Angels were very popular in the Middle Ages and appeared all over the place, in the media, in art and in discussions just as they do today. Theologians and philosophers would discuss such questions as what are angels made of, do they live forever, do they have free will and do they evolve to higher spiritual realms. Can you imagine a group of important business men sitting around talking about such things today?
Life in the middle ages was very different from life as we know it now. For one thing the Catholic Church was the governing force and made decisions about nearly every facet of daily life that affected common people. Secondly, media in the middle ages was much different than media today. There was no printing press so therefore no newspapers, magazines or books of mass production. The few books that did exist were handwritten by monks and kept in monasteries.
Most people couldn’t read simply because there were no books for them to read. The forms of media that did exist in the middle ages were sermons, prayers, stained glass windows, art, lectures and icons.
Stained glass windows adorned the interior of churches not only to look beautiful but also to tell a story much like a picture book or comic strip with each picture window building on the window before. Icons were painted on wood and were used as meditation tools to make direct contact with the being represented. So if you had an icon with a picture of an angel you could gaze at the picture and connect to the energy of the angel. Today people use tarot cards or angel cards in much the same way.
Get a picture of an angel…
Lectures were a major source of entertainment for people in the middle ages. People would go see lectures in big venues and hotly discuss the topic and points made with their friends on the way home afterwards just like when you go and see a movie today. One of the most famous lecturers was Thomas Aquinas who was also known as the angelic doctor because his knowledge of Angels was so great.
Thomas would lecture about 15 times each week. He was made a saint less than 50 years after he died.
Thomas was an Italian theologian who specialized in the study of angels although he never had a single direct experience with angels himself. All his knowledge came from reading the bible and from the depth of his own education and intellect.
He believed that angels were pure intellect, that they didn’t have a body but that they could appear in human form at will. He thought each angel was a separate species and a unique being rather than belonging to an ‘angelic race.’ Thomas believed that angels came from a higher sphere than humans. His train of thought was the most popular in its time.
Another angel expert was John Dun Scotus. John believed angels were a distinct species or race of beings made up of spiritual matter. He thought angels could think and reason just like humans do only they were more perfect (or divine) in their thinking and reasoning. John said each angel had his or her own personality and that angels were higher on the spiritual hierarchy than humans but approachable to humans as intercessors between the earthly realm and the spiritual realms. He believed angels were similar to humans in appearance but made of finer matter. Personally I tend to agree with John’s opinions rather than St Thomas.’ Whose opinions do you like best?
After the middle ages there was not much discussion about angels anymore mainly because both men had debated about angels so thoroughly there was not much else left to discuss.
Angels in Ancient Times
Angels have appeared in many different cultures and religions since the beginning of time. In some cultures they weren’t called angels per se, but rather were known as winged beings who acted as intermediaries between heaven and earth.
Interestingly cultures that have many deities tend to not mention angels whereas monotheistic religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Zoroastrianism where there is one God tend to believe in angels. Some people think this is because polytheistic religions have gods and goddesses who have particular strengths and attributes so people can pray to a particular deity depending upon their need. Some people think goddesses such as Isis could be considered from the angelic realm. And Nike the greek messenger god could also be classified as an angel as he relayed messages to and from the gods to humans. He had wings on his feet to give him celestial speed.
Many modern day pagans believe in angels as well as different gods and goddesses. Catholics believe in one supreme god and in saints and angels who people can petition with different requests. I believe there is one source of supreme power which I call God, then there are ascended beings which I call gods and goddesses, and then angels who act as helpers and guides between the spiritual realms and the earthly realms. Then there are saints who are humans who either witnessed miraculous events or participated in miracles. I believe all humans have the capacity to create and witness miracles.
What do you believe?
Get a blank piece of paper and make some notes about what you believe. What do you think an angel is? Have you ever talked to your guardian angel? What would your life be like if you talked to your guardian angel everyday? What kinds of questions would you ask? How would it feel to know you had a guardian angel watching over you all the time – like your own personal spiritual counsellor?
So what is an angel anyway?
1. A typically benevolent celestial being that acts as an intermediary between heaven and earth, especially in Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Zoroastrianism.
2. A representation of such a being, especially in Christianity, conventionally in the image of a human figure with a halo and wings.
3. The last of the nine orders of angels in medieval angelology. From the highest to the lowest in rank, the orders are: seraphim, cherubim, thrones, dominations or dominions, virtues, powers, principalities, archangels, and angels.
4. A guardian spirit or guiding influence.
a. A kind and lovable person.
b. One who manifests goodness, purity, and selflessness.
[Middle English, from Old English engel, or Old French angele both from Late Latin angelus, from Late Greek angelos, from Greek, messenger.]
Catherine Wishart is the award winning author of Teen Goddess: How to Look, Love, and Live Like a Goddess put out by Llewellyn Publications. She also trained with Doreen Virtue and became a certified ATP. For more information on angels and her work go to www.talktoyourangels.com.