What Are Angels? What Are Cherubs?
What are Angels? What are Cherubs? (More correctly, cherubim is the plural form of cherub). Angels and cherubs are all around us; just keep your eyes open and you will see them.
I studied art history and painting, so I thought I knew a thing or two about the heavenly hosts, but when I started to dig a little deeper into the subject of angels, I discovered a vast and rich store of history, folklore and imagery. I soon became a little overwhelmed! I also realised that I didn't know what angels and cherubs are - exactly.
Not only are angels all around us in one form or another, but these popular forms and images are just the acceptable face of the angel. Scrape off that simpering, blond and benevolent veneer of the modern angel, and lurking just beneath the surface you'll find a dark and fearful universe as far from 'angelic' as you could imagine..
What is an Angel?
Messengers from God
In theology, including the Christian, Muslim and Jewish beliefs, angels are messengers of God and the will of God is carried out by angels. The most obvious example of this is when Mary was visited by an angel who told her she would bear Jesus.
The word angelis thought to be derived from the Greek word "Angelos" which means "messenger".
Angels are superior beings, spirits without bodies, pure love, the special children of God who spend their time praising Him in heaven.
This reminds me of one of my favourite films, 'Bedazzled,' starring Peter Cook and Dudley Moore ...... I'll return to the devil and Bedazzled further on.
The Celestial Hierarchy
Somewhere around the 5th century AD the doctrine of celestial hierarchy was formulated by Dionysius Areopagiticus ("the Areopagite"). He arranged the angels into 9 angelic choirs and then divided these into smaller triads with three choirs in each:
- Seraphim (the burning ones), cherubim and Thrones orophanim (also know as the wheels of fire mentioned in the book of Ezekial)
- Virtues, dominions and powers or authorities
- Principalities or Rulers, archanges and angels
A Dictionary of Angels - And fallen angels
What is a Cherub? - Cherub angels? Not what we would call a cherub anyway!
Think of a cherub and do you think of a cute, plump, pink little baby angel, (like the cherub angels pictured above, painted by Raffael in the Sistine Chapel)? Well, that's a 'putto', not a cherub. And the little chappie who flies around with a bow and arrow on Valentine's day is Cupid, the name for the Roman god of love. Cherubim, (plural of cherub) are quite a different order of being.
So what are cherubs?
Cherubim (cherub angels) are a type of angel, a spiritual being. Satan was originally a cherub before 'the fall'. The concept of cherubs goes back to the Assyrians and Babylonians, meaning 'great or mighty',or 'propitious, blessed', respectively. It may have it's roots in the spirits which served the gods, in particular the shedu (human-headed winged bulls), which the Assyrians sometimes called kirubu, a type of the shedu, or in the Lammasu, the spinx-like human-headed winged lions.
Are Cherubs Good or Bad?
The devil was a cherub!
Are cherubs good or bad? Like the curates egg - bad in places! As cherubs are a type of angel and 'work' for God, they are good. Satan was a cherub who fell from grace and so 'turned bad'. What is clear from all the texts referring to cherubim is that they would have been truly awesome in the real sense of the word.
What Do Angels and Cherubim Look Like?
They often look like us - but not always
Angels have no form of their own and can appear in human form, (and in the bible in male form), but also in may other guises; (Ezekiel 1:16-21, Isaiah 6:1-3, and Revelations) including a burning bush or wheel of fire.
I don't know the bible, but turned to the Book of Ezekiel to read what he had to say about how angels appear, and it is such a wonderfully rich and vivid description that I recommend that you have a look.
He said that he was among the captive by the river Chebar when the heavens opened and he saw 'visions of God'. He describes a 'great cloud' flaming with fire and from this came the creatures illustrated below: they had the shape of a man, with straight feet, they were foursided, on one side the man, on the right side a lion and on the left a bull. Behind was th form of an eagle. Each had four wings. Ezekial tells how they were amber, burnished, sparkled and shone.
With these creatures were wheels 'the colour of beryl', and the wheels had eyes and the wheels stayed at the side of the creatures, 'for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels.' I wonder if this is where Philip Pullman got his inspiration for His Dark Materials Trilogy?
His Dark Materials Trilogy By Philip Pullman - Not about angels as such, but about souls that accompany their people
This book is suitable for teenagers and adults. The Subtle Knife, the second in the trilogy, was given to my thirteen year old son, and as he didn't seem motivated to read it, I did and I loved it. I quickly sourced the other two and thoroughly enjoyed these too. the story takes place in two paralell worlds, subtly different.
One is our world where our souls are inside our bodies, but in 'the other world' people have souls outside their bodies that take the form of animals. The film of The Golden Compas starring Nicole Kidman is also excellent.
Where are Angels?
Angels are all around us
Everywhere. The angels of the bible and Islam are said to be everywhere, but the images of angels are everywhere too. Just open your eyes and you'll see depictions of angels all around you, and you'll hear references to them too in names of people and things, song, poetry, literature, religion, history, folklore and in so many other contexts.
The angel in the image decorates the lamps on Lendal Bridge, York, UK. I was brought up in York and had never noticed them until I began to collect images for this article. I opened my eyes and saw angels all over the city of York!
A Brief History of Angels
And I mean brief!
Shining, winged creatures, usually at least in part in the form of humans, have been with us for a long, long time. they are found withing the main modern religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam but their historyis much more ancient. Records of God's messengers or helpers are found within the Sumerian, Babylonian, Persian, Egyptian and Greek cultures..
Hinduism has avatars, Buddhism has devas and bodhisattvas, the Greeks wrote about daimons, and other spirit beings similar to angels, such as guardian spirits and spirit guides are found in tribal communities. The ancient Egyptianians left heiroglyphics showing winged animals with human heads which were called Griffins. Hermes, the Greek deity and son of Zeus, was a messengers with wings at his feet.
A history of angels
Zoroastrians and Angels
Did angels begin with Zarathustra?
Zarathustra, or Zoroaster (his Greek name) has inspired both Judaism and Christianity. We have inherited his idea of a hierarchy of "bounteous Immortals" who help humans in their battle against evil. It is they who guide humanity towards morality, health and happiness. It is these beings that have been thought to be the origins of the Judeo and Christian angels.
Sraosha was one of these beings and it was his job to protect the body and to take the soul to the 'Bridge of Separation' after the death of the body. Sraosha was associated with a dog and it is this that links him to the ancient story of Tobias and the Angel, this time in the form of the archangel Raphael.
Why All is Not Necessarily Peace on Earth Where Angels are Concerned - Find out more about the history of Angels with the Reverend Lucy Winkett
"Don't be afraid.... Fear not...... It is nearly Christmas, and we are talking about angels...." This is how the Radio 3 programme on Angels began. The programme looked beyond the pretty modern imagesof angels which guide and protect us from evil to their history and found that their role is far more complicated than it might seem. There are good and bad angels. Monstrous angels with griffin heads and ox's feet. They can take the form of wheels of fire surrounded by staring eyes.
The Reverend Lucy Winkett presented an Interval Talk on BBC Radio 3 on the theme of 'Angelology' on 23rd December 2011.
Find out the truth about angels. This is the time of year when we are surrounded by images of angels, many looking rather benevolent, friendly musical creatures, or appearing as sweet chubby cherubs. But in the biblical tradition angels are rather m
- Angels - and how they have fallen
From Woman's Hour BBC Radio 4 290th December 2011: The Reverend Lucy Winkett talks abou her Radio 3 programme, 'Angelology' on 23 Dec, and joins Jane to discuss why all is not necessarily peace on earth where angels are concerned. More about the dev
What are Archangels?
Top ranking angels
Archangels are at the top of the hierarchical orders, but after that just how many Archangels there are and who they are is debatable.
The Archangels of the Christian Bible are Michael, Raphael, Gabriel and Uriel. Other Judeo-Christian Archangels are Chamuel Jophiel and Raguel, however, in the eighth century people began to worship Angels and so, in 745 A.D. seven Angels were no longer recognised by the church as Angels. Two of these 'fallen' andgels were the Archangels Uriel and Raguel.
Other Archangels include Ariel, Azrael, Camael, Haniel, Jeremiel, Metatron, Raziel and Sandalphon.
Most of these names end in 'el', which means 'in God', and the rest of the name shows which areas of 'expertise' each Archangel specialises in.
Angels to take care of us
From antiquity to today we have believed that we've been assigned a guardian angel. God has given us our very own angel to guide and protect us. This belief, widespread in both the east and west, was further developed in Christianity in the 5th century by Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, and the theology of angels and tutelary (ie Guardian or protector,) spirits has undergone many refinements since the 400s.
It's so comforting to think that someone is watching over us.
Sirens are Angels of the Sea
And sirens, (or Syrens), are closely related to mermaids
The mermaid portrayed in the novel, 'The Mermaid Chair' by Sue Monk Kidd, has a fishtail and wings. Through her character, Thomas the Benedictine monk, she explains that the mermaid is part siren. "Sirens have fish tails and wings." He continues to explain that in the Odyssey, the sirens lured sailors to their deaths on the rocks by singing, but before this they were sea goddesses who brought messages from the depths of the sea. In other words, sea angels.
Image: The_Siren by John William Waterhouse (circa 1900) - This image is in the public domaine because its first publication occurred prior to January 1, 1923
Vintage Angel Kitten Plaque
What is the Angelus?
The Angelus, (Latin for "angel"), is a prayer recited in Roman Catholic churches, convents, and monasteries, (and some Anglican and Lutheran churches), at 6:00 am, midday, and 6:00 pm is also used by. The call to prayer is sent out by the ringing of the Angelus bell, not only a call to prayer but also a way to spread good-will to everyone on Earth.
The angel is Gabriel, who was sent by God to tell Mary that she would conceive a child, Jesus, who would be the Son of God. (See Luke 1:26-38).
Angels by the Old Masters - Walk with Angels Through time
Artists throughout history have always loved to paint angels. here are just a few:
Sculptures of Angels - Angels caught in stone
Just as painters captured angels in colour, sculptors have done the same in three dimensions in stone, clay and metal.
Angels of Highgate Cemetery - Pictures of angels taken on a dull day
Angels of Highgate Cemetery London UK
I visited Highgate Cemetery last time I was in England specifically to photograph the angels there. It was a dull day, which was a shame, but I loved searching and seeking out the angels carved from stone who whatch over the dead.
Highgate is also famous for its Higate Vampire which haunts the Cemetery.
Urban Guardian Angels
Angels in Great Literature - We love to read about them
Where Angels Dare, Angels and Devils, an Angel at my Table ... the list goes on. How many great novels are there about angels? These are just a few.
Skellig From Amazon.co.uk
A Children's book about an angel
David Almond had written many books before Skellig finally won recognition for him. A northerner, he takes delight in finding the magic in the everyday. Much loved by children and adults alike.
The Angels of Cognac
The angels take their share!
Cognac in France is famous for it's distilleries and fine Cognac. If you go down to the riverside, you'll see that the warehouses where the barrels of cognac are stored, are all blackened .
The black is caused by the alcohol evaporating into the surrounding air, but the locals take a more romantic view, saying that the moisture that is lost is 'the angels taking their share' of the brandy. The discolouration is caused, however, by a fungus that grows on the chalk stone in the alcohol-dampened atmosphere!
Angels in Film
We love to see them brought to life
We love to read stories about angels so it's hardly surprising that we adore the films that bring angels to life before our very eyes.
The Angels Share by Ken Loach - Angels meet whisky in modern-day Scotland
The Angels' Share, or Angel's portion, as described below, is the amount of brandy, whisky or similar that evaporates in the distilling process. It's also the title of Ken Loach's new film which opens in the UK on 1 June 2012.
Set in Glasgow, it has subtitles in ENGLISH for all us Sassenachs, (including me, I lived in Ediburgh for 6 years but that isn't always enough!). The film stars Paul Brannigan as Robbie, an ex-offender and new father who find that 'turning to drink' might be a good option after a trip to a whisky distillery may point the way to a new career and, possibly, a rather less orthodox way out of poverty.
The Blue Angel
With Marlene Dietrich
When I think of The Blue Angel I think of the film, 'Der blaue Engel' in German, directed by Josef von Sternberg in 1930 starring Marlene Dietrich. It was based on Heinrich Mann's novel 'Professor Unrat'. This is but one Blue Angel.
Films about Angels - Here are just a few:
Angels in America, The Blue Angel, An Angel At My Table
Blue Angels - Flights of fancy
If, like me, you have never heard of The Blue Angels, here's a little background information:
The Blue Angels is a formal flying aerobatic team and belongs to the United States Navy. It is, at the moment, the second oldest team in the world. They were formed in 1946, while the oldest team, the French Patrouille de France came together in 1931.
Why the name? Well, obviously, they fly in the sky and so do angels, but there's a bit more to this story. At first the unit was called the Navy Flight Exhibition Team, (boring!), but when one of the pilots discovered New York City's Blue Angel Nightclub through a mention in The New Yorker magazine, the name fitted. The teamused the name publicly for the first time on 21 July 1946, in Omaha, Nebras and clearly, it stuck.
See The Blue Angels in action on their web site: The Blue Angels Official Web Site
Touched by Angels?
The Angel, London
Angel is a district of London, England, and part of the London Borough of Islington, with a tube station of the same name.
The name comes from The Angel Inn, originally on the Great North Road, now the corner of Islington High Street and Pentonville Road.
An Angel called Islington appears as a character in Neil Gaiman's novel, 'Neverwhere'.
Neverwhere - by Neil Gaiman
This is a fascinating account of the 'other' London that exists below 'London Above'. The London below is a dark and fearful place that waxes and wanes rather than staying fixed like 'London Above' generally does. You can exist in one or the other but not both, and the story begins when Richard Mayhew, an ordinary young man, going about his business stops to help an injured girl who lies at his feet on the London pavement - his girlfriend fails to see the damsel in distress.....
Angels in Song
People love to sing about angels
"Walks like an angel, talks like an angel, .... but she's the devil in disguise"
Love / hate relationships are so easily expressed as the angelic and the devilish and are usually applied to women by men. 'Devil Woman', 'Angel' ... the list is endless. Are you an angel or a devil woman? (Perhaps you're just an ordinary person!)
Robbie Williams - Angels
People, go through the dirt and come out clean and shining – everything you go through makes you golden – a better person. Dirty Gold
Add your Angels in Songs
- She talks to rainbows, she talks to angels
Angels and Opera
On Friday 26th March the opera "Angels In America", composed by Hungarian composer Peter EÃ¶tvÃ¶s, has its UK premiere at the Barbican. The opera started life as a play written by Tony Kushner and was then turned into a Golden Globe winning mini television series before completing its transformation to the big stage. Conductor David Robertson and baritone Omar Ebrahim (who plays leading role Joseph Pitt) will be in the studio to discuss its operatic transformation. And piano quartet Ensemble Raro with guest cellist Adrian Brendel perform pieces by Robert Schumann and Peteris Vasks ahead of their concert at Wigmore Hall on 26th March.
Presented by Sean Rafferty. (From a programme broadcast on Thu, 25 Mar 2010, 17:00 on BBC Radio 3).
Angels in America WORLD PREMIERE production - Daniel Belcher,baritone (Prior Walter) Barbara Hendricks, soprano (The angel), Julia Migenes, soprano Topi Lehtipuu, tenor et al.
Angels in America - The opera
Los Angeles - City of Angels
The naming of Los Angeles
This is how Los Angelese received it's name according to Salman Rushdie in his novel Shalimar the Clown:
He tells of how theSpanish Portola expedition arrived on the site of Los Angelese in 1769 and, struck with the beauty of the valley, he named the river after the angels of St Francis of Assisi's little church of La Porziuncola in Italy - a little church decorated with paintings of the Virgin Mary and her angels.
When people began to settle here, the town was called after the river's full name El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de los Angeles de Porciuncula which translates as: the Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels of the Very Small Plot of Land (according to Rushdie).
When an Angel Passes - Alan Hall
- When an Angel Passes
Alan Hall's reflections on the angelic in the everyday in BBC Radio 4 series 'Something Understood' First broadcast: Sunday 23 December 2012
Links to Angel Poems - Poetry inspired by angels
Angels and Photography - Photos of Angels
Christmas Angels - The Christmas Angel plays such an important role in the Christmas Story
I've always loved the painting by Edward Burne-Jones, The Star of Bethlehem especially the image of the Angel holding the star in their hands.
Angels are always a big part of Christmas, because they played such a powerful role in the Christmas story. It was an angel who appeared to Mary to tell her that she would bear Jesus, an angel who, in a dream, soothed and reassured Joseph and an angel who appeared to tell the good news of the birth of Jesus to the shepherds. Angels - the messengers of God.
Doreen Virtues's Angels - Angel cards
Angel Prayers - Links to prayer to and about the angels
Angels are our guardians, they are messengers from God and they are the means of communication between people and God so it is hardly surprising that many prayers are addressed to the angels. These are links to sites that have collected together angel prayers.
Bees are Angels
I heard a brief comment on the radio saying that bees are angels. I haven't been able to find out ore about this - does anyone have any more information?
Angel Bees v Robber Bees
Angels as Landmarks
Angels watch over us - literally!
The choice of angels as landmarks is natural, given our affinity with them. We place images of angels to watch over us. The Angel of the North, shown in the image, by Antony Gormley, 1994, looks down on us from above. You can see how large it is from the tiny person at it's foot. I'm not a fan of Anthony Gormley, but I've seen this statue and it is astonishingly powerful and overwhelming when seen 'in the flesh'.
It stands on a hillside in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, England.
Angels in Islam
Angels in Islam are made of light
Angels appear often in the Qur'an and Hadith as messengers of God made of light. Believing in angels is one of the six Articles of Faith in Islam. According to the site Islamic Learning Materials.com, angels are: made of light, are very large with wings in pairs of two, three or four and, with the exception of the Angel of Death, they are beautiful. They have no sex and no form but they can take on the form of humans but Angels have no human needs such as eating.
An Angel Falls on Mecca
Islamic Miracle: Real Angel Falling From Sky On Kaba in Mecca
Angela - You're an Angel
What's in a name?
In 'Tess of the d'Urbervilles' by Thomas Hardy, the main male character is called Angel Clare; (Claire / clara means clear or/and light).
It turns out he was less of an angel than might have been desired, but that is another story. Although it's not common to call a child Angel, Angela is a very common name in the west for a girl, and Angelo is common in latin countries for boys. There's also Angelica and,of course, we've all heard of Angelina Jolie!
What's in a name?
Bedazzled with Peter Cook and Dudley Moore - The Devil explains why he rose up against God
This has long been one of my favourite films. I first saw it in my girlhood, but it still makes me laugh.
A short order cook, Dudley Moore falls in love with the waitress, Elenor Bron, and sells his soul to the devil, Peter Cook, in order to win her. The devil, however, has a trick or two up his sleeve, with hilarious consequences.
One of the most memorable passages is that where the devil explains how he fell from glory, as God's right hand angel.
Angels in Fantasy Art
Yes, angels are fantastic!
Angels feature heavily in fantasy art, and for good reasons: beautiful, magical, etherial. You can make your angel just what you like, and there is the good, the bad and the ugly to choose from.
Angel's Wings - History of Victoria Secret's Angel Wings 2008 - Fashion Show 2008
Are Angels the New Vampires? - Angel and vampire books
According to Anne Rice, leading writer of vampire stories, angels are now going to take over the role of the vamp this season. There are so many great new Angel books coming out.
Anne Rice's new novel, Angel Time: The Songs of the Seraphim tells the story of Toby O'Dare meets an angel who gives him the gift of salvation.
In 1998 Anne Rice converted from atheism back to the Catholicism of her childhood and she says that she feels so much more at home with the angels now, that 'being on the side of the angels ... feels much better than being on the side of the vampires'. Now turning away from the 'tortured, tragic' figure of the Vampire, Rice is now committed to exploring Christianity for subject matter. What better place to start than with the angels?
Other authors taking up the pen to draw pictures of angels include Becca Fitzpatrick with her book Hush, Hush, Elizabeth Chandler's Kissed by an Angel,about a guardian angel, and Sharon Creech's The Unfinished Angel.
Vampires and Angels - The Vampire of Highgate Cemetery, London
Valkyrie, Angels of Valhalla
'Choosers of the slain'
Valkyries, in Norse mythology, are one of a host of winged female figures who chooses whick soldiers are to die in battle, and, having selected half of those who are to fall, they take them to the afterlife hall of the slain, Valhalla, ruled over by the god Odin. The other half are taken by the the goddess Freyja to the afterlife field FÃ³lkvangr.
In Old Norse the word valkyrja means "chooser of the slain")
Cool Angelic Sites - Angels are all over the web
- Title Magic
Paranormal Romance on the Wild Side featuring angelic forecasts from Volcano
Links from Angels and Cherubs in the News
- Sorrowful putto
Where Did I Get My Information? - Links to Sources
What are cherubs angels ? Hers a few more answers ....
Work In Progress - way to go!
What Do You Think About Cherubs and Angels - I'd love to hear your angelic thoughts!
Loretta Livingstone from Chilterns, UK. on April 10, 2014:
I do believe in angels, but I have also written a work of fiction about them; a novelette called Where Angels Tread, which I have just published.
Barbara Walton (author) from France on November 17, 2013:
@mel-kav: I'd love to hear your experiences, mel-kav. Have you written about them? Do feel free to share them here.
mel-kav on November 16, 2013:
Great lens. I do believe in Angels and have had some awesome experiences that made me believe more than ever. I love this lens!!!
Barbara Walton (author) from France on September 11, 2013:
@darkflowers: darkflowers, thanks for your message. What are the forms you think angels come in?
Barbara Walton (author) from France on September 11, 2013:
@siobhanryan: Thank you so much for your nice comment, siobhanryan. I'd love to know how angels have helped you in life.
Anja Toetenel from The Hague, the Netherlands on September 11, 2013:
Wow, what a beautiful Lens, so much information, so well done. If the Angel Blessings Program was still there and I were one I would spread my Angel dust on this one, really! I loved it. I believe Angels exist and they do in many forms. Have a blessed day ;-)
siobhanryan on May 16, 2013:
WOW- one of the best articles I have read on Angels in a long long time-You definitely put a lot of work and research into this. Angels are the mainstay of my life and have helped me in many many ways-Blessed
LadyEnglish on January 08, 2013:
@MBradley McCauley: Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment. Pleased you liked it and even more pleased that it was Christmas eve.
MBradley McCauley on December 24, 2012:
Fabulous, fabulous lens. So glad I found it on this Christmas Eve day. Good job.
LadyEnglish on April 26, 2012:
@christianstores: Thank you, christianstores. I've barely touched on the subject. have't got around to poetry, yet, for example, but I clearly remember reading many much-loved poems about angels as a child. Why are Hell's Angels called that? It is such a fascinating subject.
LadyEnglish on April 26, 2012:
@flinnie lm: Flinnie, many thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.
christianstores on April 26, 2012:
Really thorough angelmania :)
Gloria Freeman from Alabama USA on April 22, 2012:
Hi love all the info about Angels.Thank you for sharing.