All the Angels in Heaven

Do angels sing? Why else are they organised into so many choirs?

I’ve posted about the levels of Hell and those who live there, but as I was writing up the background of some of the more heavenly characters in the Mel Goes to Hell series, I realised that I hadn’t defined a hierarchy for the angels. It’s time to remedy that, before I formally introduce you to Raphael and the other angels in Mel’s story. Oh, but you’ve already met the particularly persuasive Patrick

I’ve taken this information from Christian, Jewish and Islamic sources, as all these include varying degrees of detail and different names for the same concept or group of angels. In my books, I’ve used the names interchangeably…but I usually pick a term based on how it sounds, rather than keeping to one religion’s terminology. I love alliteration, after all!
Ah…about those angels.

Three Triads

The picture below is a particularly lovely representation of the nine choirs of angels by Francesco Botticini, divided into three triads or spheres that each contain three choirs.

“L’ elezione della Vergine” by Francesco Botticini (1446–1497)

The Lowest Triad


The first and lowest triad consists of Angels, Archangels, and Principalities. These three choirs deal with the minutiae of the universe – including humans. Guardian angels are some of the lowest level of angels in this triad.

The Middle Triad

The middle triad is responsible for maintaining large-scale order in the universe, throughout both space and time. They delegate lesser tasks to the angels on the lowest triad. The choirs in this triad are the Powers, Virtues and Dominations.

The Highest Triad

The highest triad are the furthest from Earth and also the closest to God. These are the ones who have a reputation for singing, as they are tasked with contemplating and conveying the glory of God. Thrones, Cherubim, and Seraphim are the three choirs that make up this triad.

Seraphim

The Seraphim are six-winged angels who stand closest to God. Each pair of wings has its own purpose:

  • One pair for covering their faces
  • One pair to cover their feet
  • One pair for flying

God surrounded by seraphim. From the Petites Heures de Jean de Berry, a 14th-century illuminated manuscript.

In Hebrew, Seraphim means flaming, which is how these angels are meant to appear, as they are aflame with love for the God they stand so close to, while they are adept at kindling love in those around them. Lucifer was once a Seraphim and this is probably where he gets his affinity for fire and his legendary capacity for seduction.

Cherubim

Cherubim are next down from Seraphim and they are said to be very wise, with many eyes and four wings. They are supposed to have the greatest knowledge of God and also the greatest capacity to convey this knowledge.

Thrones

Thrones (also called Ophanim and Galgallin) are the conduit between lower angels and God, dispensing justice. They’re symbols of God’s authority and justice and they carry God’s throne.
The form of these angels is quite odd – they are described as wheels within wheels, with many eyes set around their rims. Admittedly, they sound a lot like modern reports of flying saucers.

Ezekiel’s Wheel in St. John the Baptist Church in Kratovo, Macedonia (1836)

Dominations

Dominions (also known as Dominations, Lordships or Hashmallim) are described as glowing or amber ones, as they are clearly recognisable as angels who wield light. They preside over all the other angels and nations on Earth, but they rarely make themselves known to humans.

Their appearance is the closest to human – though they are meant to have a pair of feathered wings. They are freer than the higher triad of angels, so their service is voluntary. They help ruling bodies on Earth to govern with prudence and wisdom. Dominations are so named because of their control over their senses. They teach how to subdue dissolute desires and passions, through enslaving the flesh to the spirit, and how to rule one’s will and be above temptation.

Various sources name different angels as the leader of this choir of angels – some name Raphael; others Zadkiel, Hasmael, Muriel or Zacharael.

Virtues

Called Virtues, Strongholds or Dynameis (which means forces in Greek), these angels work miracles, or convey the power to work miracles on those who deserve them. They also assist those who are overburdened by those they owe fealty to, apparently, and grant patience to those who ask for it. They also control the elements, nature, seasons and celestial bodies. Stars, planets and satellites, of course. What were you thinking?

Powers

The Powers (also known as Potentates) get their name from the power they hold over the devil and demons. They can prevent demons from harming people, restrain their power, and assist those who wrestle with demons. They have the power to cast out evil and conquer the devil and his demons, too.

Sources state that their leader is either Samael or Camael. Both of these are described as angels of darkness, or fallen angels.

Principalities

Principalities are a lesser form of Dominions – they, too, are responsible for maintaining order in the Universe, but they convey orders from Dominions to angels and archangels, as well as carrying these out themselves. They are assigned to groups of people to help them choose good leaders and to individual leaders, in order to assist them in good government.

Archangels

Archangels are heralds and they are allowed to reveal knowledge, prophecies and a deeper understanding of God’s will. These angels frequently appear in religious texts, as they interact with humans and enlighten a select few. Gabriel, Michael, Uriel and Raphael are described as archangels.

Angels

While all those in the nine choirs of angels are angels, those in this lowest choir are just angels – angels of no higher rank than that of an angel (or malakhim). These angels have the most frequent contact with individual humans and are always with them. They are guardian angels, angels who escort souls to judgement and Grigori or watchers, who observe humans – just to mention a few roles these angels play.

Angels in Mel Goes to Hell?

For those who haven’t started reading my Mel Goes to Hell series yet (and you should, seeing as the first part, Welcome to Hell, is FREE)…yes, there are angels in the series. Melody Angel is, as her name suggests, particularly heavenly. As to which choir she belongs to…I believe I’ll leave that a mystery for now.

Coral Bay sunset - heaven