Gabriel and Michael are the only archangels named in Hebrew scriptures, but Tobit mentions seven. The Book of Enoch says: “And then Michael, Uriel, Raphael and Gabriel looked down from heaven…” Many dictionaries identify all four of these beings as archangels. Shown to the right is an image of Michael from a Russian Orthodox church.
An image of the god Mithras (identified with the sun) is frequently found standing upon a globe in Mithraic temples. These globes represent the ancient notion of a “cosmic sphere.” Images of many of these spheres include a large X in their center. It is intended to represent an intersection of the zodiac and celestial equator. Archangels are defined by Webster as follows:
arch an gel (ark anj l) n. [[ME < OFr archangel or LL (Ec) archangelus < LGr(Ec) archangelos < Gr archos (see ARCH-) + angelos, ANGEL]] 1
1. a chief angel; angel of high rank. . .
Note Webster’s reference to “(see ARCH-).” When most members of the solar system are seen, they follow an arch in their journey across the sky. This, plus the fact that some archangels are pictured standing upon, wearing or holding a sphere (often with an “x” in the center) suggests that the word from which “archangel” was translated may originally have applied to the sun, moon and planets. Many ancient peoples personified the planets and endowed them with superhuman abilities.
All seven days of the week were named after solar system objects 2 and perhaps as many as five months were also named for them. 3 Could the same fascination that resulted in days and months being named after solar system members also have resulted in them being regarded as “archangels?”
Again from Enoch: “I saw. . . paths of the angels,” which seems to imply that angel’s courses are fixed like those of solar system members. Physicist and Nobel laureate Richard Feynman, when once discussing the force that tethers planets to the sun, remarked about a time when people thought angels pushed planets around.
Whether archangels can be identified as the sun, moon and planets or not, they correspond in number (seven) to those members of Mediterranian pantheons that have long been associated with solar system objects and days of the week. Some early Christian documents have also made this archangelic association. 4
Artists portray archangels, like they do God and saints, with halos—a sometime attribute of both the sun and moon as well as a prominent feature of Saturn. Incidentally, very faint rings have recently been discovered around Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune.
Many sources identify archangels with members of the solar system. A problem arises because each archangel is associated with various planets, and vice versa. This is compounded by the fact that several names are used by the same people for each planet.
Take Raphael for instance. He appears in Tobit with the following quote: “I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels. . .which go in and out before the glory of the Holy One.”5 Some manuscripts have associated Raphael with Mercury, others say Raphael represents the sun. But Milton, in Book III of Paradise Lost, refers to Uriel as “Regent of the Sun.”
Then there’s Gabriel. It is sometimes identified as a name for the planet Mars, in other places it is said to be a name for the moon.
In Ginzberg’s Legends of the Jews, archangels are said to be “comptrollers” of the Sun, Moon and five planets. Venus’ archangel is named “Aniel” in that book. “Sammael” is named there as being in charge of Mars, and is considered to be an evil angel. 6
Here is a quote from Chapter 12 of Revelation, “And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon.”7 Is this the same event represented by the Chinese celestial dragon which is depicted on pottery and paintings as attacking a “pearl”8 in the sky? If so, Michael and the iconographical Chinese sphere could represent the same object. On the other hand, Michael might represent one of the other “angels” that was involved in the “war in heaven.”
The theme of a god, saint or hero fighting a dragon in the sky appears in mythology of peoples all around the world. According to Aztec legend, Quetzacoatl was called the Feathered Serpent (another term for dragon?) and was associated with the planet Venus.9 They believed Quetzalcoatl descended to hell. As the morning and evening star, Quetzalcoatl was the Aztec symbol of death and resurrection. According to Plutarch, the serpent is also sacred to Athena (the Greek word equivalent to the Roman’s Minerva). 10
The sphere preceding a dragon in Chinese New Year’s Day parades possibly represents a planet. It is caused to spin on it’s axis and has attached ribbons that flow in a spiral such as yellow streamers shown on the sphere to the right, detail from a painting of Archangel Michael. Heads on some dragon boats include one or more spheres either in the dragon’s mouth or just in front of its head.
Venus is characterized by different peoples either as a fallen angel, a planet or both. Lucifer is the Christian name for a being that meets each test. According to Webster:
Lu ci fer (l s f r) [[ME < OE < L, morning star (in ML, Satan), lit., light-bringing < lux (gen. lucis ), LIGHT1 + ferre , to BEAR1]] 1 the planet Venus when it is the morning star 2 Theol. SATAN; specif., in Christian theology, Satan as leader of the fallen angels: he was an angel of light until he revolted against God and, with the others, was cast into hell. . . 11
Another clue comes from the Catholic Encyclopedia: “The name Lucifer originally denotes the planet Venus, emphasizing its brilliance.”12 Enoch claimed that Michael was the archangel leader. Webster defines Lucifer as leader of the fallen angels. As demonstrated here, both Michael and Lucifer are names that are often ascribed to our solar system neighbor.
Because Venus was once known as an archangel, was that planet, before being “cast into hell,” seen to describe a complete arch in its journey across the sky? And was a curling trail seen to follow it?
Next to the footnotes below is a view of the planet Venus as observed from a space probe.
(1) Webster’s New World™ Dictionary.
(2) Origin of the Seven-Day Week.
(3) Early Roman Calendars.
(4) Phillips, Robert. Angels thru the Ages. CompuServe Artist’s Forum. 1994.
(5) Tobit. The Book of Tobit. (12.15)
(6) Ginzberg. Legends of the Jews, Vol. V. Philadelphia, 1925. p. 164.
(7) Revelation – Chapter 12, Verse 7.
(8) Respers, Lisa. The Way of the Dragon. L.A. Times, Sunday, February 19, 1995.
(9) Aztec Calendar.
(10) Plutarch. Isis and Osiris. Section 71.
(11) Webster. op. cit.
(12) Catholic Encyclopedia: LUCIFER