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angel (ānˈjəl), [Gr.,=messenger], bodiless, immortal spirit, limited in knowledge and power, accepted in the traditional belief of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam and other religions. Angels appear frequently in the Bible, often in critical roles, e.g., visiting Abraham and Lot (Gen. 18; 19), wrestling with Jacob (Gen. 32.24–32), and guiding Tobit (Tobit 5). The Bible also speaks of guardian angels, protecting individuals or nations (Dan. 10.10–21; Mat. 18.10). In the Gospels an angel announced the Incarnation to the Virgin Mary (Luke 1), and an angel at the empty tomb revealed the Resurrection (Mat. 28.1–7). While Judaism has no fixed ordering of classes of angels, Christianity has a specific hierarchy. Codified in its classic form in the 5th cent by St. Dionysius the Areopagite, in The Celestial Hierarchy. In descending order the ranks of angels are seraphim, cherubim, thrones; dominations, virtues, powers; principalities, arch-angels, and angels. Roman Catholics and the Orthodox venerate angels, and the cult of guardian angels is especially extensive in the West (feast of Guardian Angels: Oct. 2). Protestants have generally abandoned the cult of angels. In Christianity, the angels of Hell, or dark angels, or devils, are the evil counterpart of the heavenly host; the chief of them, Satan (or Lucifer), was cast out of heaven for leading a revolt. They are often viewed as the initiators of evil temptations. Famous literary treatments of angels are those of John Milton's Paradise Lost and Dante's Divine Comedy. Angels play an important role in many other religions. Later Zoroastrian theology has numerous classes of yazatas “worshipful beings.” Zoroastrian notions of angels influenced the intricate theories of heavenly beings of Gnostic systems and Manichaeism. In Islam the four archangels Jibrail, Mikail, Israfil, and Izrail (the Angel of Death) often act in place of Allah. The Kiram al-Katibin are the recording angels. According to a popular tradition, each person has two scribe angels, the one on the right side recording good deeds, the one on the left taking note of transgressions. A lower order of angels is the jinn.
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Image of an angel appearing to shepherds, from Thomas Heywood's Hierarchie, 1635. Fortean Picture Library.


(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Monotheistic religions arising in the Middle East tended to see a separation between the material world and the spiritual. A wall stands between the experience of everyday life and life that is "other," above or beyond our physical environment. One realm exists for humankind and another for God. On this material side exist space and time.

On the transcendent side, infinity and eternity. The wall of separation is not solid but contains windows that enable at least partial communication or mystic vision to take place. The apostle Paul described this concept in 1 Corinthians 13: "Now we see through a glass, darkly, but then we shall see face to face."

One method of communication is for God to use messengers to bridge the gap, to move through the wall and carry God's messages to humans and human prayers to God.

The word "angel," from the Greek ange- los, means "messenger." Although the concept of angels becomes more fully developed in later monotheistic religions, it is found in early Canaanite mythological poems and Persian Zoroastrianism. Ancient Hittite texts going back to a time when God was perceived as feminine describe groups of "fairy messengers" attending the mother-goddess.

Although popular misconceptions involve people becoming angels when they die, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all teach that angels are a separate species created before humans. Probably because these are historically male-dominated religions, angels are usually depicted as being masculine, even though they are said to be either sexless or above sex. In one early exception to this notion of sexlessness, a passage in Genesis 6 explains that the judgment of Noah's flood was brought about in part because "the sons of God" (a phrase often interpreted to mean angels) "saw that the daughters of men" (that is, human women) "were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose." The offspring of these unions were the Nephilim, a mysterious term often translated as "giants" but defined in the Bible as "the heroes of old."

Although angelic myths differ, all describe a war in heaven that caused one-third of the angels to sin. They became the demons of Judeo/Christian teaching and a category within the "jinns" of Islam, creatures of smokeless fire. The fallen angels were led by the being Jews and Christians call "the Satan" (the accuser). Muslims call him Iblis.

In Christian scripture, angels generally appear in human form. An angel ordered Abraham to refrain from sacrificing his son Isaac (Gen. 22:11). Angels appeared to Ishmael, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, and Muhammad. Either two or three (the account in Genesis 18 and 19 is unclear) had dinner with Abraham on their way to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah.

By the time of the sixth century BCE, angels were beginning to be defined more clearly. While earlier texts spoke simply of "the sons of God" or "holy ones," their hierarchy began to be revealed. By the thirteenth century CE, Saint Thomas Aquinas listed nine "choirs" or ranks of angels, beginning with the seraphim and continuing through cherubim, thrones, dominions, virtues, powers, principalities, archangels, and angels. We also learn of the angelic choir who sing eternally in heaven and have been known to give concerts on Earth, specifically to a group of shepherds on the first Christmas.

In Genesis 3 we learn of "cherubim [with] a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the tree of life." This image is quite different from the cute, chubby variety often portrayed in popular culture. Isaiah describes his vision of six-winged seraphim standing in the presence of God. They "were calling to one another" (Isaiah 6:3):

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.

And in the book of Hebrews, chapter 13, verse 2, readers are reminded: "Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so some people have entertained angels without knowing it."

The apostle Paul understood the church to be the fulfillment of God's eternal plan. It was a mystery revealed to him that "Gentiles are heirs together with Israel." But the purpose of this plan was to demonstrate the "manifold wisdom of God" to "principalities and powers [rulers and authorities; ranks of angels] in the heavens" (Ephesians 3).

Even the individual names of angels are revealed in some cases. From Apocryphal books of the Bible we learn of the names Raphael and Uriel. From the book of Daniel we read about Michael, said to be "captain of the Lord's hosts."

One ecumenical angel who seems to be very busy is Gabriel. He first appears bearing a message to the Jewish patriot, Daniel. Later he comes to Mary to tell her she is about to become the mother of Jesus, the founder of Christianity. Still later he appears to Muhammad, escorting him on his famous "night journey" to the seventh heaven, a journey that marked the beginnings of Islam.

Walter Wink has written an important series of three books about the language of power in the New Testament. His thesis is that early writers intuitively grasped spiritual realities present in the human condition, labeling them "angels." In the New Testament book of Revelation, chapters 2 and 3, letters are addressed to the "angels of the seven churches." Could it be, he asks, that human institutions develop spiritual realities? In other words, when churches, schools, corporations, and even governments exist long enough, a spirit of tradition, perhaps even a metaphysical reality, forms that becomes bigger than the institution itself. What is "the spirit of America"? Why are soldiers ready to die for it? Why can we fire an entire corporate board of directors, hire new people, and still see no substantial change in the organization? Why does it not seem to matter much to average Americans when Republicans replace Democrats? Do power and tradition combine to form a spiritual but tangible reality? By asking the question, Wink does not imply that an organization attracts or becomes possessed by a passing spirit. Instead, he suggests that such an entity actually develops a "spirit" or tangible tradition of its own. This, he says, is what was intuitively recognized by the early authors, who labeled such a tradition an "angel."

In the case of the seven angels of the book of Revelation, Wink implied that for substantial change to occur, the very "angel" or spirit of the church had to be changed, a far-reaching implication as well for governments and corporations today.

The Religion Book: Places, Prophets, Saints, and Seers © 2004 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.


(pop culture)

The successful 1997 television series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, introduced several new vampire characters as objects of the Slayer’s deadly intentions. However, one of the vampires proved distinctive, Angel or Angelus (David Boreanaz). He was young and handsome. He appeared to be only a few years older than vampire slayer Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Geller), but in fact was some 240 years old. After an intense but doomed attempt to have a relationship with Buffy, he left for Los Angeles and for five years was head of his own detective agency, searching for redemption.

Angel was born as Liam in 1727, in Galway, Ireland, the son of a cloth merchant. Living a life in the taverns, he eventually met a woman named Darla (Julie Benz) who turned out to be a vampire. She sired him and as a vampire he took the name Angelus, a reference to his reputation as a vicious monster with an angelic face. He spent the first decades as a vampire in Europe. He killed freely, like other vampires, lacking any conscience. Early victims included his own family and neighbors. His search for further victims eventually led him to eastern Europe. In 1898, Angelus slew the favorite daughter of a tribe of Romanian Gypsies. In retaliation, the Kalderash clan cursed him by restoring his human soul, thus afflicting him with a conscience and condemning him to an eternity of remorse for the many people he had killed as Angelus. From that time forward, in spite of the blood lust, he found himself unable to feed on a human being. He changed his name from Angelus to Angel, and shortly thereafter, he moved to America. He lived alone and shunned the company of other vampires.

Angel found his way to the California town of Sunnydale in the mid-1990s, where he renewed his acquaintance with some old friends, Darla and The Master. He refused the offer of The Master to return to the fold. In the meantime Angel took a liking to Buffy and made himself her self-appointed guardian, warning and protecting her. One evening, as three vampires sent by the Master attacked Buffy, Angel helped defeat them. His intervention warned her of the Master’s initial attempt to establish himself in Sunnydale, taking advantage of a particular moment each century, the Harvest. Later, he again came to her aid and was injured. Buffy found herself falling in love with him, as she cared for his wounds.

Angel soon had to confront two new vampires who arrived in Sunnydale to fill the vacuum caused by the death of the Master: Drusilla, whom he had driven mad and sired; and Spike (James Marsters), whom Drusilla (Juliet Landau) had sired.

While Buffy was concentrating on Spike and Drusilla, Angel placed his ability to feel human emotion in jeopardy when he and Buffy shared an intimate moment. The result was disastrous; Angel lost his soul (conscience) and reverted to his previous persona of Angelus. As the second season ended, Buffy now realized that she had to destroy the evil vampire with whom she had fallen in love, stabs him with a sword, and sends him to the hell realms.

He returned the next season after what had been a century in hell-time and spent much of the season readjusting to life as Angel again. He recovered and won everyone’s trust in time to fight the last battle on Buffy’s graduation day. But knowing that his relationship with Buffy was doomed, he withdrew from Sunnydale (and the Buffy the Vampire Slayer show and moved to Los Angeles.

Angel’s further adventures would continue on his own show, called simply Angel, which finds him in Los Angeles fighting evil, including his fellow vampires, but trying to find some means of ridding himself of his load of guilt, balancing the ledger of his life that now weighed against him with the many people he has killed, and looking for some possible future redemption. Meanwhile, as he moves through the city, he runs into Cordelia Chase, one of Buffy’s classmates who had joined her circle of vampire fighters, but who was in Los Angeles unsuccessfully pursuing an acting/modeling career and broke. She talks her way into a job by convincing Angel to form a detective agency to give a business-like structure to his activities, as well as provide an income.

They are initially joined at Angel Investigations by Doyle, a half-demon with the ability to have visions of people in distress and in need of their services. Doyle also supplies a connection to “The powers that be,” an ancient being who operated from a different dimension, and who, as far as they have the ability (which is strictly limited), guides humanity in goodness. When Doyle is killed, he passes his powers to Cordelia. Angel Investigations is subsequently joined by former watcher Wesley Wyndam-Pryce (Alexis Denisof), now describing himself as a “rogue demon hunter,” and the street-wise demon fighter, Charles Gunn (J. August Richards). They are also assisted by demon and karaoke bar-owner Lorne (Andy Hallett), whose major ability is sensing the futures of people when they sing for him.

Emerging as the major enemy opposing Angel Investigations is the large law firm of Wolfram & Hart, a powerful international law firm, that is actually a front organization for a demonic cabal known as the Wolf, Ram, and Hart, who now appear as the firm’s Senior Partners. Among the first actions against Angel is sending the rogue vampire slayer, over whom Wesley had watched, Faith (Eliza Dushku) to kill Angel. She is defeated and under Angel’s influence begins her own redemptive process. Along the way, the team enters into another dimension where they encounter psychically wounded Fred, who eventually joins their team adding her genius level intellect.

Angel’s life takes a new direction when Darla resurfaces, pregnant with what proves to be their son Connor. Soon after his birth, however, Connor is stolen by Angel’s old enemy Holtz who takes Connor into the hell dimension where he is raised to think that Angel is completely evil. When they return, with Connor now a young man, Holtz commits suicide in such a way it appears Angel has murdered him. Angel has now to attempt a reconciliation with his estranged son, deal with a possessed Cordelia who has lost her memory, and a powerful Beast creature who seems beyond him and his team. In order to kill the latter, he has to relinquish his soul for a time and revert to his Angelus persona.

To deal with Connor, he makes a deal with Wolfram & Hart to take over their offices in Los Angeles. In return Connor’s memories are erased and he is placed with a normal family. Cordelia was finally freed from the evil entity Jasmine who had possessed her, but immediately fell into a coma. She revived only for a short time before dying, though she later reappeared as a spirit entity. After the final battle in Sunnydale that left only a crater where the city had one existed, Spike survived as a spirit who popped up at Wolfram & Hart to join the fight against evil. He finally gets his body back. Once he and Angel resolve their jealousies over Buffy, they become staunch allies.

In the end, Angel comes to see that he cannot stop the forces of evil represented by Wolfram & Hart, but he can have a temporary victory by severing the Senior Partners’ hold on Earth. He and his remaining team assassinate the members of the Circle of the Black Thorn, the group through which the Senior Partners work on Earth. In the process Wesley is killed and Gunn is wounded but manages to make it to the spot behind the Hyperion Hotel in Los Angeles. He joins Angel, Spike, and Illyria (a demon who has taken over Fred’s body), for the final battle with the forces the Senior Partners have aligned for their destruction. As the final episode ends they move forward with the words, “Let’s go to work.”

Angel—The Comic Book: In 1999, Dark Horse Comics, which had the license for the Buffy the Vampire Slayer comics, began publishing an Angel comic book. Two series appeared before it was discontinued in 2002. Then in 2005, IDW picked up the license and began issuing Angel comics as a set of successive miniseries. Then in 2007, creator Joss Whedon authorized a continuation of the story from the Angel television show. The story was developed by writer Brian Lynch working with Whedon.

In Angel: After the Fall, the battle with the Senior Partners results in the movement of the city of Los Angeles into a hell dimension. In an attempt to deprive him of his strength and immortality when he needed it most, the Senior Partners have also turned Angel into a human, forcing Angel and Wesley to rely on mystical enchantments to provide Angel with at least a measure of his old abilities. He begins to reassemble his team, including Illyria. Lorne helps recruit new friends. In the process, Connor is killed. They defeat the demons that infest Los Angeles, but the city is still the target of the Senior Partners. Angel finally devises a scheme. Knowing that they need him alive, he allows Gunn to kill him. Time began again, they are returned to the spot behind the hotel ready to fight and defeat the forces sent by Wolfram & Hart. Everyone, including Connor, retained their memory of what has occurred and Angel became a hero.

Angel as Cult Phenomenon: Though never as popular as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and its characters attained a following of their own, especially in the year after the end of the Buffy episodes, when Angel continued. Among the most important items indicative of the show’s permeation of the popular culture, along with the comic books, were a set of young adult novels some of which, like the Buffy novels, were translated into several languages, including German and French. There were also a number of action figures and trading card sets. Along with Buffy, Angel attracted the attention of the scholarly community as part of the larger Whedonverses. Consideration of the show manifested in a number of academic papers delivered at the various Whedonverses conferences, and at least two books. Spike, who came to rival Angel as the most popular vampire character, bolstered the crossover attention between the two television series. Most of the comic books featuring Spike have been part of the Angel comics from IDW.

Angel was portrayed by David Boreanaz. The part was his first big break, though he had earlier had a bit part in one vampire movie, Macabre Pair of Shorts (1996). He followed eight years of work on first Buffy the Vampire Slayer and then Angel with several movies, before starring in the very successful ongoing series, Bones, beginning in 2005. He has been the subject of an annual wall calendar since 1999.


Abbott, Stacey, ed. Reading Angel: The TV Spin-off with a Soul. London: I. B. Tauris, 2005. 265 pp.
Golden, Christopher, and Nancy Holder. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Watcher’s Guide. New York: Pocket Books, 1998. 298 pp.
Holder, Nancy, with Jeff Mariotte and Maryelizabeth Hart. Angel: The Casefiles. Vol. 1. New York: Simon Pulse, 2002. 405 pp.
Ruditis, Paul. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Watcher’s Guide. Volume 3. New York: Simon Spotlight, 2004. 359 pp.
Stafford, Nikki. Once Bitten: An Unofficial Guide to the World of Angel. Toronto: ECW Press, 2004. 438 pp.
Topping, Keith. Hollywood Vampire: A Revised and Updated Unofficial and Unauthorized Guide to Angel. London: Virgin, 2001. 280 pp.
Yeffeth, Glenn, ed. Five Seasons of Angel: Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Discuss Their Favorite Vampire. Dallas, TX: Benbella Books, 2004. 216 pp.

Angélique see: Bouchard, Angélique

The Vampire Book, Second Edition © 2011 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
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Angels surround a crucified Christ in “Vision of the Cross” from Dante’s Paradiso. Courtesy Fortean Picture Library.


(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Angel is from the Latin angelus, and the Greek aggelos, meaning “a messenger.” The Hebrew word for angel is malak, a “person sent.” In the Bible, in Mark 1:2, it is applied to John the Baptist: “Behold I send my messenger (angel) before thy face….” In the corresponding prophecy of Malachi the word is the same (malak). It was applied to such men as ambassadors and other representatives. In Judaism the “angel of the congregation” was the chief of the synagogue, according to Lewis Spence. Belief in angels is an essential tenet of Islam. In ancient Greece they were known as daimons, which could be good or evil. In Buddhism they would be the devas, or “shining ones.”

In Christianity and Judaism, and those religions influenced by them, the term “angel” has come to be used for a spirit inferior to the deity yet superior, in intellect and will, to humankind. References to angels—as messengers of God—are found in the Bible mainly in the Old Testament in areas where it has been said that the writings derive from more ancient documents. Belief in intermediaries between God and the visible universe was common to most primitive religions, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica (1964). Although the Church spoke of the creation of angels by God, the time of their creation is glossed over. There was some fear of confusion with Gnostic and pagan doctrines of demigods. It was only very gradually that Christianity arrived at the concept of angels as pure spirits, because that concept seemed too close to divinity.

A hierarchy of angels developed, with specific names being given to certain major angel figures: Michael, Raphael, Gabriel, etc. There was also an early belief that each person had his or her own personal angel as a guardian. Although many speak of angels and archangels, the latter term is only used twice in the Bible, in Jude 9 and in I Thessalonians 4:16. As Lewis Spence points out, “there is nothing in the whole of Scripture … to show that intelligent beings exist who have other than human attributes.”

It is generally accepted that the ancient Egyptian and Assyrian depictions of winged beasts associated with royalty influenced the graphic representations of angels, particularly the cherubim of the Old Testament. In Christianity, it wasn’t until the end of the fourth century that wings started to be depicted on angels, and it wasn’t until the Renaissance that child angels began to appear in illustrations, echoing early classical depictions of Eros or Cupid. Many of the angels either appear in white tunics or are naked.

There seems to be a common origin for Persian, Jewish, and Mohammedan accounts of angels, as both males and females. In the Mohammedan writings there is an angel of death, Azreal, and an angel of destruction, Asrafil. There are also angels armed with whips of iron and fire (Moukir and Nakir). The Koran speaks of there being two angels for every person; one to record the good deeds and one the bad. In the New Testament Lucifer, an angel, defied God and was cast out of heaven. One third of the other angels went with him. They became known as the demons of hell, with Lucifer renamed Satan.

In early Church writings, angels would be mistaken for men (not having yet acquired their wings). In fact in Daniel 8:16 and 9:21 Gabriel is actually referred to simply as a man (“the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision”). Today, there seems a throwback to that idea, with many people claiming to talk with angels and to see angels in human form. On the Internet there is a site dedicated to stories of angel encounters, at One typical story is of a woman’s recollection of going to church with her father when she was twelve years old. Her father usually sang at the church but had missed a performance because of having the flu. He went there wanting to test his voice in the empty church. As he strained to sing, the daughter saw what she took to be an angel “dressed in a white robe” walk forward from the altar and place his hands on the father’s shoulder. His voice immediately changed and became strong and full again. The angel disappeared. The daughter told the father what she had seen and he admitted to having felt a sudden warmth envelop him. This is typical of the stories of angel encounters.

Many mediums and psychics, as well as ordinary people, say they have had this kind of experience. Sometimes, as in the above story, there is a report of a visible manifestation. Mediums experience the contact through clairvoyance and clairaudience. In Spiritualism there is a belief in a Spirit Guide, or Guardian Spirit. Most mediums have one, who acts as a “doorkeeper” during séances. This could certainly be viewed as a Guardian Angel. During World War II, in Budapest, a group of Hungarian artists claimed to have been in contact with a number of angels.

They described their experiences in a book Talking with Angels (Watkins). Their medium was West German Gabriele Wittek.


Angels Online:
Burnham, Sophy: A Book of Angels. New York: Ballantine, 1990
Encyclopedia Britannica. Chicago: William Benton, 1964
Godwin, Michael: Angels. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1990
Spence, Lewis: An Encyclopedia of the Occult. London: George Routledge & Sons, 1920
The Spirit Book © 2006 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.


angel in charge of Sheol’s bottomless pit. [N.T.: Revelation 9:11; 20:1–3]
faithful seraph who withstood Satan when urged to revolt. [Br. Lit.: Paradise Lost]
acquires knowledge of science, loses faith in God, and conspires to take over Heaven for Satan. [Fr. Lit.: The Revolt of the Angels in Magill I, 821]
watches over the dying and takes the soul; will himself be the last to die. [Islamic Myth.: Brewer Dictionary, 60]
four-winged, four-faced angels inspired Ezekiel to carry God’s message to the people. [O.T.: Ezek. 1:15]
angel of the annunciation; tells Mary she will bear Christ child. [N.T.: Luke 1:26–38]
guardian angel
believed to protect a particular person. [Folklore: Misc.]
Jordan, Mr.
heavenly messenger has to find a new body for a boxer who died before his earthly time was up. [Am. Drama and Cinema: Here Comes Mr. Jordan]
archangel; Satan’s name before his fall from Heaven. [Christian Hagiog.: Collier’s, XII, 143]
leader of angels against Satan. [N.T.: Revelation 12:7–9; Br. Lit.: Paradise Lost]
God’s healer and helper in Book of Tobit. [Apocrypha: Tobit]
six-winged angels of the highest order, distinguished by their zeal and love. [O.T.: Isaiah 6:2; Benét, 915]
sent by God to instruct prophet Esdras. [Apocrypha: II Esdras 4]
angel of the planet Jupiter. [Jew. Myth.: Brewer Handbook, 1237]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. Theol one of a class of spiritual beings attendant upon God. In medieval angelology they are divided by rank into nine orders: seraphim, cherubim, thrones, dominations (or dominions), virtues, powers, principalities (or princedoms), archangels, and angels
2. a divine messenger from God
3. a former English gold coin with a representation of the archangel Michael on it, first minted in Edward IV's reign
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


(operating system)
A single address space, micro-kernel operating system for multiprocessor computers, developed at Imperial College and City University, London, UK.

[Ariel Burton]
This article is provided by FOLDOC - Free Online Dictionary of Computing (


In the past ten years there has been a renewed appreciation and interest in angels. They represent goodness, protection, and the heavenly realm. As a dream symbol they may attempt to focus the dreamer’s attention on his own divine qualities and the supportive and loving aspects of life. Some say that dreaming about angels is a symbol of good luck, while others believe that you will see an angel in your dream around the time when there is a birth or death in your family, or in your close circle of friends. Angels are mystical and spiritual symbols; traditionally they have been the messengers of God. The interpretation of your dream angel depends on your own views. Generally, the message coming up from your unconscious may be of important magnitude, so record your dream and think about all of its details and implications.
Bedside Dream Dictionary by Silvana Amar Copyright © 2007 by Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.