Angels and Demons

Movies, television shows, anime, books, video games, the imagery of angels and demons is commonplace, finding a root in any Abrahamic religion.  In the last ten years, Archangel Michael has shown up in over a half dozen movies (in nearly every one he’s some sort of guardian who gets in a sword fight with a villain) and Christopher Walken portrayed the Archangel Gabriel starting up a second war for the firmament.  Who are the winged seraphim and shadowy devils who have inundated so many pop culture references?  Be aware, this one is going to be highly religiously focused; if I don’t do credit to the names or the writings, my bad.

The dude on the right is an actor portraying Mephistopholes from Gothe’s Faust


So this one is an interesting case: originally an archangel on par with the others, Lucifer and a squadron of angels fought a war with God (spoiler alert, they lost in the end).  The word Lucifer loosely finds a linguistic link back to the phrase “morning star”, or “bringer of morning light”.  Etymologically, that’s essentially the best review one can get on Yelp.  Depending on where in Scriptures you look, Lucifer is described as the Prince of Earth as well as the betrayer.  Through a bit of theological gymnastics, the final decision on where Lucifer (good name) became Satan (bad name).  Upon the fall from Heaven, Lucifer lost his title and became Satan (basically translates to “Obstacle”).  From there on, his role became to screw with everything good and grand in the world.  According to Milton’s Paradise Lost, Satan and his army of fallen angels made the best of their fall and established a kingdom in the prison they were exiled to, beginning the classical devil’s “reign over the circles of Hell”.

These are technically the same dude.  On the top is Milton’s from Paradise Lost, in the center is Dante’s from Inferno, on the bottom: Will Ferell as the Devil.

Michael, Archangel of Mercy:

When the first iconography of him began to appear in the 4th century, Michael was an angel of healing.  Over time however, the angel began to be more commonly associated with being the warrior prince of heaven.  The guardian of the faith (patron saint protector of Judaism and military, to boot) and the one who defeated the Pearly gates from the onslaught of Lucifer, described as “defeating the dragon” (Satan is synonymous with the dragon btw).  The name Michael loosely translates to “he who is like God”.

He’s also the Guardian Saint of Ukraine

Uriel, Archangel of Repentance/Salvation

Uriel is generally considered the fourth most famous of the Archangels.  In order, the angels will usually be described: Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and then Uriel.  The first four angels are typically meant to represent the cardinal directions, with Michael representing the East, Gabriel the North, Raphael the West, and Uriel representing the South  The name loosely translates to “light of God”, and he is classically represented as a stoic young man holding a flaming sword in one hand and a geyser of fire in the other.  In the scriptures, he is described as the one who guards the gates of Eden and the one who checked the doors in Egypt for lambs blood during Moses’ final plague (those doors that didn’t have it lost their firstborn son).

His other title is “He who watches over Thunder and Terror”

Mephistopholes, Gothe’s Demon.

Mephistopholes is one of the more recognized demons in pop culture, yet nobody knows the name.  He comes from the German story The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus, which chronicles the life of a brilliant scholar named Johann Faust, who becomes dissatisfied with his life.  A demon appears before him (Mephistopholes) and offers him a life of pleasure and knowledge in trade for his soul (to his credit, Mephisto did warn Faust that it was a bad deal a couple times before offering).  When Faust strikes the bargain with him, he begins his new life of debauchery and learning, with Mephistopholes periodically appearing and re-upping Faust’s subscription whenever he wavers on his choice (at one point, when Faust begins to feel like he made a bad choice, Mephistopholes shows up and summons Helena of Troy from the depths, convincing Faust that he made a good choice.  Faust fathers a kid with her).  In the end, Faust ends up losing his soul to the devil/escaping his grasp to reach salvation depending on the story that is followed.  In actuality, Faust was a real person, an apt scholar, and an alchemist.  His death was likely from an alchemical explosion that mutilated his corpse enough that people thought a demon took what it was due from him.  After his death, he became a figure in German literature; culminating in the play by Gothe (Faust’s story was second in popularity and controversy only to Shakespeare.  There are accounts of devils actually appearing on stage during the productions and that actors and theater attendees would go insane from watching it).

This is where the oddly red colored devil came from.  Faust.


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