost, Raphael is the voice that talks to Adam about the Tree of Knowledge, and also the history of the War in Heaven.
Raphael is known for one battle – his fight with Azazel, whom he bound and cast into a crag.
Gabriel is about to take the spotlight from Michael, IMHO. Traditionally, he has been God’s herald, delivering important messages to humanity on His behalf. He will also be the one blowing the trumpet that will signal the End of Days. Like his buddies Michael and Raphael, Gabriel was also in Paradise Lost, as the chief of the angelic guards placed over Paradise. More recently, Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses has his main character be the modern incarnation of Gabriel.
But it’s on the big screen that we see a darker side of Gabriel, on that shows the angel to be jealous of humans, and rather violent. In The Prophecy series of the 1990s, Gabriel (played by Christopher Walken) wants to destroy humanity because he is sick of the love God shows them. This theme is played out again in the 2005 film Constantine, where Gabriel is played by Tilda Swinton. She plots to release Hell on Earth so that humanity will have to fight and earn God’s love. And of course, Gabriel will reprise this role in Legion, leading the army of God to destroy humanity.
Oh, and did you know that vampire slayer extrodinaire, Van Helsing, is actually the angel Gabriel? True Story.
Uriel is the angel with the Firey Sword. He booted Adam and Eve out of Eden, and now stands watch there, barring reentry. He is the angel of repentance and wisdom, who both delivered important figures from harm and taught the prophets divine knowledge.
Uriel’s best known reference might be the book Uriel’s Machine: The Ancient Origins of Science. It is based partially on the tradition that Uriel taught Enoch (a rather holy man who may or may not have become The Metaron) all about the solar system.
And finally, the angel you’ve all be waiting for…
Also known as Sataniel, he was originally an Archangel. In the Latin, Lucifer translates to Bearer of Light. It is said that he was the greatest among the Angels at one time, the most beautiful, and the most dear to God.
However, Lucifer wanted to be as powerful as God, and had to be put down. Michael and Gabriel put him in his place and beat back his armies. They were thrown into the depths of hell, and have since been thought of as demons.
Now, there are literally thousands of references to The Devil and Satan in movies and literature. But, to get a good sense of Lucifer as a fallen angel instead of the father of all evil, I would recommend Paradise Lost, or I, Lucifer.