Seven Archangels…but which?
April 22, 2014 6 Comments
As you might expect, dear reader, the number seven is kinda mystical. Seven planets, seven days of the week, roughly seven days for one phase of the Moon, seven orifices in the human face, seven Greek sages, seven virtues, seven vices, and so forth. It’s the fourth odd number and fourth prime number, and there are three ways to sum up lesser numbers to add to seven (6+1, 2+5, 3+4), and three and four are also important numbers in their own rights. So many attributes have been given to the number seven explaining much of its mysticality, and while I admit that much it might (read: definitely) be stretching things to fit a particular number of associations and categories, seven gives us a lot to work with without being too much.
This is especially important when it comes to working with angels, and archangels in particular. Archangels, as the name implies, are the princes of the angels, the big guys among the big guys, and by working with them we can more effectively work with their subordinate angels and other spirits, not to mention the rest of the cosmos. In Western Christianity, notably Catholicism, there is only valid and proper devotion able to be given to three archangels in particular: Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, the only three named angels in the Old and New Testaments. Of course, other varieties of Christianity, official and folk, have venerated many more angels than just these three, each with their own names and attributes.
Such groups of archangels come either in groups of four or groups of seven. Four archangels makes sense: four elements, four corners of the world, and so forth. In Western occultism, we usually consider these four to be Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel; in Arabic lore, they’re Mikhail, Jibrail, Israfil, and Izrail (with the first three being the Arabic versions of the names and the last one being Azrael, usually known as the angel of death). Four is a pretty solid number, but as noted before, seven is often more preferred for its mystical nature. Add to it, we find references to “seven archangels” in scripture, particularly in Enoch I, and since then lists of seven angels have been common throughout Western religion and occulture. However, with the exception of the “big three” angels named before, these lists often differ significantly, and it’s hard to figure out which angel has what qualities without relegating oneself to a particular book or mini-tradition.
To give several lists of seven archangels, I present the following table, which (besides Gabriel, Michael, and Raphael) is not meant to directly associate or imply an association between the other angels across traditions. The first column is taken from Agrippa’s Scale of Seven (book II, chapter 10), which he associates with the seven planets. The second column is given from the works of Pseudo-Dionysus the Areopagite, a Christian theologian and philosopher, and the names of which are common in many folk and Hispanic magic circles. The third columns gives name from the Christian Gnostic and Orthodox traditions, which are popular in more ecclesiastic and personal practices in the eastern part of Europe. The fourth column gives the names of the seven archangels from Enoch I, and the last gives the names attributed to the archangels from Pope Saint Gregory I “the Great” from the 6th century.
There are still other lists, but I feel like the ones given here are probably the most important. That seven archangels is such a common thing across writers speaks to an older tradition, such as that of the amesha spentas in Zoroastrianism, or the Babylonian view of seeing the seven planets as gods in their own right. Other scriptural references include seven candles, seven kings, seven churches of the world, and the like throughout Revelation, suggesting that the cosmic rulership of seven parts is something that pervades much theological and occult thinking.
In my practice so far, I’ve been working with Agrippa’s planetary angels, since I was introduced to them by means of the planets themselves in Fr. RO’s Red Work courses, as well since the whole Hermetic viewpoint likes putting cosmic rulers on things in the cosmos and the Abrahamic angels work well for that kind of thing. However, I’ve been going to a number of botanicas lately, and I often find candles and statues for angels besides these seven planetary ones, notably ones to Iophiel (whom I know as either the intelligence of Jupiter or angel of the fixed stars), Chamuel, and Uriel. Add to it, through my good friend Michael Strojan, I’ve encountered yet another set of angels that include Jehudiel, Sealtiel, and Uriel.
It gets awfully confusing, I’ll admit, but I have started to work with this latter set of seven angels from the Christian tradition. Basically, the method is more-or-less devotional: assign one angel to each day of the week, and make prayers towards that angel. I got a set of statues off Amazon for these seven angels, and set them up around my primary devotional altar along with a glass of water and a candle. On their respective days, I light a candle and some incense for them, give them a new glass of water, and make prayers for them based on prayers such as novenas or chaplets for the angels, if one exists, or I just go by their general associations and make prayers for their intercession along those lines.
But, of course, linking the archangels to the days of the week, too, can be difficult. Apparently, there are two ways to do this: the standard way, which is common by many Eastern Christians, and another way that Mr. Strojan showed me, where it links the angels to different days based on their divine offices and attributes. I prefer to use the office-based attribution system, since it’s closer to the planetary method I’m already familiar with. I haven’t gotten any complaints from the angels themselves, either.
Of course, nothing stops me from working with these angels in a more magical framework, either. I’ve noticed my rituals involving Michael of Fire or Michael of the Sun getting stronger and easier as I’ve been doing more work and offerings to the archangel Saint Michael, and ditto for Raphael of Air/Mercury and Gabriel of Water/Moon, and last I checked, devotional Christians don’t have seals yet for these archangels. It’d be an interesting project to involve these angels in magical ritual in addition to devotional practice, though Mr. Strojan has told me that in working with any of the seven archangels, you effectively work with all of them; they work together as a cohesive group.
So, what do these particular angels rule over, and what are their attributes?
- Michael, “who is like God”. Often shown conquering a dragon with lance or sword. Spiritual leader to holiness, spiritual offense and defense, protection from harm and evil, courage, preservation from danger.
- Gabriel, “strength of God”. Shown with horn, scroll, shield, scepter, or light. Wisdom, revelation, messages, nurturing the young, and communication.
- Uriel, “light of God”. Often shown with a set of scales, flaming sword, or flame. Protection, enlightenment, illumination, and resolution of conflict.
- Raphael, “medicine of God”. Shown with a crook and container of medicine, such as a gourd of salve. Healing, health, wholeness, guidance, exorcism, and guidance.
- Jehudiel, “praise of God”. Shown with a sword, staff, or three-pronged whip, often crowned or holding a crown. The angel of work, labor, employment, leadership, and government, especially as it pertains to one’s True Will and the Will of God. By working, we praise God, and by praising God, we reap the power and station given to us.
- Barachiel, “blessing of God”. Shown holding a white rose or white rose petals, or a basket overflowing with bread. Blessings of all kinds, luxuries, wealth, nourishment, growth, harmony, love, humor, success.
- Sealtiel or Selaphiel, “prayer of God”. Shown in devotion or contemplation, sometimes with arms folded or clasped together in prayer, sometimes with a thurible or censer. Focus in devotions and prayers, concentration, steadfastness and resolution in prayers and all worshipful acts, as well as wisdom and skill in magic, exorcisms, and all divine arts.
A recent botanica trip even led me to buy a particular Siete Angeles candle with the names of the seven archangels on them. Unusual about this candle, however, was that it had both the lists from the Gnostic tradition and Pseudo-Dionysus’ writings, and linked them together! Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel were the same between the two, while Chamuel/Samuel was associated with Barachiel, Sealtiel with Zadkiel/Zafkiel, and Jehudiel with Iophiel. While it’s awesome that these angels are associated in such a way, at least at a high level, the Ps.-Dionysus angels and the Gnostic angels often have different attributes that make them highly distinct. I’ve even found weekday associations of the Ps.-Dionysus angels, but even these differ from practice to practice.
In the end, forming a practice to the seven archangels boils down to picking a particular set of seven angels, divvying up the duties of the world amongst them, assigning days of the week to them in a way that more-or-less makes sense, and working with them on their respective days. Anyone who works with the seven archangels will recognize the same seven under different names here and there, but it’s hardly incorrect or wrong to pick one set over another. Mixing angels from different groups may not be great, since that muddles the different traditions in which they work, but working out correspondences between them may be useful. For instance, by associating Jehudiel with Thursday, I also can associate Jehudiel with Jupiter and Tzadkiel in Agrippa; while I don’t consider the seven planetary angels to be the same as the seven archangels, I can see how the nobility, grace, and fatherliness of Jupiter can easily fit into Jehudiel’s practice and image. Likewise, with Barachiel on Friday, I can associate Venus and Haniel with Barachiel, and seeing how the luxuries, joys, pleasures, and goods of both work together.