Where Angels Fear to Tread

Archangel Gabriel
Statue of Archangel Gabriel (15th century), on a pillar of the Palazzo Ducale in Venice.

Yesterday, I wrote about meeting the Devil at the crossroads, so I thought I should counter that today with something about a tutelary. That’s a word that may not be familiar. It means a deity or spirit who is a guardian, patron, or protector of a particular place, person, nation, culture, or occupation.

In late Greek and Roman religion, there is a tutelary deity called the genius who functions as the personal deity or daimon of an individual from birth to death. More familiar is a personal tutelary spirit from European folklore – an angel.

Many people associate angels with religion but the word “angel” comes from the Greek angelos, which means “messenger.”

In Christianity, it is said that “angel” refers to their mission, not to their nature. They are personal, immortal, non-corporeal spirits with intelligence and will and entirely other.

As a child, I thought that when you died you could become an angel. A priest told me that was not possible but in heaven, I would be equal to the angels. I was also told that I had my own Guardian Angel.

A guardian angel is assigned to protect and guide a particular person, though it could also be assigned to a group or even a nation. For example, Portugal has a Guardian Angel.

Tutelary beings run all through antiquity and angels played a major role in Ancient Judaism, but in Christianity, a hierarchy of angels was developed in the fifth century.

An angel of high rank is an archangel from the Greek roots meaning “chief angel.”

The Archangel Raphael protects healers and helps with the healing of bodies, hearts, and minds.

The Archangel Michael is the leader of all angels and his main purpose is to rid the earth and its people of all toxins associated with fear. He actually is supposed to work with humans, called lightworkers, who can also perform healing. Michael carries a dazzling sword and in modern times has somehow also become associated with fixing electronic devices.

My mother really liked Archangel Gabriel. Maybe it was because Gabriel is often portrayed as feminine and she brought Jesus to Mary and now Gabriel guides parents from conception onward.

There are some angelic inconsistencies. They are typically depicted as masculine but in Christianity, they are supposed to be without gender, and in the Quran, God rejects feminine depictions of angels. It also didn’t seem right when I was told that a non-Christian can’t have a guardian angel.

Abrahamic religions often depict angels as intermediaries between God or Heaven and humanity. I was comforted as a child by the thought of something powerful protecting me. My mother put a guardian angel statue over my bed. It looked like most angels in artwork that look like quite attractive humans and have wings, halos, and are bathed in a divine light. (My little statue glowed in the dark!)

Yesterday I referenced the Devil and many Christians believe the Devil was once a beautiful angel named Lucifer who defied God and fell from grace. Some biblical scholars say that Lucifer isn’t a proper name but a descriptive phrase meaning “morning star” the Devil is often referred to as Lucifer.

I was confused when I met up with Clarence Odbody, the guardian angel in It’s a Wonderful Life who earned his wings when he helped George realize that life was worth living. He didn’t fit any of the descriptions I had encountered, though he was bumblingly likable.

Are people still interested in angels? A search on Amazon for the word turns up 80,000 items.  A Google search shows 2,030,000,000 results. That’s 2+ billion.  (though some of those angels play baseball). So, the answer is Yes.

“If I got rid of my demons, I’d lose my angels.”  ― Tennessee Williams

“Every angel is terrifying.”  ― Rainer Maria Rilke, Duino Elegies

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Ken Ronkowitz

A lifelong educator on and off the Internet. Random by design and predictably irrational. It's turtles all the way down. Dolce far niente.

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