So, as it turns out, Demon’s Chronicle has more than a few angels scattered in the toy line. And, thanks to a really awesome friend, I now own them all! Well, most of them. There is a figure of Lucifer, but it is crazy expensive, so no dice. Anyway, let’s talk angels!
The first thing to note is the difference between Biblical angels and taditional angels. In the bible, angels do not have wings. Not ever. There are winged celestial creatures – Cherubim, Seraphim, and Ophanim – but they are not angelos, i.e. messengers. “Angel” just means “messenger,” and is sometimes used of people or an incarnation of God Himself. Angels, per se, generally appear as human males. Sometimes they look ordinary and mortal, and other times terrifying. They also panic whenever somebody worships or even pays them respect, declaring that only God deserves worship. But for the sake of this, I’ll fold Cherubim, Seraphim, etc. into the generic “angel” category.
A word about the terrifying thing – when an angel appears and isn’t in super-normal human mode, they pretty much alays have to say “Don’t be afraid.” Note the weird multi-winged four-headed eyeball-covered celestial creatures in other passages, too. Angels are weird, man. Just weird.
Medieval Catholic angelic hierarchy pretty much takes Colossians 1:16 as a guidebook: “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.” Then it grabs other cratures seen in prophetic visions, and goes kee-razy! So, wanna learn? This is going to start at the bottom and move up, ending with two unique named Angel figures. SPOILER: There is no toy of Michael, sorry.
These are the Messengers of God, spiritual beings created to perform various tasks… mostly delivering messages or fighting evil. Demons were originally from these ranks. In the hierarchy, “Angels” are the most basic, lowest celestial beings. Not to say that they aren’t pretty major, but there are higher ranks.
In the Bible, there is only one Archangel, and it’s a title. Michael is the Archangel in the same way that Barack Obama is the President of the United States of America. And angels do not have term limits. But in the Catholic hierarchy, Archangels are possibly the second-lowest tier of angeldom – or a group of seven super-powerful boss Angels, such as Michael, Raphael, and Uriel. But this is looking at the version where they are the second-lowest tier.
The Principalities, or Rulers, collaborate with other authority-type angels, and in the mortal realm they teach art and science, and inspire mortals on to Renaissance-style greatness. They also carry crowns and scepters, as seen here.
Powers, aka Authorities, are the armed warriors of the angelic hierarchy. More than tht, they are the bearers of onscience and keepers of history, and the most loyal types of angels. Some traditions hold that Satan was formerly a Power, others a Cherub, and others an Archangel, but note that the Powers are important enough to be included in that group.
The Virtues, aka Strongholds, are often connected with the Ophanim. Their primary purpose is to govern the movements of all celestial bodies – the sun, moon, stars, etc. If this sounds a little bit like foreign religions sneaking into Christianity, you’d be right. That kind of thing happened, often with saints and angels. The Virtues are sometimes also labeled Thrones, at which point Ophanim are no longer considered Thrones.
The Dominions, aka Lordships, aka Hashmallim, are essentially what Archangels should be. These are the leaders and rulers of all angelkind. They also preside over nation, and rarely make themselves known to mortals. The only practical difference between Dominions and Archangels is that there are more than seven of them, and they are not named. They are also the last of the humanoid angels in the hierarchy.
The Ophanim, aka Thrones, aka Chariots, aka Erelim, aka Ezekiel’s Wheels, are the most surreal and mysterious of all the celestial creatures mentioned in the Bible. Their sole appearance is in Ezekiel’s prophetic vision, in which they are conncted to the Cherubim (see next entry). They have been called everythign from symbols of God’s authority to UFOs, but since there is little in the Bible to go on, speculation has run rampant. The fact that a Wheel Within Wheel figure exists maes me incredibly happy for reasons I cannot fully explain. This figure was one of my most sought-after ever.
Cherubim, aka Living Creatures, are not babies. Those baby angels are called “putti,” and not rleated. Cherubim are four-faced, bull-footed guardians. Several guarded the Garden of Eden, others guard the Throne of God, and frankly, their descriptions really line up with the four-footed Babylonian celestial guardians, the Shedu and Lamassu. IN fact, an early name for the Shedu is Karabu, and if youw ere to give one extra faces, it would look just like Ezekiel’s Cherubim. Their strange, multifaced appearance is consistent whenever they are described, with other appearances assuming that the reader knew them – like the Cherubim on the Ark of the Covenant, for example. This figure shouldn’t have a human torso, but otherwise it is accurate (the eagle face is on his back). And here is Ezekiel’s vision with both Cherubim and Ophanim:
1 In my thirtieth year, in the fourth month on the fifth day, while I was among the exiles by the Kebar River, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God.
2 On the fifth of the month—it was the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin— 3 the word of the Lord came to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, by the Kebar River in the land of the Babylonians.[a] There the hand of the Lord was on him.
4 I looked, and I saw a windstorm coming out of the north—an immense cloud with flashing lightning and surrounded by brilliant light. The center of the fire looked like glowing metal, 5 and in the fire was what looked like four living creatures. In appearance their form was human, 6 but each of them had four faces and four wings. 7 Their legs were straight; their feet were like those of a calf and gleamed like burnished bronze. 8 Under their wings on their four sides they had human hands. All four of them had faces and wings, 9 and the wings of one touched the wings of another. Each one went straight ahead; they did not turn as they moved.
10 Their faces looked like this: Each of the four had the face of a human being, and on the right side each had the face of a lion, and on the left the face of an ox; each also had the face of an eagle. 11 Such were their faces. They each had two wings spreading out upward, each wing touching that of the creature on either side; and each had two other wings covering its body. 12 Each one went straight ahead. Wherever the spirit would go, they would go, without turning as they went. 13 The appearance of the living creatures was like burning coals of fire or like torches. Fire moved back and forth among the creatures; it was bright, and lightning flashed out of it. 14 The creatures sped back and forth like flashes of lightning.
15 As I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel on the ground beside each creature with its four faces. 16 This was the appearance and structure of the wheels: They sparkled like topaz, and all four looked alike. Each appeared to be made like a wheel intersecting a wheel. 17 As they moved, they would go in any one of the four directions the creatures faced; the wheels did not change direction as the creatures went. 18 Their rims were high and awesome, and all four rims were full of eyes all around.
19 When the living creatures moved, the wheels beside them moved; and when the living creatures rose from the ground, the wheels also rose. 20 Wherever the spirit would go, they would go, and the wheels would rise along with them, because the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels. 21 When the creatures moved, they also moved; when the creatures stood still, they also stood still; and when the creatures rose from the ground, the wheels rose along with them, because the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.
In case you’re wondering, Ezekiel later identifies the Living Creatures as Cherubim, really explicitly.
“Seraphim” is not a proper nae. It means “burning ones,” and is often used for snakes, which means that the Seraphim in Isaiah’s vision may have been serpentine. But you know what? They have the best job ever. They circle God’s throne and sing praises to the Almighty. That is their entire purpose. They appear in Isaiah’s inaugural vision:
1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”
4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
Now, try to imagine flaming dragon-snakes with six wings, tons of eyes, and covered up as described.
Gabriel and Michael are the only named Angels in the Bible. Gabriel is clearly something special, as he gets all the awesome jobs – he instructed Daniel, and he got to inform Mary of her pregnancy. He is never really described, but I can guarantee that Gabriel was not a blonde, effeminate caucasian man. Seriously, can’t they make a middle-Eastern angel just once? Granted, when peopel started painting angels as white, they also painted them to look like eunuchs. This depiction of Gabriel looks like a eunuch. That feels like a step down for somebody so awesome.
Uriel is not in the Bible. He is mentioned in some apocrypha, but Uriel is not in the 66 books. According to tradition, uriel is the archangel of forgiveness, wisdom, light, and strength. He slays evil, holds the keys to the underworld, endlightens the faithful, led Abraham, and protects the righteous. Sometimes he is seen as compassionate, other times pitiless. And he makes for an awesome mini figure.
Well, Demon’s Chronicle never did produce a Michael figure, but I have to give them credit for creating the entire hierarchy. And now you know a little more about celestial beings, both in the Bible and outside tradition!