Hello and welcome to The Obscuritan. This month we shall discuss the study of Angels and Demons, beginning with various names, provinces and hierarchies of Angels, then those of Demons, before looking at the ways in which Diabolists, Diviners and other Nigromancers have attempted to utilize this information.
A note before we begin: Given that this concerns the work of hundreds of scholars, theologians and questers over several centuries, we have striven to provide representative, if not exhaustively complete, information. Believe us when we say there is almost as much information that we have not included as there is that we have, and most definitely far more that we have not uncovered. As always with our articles, we suggest you take this as your starting point for further research. Enjoy!
Origins of Angelology
The classification of Angelic beings can be traced back to pre-Christian tradition. The Zoroastrian liturgical texts (the Yasnas), from around the same time as the Zoroaster himself, discuss the Amesha Spenta, or “Bounteous Immortals”. Like many of the Vedic deities of early India, these creatures are as much divine concepts as distinct personalities, and were considered emanations of (and in a sense servants of) the supreme god Ahura Mazda. In later texts, they were also allocated a certain Province, or area over which they had dominion.
Vohu Manah – the state of mind conductive to fulfilment of one’s duties – Humanity
Asha Vahishta – A complex term roughly meaning the Highest Truth – Cattle/Animals
Kshathra Vairya – Dominion (in a desirable sense) – Metals
Spenta Armaiti – Devotion to the Holy – Earth
Haurvatat – Perfect Wholeness – Water
Amretat – Immortality or Deathlessness – Plants
The development of such a science of the servants of God is believed to have influenced strands of early Mystic Judaism (see Jewish Hierarchies). The Hebrew word which is translated as Angel – Malakah – in fact refers to a “messenger” of God, and includes, but is not limited to, Angelic beings. In Genesis 18, Abraham is visited by three men who are referred to as Malakah, and who prophecy that Abraham and Sarah shall have a miraculous child. The same is also true in Mark I: II - “As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee”. Similar in meaning is the Persian/Urdu name for angels, Farishta, meaning “one who is sent”.
Most Christian angelologies draw upon that of an anonymous theologian known as “Pseudo-Diyonisus the Areopagite”, after the scholar whom the works were erroneously attributed to. His discussions can be found here (Chapter 6 onwards specifically). We have compiled a list which includes the names most commonly occurring in such hierarchies and their relative positions.
Elders – God’s Attendants. Only mentioned in certain Apocrypha (See below)
Metatron – The Mouthpiece of God. See Named Angels
Archangels** – Leaders of God’s armies and hosts. See Named Angels
Seraphim – Angels of radiant love, who contemplate divine order and providence
Cherubim – Angels of absolute wisdom who contemplate the divine’s essence and form
Thrones – Mediators between the orders of Contemplation and those of Action
Dominations – Architects of the divine, who plan the order of the Universe
Virtues – Angels who move stars and planets, and serve as the instruments of miracles
Powers – Maintain the universe in harmony with divine will
Principalities – Supervisors of nations and rulers
Archangels* – Overseers of religion and holy things
Angels – Overseers of minor affairs who often act as guardians to mortals**
* While the title “Archangel” is applied to the highest named angels, as a rank itself it is usually second to last, just above mere Angels. Presumably those Angelic ranks above (Thrones, Dominations etc) are also Archangels, and those referred to only as Archangels are those who do not hold one of these highest ranks, but are above those with no status at all. The highest named angels, referred to as Archangels, are presumably among the Seraphim or of a class of their own above.
** St Paul at one point speaks of angels “ministering for them who shall be heirs of salvation”
The Elders are first encountered in the Revelation of St John. In John’s audience with God, the 24 angels are seated around the throne of God and act as interpreters of sorts between the two. Each takes the form of a stately elder clothed in white, with a harp and a bowl of incense formed from the prayers of Saints. Dante’s Purgatorio expands this description with “Crowns of Fleur-de-lis”. In the second book of Enoch and in the Vision of Paul, they are depicted as being among the highest angels (in the latter) in the first heaven (in the former). Not being listed as Archangels or Seraphim specifically, and with no mention of Metatron (see below), one can reasonably assume that these angels are the ones charged specifically with attending upon God.
Christian occultism has expanded in great detail names, powers and associations of angels, from the angels of the hours of the day, months of the year, seasons, planets and signs of the zodiac. Particular Grimoires often refer to angels which occur nowhere else, for example in the grimoire “The Sword of Moses”, four angels were charged with transmitting the titular body of knowledge – a body of spells, and the true name of God – to Moses. According to Dr Gaster’s translation, the names of these four are SKD HUZI, MRGIOIAL, VHDRZIOLO, TOTRISI, displaying more archaic translations a la YHWH.
To summarise a complex topic briefly (one which we shall undoubtedly come back to someday), the focal point of Kabbalic practice is the Etz ha-Chayim, or Tree of Life, a path through which the mundane-level Human reaches the highest level of God. This tree is formed of 10 Sepiroth - attributes or avenues through which God manifests his power.
Later Kabbalic astrology associated the Sepirah with planets, and with a rank or Choir of angels, and an Archangel patron.
Sepirah – Planet – Choir – Archangel
- Kether – Pluto - Chaioth ha-Qodesh – Metatron
- Chokhmah – Neptune – Auphanim – Raziel
- Binah – Saturn – Aralim – Tzaphqiel
- Chesed – Jupiter – Chashmalim – Tzadqiel
- Gebruah – Mars – Seraphim – Khamael
- Tiphereth – The Sun – Malekim – Mikhael (Michael, but not the Archangel)
- Netzach – Venus – Tarshishim – Haniel
- Hod – Mercury – Beni Elohim – Raphael
- Yesod – Moon – Kerubim – Gabriel
- Malkuth – Earth – Ishim – Metatron
Chaioth ha-Qodesh - "Holy living creatures" – act as the Throne-bearers of God.
Auphanim – “Wheels" - angels of wisdom who manifest as wheels within wheels
Aralim – "mighty ones" – Angels of understanding
Chashmalim – "shining ones" – Angels of mercy and magnificence
Seraphim – "burning ones" – Angels of severity and justice
Malekim – “Kings” – Angels of beauty and harmony
Tarshishim – "sparkling ones" – Angels of victory
Beni Elohim – “Children of the divine” – Angels of glory
Kerubim – “strong ones” – Angels of the foundation of the universe
Ishim – “human beings” – Angels of the material world
The Kabalic world is also layered into four layers, each containing emanations of the Sepirah: Atziluth, containing the top four Sepirah, is the realm of pure Divinity; Beri’ah, containinf the next three, is the realm of the four Archangels; Yetzirah, containing the next three, contained the ten orders of Angels; lastly Assiah is the material realm, containing the last Sepiroth, Malkuth.
Angels in Islam
Islamic tradition does not have the same complex Angelologies of Judaeo-Christian tradition, and is much more vague about the forms and purposes of angels, a reflection of the indescribable, inscrutable nature of the supreme being, Allah. Nevertheless, some oblique descriptions of angels can be found in the scriptures. One example depicts angelic beings “with wings - two, or three, or four [pairs] and adds to Creation as He pleases: for God has power over all things" (Fatir 35:1). However, in an episode from the Hadith (traditions outside of the main Qur’an, but accepted by most Muslims), an angelic being is described as having “70,000 heads, each having 70,000 faces, each face 70,000 mouths, each mouth 70,000 tongues, each tongue speaking 70,000 languages, and all employed in singing God’s praises” (Davidson, A Dictionary of Angels pp36).
In this episode there is another curious “holy creature”. In this story, Mohammed is visited by Jibril, Israfil and Mika’il (see Named Angels), who bring him a mysterious steed called the Buraq, or “Lightning Mount”.
“Then he brought the Buraq (lightning-mount), handsome-faced and bridled, a tall, white beast, bigger than the donkey but smaller than the mule. He could place his hooves at the farthest boundary of his gaze. He had long ears. Whenever he faced a mountain his hind legs would extend, and whenever he went downhill his front legs would extend. He had two wings on his thighs which lent strength to his legs.” Mohammed used this steed to, in the company of the angels, ascend and explore the heavens.
Islamic scripture does, however, contain more named angels than the Bible or the Torah. These include:
The Archangels Izrail, Israfil, Jibriel and Mika’il
Moukir and Nakir, the angels who interrogate a person in the grave about his good and bad deeds.
Maalik is the chief of the angels who guard Hell.
Ridwan is the angel who is responsible for Heaven (Paradise).
Kiraamun and Kaatibeen are the angels who record the good and bad deeds of a person.
Appearance of Angels
While angels are depicted in popular culture as being humanoid figures with wings and, usually, visible gender, those angels which are described in the Bible and other scripture are often of outlandish appearance. A vision of one such angelic being appears at the beginning of the book of Ezekiel. Ezekiel sees a whirlwind coming from the north, within which were four colossal brass creatures. They were of human shape, with hoofed feet, four wings and four faces; the forward face was human, the rear an eagle, the left an ox and the right a lion. One set of wings were wrapped around their bodies, the other two stretched up and touching each other at the tips to form a circle. Inbetween these creatures were four whirling spheres of rings encrusted in eyes, and above their wings was a throne upon which sat God. This could well be a composite of two different types of angel – the Thronebearers (Chaioth ha-Qodesh) and the multilayered wheels (Auphanim).
Named Angels – Archangels and Others
Christian traditions usually recognize Michael, Gabriel, Uriel and Raphael, though certain schools interchange one or more.
The Eastern Orthodox tradition recognizes seven Archangels – Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, Raphael, Raguel, Remiel and Zerachiel.
Islam recognizes four Archangels – Mika’il, Jibril, Izrael and Israfil
The only named archangel in Hebrew, Christian and Islamic canon, Michael (“Who Is As God”) is widely considered to be the highest of all Angels, and is known by titles such as “Mighty Prince” and referred to as “The Great Prince who protects you people” (Daniel 12:1) referring to the Jewish peoples, and is sometimes given titles such as “Prince of Light” (in the Dead Sea Scroll War of the Sons of Light against the Sons of Darkness) which Satan formerly occupied. Considered the General of the armies of heaven, he is also credited with being the angel who stayed Abraham’s hand before he slew Isaac, and as one of the Malakah who visited Abraham. In Islam, Mika’il / Mikaaiyl has two areas of province – the bringer of storms and as the giver of rewards during life.
Gabriel (“God is my Strength”) is perhaps the most well-known angel in mainstream lore, being the one who destroys the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the one who announces to Mary that she will bear the Son of God. Gabriel is also credited with some of the activities of Michael, Uriel and others (most likely due to said popularity.
In Islam, Jibril is the one who reveals the Qur’an to Mohammed, and who communicates with the Prophets.
The “Fire of God”, variously described as Seraphim or Cherubim, amongst many other titles. Uriel has been credited with many of the tasks conducted by unnamed angels in the Bible – as the “Dark Angel” who wrestled with Jacob at Peniel, the one who warned Noah of the Flood, who guarded the gates of Eden after mankind’s expulsion (also credited to Michael and Raphael), and the one who destroyed the army of Sennacherib. Uriel is also frequently mentioned in occult works, and in Barrett’s The Magus is credited with having brought the science of Alchemy to mankind.
Meaning “God Has Healed”. Frequently occurs in post-Biblical Christian works, acting as a guide in the Book of Tobit and on three occasions in Enoch I. Described as “One of the Watchers (possibly one of the Grigori). Also described as an angel of Healing (Zohar I), credited with healing Jacob’s wounds after he wrestled Uriel, and in some texts as one of the three Malakah who visited Abraham (along with Gabriel and Michael).
The Angel of Death who visited Egypt and who writes in and strikes out names of the born and the dying in the book of life. In Islam, Izrael acts as the angel of death (Malak al-Maut) and is described as having 70,000 eyes and 4,000 wings, and with as many eyes and tongues as there are men in the world.
The “Lion of God” depicted with the head of a Lion, Ariel occurs frequently in occult texts with a variety of symbolic roles, mostly revolving around his association with the winds (Uriel of course being associated with Fire, etc), which may be why he is sometimes (erroneously) attributed the status of Archangel.
Israfel in Islam is the one who blows the horn that signals Judgement day, and whose feet are under the earth but whose hands touch the sky. He is said to look into hell once a day and weep floods of tears, and was sent, along with the other 3 Islamic Archangels, to the four corners of the earth to fetch 7 handfuls of dust to create Adam.
Raguel, Zerachiel and Remiel
Three Archangels venerated mainly in the Eastern Orthodox tradition. Raguel “friend of God” is the one who brings other angels to account, Zerachiel is one of the seven angels “who keep watch”, and Remiel is “one of those whom god has set over those who rise”.
In Jewish lore Metatron is identified as the highest of all angels (a title held in Christian angelology by Michael) to the point of being given the appellation “The Lesser YHWH (Jehovah)” or Tetragrammaton. These match one of the two accounts of Metatron’s creation, which claims he was the first creation of God alongside the universe. The other account claims that he is the mortal man Enoch, great-great-great-great Grandson of Adam and father of Methuselah who, instead of dying, rose into the heavens and became God’s scribe. In texts such as Traditions of the Jews II and others, Metatron acts seemingly as God’s scribe and mouthpiece, receiving and relating God’s wishes to the lower orders of Angels. Metatron is also frequently mentioned and invoked in occult works. The Hebrew tract Sefer ha-Heshek (translated by I.M Epstein) ascribes 76 names to Metatron.
In his book “Heaven and Hell”, Swedenborg goes into great detail as to the purpose and nature of Angelic beings. From the Preface:
“To prevent this negative attitude—especially prevalent among people who have acquired a great deal of worldly wisdom—from infecting and corrupting people of simple heart and simple faith, it has been granted me to be with angels and to talk with them person to person. I have also been enabled to see what is in heaven and in hell, a process that has been going on for thirteen years. Now I am being allowed therefore to describe what I have heard and seen, in the hopes of shedding light where there is ignorance, and of dispelling skepticism.” According to Swedenborg, all angels once lived as humans, grew to another plane, where they act as complete instruments of God, knowing that their own actions are merely the will of God and refusing any praise for the good they do.
An Anthrosophist, Steiner’s lectures on a variety of subjects included the concept of reaching higher planes of existence through Clairvoyance. Steiner’s own visions showed that the human mind could only reach so far upward, but that the first level above that of humans was the realm of angelic beings, whose ranks he gave as Angels, Archangels, Archai (“Original Forces”), Exusiai (equivalent to Powers), Dynameis (“Mights”), Kyriotetes (equivalent to Dominations), Thrones, Cherubim and Seraphim – ranks which evoke the original-language names of the rankings from “Pseudo-Dionysus”.
The corpus of the Theosophical Tradition, an eclectic mix of Kabala, Hindu and Western tradition, along with a good deal of “independent research”, contains its own metaphysics of the Astral plane, which they also termed the Devic Kingdom. “Deva” comes from Hindu religion, meaning a being of Radiant Light, or “Shining Ones”, AKA a male deity (the female term is Devi). The works of C.W. Leadbeater in particular expand upon this, such as this passage from The Devachanic Plane (pp82-3):
“The highest system of evolution connected with this earth, so far as we know, is that of the beings whom Hindus call the Devas, and who have elsewhere been spoken of as angels, sons of God, etc. They may in fact be regarded as a kingdom lying next above humanity in the same way as humanity in turn lies next above the animal kingdom, but with this important difference, that while for an animal there is no possibility of evolution through any kingdom but the human, man, when he attains the level of the Asekha, or full Adept, finds various paths of advancement opening before him, of which this great Deva evolution is only one. […] Though connected with this earth, the Devas are by no means confined to it, for the whole of our present chain of seven worlds is as one world to them, their evolution being through a grand system of seven chains. Their hosts have hitherto been recruited chiefly from other humanities in the solar system, some lower and some higher than ours, since but a very small portion of our own has as yet reached the level at which for us it is possible to join them: but it seems certain that some of their very numerous classes have not passed in their upward progress through any humanity at all comparable with ours.”
Leadbeater’s comments reflect the Theospohical belief that an adept can, through intensive spiritual practice, ascend from a mundane level (0) through that of symbolic death (4), resurrection (5) and eventual harmony with the planetary logos (10). This is paralleled in the Devic Kingdom, where levels of spirits ascend from that of elemental spirits to Devas to Archangels. Geoffrey Godson’s account of his own experiences with “angelic” beings portrays them from a more western perspective:
“These are the Spiritual Selves of men and Super-men and the vast company of the Angelic Hosts, of which the being who "addressed" me was a member. He was supernaturally beautiful, majestic, god-like, and impassive and impersonal to the last degree. As teacher to pupil, he began to tell of - and to enable me, with gradually increasing clarity, to perceive - the Angelic Hosts, their Orders and degrees. He told of their communion with men, as in ancient Greece, Egypt and Eastern lands, their place in Nature as Ministers of the Most High and of that great dawn of creation when, metaphorically, as the Morning Stars they sang together and as the Sons of God they shouted for joy. He spoke of the creative process as the composition and performance of a celestial symphony, of the Logos as Divine Musician and of His universe as a manifestation of celestial harmony. He told of the great Gods who assimilate the mighty creative chords in their ranks from the highest spiritual worlds to the realm of everlasting Archetypes, the great sound-forms upon and by which the physical universe is modelled. Therefrom, he said, the music of the Creative "Word" passes on to the lower worlds, where lesser Hosts formatively echo and re-echo it, thereby building all Nature's varied forms. Since the Great Artist of the Universe perpetually creates, the Creative Symphony is ever being composed and ever performed. Angels and men live amidst celestial harmonies, the everlasting music of the spheres.” (Introduction to The Kingdom of the Gods). Hodson goes on to detail the provinces of Angels as being those of Power (the release of energy), healing, Guarding of the homestead, Building and inspiration of architecture, nature, music, and beauty and art.
And finally, to lead us on to the next article…
Angels of Hell and the Fallen
Satan, the Devil and Lucifer are in fact entirely separate beings, but have become conflated together into the general identity of “The Adversary”. Lucifer’s association with damnation stems from a misreading of Isiah 14:3-14:20 –
When the Lord has given you rest from your pain and turmoil and the hard service with which you were made to serve, you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon: How the oppressor has ceased! How his insolence has ceased! … How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, "I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit on the mount of assembly on the heights of Zaphon; I will ascend to the tops of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High." But you are brought down to Sheol, to the depths of the Pit. Those who see you will stare at you, and ponder over you: "Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms, who made the world like a desert and overthrew its cities, who would not let his prisoners go home?" The “You” in the text, as one can see from the preceding text, is in fact a King of Babylon (Nebuchadnezzar), but since the word Lucifer means “Morning Star” or “Day Star”, the association, furthered by writers such as the Pseudo-Diyonisus finally entered the popular conception via Milton’s character in Paradise Lost and stuck.
The term Satan is, like other words we have encountered in Hebrew, one which has been used both as name and noun. Satan, meaning “Adversary” is used as part of common parlance by several figures in the bible, including Jesus himself to Peter (Luke 4:8).
The Office of ha-Satan occurs in the Bible and other sources, most notably in the Book of Job, as a form of “Chief Prosecutor” who provides the necessary critique of figures such as Job and Balaam (Numbers 22:22) so that they may be judged worthy or unworthy. Certainly angels have been assigned to watch over Hell and the forces of Destruction specifically by God, without being considered damned (Uriel, Maalik and Dumah, for example). The specific angel Satan was one of the Archangels, usually considered a Seraph (as the highest and most radiant, and thus seemingly more open to pride), but in Thomas Aquinas’ opinion could have been a Cherub, since their realm (knowledge) was more compatible with sin than that of the Seraphs (Charity). However, would occupying an office considered the antithesis of pride and sin not make the fall from it all the more terrible?
Girgori and Nephilim
Genesis 6 and Enoch Section II:6 feature the “Sons of God”, angels who act as Watchers (Grigori) of the race of men. However they observed in particular the beauty of mortal women, and 200 descended to Earth to sire mortal children – the Nephilim, creatures of great power. Not all the Grigori fell, however, and the remainders are credited with teaching mankind the skills of writing, harvesting, enchantment etc in other texts.
This probably stretches back to the Peri, beings in Persian mythology (in their texts, the Avesta) who were the descendents of a previous race of angelic beings some 2,000 years ago, and dwell upon earth doing penance in order to return to the heavens.
Theodore of Mopsuetia had an alternate theory of what the Fallen were – "fallen" angels were men who submitted to the will of Lucifer and became instruments of his will.