Of Questions Angelogical
December 10, 2014 8:51 AM   Subscribe

Two-part question about books of angelology: one specific and one more general.

1) More than 10 years ago, a friend told me about a book, essay, or poem he'd read in which angels and/or their activities were discussed in terms of the "foam" or "foaminess" that they create, or through which they move, or of which they consist. In place of foam it could also have been albumen, mucus, or some other kind of semi-solid substance. I don't remember more than that. What book, essay, or poem could he have been talking about, and by whom?

2) Please recommend me a good book or journal article on angelology in general. I'm interested in knowing more about the history of angelic lore, nomenclature, taxonomy/hierarchy, and how these traditions are transmitted in/between human cultures. I would especially love to read about the outgrowth of tradition into something more like the weirdness in question 1 above. Please no "woo," no collections of uplifting anecdotes, etc.

posted by sleevener to Religion & Philosophy (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Maybe you should look at Swedenborg?
posted by mumimor at 9:10 AM on December 10, 2014

My go-to book on the subject is Angels A to Z: Who's Who in the Heavenly Host by Matthew Bunson, but there's also a lot to be said for Gustav Davidson's A Dictionary of Angels, Including the Fallen Angels, which I'm led to understand covers more cultural ground.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:29 AM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Peter Lamborn Wilson's book Angels is excellent. It's framed as a study of iconography -- how do you represent beings that interact with humans but are also divine? -- that tries to encompass all the major Abrahamic religious traditions (Wilson is, among other things, a scholar and translator of Sufism). However, in the course of walking you through all these different depictions, it turns into a great history of how different cultures and times conceived of angels, the kinds of "work" angels were doing (as messengers, bringers of knowledge, carrying out mysterious cosmic tasks -- or destructive and terrifying figures), different models of their organization, and how this helps us understand how people conceived of the supernatural in different times. A fascinating and gorgeous book.
posted by deathmarch to epistemic closure at 9:36 AM on December 10, 2014

The first book you describe is almost certainly Steven Brust's excellent To Reign In Hell.
posted by nicwolff at 10:31 AM on December 10, 2014

Catholic perspective: Here's an article by John Hardon, S.J., loosely chronicling Church teaching on angels over 2,000 years, "Angels in the History of the Church" ("Our plan is to focus on successive periods in Catholic history to learn what the Church we belong to has been telling the faithful about the angels. One of the main factors which has evoked Church teaching has been the rise of error in angelology."). I.e., people have believed crazy things about angels over the years, and that's usually provoked some form of magisterial response to the error--he surveys those responses here.

This article is collected as part of a larger angelology series by Hardon.
posted by resurrexit at 9:39 AM on December 12, 2014

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