Update: Angels

angelpic

Master of Sir John Fastolf (French, active before about 1420 – about 1450)
A Patron and His Guardian Angel, about 1430 – 1440, Tempera colors, gold leaf, and ink on parchment
Leaf: 12.1 × 9.2 cm (4 3/4 × 3 5/8 in.), Ms. 5 (84.ML.723), fol. 20v
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Ms. 5, fol. 20v

This is not a “Jailbreaking Angels” post in that I do not yet have any definitive conclusions regarding how to jailbreak the angels. However, I wanted to write to stay in the habit of putting words on a page and to see if anyone has any input.

So far, I have the bare bones start of an altar. My patron has asked that I not perform any ritual to contact angels until August. At first I was confused but as I started to prepare I began to see why. First, I was starting work on behalf of my community that required a lot of my attention. Second, in order to get a clear signal I have to do some maintenance and repair in my magical working space. Neither of these things can be rushed, so I agree now with my patron that August will be a good time to perform the first contact ritual. I will likely begin offerings and consecrations before then.

As an animist, when I work with spirits, I think of them as having an “anchor”, something I can use to tune into their energy. The anchor is not usually the whole of the spirit, just a touch point. For most spirits, the anchor is either something in physical reality or a story told by humans. St John the Baptist anchors himself in his myths, the rain, and the local rivers. The Fae are anchored for me in the local forest, especially mushrooms and flowers. Different people use different anchors, and a spirit can anchor differently in different physical locations.

The topic that has been rolling around in my head for the last few months is: what anchors would best connect me with the angels? I’ve got three categories, and each has pros and cons. I also discussed this topic with my partner earlier, and we came to what I think is a good idea to try.

Heavenly bodies seem the most resonant to me. The concept of “angel(s) of saturn” fits neatly in with a worldview where everything has an animating spirit. And why shouldn’t the deity of Saturn have messengers? There is historical precedent for it being easier to talk to one messenger rather than the deity themselves. The concern I have with anchoring in heavenly bodies is that I don’t think that is the whole picture. It seems reductive to boil angels down to just space animism without the cultural context of those relationships.

Another easy anchor is the lore surrounding angels as psychopomps. Christians are not the only faith-cluster to think that human spirits go to the stars when we die, and I have seen a lot of medieval manuscripts that depict an angel at the deathbed waiting to take a soul upwards to space. I even see angel statues when I go to the local cemetery for walks. I don’t have any concerns here. It’s a pretty straightforward bit of the lore.

Myths are a good anchor, because they can describe the relationship between humans and spirits. They can be rich and allow for a balance between tradition and interpretation. The concern I have is that a lot of the mythology of the angels and space animism comes from Jewish traditions such as Mishnah rather than the overlap of religions that the grimoire line exists in. The stories don’t often appear in the grimoires themselves, though they can be found by dedicated searchers.

Obviously, not all the myths are Jewish. Angel lore comes from the New Testament and from Islamic sources as well. I hope to gain the literacy required to delve into and understand the Islamic angel lore at some point, or at least how the Islamic mythology connects with and relates to Judaism and Christianity. I think doing so might provide some key as to what “The West” is and how I can remove this nomenclature from my practices.

The last kind of anchor I have been considering are names. Names are an obvious anchor because they are important to the grimoire tradition. Also, there seems to be a resonance between angel names and the Roman cult of virtues. Gabriel has often been translated as “Strength of G-d”, and divine strength is a concept I feel familiar with. It would not surprise me if an angel of venus was named “Beauty” or an angel of mars was named “Action”. I am hesitant to draw similarities between Roman practice and Hebrew naming practices, but it is worth looking into.

The final piece of this puzzle that my partner and I were discussing is that the angel practices don’t always associate the same angel with the same heavenly body. I have seen Uriel and Michael alternatively associated with the sun. Raphael also seems to go between the sun and mercury.

What we came to was an idea that rather then try to form an angelic connection that draws from the entire breadth of all these practices, it might be wise to pick one grimoire line and remediate the relationship from that viewpoint. First, taking a grimoire lineage roots the practice in specific history, times and places. One of the goals of remediating or jailbreaking these practices was to do exactly that, to provide a decolonized context of my own spiritual inheritance. (Though with Iberian ancestors that is a weird trip.)

Second, framing angels in terms of grimoire lines adds and embraces plurality. The fact that different sources say different things is not a problem to be reconciled but a basic feature of how our human relationships with these non-human spirits evolve.

So the time has come to pick a line and start making basic offerings.

 

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