Talk about your favorite angel. And enjoy the gin (I wish I had some lime-twist Seagram's but I won't get sidetracked... back to angels...)
This is pretty difficult, because if we’re talking about angels in fiction, they’re very rarely depicted in such a way that they’re both A) great characters and B) a thing actually resembling traditional angels rather than just superhumans. Neil Gaiman’s angels are almost always excellent, Ted Chiang’s “Hell is the Absence of God” has incredible angels (though they are not really characters), and the Ian Tregellis novel I just read, Something More than Night, has an extremely delightful narrator, a kind-of-fallen angel named Bayliss who has read too much Raymond Chandler (and who, for all of his human trappings, remains extremely alien, angelic, and even traditionally Thomistic).
If we’re sticking to Canonical angels, then we’ve only got three to choose from. Gabriel is just boring, so he’s just right out. Michael is great because he results in tons of glorious works of art, and as a young Catholic kid in a family who decided one day that halloween was TEH EVILS he (and st. george) stilled allowed me to run around in a costume once a year. Raphael is great for a number of reasons, because the Book of Tobit is just a blast. I mean it’s a biblical road trip bromance story between a dude and his pal who turns out to be a wing-man in more senses than he expected.
Most Catholic tradition agree that there are seven archangels, but only those three are named, and I am not nearly familiar enough with either Christian or Jewish mysticism/esoteric stuff to really have an opinion on the others.
Except for one. Uriel. Who is, I guess, my favorite.
Uriel enjoys a pseudo-canonical status above the other angels in non-Canonical tradition. Because Medieval people needed a fourth angel. Three is an awkward number (unless you are doing trinitarian stuff). Churches have four walls. Maps have four sides. If you are going to throw angels on stuff you need a fourth dude. So (for the most part) Uriel just kind of became the unofficial extra guy. He’s identified with the angel that guards the entrance to the garden of eden with a flaming sword– which not only makes him look badass whenever he shows up in art, but makes him a really interesting symbol/image/whatever.
Gabriel essentially represents divine communication. You can use him to represent prophecy, virtues surrounding this kind of communication (like humility), the will of the divine in general, etc etc.
Michael essentially represents power of goodness. You use him to show the absolute power of the good over evil, to show martial virtue, courage, etc.
Raphael’s place is kind of fixated on one smaller part of Tobit, and he usually represents healing in some way. So, the healing power of grace, supplication, etc.
Uriel is a liminal figure. He is that which exists between– not only as all angels do, as this strange thing between God and Man, and as this thing which is genderless, but in addition, beyond the typically liminality of angels, as this thing which stands on the threshold between paradise and our postlapsarian world.
Which makes him (or her, or them) super amazing when used properly (read: Not Milton).
Raphael, Gabriel, Azrael,
three of seven– what is War
to Birth, to Change, to Death?
yet he, red-fire is one of seven fires,
judgement and will of God,
God’s very breath– Uriel.
H.D. Was one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century. You don’t hear her name much because of a campaign against her– she dared to be bisexual, to surpass men she knew like William Carlos Williams and Ezra Pound, etc, and so until fairly recently she’s not been taught as the great she is. Her magnum opus was a trilogy of three long poems set during and after the Blitz– The Walls Do Not Fall, Tribute to Angels, and The Flowering of the Rood.
Uriel is one of the most important figures of the second poem (who is linked to the primary concerns of both bookends). He, as you see above, is the judgment and will of God, linked pretty solidly to the blitz itself, to the rampant destruction. But already in the first poem H.D. transformed the Blitz from something ugly and purely violent into something purgative, restorative, and beautiful. The image of the buildings of London come to be our own souls, and by the Blitz they are once again freed, the limiting walls and ceilings of the material world are blasted open, letting us once again have a chance at transcendence.
To Uriel, no shrine, no temple
where the red-death fell,
no image by the city-gate,
no torch to shine across the water,
no new fane in the market-place:
the lane is empty but the levelled wall
is purple as with purple spread
upon an altar,
this is the flowering of the rood,
this is the flowering of the reed,
where Uriel, we pause to give
thanks that we rise again from death and live
Uriel becomes linked the flowering of the rood, an image of the Blessed Virgin, which becomes, in the final poem, an image of Mary Magdalen, who seizes femininity and the souls of all traditionally “sinful” women, such as Eve, Lilith, etc, and transforms them into glorious jewels.
Uriel’s liminality is one of violence and destruction, but destruction of borders, of barriers, a destruction which spreads and brings the whole world onto the threshold of paradise. His/Her/Their liminality incorporates the liminality of the feminine, the liminality of the author, HD, as a woman who defies societal categorization in both her gender and sexuality. And it all becomes bound up in this image of the flaming sword on the borders of Eden.
So yeah. Uriel, especially Uriel-as-written-by-Hilda-Doolittle, would have to be my fave.
For Uriel, no temple
the outer precincts and the squares
the festival opens as before
with the dove’s murmuring;
for Uriel, no temple
but Love’s sacred groves,
withered in Thebes and Tyre,