A Dictionary of Angels

While I was working on the final As Above, So Below book, my friend E. M. Markoff suggested including a glossary of angels so I could detail some of the angelology research that inspired the backstories in both Lost Angels and Angelus Rose. I didn’t get the glossary finished in time to add to Angelus Rose, but I’ll post it here. The first part, A Dictionary of Devils and Demons, appeared last December.

Matt Ryan as John Constantine. I would cast him as Azaziel.

Azaziel – Foremost among the angels in the series is Azaziel, who goes into a bar owned by Asmodeus, the Demon Prince of LA, in order to catch the eye of the succubus Lorelei. Aza has been watching her for a while and wants to strike up a friendship, but he doesn’t know how to approach her. As it turns out, all he needed to do was to show up.

Officially, Azaziel (ah zah zee el) was a Grigori, one of the Watcher angels sent to Earth before the Flood. According to Lord Byron’s poem “Heaven and Earth, a Mystery,” Azaziel fell in love with one of Cain’s granddaughters, a woman named Anah. When God sent the Flood to kill all the humans and animals except those rescued by Noah, Azaziel snatched Anah up, tucked her beneath his wings, and carried her off to another planet.

Brian Thomas, my co-writer on the angel books, was the one who chose Azaziel’s name. I think he actually slogged through Byron’s poem. (I only read the summaries.) Aza’s backstory gave us a rich history and informed his struggles to find companionship and balance love with his God-given duty to watch over humankind.

I gave Aza his trench coat, button-down shirts, and 501s. His fashion sense was inspired by John Constantine in the Hellblazer comic books and the angels in Wings of Desire.

Angel by Abbott Handerson Thayer

Barbelo – Barbelo (barb el oh) is one of my favorite angels in the books. She is a consistently good-hearted, generous, and helpful angel. Brian described her as a Venice Beach angel. He gave her the men’s blazers she wears, with the cuffs turned back. I gave her the silver-shot scarves and sandals.

In mythology, Barbelo is an archon, one of the Gnostic angels tasked with governing the running of the world. She’s described as “perfect in glory.” I took that to mean that she behaves as you hope an angel would: helping each creature she meets to become a perfected version of itself.

In the gnostic Texts of the Savior, Barbelo is the daughter of Pistis Sophia, whose name meant wisdom. Sophia sought knowledge that was forbidden to angels, which some texts claim was sexual relations with her fellow angels. Of Sophia’s union was born Barbelo, the only angel to have a mother and many fathers.

In our books, other angels — particularly Muriel — judge Barbelo for the conditions of her birth, even though they claim to believe that all things happen by the will of God.

Michael standing on the dragon (which represents Satan) by Martin Schongauer

Michael – The greatest of all angels in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic writing is Michael (traditionally Mee ka el). Michael serves as Prince of the Presence, chief of archangels, and leader of God’s Host. During the War in Heaven, Michael’s name was used as a war chant. He is an angel of righteousness and mercy, who vanquished Satan to Hell and bound him in chains.

Michael has a very rich mythology. He is said to have been the first angel to bow before humanity. After Adam was banished from the Garden of Eden and died in the wilderness, Michael helped convince the Lord to cleanse Adam’s soul and admit it to Heaven.

Michael visited Emperor Constantine the Great at Constantinople, inspired Joan of Arc with the courage to save France, and is said to have led the angelic bowmen at the Battle of Mons in World War I. The Book of Revelation says that Michael will command the Lord’s hosts in the final conflict at the end of the world.

In 1950, Pope Pius XII declared Michael the patron of policemen. That inspired me to cast him as the California Highway Patrol officer on his motorcycle in Lost Angels. In appearance, he favors Samuel Jackson.

Michael is said to have wings the color of emeralds. I wish I’d been able to work that detail into the novels.

Benozzo Gozzoli’s angels chanting the “Gloria.”

Muriel – Muriel was a creation of Brian’s. He saw her as one of the relentlessly healthy gym bunnies in LA, always dressed in an immaculate gray track suit and spotless white leather Reeboks.

Formerly a member of the Heavenly Choir, responsible for singing the Eternal Hymn, Muriel strayed from the purpose she was created to serve when she watched the angels battling demons on the Plains of Heaven. Muriel longed to fight alongside them and become a warrior angel. In consequence, she was sent down to Earth, which she views as a punishment. She’s been stationed in Los Angeles for the last century.

According to A Dictionary of Angels: Including the Fallen Angels, Muriel was a male angel whose name came from the Greek word for myrrh. He was the angel of the month of June, ruler of Cancer in the zodiac, and when invoked from the south, could grant a magic carpet. We didn’t get a chance to work any of that into our books.

Ricardo Montalban as Mr. Roarke

Rafael – I’m not sure what Brian had in mind when he described Rafael as dressed in an immaculate white suit and acting like a gameshow host. I always pictured him like Mister Roarke (as portrayed by Ricardo Montalban) on Fantasy Island: relentlessly cheery and quite terrifying.

Traditionally, Raphael is one of the Seven Holy Angels who attend the throne of God. He is the angel of healing, charged specifically with healing the Earth. He’s known as the sociable archangel, happiest of all angels with the best sense of humor.

Raphael often served as God’s messenger. He brought Noah the knowledge he needed to build the ark and healed Jacob’s thigh after his wrestling match with the angel in the Book of Genesis. According to the Testament of Solomon, Raphael delivered the ring which enslaved demons to King Solomon so he could build the Temple in Jerusalem. Raphael helped Tobias win Sarah as his bride by besting Asmodeus in the Book of Tobit. We tied the story of Tobias and Sarah into Angelus Rose.

The Field of the Slain by Evelyn de Morgan

Samael – I wanted to include a traditional Angel of Death in our books (because of course I would). Originally, we called him Azrael, but that was too confusing with Azaziel, Asmodeus, and Ashleigh as characters, too. Fairly early on, his name got changed to Samael.

From the start, Samael (sa my el) was linked with Muriel. She considers him a friend because she thinks he’s as merciless as she is. She doesn’t realize he’s merely relentless in his mission, which extends to angels and demons, as well as to humanity.

In the Kabbalah, the seraph Samael is known as the “severity of God.” His name is a combination of “sam,” the word for poison, and “el” which indicates his holiness. When he stands above the dying, Samael drips a single drop of poison into their mouths. They see him at the last minute before death. Apparently, he was one of the angels of death sent to retrieve the soul of Moses when the Lawgiver died.

In some rabbinic texts, Samael is cast as a demon. The Golden Legend says that dogs howl as he flies through town. I wish we’d worked that into Angelus Rose.

Shebniel and Shebethiel are two of the 70 childbed angels named in the Book of the Angel Raziel, in which all celestial and earthly knowledge is set down. The childbed angels were invoked at the time of childbirth and tasked with watching over children until they could be circumcised or baptized, depending on their family’s religious tradition. The names of the childbed angels were inscribed on amulets hung on cradles.

Shebethiel, who appears with a blue mohawk and a punk rock Needle Exchange t-shirt, was a tribute to my friend Claud, who has worn both those things. He is one of the fiercest, gentlest people I’ve ever known.

Yehudiah – Named in The Zohar, Yehudiah (yeh who die ah) is one of the chief angelic envoys. He is a beneficent angel of death who bears aloft the souls of the dead.

In Angelus Rose, Brian conflated Yehudiah with the recording angel who stands on some grave monuments, inscribing the name of the dead person in the Book of Life. Yehudiah appears at the end of the battle to tally the names (and final destinations) of the dead.

Zadkiel – “The Righteousness of God” is another of the seven angels who stand in the presence of God. In Jewish lore, he held back Abraham’s arm, when the patriarch was ready to sacrifice his son Isaac. Zadkiel’s traditional symbol is a dagger like the one as Abraham would have used.

Although Zadkiel is the angel of benevolence, he is a companion of Michael whenever he goes into battle. Rather than fight, Zadkiel bears Michael’s standard.

Zadkiel is the chief or prince of the choir, which is how he comes into our story. He served as Muriel’s Choirmaster, when she sang the Ever-spun Hymn in Heaven. I gave him his dreadlocks and maroon suit. Brian gave him his golden wings and tiger-striped eyes.

We used a stack of books to research our angels and devils for the As Above, So Below novels, but the primary ones were:

A Dictionary of Angels: Including the Fallen Angels by Gustav Davidson, written in 1967 and republished by Macmillan in 1980.

Angels A to Z: A Who’s Who of the Heavenly Host by Matthew Bunson, published by Crown in 1996.

Angels: An Endangered Species by Malcolm Godwin, published by Simon and Schuster in 1990.

Heaven: An Illustrated History of the Higher Realms by Timothy Freke, published by Conari Press in 1996.

You can learn more about our succubus/angel love story here: https://lorenrhoads.com/writing/as-above-so-below/

If you’d like to order the “boxed” set from me, I’ll throw in a little special gift. You can check Lost Angels & Angelus Rose out at my bookstore. They’re also available individually on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Bookshop.org, or as ebooks on Smashwords.


About Loren Rhoads

I'm the author of 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die and Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel, as well as a space opera trilogy. I'm also co-author of a series about a succubus and her angel. In addition to blogging at CemeteryTravel.com, I blog about my morbid life at lorenrhoads.com.
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