Angels Are Horrifyingly Beautiful (What Angels Really Look Like)

Arkane Curiosities

When I first picked up the book A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L’Engle, I was transfixed by the image of a Cherubim. How could that be an angel? I couldn’t reconcile the image I was seeing with the more traditional depiction of angels, with their human-like bodies and pair of wings. Yet this is what angels really look like.

Renaissance Created the Disney-Versions of Cherubs

Those cute baby angels you see fluttering around every February, those are the sanitized versions of Cherubs (originally known as Cherubim). It seems Renaissance painters mashed together angelic Cherubs with the Greek god Cupid. 

Raphael created characters in his paintings called “putti”, from the Latin word putus, meaning boy. These little toddlers represented pure love. Soon, people began referring to these putti as “Cherubs” because of their association with the pure love of God. 

Yet the true visage of these angels is anything but cute.

The True Meaning of Awesome

The word awesome has taken a left turn in modern English. It now simply refers to something amazing or wonderful. The original meaning is darker. Awesome meant to feel awe, as in bone shaking fear and admiration for what you beheld. It was a word tailor-made for looking on the true image of angels.

The Cherubim — Multi-Faced Creatures of Fire

The putti versions of Cherubs float on clouds and shoot arrows at love-sick teens. The true Cherubim are engulfed in the fiery light of God’s Glory. 

Instead of a single pudgy baby head, the Book of Ezekiel says these angels have four heads: a lion, an ox, an eagle and a human. They also have four wings, two of which tilt down to cover their legs, which have bull hooves by the way.

Art from Isis Sangare

Ezekiel also mentions that every part of the Cherumin — hands, wings, feet — are covered with eyes. This is what Madeleine L’Engle was going for with her description of the angel in A Wind in the Door.

But this is not the most bizarre angel out there. While Cherubims clock in at number three on the angelic hierarchy, Seraphim are number one. 

Seraphim — A Mess of Wings and Flame

The word Seraphim translates to “burning ones”. According to the prophet Isaiah, these angels surround the throne of God. They have six wings, two to cover their legs (because feet are unclean and unworthy to show God), two to fly, and two to cover their face. The result, all you see is wings. This seems to also match Madeleine L’Engle’s depiction of angels.

Art by Aeriel Lee

Depicted as being red, Seraphim are associated with Fire. They each hold a flaming sword with the words “holy, holy, holy” on the blade. In the vision, a Seraphim touches a burning coal to Isaiah’s lips in order to purge him of his sin and to make him fit to be a prophet. 

But at least the Seraphim have recognizable parts, wings and eyes. The number two ranked angel in Heaven doesn’t even have a body.

The Ophanim — Giant Winged Wheels

In Ezekiel’s account, he describes the Ophanim as giant golden wheels, each covered with multiple eyes. In fact the word Ophanim means “wheels”. They had four interlocking golden wheels and could fly in any direction. They are tasked with guarding the throne of God.

The next time you envision an angel, perhaps you will better understand the true meaning of the word awesome. These spiritual beings are meant to instill wonder and fear at the concept of God. 

Tim Kane

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Manna From Heaven (Angelic Food)

Arkane Curiosities

Manna was a supernatural food given to the Israelites during their 40-year trek through the desert. It brings up images of divine bread and even Jesus’ miracle with the loaves and fishes. In the Bible it’s called the “Bread of Heaven,” “Angel’s Food,” and “Spiritual Meat.”

The World’s First Instant Meals

When the Jews set out from Egypt, they very quickly ran out of food. God sent a magical dew to the desert floor and when it evaporated, it left a flaky substance on the ground (resembling frost). 

The raw manna tasted like water made with honey. The Israelites ground these flakes with hand mills. They boiled the manna in pots to create flat cakes, which tasted like pasties baked with olive oil. 

The manna continued to appear on the ground each morning (except Sabbath, where they collected a double portion the day before). The Jews consumed this angelic food for 40 years until they crossed the border of Canaan. Once returned to the promised land, the divine foodstuffs vanished forever. 

Constant Whining for Better Food

Eating the same thing day after day can get monotonous. Soon, people pined for the tastes and textures of food back in Egypt — yearning for cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. They also wanted to nosh on some fresh meat. 

God compiled and sent an enormous flock of quail along with the manna. The people greedily collected days worth of quail. This so angered God, that he struck the Israelites with a plague. 

The First Superfood

As a divine food, manna was made up of only nutritious matter. The body absorbed every morsel and the Israelites expelled no waste. Additionally, manna had a fragrant smell that women would use as a perfume. 

Manna Rivers

The Jewish people had only four hours to collect the manna before it melted under the scorching desert sun. The melted manna created streams, giving sustenance to deer and other wildlife. Should a foreigner eat an animal who drank of these streams, they would taste the divine food. Otherwise, tradition states, that manna tasted bitter to gentiles. 

Tim Kane

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