Greetings Theurgists! (That is, Invokers of Angels and Gods)
I’m back from my trip to North Carolina, and getting caught up on my email, forums, blogs, etc, etc. During the catch-up process, I found that someone had posted an interesting question to my Solomonic forum. You can read it below, but in short it asks if there is really a difference between Pagan Gods and Angels, and how the answer to that might impact how one works with either. I felt you guys might find my answer of interest:
— In firstname.lastname@example.org, “Priest of Iset” wrote:
I was just re-reading “Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires” to brush up on some basic skills and came across a statement in the book that I didn’t really pay attention to during my first reading and I was wondering if someone could elaborate a little more on this. Here is the page number and chapter. Ch.8 pg.241. It says, quote: “Theurgy literally means to ‘work with gods’, who are technically one and the same with angels.”
Upon reading this I was a little confused; does this mean that angels and gods are in the same hierarchy or does it mean that their functions and offices are the same. If either is correct, does this mean that you can build relationships with gods and goddesses in place of angels and get the same benefit? I am very open to opinions and interpretations.
Yes, Angels and Gods are essentially the same species of creature. “Angel” simply means “Messenger”, and they represent the same class of beings that were messengers, servitors, viziers, etc to ruling Gods in pagan pantheons. [I also should have added: Even in the Old Testament the angels were referred to as the "Sons of God", which mirrors other groups of Pagan Gods who were considered the "Sons of" or "Children of" a particular ruling Deity.]
Historically, many Angels descend directly from Gods. Michael (or more archaically: Mikhal) was an epithet of the Canaanite God of War and Plague Reshef. Reshef, in turn, migrated to Palestine from Mesopotamia, where we find him named Nergal – Lord of the Underworld and God of War and Plague.
Raphael has close connections to Hermes and Mercury. In their most ancient forms, Hermes and Mercury were closely associated with the underworld and sickness – and were therefore appealed to for healing. The occult symbolism of Raphael is undoubtedly Mercurial, but he is in fact the Healer of God.
In the Celtic lands, where the old Catholic Church was relatively “kinder and gentler” than it was in Europe, a great number of local Pagan deities became Saints and Archangels. Often, churches were built right on top of existing holy sites, and folks just went right on worshiping the God or Goddess (now called “Saint Whoever”) connected to that site.
Grab a copy of Gustav Davidson’s “A Dictionary of Angels” and read through the entries. You will quickly see how many Angels can be traced to older pagan deities.
Also, in practice, the methods of working with an Angel are no different than those for working with a God. Enter any Catholic or Orthodox Church in the world, and you will see several beautiful examples of altars to Saints (who include such as St. Michael, St. Raphael, St. Gabriel, etc). Those altars – that is the manner of making them – date back to altars for such deities as Zeus, Hermes, Aphrodite, Isis, Osiris, Ammon, etc, etc, etc.
Likewise, the folk methods by which families set up household shrines to Saints and Archangels date right back to ancient methods by which household shrines were established for local Gods.
Along those same lines, the methods of working with Angels in the Solomonic tradition can be traced back (in part) to the methods used by the ancient Sabians to invoke Gods like Marduk, Sin, Ishtar, Nebo, Shamash, etc. Their methods were the basis of the Arabic Picatrix, which in turn became foundational to the European grimoire tradition.
And speaking of foundations of the grimoire tradition, the Greek Magical Papyri are another great example. Those spells are chock full of invocations to various Egyptian Gods, whose format were then adopted by the Solomonic mages to invoke their Angels and Archangels.
In the Medieval and Renaissance times, it was not uncommon for magickal literature to mention “the God Michael” or “the God Gabriel” right along side of “the God Hermes” and “the God Helios”, etc. I believe you can read more about this (with quoted examples, of course) in “The Golden Dawn Journal: Book II.” I’ll have to find the name of the exact essay.
[Another important point to add here: the Judeo-Christiain hierarchies of Angels include the "Elohim" or "Dominations" - who were regarded as composed of the National Gods of all nations - basically suggesting that *all* Pagan Gods were in fact Archangels and Angels all along. On the other side of the same coin, many branches of Christianity believe that all Pagan Gods were/are in fact fallen Angels. As an example of the latter, look at the Goetia. There we find 72 "fallen angels", many of whom trace back to Pagan Gods.]
So, as you can see, there is a pretty smooth transition in history from “God” to “Angel” – but they are essentially the same creature. The concept that they are somehow different is attached entirely to the erroneous concept that Judeo-Christianity is somehow “original” and “different” from the religions that preceded them. It is equally attached to the fallacy that Judaism, Christianity and Islam are “monotheistic.” All complete bullocks, of course. :)