Guardian Angels

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This undated Victorian era photo depicts a guardian angel. The concept of protective angels has remained popular from the days of ancient Judaism to modern times. Time Life Pictures/Getty Images.

Guardian Angels

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Throughout the centuries, many have believed themselves the object of attention by a single benevolent supernatural being assigned the task of protecting and assisting the individual. Such a belief in guardian angels predates the founding of Christianity. It was evident in the life of different Mediterranean cultures and appears in a rudimentary form in ancient Judaism. Frequently cited to support belief in guardian angels is Psalms 90:11: “For he hath given his angels charge over thee; to keep thee in all thy ways.”

Angels are messengers, divine beings sent to humans with words from God. Angels could appear in various forms, although they commonly resembled humans. The writer of the biblical book of Hebrews warned people to be kind to strangers as they might turn out to be angels. It was but a small step for Christians to move from a general belief that angels exist and, on occasion, intrude into human situations to a pious belief in guardian angels, one attached to each human being that constantly acted for the welfare of that person. Among the first to give clear voice to the idea was Saint Jerome (c. 345–420), better known for his translation of the Bible into Latin. By the time of Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225–1274), the understanding of angels in the Western Christian tradition had undergone considerable refinement, and he asserted that guardian angels were drawn from the lowest order of angelic beings.

Liturgical recognition of guardian angels grew significantly in the seventeenth century after Pope Paul V (r. 1605–1621) added a feast focused on them to the annual calendar in 1608. Then Pope Clement X (r. 1670–1676) elevated the feast, now celebrated on October 2 as an obligatory observance for the church as a whole.

As belief in guardian angels spread, among the more interesting stories to emerge has been that of Augustine Dupré, a French nobleman who was reportedly commissioned by King Louis XVI (r. 1774–1793) to design a new currency for the nation. He incorporated a guardian angel on his design for one coin, only a few of which were minted before the French Revolution brought down the crown and landed Dupre in jail. Scheduled for the guillotine, Dupre was able to escape from his imprisonment and later attributed his good fortune to the coin. Over the next years, the coin attained a reputation as a good luck charm. The design was later revived and used for the 20 franc pieces minted from 1871 through 1898.

Belief in guardian angels also passed into Spiritualism, where a belief in easy and frequent communication with the spirits of the deceased survived even though it was otherwise lost in the secularizing Western culture through the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. A few metaphysical teachers, such as California teacher Flower Newhouse (1909–1994), promoted belief in angels in the middle of the twentieth century. At the end of the century, a notable revival of belief in angels was noticeable within the New Age movement. This renewed interest manifested in the production of various objects picturing angels—figurines, candles, jewelry, and statuary— and of stores dedicated to marketing them.

Sources:

Lewis, James R. Angels A to Z. Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1996.
Miller, C. Leslie. All about Angels: The Other Side of the Spirit World. Glendale, CA: Regal Books, 1973.
Newhouse, Flower A. Natives of Eternity. Vista, CA: privately printed, 1950.
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A protective guardian angel watches over a child. Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

Guardian Angels

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Some people believe that a “Guardian Angel” is present with every individual from the moment of birth. Others believe that they are there only when needed in moments of crisis. The chief function of a guardian angel is to protect the individual, helping him or her to make the best decisions and to lead a positive and productive life. In Spiritualism, the guardian angel may be equated with the Gatekeeper, the chief spirit guide.

In some societies the term used is guardian spirit, tutelary spirit, protective spirit, or guardian genius. “Genius” is the Latin term for each man’s protector; “Juno” is the feminine form. The genius was honored in Roman birthday celebrations. There was also a genius loci which guarded a particular place. In ancient Greece, the equivalent was the personal dæmon, which accompanied a man throughout his life. Some societies equate the guardian spirit with a deceased ancestor. In many Native American traditions, the “vision quest” involves finding one’s guardian spirit, though legend has it that the guardian spirit might appear spontaneously in a dream, often in animal form.

In the Old Testament there is mention in Daniel chapters 10 and 12 of angels who watch over different kingdoms and different people. In Mohammedan belief every person is guarded by two angels during the day and another two at night.

Sources:

Cavendish, Richard (ed.): Man, Myth & Magic: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Supernatural. London: BPC, 1970
Gluckman, M.: The Allocation of Responsibility. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1970