Searching for the Angelic Archetype
The word angel is derived from the Greek angelos which translates into 'messenger,' and indeed, this is what the basic Judeo-Christian representation of an angel is. An angel, by this definition, is a celestial being entrusted with a mission and/or message by a deity, acting as liason between said deity and mortals. Does this restrict angels to the Judeo-Christian mythology?
The snag that many researching 'kin come across is that the word 'angel' doesn't often appear in mythology outside of the religions that developed from the Cradle of Life. (Examples would be Judaism and Islam.) Locating angels may require a bit of research, but the idea of angels is worldwide.
For example, in Shinto you have the tennin, which are the Japanese version of Buddhism's celestial nymphs (called apsaras.) They are celestial creatures who fulfill similar functions to Judeo-Christian angels: bearing messages from the divine, protecting peace, providing blessings. Are they immediately recognizable as angels to the untrained eye? No, but a closer look provides clues that allow an individual with a powerful sense of angelic and a draw towards Japanese culture to find a direction in which to search for themselves.
In Hinduism, there are devatas, whose name means 'shining one,' that provide similiar functions. They act as protectors of people and places, and are also seeking a higher truth (in keeping with the idea of Hinduism.) The Islamic and Hebrew faiths have similar views on angelic beings, and everyone is familiar with the Christian views which developed from the aforementioned Islamic and Hebrew ideas.
If the idea of angels is so worldwide, why is it so hard to pinpoint their existance in other systems of belief? That can only be blamed on our own preconceptions. Popular culture has developed the image of the angel to a golden-haired, white-robed being holding a harp or flaming sword. When presented with the image of a person who looks no different in art from a peasant, it's very easy to overlook the fact that you're examining a watercolour of a tennin speaking to a philosopher.
Now, the question arises as to why this is important to keep in mind while researching your 'kintype. Mythology is considered by many to be merely stories of entertainment from previous cultures, but Joseph Campbell noted that "The function of mythological symbols is to give you a sense of "Aha! Yes. I know what it is, it's myself."
Mythology is the reflection of human development and culture, and our interaction with the world, both known and unknown. The progressions and changes in it reflect the development of humanity and the interactions we have with each other. As we change, our stories change, but the underlying archetypes remain the same. Angels would be considered one of those archetypes, and they can be traced through just about every culture.
What is the purpose of knowing all of this, of recognizing that angels are, in fact, everywhere?
Not every angelic 'kin feels a connection to the Judeo-Christian mythology, and because of the confusion that can engender, they may miss themselves entirely. Researching what you believe to be your 'kintype can be a very confusing thing, as you're looking for similar qualities in the mythological records and not everything may match up. This is especially difficult if your 'kintype, such as angelic, has very set notions in popular culture, and you've grown up with that kind of preconceived notion.
Accepting and understanding that angels are an archetype that appear in all world mythologies can be a great boon to discovering more about yourself through your research. Per example, I am an angel, but I feel no ties to the Judeo-Christian mythology. I am, in fact, drawn strongly to Egypt and the mythology of that culture. Does this mean I am not an angel, simply because Egyptian mythology does not have angels specified in their tales? No. It merely requires further research.
To carry this example a little farther, the research done has shown that in the predynastic period, the ancient Egyptians- working with a large pantheon of great and minor (or 'little') gods- used the single word 'neteru' to describe them. While they may have had verbal ways of differentiating between a great and minor god- perhaps through pronunciation- as the culture developed into the dynastic periods, the monotheistic bent of many priesthoods pushed 'neteru' into describing all things with the spark of divinity.
Surrounding cultures reflect the idea of great and minor gods, but in the development of the Syrian mythology, they differentiated between the great and minor gods by creating the caste for angels. Therefore, by doing a bit of research and comparative reading, the idea of an Egyptian angel is supported in mythology.
This is meant entirely to encourage and support those emerging incarnated angels who feel that their connection doesn't lie with the Judeo-Christian mythology. We all use research to establish, support and explore our claims of 'kinship, and if you allow your preconceived notions of your 'kinship to limit your development, you'll never come to the full realization of self that we're all searching for. Keeping an open mind to the idea of our 'kintype as an archetype and searching for that archetype in mythology, as opposed to the word, can provide much more information, and many more questions to explore.
Take this information and research with a light heart. Just because you don't find a tie to the Judeo-Christian tradition doesn't mean your instinct was incorrect. You can be an Egyptian angel, a Japanese angel, a Korean or Native American angel. Angels are an archetype of the communication and connection between mortals and the divine, and they are no more limited to one particular tradition than demons would be limited in form, dragons limited to collecting gold, or therians limited to being only wolves. Explore what is right for you and let your preconceived notions fall the way of ignorance: under your forward-striding feet.
Gods of the Egyptians by Ernest Alfred Wallis Budge
101 Questions and Answers on Confucianism, Daoism and Shinto by John Renard
"New Angles on Angels" -Sept. 1992 (<!-- m --><a class="postlink" href="http://www.hinduismtoday.com">http://www.hinduismtoday.com</a><!-- m -->)
"Mythic Reflections" -an interview with Joseph Cambell, by Tom Collins: The New Story (IC#12) Winter 1985/86, pg 52
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