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A short overview of Angels

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A Short Overview of Angels


Angels are supernatural beings described by various religions. They are often depicted as celestial intermediaries between humans and God. They are both guardians and guides who often take on human form. Some are winged; some are part-animal.

Ancient religious beliefs of West Africa include personal spirits named Ehi. These spirits have a duel identity, being both a component of a person and a separate being that lives with the supreme deity, Osa. A person’s Ehi guides them throughout life, staying with the person during the day and returning to Osa at night.

In ancient Mesopotamia, the lamassu were celestial beings that have a human head, bull’s body, and wings. The lamassu were household protective spirits and placed as guardians at entrances. The Sumerians believed in a protective deity named Lama, a female with human form who was a servant of the gods. She was popular during the Persian Achaemenid Empire.

Similar to the West African traditions, the Zoroastrians believe each individual has a fravashi. This spirit is separate from a person’s incarnate soul and guides the person in life toward the realization of his higher self. After death, the soul is united with its fravashi. The fravashis exist in three groups—the living, the dead, and the yet unborn. They maintain the cosmos against demons and keep darkness imprisoned in the world.

In the Hindu religion, guardian angels combine two different spiritual forces: devas and the atman. Devas means “shining ones.” They guard people, pray for them, and promote the spiritual growth of humans, animals and plants. They provide spiritual energy, which inspires and motivates people to become one with the universe. The atman represents the part of each person that lives forever despite changing through different reincarnations. It urges people to move toward enlightenment.

In Taoism, a xian is a person or entity having a long life. The word translates as a being who is spiritually immortal, transcendent, super-human, and celestial. They dwell apart from men, subsisting on air and dew. They are unaffected by the world, immune to heat and cold and can fly.

Angels are common in the Abrahamic Religions: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and the Baháʼí . The term malakh occurs in the Hebrew Bible 65 times and can be translated as “an angel of the Lord.” These angels act as messengers, appearing to Abraham in Genesis, Moses in Exodus, and Gideon in Judges, for example. The Book of Enoch mentions seven archangels: Michael, Raphael, Gabriel, Uriel, Saraqael, Raguel, and Lucifer. In the New Testament, the Greek phrase, Κυρίου, means “angel of the Lord.” The Catholic Church recognizes three archangels, the Eastern Orthodox Church recognizes seven, and Islam lists four.

Spiritualists believe that their main purpose of communication with the spirit world is to provide the evidence which supports their philosophy that the soul continues after death. Angels function to bring enhanced wisdom to enlighten the individual, society and the world in which we live. Along with spirit guides, they offer protection and facilitate messages from the spirit world.

Additional Reading:

Black, Jeremy & Green, Anthony (2003). An Illustrated Dictionary, Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia. The British Museum Press.

Guiley, Rosemary Ellen (2004). The Encyclopedia of Angels. Facts on File, Inc. New York.

Klostermaier, Klaus (2010). A Survey of Hinduism, 3rd Edition, State


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