Excerpted from "Return of the Angels" by Migene González-Wippler published by Llewellyn Publications.

The concept of the guardian angel exists in many religions and cultures and can be traced to the Assyrians and the Babylonians. In ancient times they were known as Keribu, the origin of the word "Cherub," and were said to guard palaces and temple gates. The Romans believed that men and small children were guarded by spirits known as Genii, while women were protected by Junos, an idea undoubtedly inspired by Juno, Jupiter's irascible wife, who was the guardian of the home.

Muslims believe humanity is protected by the Malaika and by the Jafaza, who are said to keep away evil spirits. The Japanese believe in guardian spirits known as Kami. And the American Indians also believe in protective spirits that remain with them throughout their lives.

The Christian tradition teaches that a guardian angel is assigned to every human being at the moment of birth. According to some traditions, we are assigned two guardian angels, one who is good and another who is evil. These two angels sit upon each of our shoulders and try to influence our actions. The day of the guardian angels is celebrated by the Catholic Church on October 4. The Archangels Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel, the only angels recognized by name by the Catholic Church, are honored on September 29.

The guardian angels are believed to guide human beings and to steer us in the path of goodness throughout our lives, but they do not interfere with human free will. They only indicate the right course but do not force us to follow it. Each person is called to make that decision on his own because God wants us to walk in the right path because we choose to, not because we must. The divine gift of free will makes that choice our own.

The guardian angels belong to the ninth angelic choir, that of the Angels, and they use a variety of ways to influence a person. Among these are intuition, telepathy, dreams, and that small, inner voice that sometimes we hear and that never steers us wrong. Sometimes a guardian angel may use another person to send a message, and can manipulate the circumstances of everyday life to assist an individual in times of need. Other times they may choose to take the form of a human being, an animal, or simply appear in the traditional guise ascribed to them by religious tradition: a radiant being, dressed in dazzling white raiment, with widespread snowy wings.

The guardian angels protect, but they cannot intervene in human destiny, which has already been decided before each person's birth. He can only safeguard us from making wrong decisions and try to keep us away from evil actions, but each person's life is predestined, like Saint Augustine taught. This may be blamed on what is known as the karma of previous lives, according to Buddhism, but the end result is the same. The guardian angel cannot change a person's destiny. That is why sometimes small children die of incurable diseases or in a tragic form. In these cases, most mystical and religious traditions agree that this spirit came to Earth for a short time. When good people, who follow the divine laws, experience tragic or overwhelming events in their lives, this is also seen as part of their destinies or their karma.

The guardian angel protects us and guides us, but always within the laws that rule our destinies and our free will. But when a person deviates from God's laws, the guardian angel abandons that person and no longer guides or protects him. Also, because of the accumulation of negative energies in the world created by evil human actions and the imbalance created by the original Creation, a human being may be sometimes surrounded by powerful destructive forces that threaten to destroy him. These may prove too strong for the guardian angel, who does not always win every battle. For that reason, it is important to establish a strong contact with our guardian angels, and that may be accomplished by calling him to our side often. Meditations, invocations, prayers, and ritual purifications also help to strengthen our spiritual link with our guardian angels.

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