beginnings of the biblical belief in angels must be sought in very early folklore.
The gods of the Hittites and Canaanites had their supernatural messengers, and
parallels to the Old Testament stories of angels are found in Near Eastern literature.
The term 'angel', from the
Latin angelus, entered the English language in very early times when it denoted
a supernatural being of kindly qualities. In the Bible it translates Hebrew
and Greek words meaning 'messenger'. The earliest angels were heavenly nymphs,
like Hindu apsaras, who dispensed sensual bliss to the blessed ones. Vikings
called them Valkyries. Greeks called them Horae. Persians called them Houris
or Peris (fairies).
A guardian angel was a
personal Shakti who watched over a man and took him to her ecstatic embrace
at the moment of death. The medieval concept of fairyland as a place of endless
sexual delights owed much to this archaic view of the pagan paradise. The association
of mortal female sexuality with angels apparently arose from the fact that the
angels or "cherubim" (Akkadian karibu, Hebrew kerubh, Sheban karribim)
were priestesses who wore artificial wings in token of their affiliation with
the heavenly spirits. Although such angels seemed to be every man's wish fulfillment,
patriarchal religions denied the sexuality of angels. Moslems rejected the Houris,
and insisted the angels are without carnal desires. Yet this contradicted the
teaching of the Koran, that after death every hero would receive beautiful girls
as heavenly companions.
According to 'The Arbatel
of Magic', the heavens were divided into provinces that were ruled by seven
planetary angels. Each angel possessed a magical seal, which alchemists and
magicians used extensively in the making of amulets and spells.
Day of the Week
The Egyptian form of the
cherub symbolized the Heavenly Goddess - Nut or Hathor - having a body covered
with eyes to represent the stars, and wings to represent the air. As she was
often called a sevenfold deity (Seven Hathors), she passed into Gnostic tradition
as the seven planetary spirits called Cosmocrators or Builders. The Zend-Avesta
also spoke of seven chief angels, the Amesha Spenta or Amshapends, the Benign
Immortals. The Christian church eventually adopted the seven as archangels,
heads of the Celestial Host led by Michael, officially styled the Seven Angels
of the Presence.
The Greeks thought each
person had an individual guardian angel or daemon which could appear in animal
form. There were no really well-defined distincions between angels, demons,
familiars, fairies, elves, saints, genii, ancestral gods, or pagan gods. To
command the assistance of angels is a basic idea of spiritual power. The 'Magic
Papyri' contain many spells to secure just such help and protection of angels.
From magic traditions arose the concept of the guardian angel.
Jesus himself announced
that he could summon 72,000 guardian angels whenever he cared to (Matthew 26:53).
The belief in guardian angels can be traced throughout all antiquity. Nabopolassar,
father of Nebuchadnezzar the Great, says: "He (Marduk) sent a tutelary deity
(cherub) of grace to go at my side; in everything that I did, he made my work
to succeed." In the Bible, angels not only act as the executors of God's wrath
against cities of the plain, but they deliver Lot from danger (Genesis 28-29).
In Exodus 32:34, God tells Moses, "my angel shall go before thee." In the Old
Testament, angels were seen as God's ministers who carried out his behests,
and who were at times given special commissions, regarding men and mundane affairs.
In the New Testament, angels are everywhere the intermediaries between God and
man. Even little children have guardian angels, and these same angels still
perceive God even when they have a mission to perform on earth (Matthew 18:10).Christian
teachings do not all agree on who has guardian angels. Some teach that they
are only with the baptized, others say that every soul receives a guardian spirit.
Guardian angels can act
upon senses and imaginations - not upon wills, except by working on the intellect,
and thus upon the will. Like gods and demons, angels have gone through many
phases, ranging from intimate portions of a man or woman to immaterial, celestial
entities like lesser deities.