Friday, February 4, 2011

Good vs. Evil: Getting to Know Angels & Devils

In my novel BLACKHEART there are both angels and demons alike. This posting is a quick summary to help you tell them apart, and sometimes it can be tricky. The angels and demons in my book are all based loosely on Christian, Jewish, Islamic or other accounts of angels. When researching angels and demons the one thing I found out is that our (human) knowledge of them is limited. Many of them have multiple names, jobs and backgrounds, depending on whose story you want to listen to. I’m sure only they know the truth, which has made them a fertile cast of characters for me, a fiction writer, to have inhabit the world of BLACKHEART.

How many different angels and demons are there? The highest number I’ve found is 300,000 fallen angels alone. And of course scholars have debated that whole “how many angels can sit on the head of a pin” thing for too long. Only 2 angels appear by name in the Christian Bible today (Michael and Gabriel). So what about all the others?

Note: I've left out a few angels and demons from BLACKHEART in this posting to avoid SPOILERS.


In Islamic mythology, the Hafaza are equivalent to the Christian concept of guardian angels. They help the soul fight off attacks from devils and djinn. My character, Noel August, is able to commune with them—which is both a blessing and a curse. At times they save her life, at others listening to them leads her into great peril.

Mastenem (The Lesser)

When Noah asked God to destroy all demons after the great flood, supposedly the demon Mastema intervened and asked that 10% of the demons be saved under his control to test mankind. God said “Yes.” (Thanks a lot.) These remaining demons that roam the earth are the Mastenem. Blackheart refers to them as the Lesser—and whenever he and the Lesser meet blood is shed. Their evil minds are simple and revolve around how to best inflict pain and harm on human beings. Their shapes vary, taking on aspects of monsters and beasts—all the better to terrify their victims. Besides their original demon savior, Mastema, all manner of greater demons take control of the Lesser, and use them for their schemes.


This name is sometimes synonymous for Satan, but in the context of BLACKHEART it refers to a class of angels who were cast out of heaven for teaching angelic secrets to man (like warfare and how to make weapons)—and for fornicating with women. ‘Nuf said.

Uhriel (or Uriel)

Known as “the fire of God” and “he who watches over thunder and terror,” in BLACKHEART (per some recorded accounts), Uhriel is the presider over Tartarus (Hell) and the leader of the massive angel guard that lives there, keeping all the damned souls and demons confined and delivering punishments as part of his thankless, daily routine.


Per the Greek word, literally “guide of souls.” According to some cultures, souls do not immediately enter the world during birth, nor exit the world during death without some assistance. The transition between life and death is often aided by helpful spirits in animal form, the Psychopomps. In BLACKHEART Psychopomps make their appearance in the forms of voles, scorpions and fish, to name a few. My favorite example of Psychopomps in another work of writing? See “THE CROW” by James O’Barr.


With so many angels and demons in my book I’d be remiss not to mention Satan. Known by many other names, the baddest of the bad, the prince of evil, tempter of Eve and Jesus alike in some accounts he still walks the Earth. Pretty scary, I think. There are many accounts and variations of how he was thrown from heaven with his host of followers, but I like this one a lot:

Joseph Campbell (1972: pp. 148–149) illustrates an unorthodox Islamic reading of Lucifer's fall from Heaven, which champions Lucifer's eclipsing love for God:

One of the most amazing images of love that I know is in Persian – a mystical Persian representation as Satan as the most loyal lover of God. You will have heard the old legend of how, when God created the angels, he commanded them to pay worship to no one but himself; but then, creating man, he commanded them to bow in reverence to this most noble of his works, and Lucifer refused – because, we are told, of his pride. However, according to this Muslim reading of his case, it was rather because he loved and adored God so deeply and intensely that he could not bring himself to bow before anything else, and because he refused to bow down to something inferior to him (since he was made of fire, and man from clay). And it was for that that he was flung into Hell, condemned to exist there for eternity, apart from his love.

Thanks for reading.

Millions of spiritual creatures walk the earth 

Unseen, both when we wake and when we sleep.

~John Milton, Paradise Lost


Jon said...

So... where do the Victoria's Secrets Angels fit in?

Anonymous said...

As a kid in Sunday school hearing about and reading about angels in the Bible, I always found it odd and a little creepy how they were described with additional arms, eyes and so forth. It somehow made sense that Satan came from this group of beautiful but also horrifying beings.

Oh and Uriel, Lucifer and the Mastenem are most certainly real, whereas the Victoria's Secret angels are the stuff of myth and legend... and airbrushing, chicken cutlets, Hollywood-budget lighting effects, etc.

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