First, let’s get rid of the myth that says Angels belong to the Judeo/Christian belief system. Angels existed long before the Book of Genesis was written.
So yes, there are “pagan” angels in many pre-Christian religions. Pagan angels were notably part of Celtic, Greek, Norse, and Shaman traditions. The difference lies in how we view them.
What is an Angel?
Traditionally, an angel is simply a messenger. A spirit that is an intermediary between a God and a human being. Angels may be in a human or animal form.
Wings are a more historically modern artist rendition and most ancient writings don’t describe wings.
An angel may have free will or they may be bound to do what the God wants.
The Abrahamic religions tend to view angels as helpers sent from God. They often have a title and a name as in the Archangel Gabriel.
They are typically beautiful humans seen with wings and halos. Angels in Abrahamic religions often deliver a message of a birth or death.
How Do Pagans Define Angel?
For pagans, an angel may be more of a spiritual energy force. Some people believe that angels are the spirits or souls of our deceased loved ones.
Pagan angels often take the form of another being such as gnomes or fairies. While angels of Abrahamic religions live far away in the clouds, pagan angels often live among us. For instance, in trees or streams.
This of course goes back to the ancient philosophy that all things in nature are connected and have a spirit.
Are Angels Good or Bad?
We tend to think of angels as being “good” however, angels can be either. After all Lucifer in the bible is just a cast-out angel. The Archangel Michael is a warrior and leads “God’s Army”.
The Ancient Greeks felt that angels were doing the bidding of Zeus and helping or punishing humans accordingly. Hesiod writes “For upon the bounteous earth Zeus has thrice ten thousand spirits, watchers of mortal men, and these keep watch on judgments and deeds of wrong as they roam, clothed in mist, all over the earth."
While the Greeks viewed these angels as subservient to Zeus many other pagan groups see angels as more friends and helpers.
Examples of Pagan Angels
Angels in Ancient Greece
Hesiod was an Ancient Greek poet who lived around 700 BC. He wrote about angelic beings in the Greek mythos by writing “they are called pure spirits dwelling on the earth, and are kindly, delivering from harm, and guardians of mortal men; for they roam everywhere over the earth, clothed in mist and keep watch on judgments and cruel deeds, givers of wealth”.
In the Norse Religion, the Valkyries are the equivalent of angels. The Valkyries were originally sinister spirits who hovered over battlefields.
Their name means “choosers of the slain,” because they choose who gained entry into Valhalla. In addition, the Valkyries made the decision on who lived and who died. The often used magic to make this happen.
Later when Valhalla became more of a warrior’s paradise they had more mortal characteristics and appear as female spirits who assist Odin. They choose lovers from amongst the fallen.
They were sometimes portrayed as virgins with golden hair who served mead and meat to the chosen heroes at Valhalla. Although this description feels very Christianized.
Valkyries were associated with ravens, swans, and horses. They had names such as Skögul meaning shaker, Gunnr meaning war, and Göndul which means wand waver.
Celtic Fairies as Angels
In the Celtic religion, the fairies, also called fae or fay, correlate with angels. The term fairy may also encompass goblins and gnomes.
The Rowan Tree is considered sacred to fairies. You can read more in our article The Celtic Month of Rowan.
Fairies are helpers to humans and have magical abilities. Often they take on the role of tricksters.
While more modern and post-Christian artwork shows fairies with wings it is felt fairies in traditional folklore fly by magical powers. They also had the ability to change size.
They are typically considered nature spirits but in some pagan traditions viewed as spirits of the dead. They may haunt a specific location or lead humans to their demise.
During the Celtic Revival, Author Conan Doyle ( of Sherlock Holmes fame) wrote a book called The Coming of the Fairies discussing their link between the sun and the earth.
The Genii is an attendant spirit of a person or place. Italian people regarded the Genius as a higher power that creates and maintains life.
They assist with birth and determine a person’s character. They try to influence their destiny in a good way serving as a protector and guardian.
Peri in Pre-Islamic Persia
These tiny, beautiful winged spirits were known tricksters and were denied entry into paradise until they behaved.
They were not necessarily considered good or evil. While they enjoyed playing pranks they could also be helpful.
The Peri’s were often persecuted by the Divs, monsters, that locked them in iron cages.
Under the rise of Islam, they became more of a kind helper and delivered messages from God.
What Are Guardian Angels?
Guardian angel is another term that is popular with Christians. Pagans may prefer the term Spirit Guide. Both of these terms refer to an angel who is often our ancestor.
This person may be someone you knew in your life who has passed or an ancestor that you can trace back many decades. This soul or spirit typically watches over us because they love us and want to protect us.
Pagans also see animals as being spirit guides, especially in Native American and Shamanistic paths. These may provide teaching or guidance during challenges.
How To Communicate With Your Angels
There are many ways to get in touch with our guardian angels or spirit guides. This communication requires you to be open and available.
Meditation is a great way to open yourself up to your spirit guides. Quiet your mind and be open to your thoughts.
They may send you a sign. A sign is a meaningful coincidence or an object that was placed in your path and has symbolic meaning to you.
A dream may be a message telling you how to solve a dilemma.
Keep a journal where you record specific signs and messages. Rereading this journal will help you make sense of the bigger picture. Expressing your thankfulness to your spirit guides will also strengthen your relationship with them.
Pray to your ancestors, dedicate an altar to them, or perform a ritual where you invite them in.
Pagans are quite a diverse lot of folks! What path you follow is your choice. That said you may choose to believe or not believe in angels.
Looking for ways to celebrate an upcoming pagan holiday? Check out our CALENDAR.
Author, Ame Vanorio, is a lifelong pagan, an environmental educator, and a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. Ame writes about honoring nature, animal spirit guides, crystals, and holidays. She also does our social media pages. Check us out on Facebook and Twitter.
The Rowan Month is from January 21 – February 17 and is associated with the Celtic goddess Brigid. The month of Rowan is associated with power, success, and travel. During Rowan, we celebrate the holiday Imbolc.