Angels and Demons – Abathar

AbatharI woke up from a dream twenty-two years ago, opened one of the many notebooks that littered my bedside and wrote these words.

“Abathar! Abathar! Why have you come?”

This line became an integral part of my series, “The Idylls of Alleysiande” – a series of twelve books still in development. I believe they will be published one day in that not too distant future, but then, I suffer from delusions of grandeur. I always have.

At the time, I did not know there was any kind of angel or demon associated with the name, “Abathar”. I think the words came because of my intense study of William Faulkner in graduate school and the book, Absalom! Absalom! His reference is Biblical. It is a common sort of thing for English speaking writers in the A.D. era. I did not think I would ever use the line that I had awoken to record.

HorseofApocalypseI later discovered an obscure reference to an angelic being called Abathar who carries of a pair of scales to judge people’s worth. This sparked another reference, the third horse of the Apocalypse of Revelation- I wondered if Abathar might be the angel/demon badass riding the black horse and carrying a pair of scales as God’s judgement descends upon the world.

The whole idea of judgement from a source outside of humanity fascinated me. We are great at judging one another. We are terrible at justice or mercy. We have so many prejudices and so much self-loathing. It is strange how we often accuse others of the things we, ourselves, are guilty of. It takes a great deal of self-denial to justify our own cruelty and malice toward our fellow man, often using virtue signaling to cover up our own heinous short-comings. We all do it.

The battle we fight inside ourselves is epic and we can’t divide ourselves to separate the pure from the corrupt. I wonder if there is some power in the world that accomplishes this cleansing of our worldly pains and aspirations? Does divine justice exist? If so, what form does it take? What of mercy? Second-chances? Again, a brutal pondering that leads to story…

Angels and Demons – Metatron

MetatronThroughout history stories are told to explain our world and lives. My interest in angels and demons is not one of religion. It is one of storytelling, the drawing of heroes and villains and what drives them. I have a tendency to like names drawn from various mythical and legendary beings, the story of these beings whether or not they truly ever existed.

I am interested in Metatron because in Judaism, he is known as the “Recording Angel” or the “Chancellor of Heaven”. Basically,  he’s a scribe, a writer, the story-teller of heaven. I am thinking, I would like to read what he has written. Some would say I have because I have read the Bible in its many, many, many translations. And that’s the problem, I want to see the unedited work. I want to see what it looks like unabridged by the powers of man, politics, and religion. And that’s where my imagination takes wing.

ScribeToo often heroes and villains are too good or too evil. The thing about angels and demons, their role depends a lot on where you are standing in history. As time marches on, one religion will gobble up another, erase its names or steal them into their own mythology. Demon names often appear as gods of vanquished peoples. Angel names often find themselves repeated in multiple ancient cultures in various forms. This also interests me. How names are remembered and interpreted.

LibraryInHeavenAs a child, innocent but curious, I thought much as I was taught. God in good. The devil (whatever he is) is bad and makes people do bad things. Then I learned about the rebellion in Heaven and wondered, if Heaven is so bloody great, why did a third of the angels rebel? It never made any sense to me. John Milton did nothing to improve my bewilderment.

I wondered if Heaven was painfully dull. Perhaps, you can only wear white in Heaven and the only music is that of harps and operatic angelic choirs? Once a week, that might be fine. But what if you wanted to hear a bit of screaming guitar or wear jeans and t-shirts and play video games? Did heaven have the same restrictive kinds of rules they had for me at my Catholic school? That would not be heavenly. Not to me.  I need to raise a bit of Hell from time to time. And sometimes, I like to read a book that scares the piss out of me and not a book that is paragraph after paragraph of begetting and family history full of Thees and Thous.

Did the rebellious angels know what would happen? Were they simply trying to “liven” things up when everything went horribly wrong? Expelled to a dimension where love is not, does not exist. Was this a wise punishment? If there is no love in Hell, how could fallen angels be redeemed? Did Metatron record these events? What did he have to say about it? I still wonder.

And that is where story begins…

 

Angels and Demons – Lilith

Lilith_1Lilith has been around a long, long time in myth, legend, and appearing in all sorts of cultures, mostly as a demon. The Babylonians, Assyrians, and Sumerians all cast her as a demon. Lilith or “lillit” translates as “Night Hag” or “Night Monster” or “Screech Owl” in Hebrew language texts. Literature often enhances these references. However, I understand her. She might be wrong, but heaven knows, she has her reasons.

In Jewish lore, Lilith is Adam’s first wife.  She appears as his first wife, created equal from the very same dirt that brought about Adam. It is satire, this folklore so we are not meant to take it seriously. In this story, Adam divorced Lilith when she refused to “obey” him.

Subsequently, Eve was then created from Adam’s rib. Clearly, I was Lilith’s progeny and not from subservient and idiotic Eve. What kind of woman accepts an apple from a serpent? Seriously, Lilith did less damage leaving Adam behind in the garden.

Yes, this is just a story, one of many with no hard proof of veracity,  but it makes me rip-roaring furious. There are lots of examples of  female deities, both demonic and divine, getting pushed into the trash heap of history. It is not only Lilith, cast as a villain (first wife, demon- what man doesn’t think of his first wife as a demon?) .

There is also Asherah. She was the wife of God, also consort to the Sumerian deity, El.  In the Bible, in the book of Deuteronomy, God commands her shrines destroyed so as to keep his worship pure.  Even though Jeremiah proclaims her to be the “queen of heaven”, there is not a lot of talk about how God is both male and female.

Honestly, I’m too weary to rail on about the patriarchy. It’s been wearing on my nerves for half a century. No wonder Lilith went full-on demon. She was created equal and told by Adam that he wasn’t having it. Yeah, at that point, fire starts pouring out my eyeballs too.

 

 

Angels and Demons – Lucifer

TheDevilMadeMeDoItMost find Lucifer’s story to be the most compelling in angel and demon lore. He rebelled against God (stupid) and for his trouble, he and a third of the angels were expelled from Heaven. Oops.

When I was about seven, my dad gave me a t-shirt that read “The Devil Made Me Do It”.  I thought it was a funny sort of thing because no one could make me do anything. Not even the devil. I misbehaved often because being good seemed intolerably boring when it involved sitting down and asking no questions. A time or two at school, when in trouble, I would tell Sister Mary Margaret, “It wasn’t me. It was the devil.” It went over like a ton of bricks.

LuciferFallI once read that an angel is pure love, even a fallen angel like Lucifer. The Light Bearer, once the most beautiful of all the angels or so the poets have us believe, was cast from Heaven and scattered into a billion pieces. Nothing can put him back together so here is a thing of great love utterly broken. Isn’t that what we all are? Broken creatures of great love?

I don’t think we would recognize the devil if we met him in the street. Like Simon in “Lord of the Flies”, I worry that maybe he is just us. And that’s a terrifying thought. Lucifer_GaimenAlthough, the idea that we are cosmic puppets whose strings are being pulled by divine and demonic beings we can’t see is even scarier.

I wish Neil Gaiman had the right of it. Angels and demons are charming English people and quite fun to have tea with. His version of Lucifer is far more palpable than the force that spilled its guts and corrupted all of creation.

I suspect Tolkien hit closer to the truth with his Sauron, a force of absolute power and oppression. Yes, that seems more likely than a nightclub owning playboy in LA.  And seems the devil is alive and well and wreaking havoc in this world we must share, dividing us, scattering us like leaves in winter.

Angels and Demons – Raphael

RaphaelThe first time I stumbled across a reference to Raphael as an angel, I was surprised. I had thought for the first dozen and a half years of my life that Raphael was an artist who sometimes painted angels. Back in the 16th century, Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino began the trend of one-name artists that continues today. And it is still as annoying now as it was then. Lots of people were named “Raphael” in the 16th century, and even more today.

Turns out, Raphael is also an angel whose name may or may not translate into “God’s healing” or some variation thereof.

RaphaelMadonnaPaintingWhen I adapted the name, Raphael, into one of my more mystic characters, it is the healing that interested me. That and the paintings that filled several art history classes I enjoyed in my university days.

To me, Raphael will forever be the painter who depicted healthy women and plump babes in his madonna paintings as well as choruses of cherubs looking so thoughtful while often shooting arrows at naked people. I understand the sentiment.

Raphael-lots of angelsRaphael would not have understood this modern world’s obsession with wraith thin women. Any sign of hips, busts, and buttocks, and we are considered unseemly, unattractive in this space and time. Many women literally torture themselves to keep themselves bone thin.  I was one of them. A thing of my youth I do not miss.

A bit of fat in the 16th century was beauty, and good health. Of course, there were no fashion magazines and social media bombarding people with impossible scions to which to aspire.

Raphael would no more have painted me in my anorexic youth than Twiggy. Now in my late middle years, I could be the model for one of his famed madonna pictures. And I really appreciate that about the 16th centuries ideal for beauty. I like cake and still feel crippling guilt whenever I eat it. May the angel, Raphael, cure me of this so that I can feel good about looking more like the woman in a 16th century painting than a photoshopped slender woman on the cover of some supermarket rag.

Angels and Demons – Gabriel

GabrielAs a small child, there was a tiny picture at my bedside of the angel Gabriel speaking to the Virgin Mary. This was very early in my life before I knew or thought much about angels. I knew Gabriel because of my Catholic upbringing. And Michael. If felt like the majority of little boys I knew were named for him, and not a one of them seemed much like an angel to me.

It was in this very innocent time, I had my first dream of angels. Perhaps, it was more of a night terror. It had to be the early 70s, perhaps 1975 at the time. If I cared, I could research the old microfiche of the local newspaper to find the exact date of this nightmare/dream/vision – whatever it was.

I woke in the middle of the night to one of those heavy rain storms that come in the summer in the South. I was frightened so I went to turn on my night light, but the power was out. I hated being alone in the dark and for whatever reason, the dog was not sleeping with me that night. I would have been fine if the dog had been there.

So I wondered out into the hall, intent on finding my parents, but outside the door of my room, there was nothing. The hall was gone. The bathroom was gone, and the door to the front of the house was gone. It was only darkness so I retreated back into my room.

EeyoreI thought, perhaps, my parents had gone to visit their friends. They did that sometimes. So I crawled out my front window into the rain in my Eeyore nightshirt holding my picture of Gabriel in my little hand.

I ran down our hill to the street and followed it to the corner. I turned and left my quiet neighborhood, well out of bounds from where I was allowed to wander. I found the main road utterly deserted. No traffic lights (I do not think there were any back in that time), no cars, no street lights, no house lights. Just a dark-paved road with a yellow line running down its middle and rain. Loads of rain. I was lost alone in the dark. And the wet. And I was getting cold.

I turned and could see nothing. For a terrifying moment, I believed I had been struck blind or something. I wanted to go home and a voice cried out.

“Run and hide, little one.”

A light shone from the picture I held in my hand. I suppose that is when I woke up. My mother was in my room as the first light of dawn came through my open window. She was cursing that I had knocked out the screen again. I did that a lot. It was much later before I really saw much difference between doors and windows. My mother fussed at me as she packed a bag, sometimes sniffing a shirt that I failed to throw in the laundry closet, giving me the “when will you ever learn” glare.

“You and your brother are going to stay with your grandmother,” she said.

“Why?”

“Your father and I are taking a little trip. Don’t worry. It will be fine.”

I heard a siren outside. It caused my mother to jump and me to run to the window. Children so love flashing lights, and there were two police cars, sirens blaring, blue lights spinning, racing down our little country street.  I looked to my mother for an explanation, but her attention was elsewhere.

“Child, you’ve removed Gabriel from his frame again.” My mother was very angry about that. I made her angry a lot. “Why do you do that?”

“To keep me safe,” I told my mother in a small voice.

It would be years later before I learned why the police had been racing down our street and why my brother and I had been banished to my grandparents that summer. Two doors down from us, two men broke into the house, robbed it, stole the car, and murdered everyone inside; the mother, the father, and their two children. Children I had played with. Little children.

For years, my parents told me the family had moved away while we were staying with my grandparents. They would say little else. I do wonder, now, looking back. Did Gabriel keep me safe that night? The bad men could have chosen any house they wished.

Back then, we did not often lock our doors.

Angels and Demons – Sandalphon

I wrote a short story about this angel some time ago.Well, it’s nearly a story.  In theology, he is a protector of children and the unborn. In my story, he is in a lot of trouble. When angels fall, they become demons. And they are, by all accounts, easily tricked by other angels and demons. Not unlike us sorry ass mortals.

The Tower Peak

Sandalphon1“Damn!” Sandalphon said. He meant it as he felt physical legs beneath him. He was fallen, cast down, expelled from heaven. He was, in fact, damned.

“If there was a book and our kind existed inside of time, you fell for its oldest trick,” came a voice, not from the heavens nor from the depths of the darkness to where Sandalphon was now fated. “You interfered, tried to help. One of our dark brother’s minions fooled you.”

“The road to Hell is paved with good intentions,” Sandy said, turning to face an angel working hard to take human form. “I can still see the wings, Raphael.”

“Sandy, what have you done?”

“I meant to help,” Sandalphon explained. “Can you carry a message back to Him on my behalf?”

alcohol architecture bar beer

“There’s not much time,” Raphael said. “Let’s find a place where our rebellious brother can’t command you. We have a blessed day, the span of one human life, before that blasphemous brat retrieves you into his darkness for all eternity.”

Mountains rose in the distance. The landscape echoed the paradise lost. A black road curved away from the world’s natural beauty toward a sprinkling of artificial lights. Corruption of creation, the rough magic left to mortals illuminated the horizon. 

“Which fallen world have I landed on?” Sandalphon asked.

“The one that caused your fall, naturally,” Raphael said. “Come, I hear a prayer of a mortal in a place you can safely stay while I return home to plead your case.”

The Tower Peak stood on a hill that overlooked a sea of city lights, a small inn with a quaint tavern. Raphael and Sandalphon took a small table in a dark corner. Raphael appeared an angel sans wings. The blinking neon obscured his eternal glow and made him look like a pale man who bathed far too often and spent most of his waking hours grooming.

A plump waitress in her mid -years approached them, a look that said she knew she should smile but had not the energy.  Sandalphon wondered if it had been her prayer that called Raphael to this place.

“Whaddaya have?” she asked.

“My friend here has had a trying day. Get us a beer. Whatever you think is good.” Raphael smiled brightly at her. She looked at him the way mortals always did – she saw but did not recognize the angel in front of her.

The waitress brought two beers. “It’s local,” she said. “Better than that foreign crap. If you don’t like it, next one is free.”

“You’re a good woman. Thank you.” Raphael did that angel thing. Sandalphon recognized it even if the waitress did not. The burden she carried lightened, and she felt less isolated, and her despair left her. She found her smile.

Such a simple thing. Hope in an expression of gratitude. It never seemed like enough to Sandalphon. Of course, that is why he was in such trouble now.

“Beer?” Sandy asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Damn fool that you are, you’re mortal now. You have tongue and all. Taste it. You might like it and you definitely need it,” Raphael said.

“You answered her prayer with beer?”

“No, I answered your prayer with beer. I answered her prayer with kindness.”

“Damn, sporting of you.” Sandy took a tentative sip of the ale. Good, very good. “Remarkable. No wonder these creatures are so enthralled with this stuff.”

depth of field photo of two pilsner glasses

“There is still a touch of divinity in these fallen creatures and a touch of magic in some of their designs. Remember, they were once the greatest of our Father’s creations. While you have these moments as a human, you might as well enjoy them. There is still good and beauty here in the mortal coil.”

“The prayer that revealed this place to you,” Sandy said. “I could not hear what the waitress prayed for…”

“Of course not. You’re damned, and all because you tried to override the free will of one human to please another,” Raphael said. “That’s how you got in trouble. You tried to be a genie in a bottle instead of a messenger.”

“I can’t abide their pain. Tell Him I only wanted to turn their hate back into love. He will understand, won’t He?”

“Sandy, these fallen beings must find their own way home. We are meant to listen, to deliver His messages, to hear their prayers, and to comfort them. Not to lead them. Not to change them. Light must be chosen freely. Only darkness can be forced.”