I sit and wait
Does an angel contemplate my fate?
Do you believe in angels?
According to research by the think tank Theos in 2012, around a quarter of the population do. If you’ve not seen the Theos report, do have a look: it’s a fascinating survey of the faith of the faithless generally.
Belief in angels is, of course, as old as time itself and is shared by many religions including all 3 Abrahamic ones. In classical Christian belief angels encircle the Godhead and sing alleluias and suchlike worshipful greatest hits, arranged concentrically in choral hierarchy: Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominions, Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Archangels, Angels. God employs them as messengers, and we note that it’s a pretty plebby sort he dispatches to planet Earth — mere Archangels, for heaven’s sake.
Today’s angels — perhaps we should call them post-New Age angels — are often evoked by unchurched people when someone dies:
So go and run free with the angels
As they sing so tenderly
And please be sure to tell them
To take good care of you for me
Children who die are often fondly supposed to have grown angel wings and flown to heaven. As a proportion of the population, females are probably more likely to transition to angelhood than males. Old people are seldom reckoned to have been the beneficiaries of this celestial makeover, probably because they don’t conform to the aesthetic. A nan with wings really isn’t a very likely look.
Just how thought-through and developed this modern belief in angels is I have no idea, so I hope you can come in with some info and points of view. Belief in guardian angels is widespread, as in: “One day, when my son was a baby, I tripped while I was holding him, and he went flying headlong toward a brick wall. There was nothing I could do to protect him, but I watched as he inexplicably stopped an inch from the wall and fell gently to the carpet. I knew immediately that an angel’s hand had been his bumper pad.” Source. People pool their experiences at Angels Online.
Angels are part of the modern iconography of death, which includes other winged creatures — eg, doves and butterflies — together with rainbows, as in:
Time for me to go now, I won’t say goodbye;
Look for me in rainbows, way up in the sky.
It would be interesting to hear the reflections of celebrants on funerary angels. Are they part of a Disneyfication of afterlife beliefs generally? Do they play an influential part in people’s grief journeys?