What is an archangel, and who are they? In truth, an archangel is any angel who has risen above the generic rank of an angel. Among the archangels, seven “Archangels of the Throne” (although this term is not used in canonical texts) hold the highest ranks in the order—Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Orifiel, Zarachiel, Uriel, and Simiel. These privileged angels may also stand or kneel before the Throne of YHVH, the divine presence. Let’s look at the stories of each of these archangels.
The name of the Archangel Michael means “the one who is as God/YHVH.” In almost all angelic lore, regardless of text or denomination, Michael is the most powerful of all the angels. In human terms, Michael is often considered the “General of the Angels.” This stems from the fact that, during the war in Heaven, Michael stepped forth and led the loyal angelic ranks into a fierce battle against the would-be usurper Lucifer and his rebel angels.
The Archangel Michael is a natural leader, and assumes this role across various planes of existence. His authority is not solely restricted to the angelic ranks, but extends into the realms of both Heaven and Earth. Michael is the Chief of the Order of Virtues and the Prince of the “Presence.” He is also the patron angel of righteousness, mercy, justice, repentance, and sanctification. He is the natural enemy of all that is evil and unjust. However, Michael’s most prestigious titles were bestowed upon him as a result of his loyalty and devoted service in the war in Heaven, for which YHVH appointed Michael as the holy ruler of the fourth level of Heaven and declared him the Angelic Prince of Israel. In addition, Michael serves as one of the Ten Angels of the Holy Sefiroth.
Although Michael is the holder of many angelic titles, his most well-known title is that of “The Conqueror of Satan” because his role is to do battle with the great adversary of YHVH, Lucifer. The word Satan actually means “adversary,” a title given to Lucifer (and many other fallen angels) after the war and his fall from Heaven. In art, Michael is most commonly portrayed in his role as The Conqueror of Satan.
If ever there were a patron warrior angel, it would certainly be the Archangel Michael. His role as an archangel has long been one of battle, and he is almost always depicted holding a sword or spear. While Michael is benevolent in nature, his role as a warrior often requires him to be wrathful as well. Judaic lore credits him with the destruction of the ancient city of Babylon, although he acted under the divine orders of YHVH.
The name Gabriel means “My strength is from God/YHVH” (although it is sometimes interpreted as “Hero of God/YHVH”). In the angelic lore of both the Muslim and Judeo-Christian traditions, the Archangel Gabriel is second in rank only to the mighty Archangel Michael. In the biblical Old Testament, he is one of only two angels referred to specifically by name (the other being Michael).
Gabriel’s angelic role is often thought of as YHVH’s announcer, or as Heaven’s messenger or trumpeter, which has led some to consider Gabriel as a Judeo-Christian equivalent to the Greco-Roman messenger god Hermes/Mercury. But while acting as a divine messenger/announcer is among his responsibilities, the entirety of his collective roles is far more complex. He is certainly more than just an angel who blows a trumpet, which is a common misperception.
The Archangel Gabriel’s nature is as fascinating as it is unique. When compared to his fellow archangels, Gabriel displays an amazingly balanced set of roles. These balanced, and sometimes paradoxical, attributes give him a very unique and somewhat dualistic nature. Gabriel assumes many roles that could be, at first glance, perceived as contradictory (or, at best, very uncomplimentary). For example, Gabriel is the patron angel of both mercy and vengeance. He is also the patron angel of death and resurrection and of annunciation (telling) and revelation (revealing). In all these cases, Gabriel seems to be performing tasks contrary to one another. However, this can also be seen as a metaphor for the divine balance that allows contrary forces to exist harmoniously (light and dark, life and death, etc.).
In Islamic angelic lore, Gabriel is the patron angel of Truth. According to the Qur’an, the dust thrown up by Gabriel’s holy steed found its way into the mouth of the golden calf the Jews erected during the absence of Moses. When this occurred, the blasphemous statue suddenly became animated as though it were alive. In the lore of Judaism, Gabriel was the one tasked with raining down fiery destruction upon the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, which were doomed for their rampant debauchery.
Gabriel also plays an important role in Christian mythology. In the New Testament (Luke 1:26–38), Gabriel is sent to Nazareth to deliver a message to the Virgin Mary that she will give birth to Jesus the messiah. This scene of the New Testament is referred to in Christianity as “The Annunciation,” and serves to solidify the general view of Gabriel as the messenger of YHVH. However, this is a rather narrow perception of the Archangel Gabriel when one considers the various other titles he holds.
The name of Raphael, who is commonly considered the third highest in angelic rank, means “God has healed.” The oldest known text to mention him by name is the Book of Tobit, which is not considered part of the Judeo-Christian canons and whose validity has long been a matter of religious debate.
According to the Book of Tobit, the Archangel Raphael was charged with the task of being the guide and guardian protector of Tobias, the son of Tobit, when he journeyed to the mighty ancient city of Nineveh. In this role, Raphael assumed the guise of a mortal human so as not to cause Tobias alarm and did not reveal his true form until after they reached Nineveh. Once they arrived, Raphael uncased his wings and explained to Tobias that he was one of the Seven Holy Angels who stood/knelt before the throne of YHVH.
As with his fellow archangels, Michael and Gabriel, Raphael is known by a variety of titles, names, and roles. First and foremost, he is known as the Protector of the Eden Tree for his role as the guardian of the sacred tree after the transgression of Adam and Eve (who ate its fruit after being forbidden to do so by YHVH). In addition, he is also the Guardian of the Western Horizon and the Prince of the Second Level of Heaven. The Archangel Raphael is also the patron angel of light, love, happiness, and prayer. A member of almost every possible angelic order, he is a Cherub as well as a Seraph and stands as one of the Ten Angels of the Holy Sefiroth.
As his name suggests, Raphael is widely considered an angel of healing, medicine, science, learning, and knowledge. There is a flip side to this part of Raphael’s nature, however, and one day his time for healing others will reach its end. When this time comes, Raphael’s attribute of healing will turn to one of destruction, and he will appear ominously as one of the Seven Angels of the Apocalypse.
The name Orifiel is a rather odd one, and it is often translated as either “My neck is God/YHVH” or “I am the neck of God/YHVH.” Above all, the Archangel Orifiel is the patron angel of the forests/wilderness. His domain is over the uncultivated, wild areas of the earth, which he does his best to protect against the ravages of evil men and urban development. (The ancient Jewish tribes, who were widely nomadic, greatly opposed the rise of cities and the concept of land ownership.)
Since Orifiel frequents those places that have remained untouched since God/YHVH created them, his usual haunts are said to be in deserts and oceans. This is likely because both are places to which men rarely try to make any permanent claim of ownership. Orifiel is considered the angelic enemy of greed, deception, and worldliness.
The name Zarachiel means “The command of God/YHVH.” Zarachiel is also commonly referred to (especially in the Roman Catholic tradition) as Salaphiel, which has the somewhat similar meaning of “The one who prays to God/YHVH.” No matter what name you call him, he is the patron angel of prayer.
In artistic depictions, the Archangel Zarachiel is most frequently portrayed in the act of his patron role and, interestingly enough, as male in gender (which is somewhat odd since angels are generally thought to have no specific gender or sex). The Archangel Zarachiel, usually shown assuming various states of prayer with his hands folded and his head bowed reverently, is credited with teaching humankind the proper methods by which to pray to God/YHVH.
The name Uriel (sometimes spelled Oriel) means “Fire of God/YHVH” or “Light of God/YHVH.” As with his fellow archangel, Raphael, the oldest mention of Uriel’s name is found in an apocryphal text, the Book of Enoch. In this text, Uriel is specifically referred to as the “leader of them all [the angels].” This suggests that, at least at some point, Uriel outranked Michael in the angelic hierarchy.
In the text, Uriel reveals to Enoch the truth of the workings of the planets and other celestial bodies. Uriel is tasked with the keeping of the mysteries of existence, deep within the depths of the earth and well beyond the known recesses of the cosmos. Of the seven “Throne Archangels,” Uriel is said to assume the closest position to it. Uriel is closely associated with the Sun (as his name would suggest) and in ancient times he was said to be the angelic guardian of the “great light” as it passed into the dark realms thought to exist between sunset and sunrise. During the daylight, Uriel exercises his greatest influence during the second hour of sunlight.
Unfortunately, little information survives about the archangel Simiel (especially when it comes to Christian texts). This is mainly due to the fact that in 745 C.E., a council of the Roman Catholic Church deemed that Simiel’s name should be removed from their authorized list of angels that were fit for veneration. It also appears that there were suspicions that Simiel was one of the rebel angels, and therefore among the Fallen.
Many people misunderstand the nature of the order of archangels, believing them to be only a group of warrior angels. While some certainly are warriors, the title of archangel is actually given to any of the highest-ranking angels. For more information about creatures of the paranormal, be sure to check out our Quick Guide Protect Yourself Against Demonic Spirits.
From The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Paranormal by Nathan Robert Brown