Ive been observing that a lot of the medieval and renaissance grimoires basically boil down to angel magic. Whether we’re talking Kabbalistic, Solomonic, Enochian, or other systems it’s much the same: it’s about summoning and seeking the aid of a plethora of angels by the power of the One who is above all. This gets me thinking about Christopaganism. Rather than locating female-male polarity at the level of divinity, which necessitates a shift to duotheism at the very least, I’m finding an alternative way to integrate Christianity and Paganism is to explore gender polarities at the angelic level whilst continuing to walk an essentially monotheistic path. In a number of systems Michael and Gabriel are correlated to sun and moon, fire and water respectively. I see no reason why they can’t also be correlated with the god and the goddess of the various Pagan traditions, whilst affirming the One who is above all, whom the Hebrews call YHWH, is essentially beyond gender and whilst being the source of ALL gender.
The following excerpt is from Monotheism, Principal Angels, and the Background of Christology by W. Hurtado, University of Edinburgh. This is a pre-publication version of an invited chapter to appear in The Oxford Handbook to the Dead Sea Scrolls, edited by Timothy H. Lim and John J. Collins.
Jewish traditions place stress on God’s uniqueness and authority compared to other heavenly beings. He the Creator and the King.
“Bauckham’s astute observation about the topos of angelic refusal of worship in certain Jewish texts was followed up in Stuckenbruck’s published doctoral thesis (1995), an important study in which he conducted a thorough survey of all references to the veneration of angels, and the limitations of it, in ancient Jewish texts, inscriptions and magical material. Stuckenbruck noted that there was no evidence of a fixed ‘cultic devotion’ to angels, in the sense of angels being the recipients of corporate worship in the ways that God was in ancient Jewish settings. But he also contended that there were various uses of ‘venerative language’ with reference to angels: e.g., (1) occasional invocation of angels (but usually with God) for help, vengeance or protection, (2) angels presented as exemplary worshippers of God (e.g., 4QShirShabb), and (3) expressions of thanksgiving (to God) for actions attributed to angels (Stuckenbruck 1995: 200-3).”
“Yet he judged that none of these various kinds of ‘angel veneration’ was conceived as a substitute for, or infringement on, the worship of the one God, noting that ‘most often the venerative language [for angels] is followed by an explanation which emphasizes the supremacy of God’ (Stuckenbruck 1995: 201).”
“In summary, in second-temple Jewish tradition a firm commitment to the uniqueness of the one God, expressed both in religious rhetoric and in cultic practice clearly sat easily with beliefs about powerful and exalted adjutant figures, among which principal angels were prominent, sometimes portrayed as uniquely deputized to act in God’s name as God’s chief agent. In its earliest expressions, Jesus-devotion was a distinctive example of this, albeit novel in ways noted and, of course, particularly noteworthy in terms of its historical impact, the risen/exalted Jesus portrayed as God’s uniquely glorious agent of creation and redemption. The Qumran texts have added enormously to our store of evidence concerning second-temple Judaism, and help us thereby to reconstruct the religious context of earliest circles of the Christian movement.”
It seems to me that much of what the church has said about the fall of Satan over the years is based on figurative (specifically: anagogic) interpretation of Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 24 rather than literal interpretation.
Indeed, if we were to restrict ourselves to literal interpretation there would not be much we could say about Satan’s fall at all. As, at face value, these verses are not about Satan, but rather, the Kings of Tyre and Babylon.
How ironic then, that it’s self identified “literalists” who are most committed to the figurative sense of Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 24, and visa versa.
Talk of animal guides is common enough in Pagan traditions, especially Shamanism, but not so much within Christianity or Judaism. Nevertheless, the story of Balaam and his donkey, found within the Old Testament book of Numbers, provides a striking example of the will of the Creator being communicated to humanity through a creature. Perhaps there’s something we can learn from this? The author narrates the incident as follows:
Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the Moabite officials. But God was very angry when he went, and the angel of YHWH stood in the road to oppose him. Balaam was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand, it turned off the road into a field. Balaam beat it to get it back on the road.
Then the angel of YHWH stood in a narrow path through the vineyards, with walls on both sides. When the donkey saw the angel of YHWH, it pressed close to the wall, crushing Balaam’s foot against it. So he beat the donkey again.
Then the angel of YHWH moved on ahead and stood in a narrow place where there was no room to turn, either to the right or to the left. When the donkey saw the angel of YHWH, it lay down under Balaam, and he was angry and beat it with his staff. Then YHWH opened the donkey’s mouth, and it said to Balaam, “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?”
Balaam answered the donkey, “You have made a fool of me! If only I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now.”
The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?”
“No,” he said.
Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of YHWH standing in the road with his sword drawn. So he bowed low and fell facedown.
The angel of YHWH asked him, “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me. The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If it had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared it.”
Balaam said to the angel of YHWH, “I have sinned. I did not realise you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now if you are displeased, I will go back.”
The angel of YHWH said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but speak only what I tell you.” So Balaam went with Balak’s officials.
I know some may consider this heretical but I have to wonder if the burning ones (seraphim), mighty ones (cherubim) and the living creatures (hayyot) referred to in the visionary experiences of the prophets are synonymous, not different ranks of angels (malakim) at all. Take for example Ezekial 10:15 where the living creatures and cherubim are explicitly identified with one another.
Politicians tell us to look out for devils among strangers. Prophets tell us to look out for angels: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2)
Antiphon for the Angels
Spirited light! on the edge
of the Presence your yearning
burns in the secret darkness,
O angels, insatiably
into God’s gaze.
could not touch your beauty;
you are essential joy.
But your lost companion,
angel of the crooked
wings – he sought the summit,
shot down the depths of God
and plummeted past Adam –
that a mud – bound spirit might soar.
– Hildegard of Bingen
This image, by yiuokami, is called “In Difference”. The artist explains the symbolism as follows:
The radiant angel
Inspired by a text in the bible that says the devil will present himself as an angel of light. It can be interpreted as the manifestation of all that is wrong with the human subconscious, with false guidance that promotes blindness, or simply the flock motions of the human race towards its glorious self-destruction.
The gray humanoids
They are not evil. They are not good. They have not enough identity to have defined themselves and may become either depending on influence and situation. They are part of the flock of sameness, only seeing what they want to see. Their brethren suffer, those that are different are excluded. The embryos are their true selves, underdeveloped and their eyes full of light so they cannot see. They are on the heads, positioned to be demonstrated when necessary, yet not really anything alive yet.
Horns and halos
Halos are not mentioned in the bible, they originate in the worship of solar gods, something “heathen” that become “holy”. Therefore, they make a good symbol for self-deception and self-righteousness. Horns are a symbol of power in the bible and are not associated specifically with either good or evil, but have become a symbol of evil in the same artistic streams that added halos to Christianity. In this image, horns are used in their original meaning and represent a growing power, they allow the embryos to rise above the halo and see. Or not. Similarly, the lamb has seven horns, representing total power.
The red mass around the sphere
These are growing individuals. They may or may not be good, yet or ever. The sphere they are drooping from under is this world, which are severed from if they don’t want you anymore, which it doesn’t when you are different. Yet the tendrils of the angel try to keep them back.
The shadowed angels
They represent good, all different from each other yet united. Their side is full of eyes and can see in all directions, and they help whom they can help, open for all, also alert for danger. They represent those who have reached independence and can see, being humans to their fullest nature. The snakes are there to combat the tendrils, chosen because snakes made for the least crowded counter measure than the original plan I had, and they need some positive attention too for a change.
Eyes and Light
Eyes represent the ability to perceive, so the evil side is full of closed eyes. Both sides have light, but the good side has many colors while the evil side only has gray (no colors) for its creations, and instead has a blinding amount of light, while that of the good side has a healthier balance.
The colors don’t really have much meaning here, I just chose them cause they’re pretty. I originally meant to have no color for the evil side at all, but while messing with some potential fiery glow for the snakes I liked the effect as it crossed the wing, and just went with it.
Real evil doesn’t tend to come with a dark cloak and cackling voices. The greatest evils in this world are committed by those who think they are not crossing the line. Those who bully or those who slaughter, they all think they are right in their actions, that it’s okay, it’s just a game or it’s for the greater good. Some simply despair because there seems to be no way out, victims themselves. The lines blur, and gray needs to be acknowledged. Yet we’re always learned not to ask questions. Humans generally find it easier to tie everything to simplistic black and white standards, don’t care to ask nor little questions, nor large questions.
A man named Elie Wiesel once said: “The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference.”
Well here is an curious mix of traditions. I am not sure who the artist is but I believe the work is entitled “St Michael the archangel as a samurai.” Now, I would have thought if you were going to invoke samurai motifs a more asian looking dragon would not have gone astray. Except that Japanese dragons, like Chinese dragons, have somewhat different spiritual connotations to European dragons. So, well, I give up.
Some interesting remarks by Mikhail Epstein on Post-Atheism in Eastern Europe:
“What we are facing is an extreme form of apophaticism, in which God appears as the radically Other, the Stranger, irrevocably distant from humans.”
“Contemporary culture is religious in the sense that it is looking for nothing other than Otherness itself.”
“The angel represents the purest form of God-presence in the absence of God himself.”
Contemporary angels are messengers without a Message”
“Angelism is a sort of heavenly pluralism.”
“In the Postmodern age, pure polytheism, monotheism or agnosticism are impossible. All that remains possible is the condition of possibility itself, embodied in the phenomenon of angels without God, messengers without a Message, and vague metaphysical rumors instead of Revelation reaching us from the beyond.”
“Atheism, as has already been pointed out, was the crassest and most extreme manifestation of apophaticism. It negated not only the possibility of knowing God but the very existence of God.”
“For a minimal believer, God exists above and beyond all religions,”
“Those people who have found God in the wilderness feel that the walls of the existing temples are too narrow for them and should be expanded.”
“The third is ‘poor’ or ‘minimal’ religion, which is free from historical divisions and seeks the unification of all religions in the gap between existing churches and the fullness of a future Epiphany.”