Jun 3, 2011

The Celtic View of Angels

When Christianity came to Ireland, the Celts accepted the existence of angels readily. After all, they'd believed in fairies and brownies. Angels were not much of a stretch. And they didn't exactly give up the fairy belief. Some say they are fallen angels, just not bad enough to deserve to be in Hell.

Angels figure prominently in most of the Irish saints' hagiographies, even more so than that of the rest of the Christian world. Angels gave the saints special messages and intrepretations. In Acallam na SenĂ³rach (a late 12th century text) Patrick is said to have had two guardian angels who served as advisors. We know from his Confession that a man named Victor delivered a letter to him in a dream. Perhaps Victor was an angel. Columcille was said to have been observed praying with two angels standing nearby.

The archangel Michael shows up in many Irish writings. Some have said he took over the role of the pagan god Lug, who among other things was a mighty warrior.

Depiction of an angel in the Book of Kells
Holy Cross Sligo - MOSAIC -ANGEL 2
Angel mosiac in Holy Cross, Sligo. Photo by Fergal Claddagh
Angels appear many places--on high crosses, church walls, gravestones, in manuscripts. Of course angels are important messengers in the Bible, but it's interesting to see exactly how the Irish imagined them to look. Well, what do I know? Maybe they actually saw them!

I've surrounded my house with garden angels. I especially like those reading books. I'm always on the lookout for good ones. Let me know if you find some. I think it started when we bought a house (2 houses ago) with a little stone angel figure sitting next to a pond. I brought that figure with me, cracked head and all! This is not him, however. This is one of my book angels.

While I don't believe my little statues offer any kind of protection, they do serve to remind me that there are spiritual forces out there I don't see, and angels watching over me.

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