How to honor the sacred + Blessed Michaelmas

Prayer and Blessing

H

e stands strong, firmly rooted in place, conferred with a sense of both gravity and purpose as he presses down on the Devil and brandishes his sharp and gleaming sword. Covered in full body armor, his face is cast down in concentration but also possessing something of Holy Mother – the strongest kind of kindness, the deepest sort of compassion. And then there are his wings, whether unfurled and pointed heavenward or down at his side, his wings remind us that in our hardest struggles we are never that far from grace, never too far from the breath of the Divine. This is an especially appropriate thought, for his very name means “one who is like God”, Archangel Michael.

When we honor Archangel Michael on his feast day of Michaelmas (September 29th) or any other day of the year, we often begin with the most basic questions: how do we honor this figure? How do we thank him for his aid and support? How do we request protection as we go forward through life? How do we say thank you? These questions are not limited to Archangel Michael; they are the exact same questions many of us ask whenever we are confronted with a Saint or an Angel, with a Holy Person from any tradition that resonates for us and that we feel connected to. We want to have a relationship with what is sacred to and for us, but how?

First, we pay attention. Look at an image, in this case the image of Archangel Michael. Even in traditions where images are forbidden you will find all kinds of secrets in ornately embroidered patterns of swirling and twirling calligraphies. Look at the image. Say the name: Archangel Michael, let it roll off of your tongue and hear it resounding through your ears. What do you see and how do you feel, right here, right now?

Next, learn the stories. Remember the stories. Share the stories. So it is that we remember first that he is much older than any one religious system or tradition and much greater than any dogma. Next we hear that stern-faced Michael has always been the one to stand for those that no one else would stand for; that no one else would stand with. We remember that he was called by and attended to the sick and the dying who everyone else was afraid to touch. Called on by women who were battered and broken and alone with children – outcast from their tribes, their cities, and their communities. Called too by various, deeply persecuted religious minorities beginning with the ancient Israelites who loved him so much that they composed hymns and beautiful poetry in his name and for his honor. If his serene in-the-midst-of-battle face confuses us, might it help to remember that long before he was a warrior he was a healer and that maybe, just maybe in every war-torn heart there is the deepest ability not only to be healed but to heal others? Does he seem more real now?

Finally we listen, for truly more than gold, sacred smoke, and fine food, the greatest offering we can make is our time, our attention. What does Michael, Archangel and Saint, brother and beloved, ask you?

Does he speak to you of will – that virtue that has been forged in the fires of your life and polished with your tears and prayers until it gleams as surely as his sword does with your keen-eyed ability to judge and discern correctly?

Does he talk of boundaries – honoring the ones that you have set for yourself and the ones that have been created by others?

Does he tell about how it is to go into battle and stand up for the ones who are unseen, unheard, and often without hope?

Does he whisper that above all else you must do this: protect and nourish all that is tender, vulnerable, and still growing to full maturity?

Often in congregations or in individual practices intense time of honoring and offering spent with a holy figure ends with feasting and merriment. The feast is a reminder that we are embodied and that our precious bodies need to be honored too — that “spiritual stuff” is decidedly immanent. The merriment affirms that we are among friends and families, and it is in our relationships where we put what we have discovered into actual, living practice. May we all feast well, be blessed, and be blessings in turn.

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Archangel Michael-Who is Like God-Angel of Healing, Protection, and Victory

Prayer and Blessing

D

ear Miracles,

Archangel Miguel as I have always thought of Him is a potent spiritual ally. One of the four guardian angels of tradition, he is most often petitioned for protecting those who protect others, but his story and his vastness contain so much more than that. Of special interest to me and in my work is Michael’s relationship to women and children — he is sometimes called the Advocate and he certainly has a history of advocating for those two groups. I celebrate his feast day, also known as Michaelmas, on September 29th as all of my Catholic family members have done for oh so long. Please allow me to tell you a bit of the history and story of this most venerated figure.

Archangel Michael prayer card
Archangel Michael prayer card

History

Archangel Michael is a holy figure in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. His name means “Like Unto God” or “Who is Like God” In Catholic and Christian Orthodox traditions, he is sometimes known as Saint Michael or Saint Archangel Michael.  Catholic and Orthodox traditions venerate him as the patron saint for policemen and soldiers. In Muslim tradition, some believe him to be one of three angels that visited Abraham and he is mentioned once in the Qu’ran. In the Coptic Orthodox Church, he is the one who presents God with the prayers of the people. Other traditions hold that Archangel Michael is actually Adam from the Book of Genesis or that he is the pre-incarnate figure for Christ. Tradition names him as the angel who foretold Mary, Mother of God, of her approaching death.

In Jewish tradition, Archangel Michael is the closest angel to God. He is Captain of God’s army as well as the ruler of all natural elements such as rain, wind, and storms. His nemesis is the Angel Samael. When Samael was cast down from heaven, he grabbed Michael’s wings, hoping to bring him down as well. Some traditions also say that Michael and Samael are in a constant battle over the state of Moses’ soul. In Rabbinic liturgy, Archangel Michael is seen as the staunch defender of Israel. His depiction in the Book of Daniel as “a great prince who stands up for the children of your people” led to a place for him in Jewish liturgy despite Rabbinical prohibitions against seeking the intercession of angels between men and God.  Due to Michael’s role as a defender of Jews and Israel, two Jewish prayers are specifically recited in his honor.

In the early Christian tradition, shrines and sanctuaries were dedicated to Michael. Though he is mentioned as leading God’s army against Satan in the Book of Revelation, these early Christian shrines and sanctuaries dedicated to Archangel Michael were actually for the purpose of healing. Saints like George were considered martial whereas Michael was believed to be a healing force. When a devastating plague hit Rome in the 4th century, Michael was invoked for healing and aid and during this time he came to be known as “Archangel” and/or the “Prince Among Angels.”  By the 6th century, feasts were held in his honor. Various feasts and feast days have been associated with him ever since.

In Roman Catholic tradition, Michael is assigned four specific roles:

  • He is the Captain of God’s army fighting against Satan and Hell
  • He is the Angel of Death who carries the soul away from the body when death occurs
  • He weighs the Soul-According to this tradition, Archangel Michael weighs the soul with perfectly balanced scales. For this reason, he is often depicted holding these scales
  • He is Patron of the Chosen People (Jews) of the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) and Guardian of the Church.

These Catholic teachings are not strictly required beliefs (church orthodoxy) but “strongly encouraged” by the Church.

Michael is known for giving his protection, especially to mothers and children. A Romanian story from 1900, involving an infant-eating demoness named Avezuha and her attempt to harm both the Blessed Virgin and the infant Jesus, as retold by Diane Purkis in her marvelous book At the Bottom of the Garden relates :

“…when she [Avezuha] meets Archangel Michael she declares ‘I am going to Bethlehem in Judea, for I have heard that Jesus Christ is going to be born of His Virgin Mother Maria, and I am going to hurt her.‘  Whereupon the Archangel Michael took hold of her head, fastened an iron chain around her, stuck his sword into her side, and began to beat her terribly in order to make her tell her secret arts. She began and said ‘I change myself into a dog, a cat, a fly, a spider, a raven, an evil looking girl, and thus enter into the houses of the people and hurt the women and bring trouble to the children, and I bring changelings, and I have nineteen names.‘ And the Archangel Michael said to her, ‘I tell thee, I conjure thee, that thou shalt have neither the power to approach the house of X the servant of the Lord, nor hurt his property, his flocks, nor anything else that belongs to him. Thou shalt go to the desolate mountains where no one lives, and there shalt thou abide.‘”

the-archangel-michael-defeating-satan-1635.jpg!Blog
The Archangel Michael Defeating Satan, Guido Reni; 1635

Working with Archangel Michael

In the American folk magic tradition of Conjure, Archangel Michael is seen as a powerful defender of those who unable to defend themselves, including women, children, slaves, and other minorities or marginalized groups. His association with healing can be seen in his connection to Angelica Root (Angelica Archangelica) — a root used in many peace and tranquility formulas and rituals. His association with martial endeavors and victory can be seen in the writings that invoke him along with the use of Bay Laurel leaf-an ancient symbol of conquest and victory. In Currendera tradition, Michael/Miguel is called upon when opening up the Southern quadrant and also for healing and protection — in these latter roles his image is often painted directly onto or over the front door of a home. In Western esoteric traditions involving ritual and ceremonial magic, Archangel Michael is often aligned with the element of Fire and the direction South. For those grounded in a specific Christian religious tradition, Archangel Michael’s role as healer and psychopomp are at least as emphasized as his role in military and police pursuits — if not more so.

I petition and invoke Archangel Michael’s aid for a number of situations-for protection, healing, mercy in the face of sin or error, and, of course, victory. I find him to be a strong protector not only of women and children but of entire families. Despite his widespread veneration across many traditions, Archangel Michael does not have any specific offerings associated with him. When I invoke his aid and intercession, I repay his gifts with flowers, Jordan almonds, honey, and donations to battered women’s shelters and/or Jewish charities.

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.