If you follow me on any social media format, chances are you’ve seen at least one or two Supernatural memes, gifs, or posts from me! Part of my obsession with the show is Castiel! This means I am so excited to share the guest post below from Victoria J. Price!
Angels and the concept of an afterlife
Victoria J. Price
Where do we go when we die? It’s a question that’s always fascinated me. When I had the first few sparks of an idea for my YA fantasy series, the Daughter of the Phoenix, I knew there were angels who came to Earth from another world to help the dying, and an idea grew from there.
Angels have been looked upon in so many different lights throughout our history—as guardians and guides for humans, as messengers, as servants, or even as those that have “fallen”.
In my Daughter of the Phoenix series in the parallel world of Ohinyan, when someone dies, their spirit joins the sky spirits. On Earth, an angel must reach a dying person in time to help their spirit join the sky spirits—the Northern Lights here on Earth. It’s the angels’ duty to the people of Earth to carry out this task, and those they don’t reach in time become ghosts, unhappy things that walk the Earth.
We’re used to seeing depictions of angels in stories, but quite often they’re wearing a long flowing gown and wearing a halo—when we think of an angel it’s most likely to be a representation from Christianity or Judaism. But there are representations of angels in art, in literature, in folklore covering every century and from all over the world. There are references to angels in shamanistic visions, in Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Islam and Zoroastrianism—and more.
What if angels looked mostly like us, but with wings? What if they felt a pull—a thread connecting them to the dying, urging them to find them and help ease their transition from life to death? The idea for the angels’ role within my stories stemmed, in part, from the concept of guardian angels. That we all have an angel “assigned” to us or one who follows us everywhere. The further I researched into the topic of angels the more I realised what an impact they may have had on different cultures throughout history.
In Judaism, the angel Gabriel is described as a messenger, a guardian, a preserver, a defender of the people. He’s mentioned in Christian and Zoroastrian texts, too. In almost every depiction of Gabriel, he is described as perfectly beautiful. When I was creating the world of Ohinyan, I thought, what if he was the first angel? What if he didn’t always know how to set spirits free, but learnt how to help the dying, instead?
I was particularly eager to explore the idea of angels and the afterlife outside of religion, and the idea that angels acted of their own accord. I learnt that in Peru, shamans sing of hawk spirits appearing as winged men, of hummingbirds and thunderbirds appearing as angels. Tobacco smoke is said to be the magic bridge by which the soul can ascend into the spirit world. What if angels were the bridge to guide us?
“The function of the wing is to take what is heavy and raise it up into the region above.” – Plato
There are so many different types of angels. Abaddon, a fallen angel of death whose name means to destroy. Beelzebub, the fallen angel known as the prince of demons. Penemuel, a fallen angel who corrupts mankind through writing. The more I researched, the more I discovered that there are different interpretations of many of the “well known” angels throughout our history, and many different terms used to describe them all.
Seraph, Seraphim, Nephilim – what does it all mean?
Not all angels are made equal. We’ve all heard of Lucifer, the fallen angel. I like the idea that any angel could be good or bad. St Michael was an angel who battled with a dragon and linked to many myths and legends about mountains and dragons—many different interpretations of the story have been created over the years.
The Seraph (plural Seraphim) are celestial beings in Islamic, Jewish and Christian literature, associated with light and purity. The Nephilim were those “cast out” or “fallen”, just like Lucifer.
Jili, a Sufi mystic, wrote of Azrael, the angel of Death who would appear to our spirit in a form “determined by our beliefs, actions and dispositions during life,” and that our spirit sees him and falls in love with him, and therefore is drawn from our body.
So what about guardian angels?
“When man opens his heart, for even an instant, the figure he perceives (or the intuition he receives) is his Guardian Angel.” – Angels, Peter Lamborn Wilson
In Zoroastrian beliefs, after death the soul meets a beautiful maiden. Other beliefs and mystics talk of angels as guides, too, leading souls up a ladder. This idea of “ascension” goes hand in hand with our ideas of wings and feathers and flying, and why so many shamans dress as owls and hawks.
In my Daughter of the Phoenix series, there is no Heaven and Hell. I wanted to avoid any religious context and create a theory that could be applied to anyone, no matter their beliefs. In that sense, the angels that come to Earth from Ohinyan act as guardians and guides, by guiding the dying to join the sky spirts—a form of “ascension”, of climbing the ladder, of being led to wherever souls go next.
Throughout our history, there are many concepts and writings of sky spirts. Many early Chinese legends associated with dragons are said to originate from sightings of the Northern Lights. In Northern America, myths about the Northern Lights range from guides holding torches to guide spirits to the next world, to great ravens, or even spirits playing a ball game. The Cree Indians believed that the Northern Lights were the spirits of the dead who remained in the sky.
Ohinyan is a cyclical world—life and death and rebirth are a strong part of the culture and history of the world, and angels are part of the worlds’ creation story. The concept of rebirth and reincarnation is a central part of many beliefs in our history, and I’ve played on the idea that the majority of our beliefs here on Earth originated in Ohinyan.
The topic of angels and the afterlife is so vast—the more I dive into these concepts the more I learn, and the more I’m amazed by the diversity of their history.
Do you believe in angels?
Are you ready to chat angels with Victoria? Want to check out more from this author? You can comment below or check out her links below for additional information.
I think we’d both like to see your comments so feel free to share your thoughts about this post!
Happy reading, friends!
Victoria lives in leafy Surrey, in the South East of England. She loves fairy tales, myths and legends, and grew up creating stories both in words and pictures. When she’s not writing you’ll find her exploring with her husband and their two dogs, searching for beautiful hidden places and secret picnic spots.
http://mybook.to/TheThirdSun – available now
http://mybook.to/TheEternalDusk – available 22nd August